Empiricism and Science with special consideration to Swole

(Note: This article is not edited and is as close to my actual thoughts as an article would be. Its more-so rambling than research, which can be valuable in its own way)

This blog post was borne out of a good philosophical discussion I had recently and a nagging feeling that I needed to update the blog. Also, some passive-aggressiveness may leak out in an ever so politically correct manner afterwards.

I just want to compare and contrast (after defining for this article) Empiricism and Science as it pertains to gym-goers. Also, some note will be made to my beloved biochemistry, but this is mostly for the biceps.


Wiki defines it as:

Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience…empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence, especially sensory perception, in the formation of ideas, over the notion of innate ideas or traditions

Dictionary.com defines it as:

(Philosophy) the doctrine that all knowledge is derived fromsense experience

And the Encyclopedia Britannica defines it as:

The view that all concepts originate in experience, that all concepts are about or applicable to things that can be experienced, or that all rationally acceptable beliefs or propositions are justifiable or knowable only through experience

Furthermore, another part of the Wikipedia definition states that Empiricism is:

It is a fundamental part of the scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world rather than resting solely on a priori, reasoning, intuition, or revelation.

And that makes for a nice segue.


Using the same webpages for definitions of science, and shortened a bit to the meat of the quotes, we find that they are:

Any system of knowledge that is concerned with the physical world and its phenomena and that entails unbiased observations and systematic experimentation (Britannica)

A systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. (Wikipedia)

Systematic knowledge of the physical or material worldgained through observation and experimentation (Dictionary.com)

Empiricism v. Science

As per the above definitions, for the purpose of this article I am going to pretty much say that Empiricism is the evidence or knowledge gained from experimentation whereas Science is the overarching theories and laws that are derived and concluded from a community that all conduct their own empiricial studies.

So, in a way, get enough empirical studies done and fine a motif among them? BAM, Science.

The conclusions I made for the definitions are pretty standard, nothing controversial there. The controversy is what is coming up, as I am attacking science. That was overly dramatic though, let’s just say that I am attacking ‘wannabe scientists’ or ‘pseudo-intellectuals’. The remainder of this article could be titled ‘Appeal to Broscience’ due to its content, and yeah…screw it; let’s go with that.

Appeal to Broscience

Remember how I said it was going to get passive aggressive?

The term ‘Broscience’ initially came from ‘Pseudoscience + Biceps’, but for some god forsaken reason has morphed from ‘legitimate non-science’ into a meaningless word to criticize anything a muscular guy says that is not backed by a cited study on an online forum. The journal, year, authors, and contents of the study are irrelevant at this point in time; all that matters is that it is referenced in PubMed and that it can be used by an internet warrior to validate their beliefs when cherry-picked.

The reason I bring this up is because the ‘Bros’ that get attacked (which, in my opinion, are just guys that get results whether they listen to scientific studies or whether they listen to coaches) are accused of being unscientific when they have done much more science than the keyboard warriors criticizing them.

Remember the above definitions? How empiricism is one of the foundations from which science is built? That is what most coaches and athletes who get results are doing. They run a trial, find a result (good or bad) and design future trials to try and isolate the variable. A temporal relation always exists in these trials, there is usually some modicum of control placed on the subjects (don’t do cardio on this powerlifting regimen, I want to see if it works without cardio fucking up your gains), and people are ‘on to something’ when their results are compared and contrasted against other person’s results at athletic conferences.

Its not indexed in medline, they don’t use nice laboratory methods or questionnaires, and they don’t write everything they do up and submit it for peer review. That being said though, it is empirical evidence gained by the scientific method (or some very similar beast) that is tested and retested to try and find ‘what’ works.

These effects can also be seen with supplements. Gaspari’s SuperPump formula was nicknamed ‘SuperDump’ well before science found out that ‘Oh dear, excess L-arginine apparently has a laxative effect’. [x] If you waited for science on this one, you probably would have shit yourself numerous times during squats.

Its like ‘true’ scientific studies, just a bit lower quality due to some control issues (no peer review, bias, etc.); that being said, its not pure shit. If you disregard evidence gained from this perspective with no counter-evidence, you’re pretty ignorant. (You have counter-evidence? Post it and discuss! This concept seems to evade many people)

Additionally, ‘anecdotes’ seem to be a curse word among some people. These are simply observations, which may or may not be empirical in nature. Do not disregard them, because once you do a write-up on an ‘anecdote’ it becomes  a ‘Case Study’ (legit science apparently, since they’re in Medline) or if you ask a bunch of people to write down their anecdotes and do some basic stats, it becomes a ‘survey’ or ‘exploratory research’ (also legit science; is in Medline!). Anecdotes have their own value to them. Its minimal in the face of counter-evidence, but its still value.

Attacking Pseudointellectuals

Yeah, this section is going to be a fickle bitch to write.

Basically, I hate it when people ask for citations and meet the following two criteria:

  1. They didn’t bother to search for it in the first place. Although some leeway is given for obscure topics and issues, this happens for common stuff like ‘Ephedrine is stimulatory?’ (No shit sherlock)
  2. They don’t have the capacity to comprehend the primary literature I send them

The first one pisses me off since it indicates not somebody who wants to learn, but somebody who just wants the hyperlink so they can ‘win’ an argument or feel validated in their bias.

The second one pisses me off since it is completely okay to just ask about a topic you do not understand (if you guys could see my e-mails, you would see that half the time I am asking various PhDs their opinions because I don’t know shit about the new research topics I’m doing) but pretending you know this stuff is a huge disservice to yourself.

That, and asking me to dig up a study so you can jerk off to it just wastes my time. I will gladly aid anybody in their quest to become more intelligent and research, but I prefer not to supply academic spank bank material.

In sum; was I talking about you?

Do you?

  • Routinely ask for studies on topics without trying to research the area first when you could easily have used Google or Pubmed paired with a Keyboard and a working brain? Asking for evidence is good, caring about a topic enough to waste 1 minute of your time searching is better.
  • Make fun of ‘Bros’ in the gym because they seek the ‘pump’ or ‘burn’ and that they admit they don’t understand ‘science’? Are these bros bigger than you are? Science and Empiricism show their beauty when you can apply them to get results, and the bros appear to be getting better results than you. Your ‘science’ may suck.
  • Have an inability to remember the last time you ever ran a test on yourself? Or basically, if everything you learned online was a lie, how much actual knowledge would you have learned through your own experiences.
I was probably talking about you if you hit 2 or more of those bullets; be quite cautious if you hit one of them.

Tl;Dr Article Summary

  • Deload to a biochemistry textbook to understand the concepts of nutritional sciences and physiology. Studying a myofibril or electronegativity sucks balls, but it pays off.
  • Actually listen to the big guys in the gym and the successful coaches whether or not they use science. They may know stuff that Academia has not gotten around to yet and disregarding their opinions for not being ‘scientific’ is wrong, a disservice to your own intelligence, and more an indicator of your ignorance rather than their capabilities.
  • Every time you judge somebody in the gym for being inferior to you, hit yourself in the face; preferably with something heavy or sharp. Teapots work for comical effects. Its fine to have intrusive thoughts, its fine to have an ego. Vocalizing your ego above others in order to validate yourself? Not so fine.

Also, I was really straining for a picture to sum up this article. I chose Nyan cat, because I like cats. Deal with it.

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  1. 2ndLaw says:

    I empirically and scientifically enjoy your writing. A lot.

    Source: me, myself, and I.

    • James says:

      “I demand that you take my claims about supplement XYZ seriously despite the lack of documented evidence on account of my big biceps” actually seems a lot more ridiculous than “Your guns notwithstanding, I’m not inclined to believe your claims about XYZ without a controlled experiment.”

      • Silverhydra says:

        Where did I state that you were to abandon skepticism in either the gym or the lab?

        Of course the former option is going to sound ridiculous when you make it stated by an arrogant douche and the latter one by a skeptic.

        How about the opposite?

        “I demand that you take my claims about supplement XYZ seriously despite the lack of corroborating evidence since I just ran an in vitro study” seems a lot more ridiculous than “Your study’s quality notwithstanding, I’m not inclined to believe your claims about XYZ without more evidence”.

        Word selection is potent, eh?

  2. James says:

    I don’t know where you stated anything about abandoning skepticism, nor did I claim anything like that. Let’s try this again in another way.

    What people dismissively call “broscience” actually has a name in other disciplines. It’s called clinical judgement in contrast to actuarial judgement, al la statistical studies. But get this: People have been actively comparing the two approaches for half a century since Paul Meehl began studying the matter. It’s not that one is almost as good as the other or that the best approach is a combination or anything like that. Rather, the overwhelming balance of the evidence has shown that the clinical approach (broscience) performs terribly compared to actuarial methods (statistical analysis).

    • Silverhydra says:

      That is definitely a concern when there is evidence on both sides (to use your terms, actuarial v. clinical), and I already alluded to this when I said “If you have counter evidence, Post it and discuss” and “Anecdotal evidence is minimal in the face of counter evidence, but its still something”.

      Some topics have no statistics to compare against, however, and the only side *is* ‘broscience’ which people dismiss too readily since it does not have statistical grounds.

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