In the 1980’s Thomas Dolby sang and synthesized:
It’s poetry in motion
She turned her tender eyes to me
As deep as any ocean
As sweet as any harmony
Mmm – but she blinded me with science
“She blinded me with science!”
First, the metaphor of an intelligent woman “blinding” (confusing) a man with “science” (technical jargon) is both humorous and accurate. Unfortunately, scientists have not made much progress in the last 30+ years to bridge the chasm that exists between us and the general public. Of course, this song could be a topic for an entire post, but I bring up this classic 80’s tune because it appears that many people are often “blinded” not by true scientific research, but what they think is science.
I enjoy a good joke as much as anyone, especially when it has something to do with my biggest passion–science. Except that in today’s society with the ability of anyone (myself included) to disseminate information at the touch of a button, it’s all too easy to rip a headline or a quote from a piece of scientific satire and pass it off as scientific validity. We can all appreciate when someone like Jon Stewart is making a joke (as in always), but what about when you read any of the following?
- Teenage Girl Dies of Hypothermia After Taking Part in ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’
- McDonald’s Using Genetically Modified Beef in its Burgers
- Scientists Discover DNA Link that Proves All Men Cheat
- Panda Meat Found in Vegan Chinese Dinners
- Homeopathic Medicines Proved to Work
Importantly, and I cannot stress this enough, THESE ARE ALL FAKE!!! I know some of you out there are promoting this shit on Facebook and Twitter. Now the question really becomes, how? Sometimes it’s because we consume so much media that we don’t read things carefully (such as the disclaimers on these websites). We read a headline, maybe a paragraph or 2, and somewhat automatically click the share button. A byproduct of media overload is a vicious feed forward cycle of distribution and sending things viral. In addition to our careless dissemination of pseudoscience, our own prejudices and biases also contribute to believing in fake science. If you read something that you already believe, you are much more likely to promote it than if you discover something counter intuitive to your beliefs. Importantly, science does not work on a belief system. Data is collected from experimentation and, as much as the data may be open to different interpretation, it is not accessible to different beliefs or belief systems. There is no such thing as a ‘scientific belief’. As a scientist, I cannot condone creationism because the evidence on evolution is transparent and vast. Creationism is not scientific, it is a belief in something that holds no scientific support. That being said, if that’s what you would like to believe in, be my guest. However, please understand that your particular belief in no way changes the scientific evidence for evolution. We have evolved over millions of years into the intelligent and equally stupid species that we are today.
So then, going forward, if you read or hear something that claims to demonstrate something scientific, please ask yourself the following:
1. What is the source?
2. Is there an agenda (for example, to sell something)?
3. Is there any mention of conspiracy?
4. Does it involve testimonials?
5. Do the claims involve multiple unrelated disorders?
6. Were real scientific experiments performed? Is the research cited?
7. Is there expertise (author, interviews, etc.)?
If red flags emerge when going through this list, question the report. Please do not disseminate the media. Contact the website, author, or producer. Ask your doctor, nurse, or scientist friends. Email me! If nothing else, I’ll have something to write about.