The movie “Elf” is one of my favorites. Buddy the elf, played by Will Ferrell, describes the four food groups as “Candy, Candy Cane, Candy Corn, and Maple Syrup”. That’s a lot more fun (and sugar) than anything that the USDA has put together.
In “Elf”, Santa’s sleigh gets stuck in Central Park. The sleigh is supported by people’s belief in Santa. Because belief has declined, Santa relies on a fancy engine (a Kringle 3000) to help the reindeer fly the sleigh. When the engine falls off, Buddy’s brother, Michael, suggests getting the news cameras in to show everyone Santa, so they will believe in him.
Santa says no to that. “Christmas spirit is about believing, not seeing. If the whole world saw me, all would be lost. The paparazzi has been trying to nail me for years.”
To so many, Santa makes sense. A tree goes up, cookies get put out. Carrots for the reindeer, if they are lucky. The next morning, so unspeakably early (4:30 am in our house), evidence of Santa is right there, shiny and pretty, under the tree. To those very early risers, Santa makes sense.
But when it comes to the real world, believing needs data. When folks push ideas based on beliefs unsupported by data, the ideas can be as magical as Santa’s presents under the tree. It doesn’t mean that we should throw out innovative ideas. It simply means we should do the science it takes to make sure we’re not off on a wild goose chase.
When I read and write On Pasture, I want to see hard evidence and statistically valid data to prove anything I am going to put my name behind. When there is no evidence, then I am just helping support Santa’s sleigh. That’s something I’ll save for Christmas time.