Science Questions, So I can Trust

It is necessary to question. It’s also necessary to trust.

Science is designed to be refined over time. It sets up questions, that can get refuted. Something, that can be proved wrong.

The scientific method is the process of making conjectures (hypotheses), deriving predictions from them as logical consequences (expectations), and then carrying out experiments or empirical observations based on those predictions. The process is a success not from proving the hypotheses, but on whether there is an empirical result.

When our opinions don’t change, when new evidence presents itself – we have a problem. I was convinced the second wave of COVID would be far milder. The data aligned with that expectation. I was wrong. As new data emerged, my expectations re-aligned.

Doing the Research

I find it most useful to look for the best-informed consensus, this gets challenged by people with new ideas from those doing in-depth research (not wild unsupported speculation), which start on the periphery and as evidence gets added, it becomes the consensus and generally accepted.

We need to be continually enhancing our views. Sure, I should do my own research, the problem is, there is too much to research and understand. I cannot be an expert at everything.

  • I do not know how a car really works. I have some idea about an internal combustion engine, but how do I know my brakes will work? – I trust that they will.
  • I have some idea about aerodynamics, but I really I have no idea how a plane takes off. – I trust that it will.
  • How does a ship even float? – I know about density, but something so heavy shouldn’t float. It doesn’t make sense. I trust it not to sink.

I have to trust.

We are scared and want certainty – so who to trust?

It’s not easy in the current environment, we are scared, we want definitive answers, we want clear causes and certainty for what is happening.

The challenge comes when people presenting themselves on YouTube want to go viral. To be of interest in that world, unfortunately, what they present doesn’t have to be underpinned by facts or science, it just needs to target a few pre-conceptions and fit into bite-sized chunks.

These lay theorists have no skin in the game, they are making their money by us watching them. Then they claim that everyone else is money motivated and looking to make money off you. A bit hypocritical.

It is unlikely that the whole world is conspiring to get me. I know how difficult it is to get 5 people in a project to align, get 1,000s and even millions across the globe to align on a hoax, seems incredibly unlikely and if they had this power of coordination, I’m sure they could use it more effectively.

Vaccines are proven to cause Autism

I’ve been intrigued by this claim and looked into the study that found that a certain type of vaccine caused autism. The problem came, that it was only one. Decades ago. Since then, there is more data, billions inoculated and yet this cause has never been proven again. A multitude of studies have tried.

Whacky claims circulate so easily

The are various iterations of the below going around the WhatsApp groups.

This got forwarded on and immediately didn’t feel right. I haven’t done Chemistry since high school, so I did a quick sense check. The pH scale goes from 0-14. Oven cleaner has a pH of 13. It is a logarithmic scale, mean 14, is 10 times more basic than oven cleaner. So, I knew Watercress couldn’t be 22.7, the rest of the message quickly lost credibility.

Stop and pause to think

I try not to take everything I see and hear at face value. I sense to check it, if it doesn’t feel right, I look for consensus, explore further. What do the leading people in their field think. What are some of the alternative views of the people working in that field. At some point, I need to trust those more informed than me.

As we live in a world, that is so uncertain I am grateful, that Science Questions, so I can Trust.

I will leave you with a comment from a mate of mine, who I trust and limits her opinion until she has asked enough questions to become informed:

Please stop and think before you forward a message. There is no massive media conspiracy to keep you in the dark. I am a journalist. I know journalists.

In fact, journalists are the least “toe the company line” bunch of people on earth. They are grumpy and otherwise, and dubious of authority. There is also a layered system in place to catch errors and a complaints process for when this fails. Your forwarded message has none of those.

Why anyone would trust an UNATTRIBUTED WhatsApp message but not the fact-checked info from verified medical experts reported by journalists is BEYOND me. I’ve been banging this drum for years, and I am so tired. Please turn on your critical thinking switch.

Kate Thompson Davy – Journalist with a column in the Business Day (no YouTube channel that anyone can upload though)

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