The Pandemic Issue

Similarly, there are those who try to cloak their nefar- ious motives in the trappings of science by claiming that they are taking the scientific posture of doubt. Science after all depends on doubt—every scientist doubts every finding they make. Every scientist knows that they can’t possibly foresee all possible instances or situations in which they could be proven wrong, no matter how strong their data. Einstein was doubted for two decades, and cosmologists are still searching for experimental proofs of relativity. Science indeed progresses by doubt. In science revision is a victory. But the imitators merely use doubt to suggest that science is not dependable and should not be used for informing policy or altering our behavior. They claim to be taking the legitimate scientific stance of doubt. Of course, they don’t doubt everything, only what is problematic for their individual enterprises. They don’t doubt the value of blood pressure medicine to control their hypertension. But they should, because every medicine has side effects and we don’t com- pletely understand how blood pressure is regulated and whether there may not be still better ways of controlling it. But we use the pills we have because the science is sound even when it is not completely set- tled. Ask a hypertensive oil executive who would like you to believe that climate science should be ignored because there are too many uncertainties in the data, if he is willing to forgo his blood pressure medicine— because it, too, has its share of uncertainties and unwanted side effects. The apparent success of pseudoscience is not due to gullibility on the part of the public. The problem is that science is recognized as valuable and that the imitators are unfortunately good at what they do. They take a scientific pose to gain your confidence and then distort the facts to their own purposes. How does one learn to spot the con without getting a Ph.D. and spending years in a laboratory? What can be done to make the distinction clearer? Several solutions have been tried—and seem to have failed. Radio and television shows about the latest sci-


Pseudoscience Is Rampant: How Not to Fall for It


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