By: Harrison Miller ‘17
The divide between science and the everyday person runs deep. Society now accepts science as this incomprehensible, arcane study that mere mortals dare not comprehend. Because of this, society more readily accepts and promotes research without question. Politicians use science as fuel for their agendas, businesspersons see it as an enterprise, but no one outside science really knows how to verify what they hear. There is no real fact checking. There is no way for a non-scientist to know what is scientific, especially in the media.
Because of this, this column is dedicated to science and to you, the reader. Our goal is to find topics relevant to your life, explore the research on that topic and present what we find. Things like GMOs, climate change, health science, carcinogens (stuff that gives you cancer), and the stuff you hear about in the media directly affect you.
However, we are not the last word on any issue, nor are we going to dictate the ‘proper’ ethical or personal response. We may be able to speak of genes and biological processes that shape male and female humans, but we can’t tell you how you should think about gender. We can speak of the evidence of climate change, but we can’t tell you how to live as a result. It is your prerogative to respond; we just want to give you the facts and help you become informed.
To us, the writers of this column, science cannot speak to the ethical, the philosophical, or the emotional. As much as men like Richard Dawkins and Steven Hawking would like to believe science is the ultimate answer to all questions, it is not. Science asks, “How? When? Where? Can we?” and can answer these questions. It cannot answer: “Why? Should we? We of course can do stem cell research, but should we?” These are questions science has no authority over, and anyone who tries to answer those questions does not understand the purpose of science. It’s our promise to remain as neutral as we can on the issues we cover and to try not to answer moral and personal questions.
We also don’t want to be scientifically one sided about any issue. We want to present the major and minor views on our topics. It’s rare if not impossible to be certain of anything in science. That might be surprising to hear. Today’s media portrays science as 100% correct, but that isn’t the case. In fact science cannot prove anything; it can only disprove. Most of research is actually trying to disprove your theory, not prove it. Failing to disprove a theory strengths it, and the longer a theory can go without getting disproven, the more confident we are it is correct. When we are totally confident of something, we call it a Law. These are the sort of things we’re 99% sure are true, but never hit 100%.
That’s why we want to be sure that what we present in these articles is strong research. Mainstream media is full of faulty scientific conclusions. There’s a lot of bad research that supports liberal and conservative agendas, and it gets cited. We will not accept bad research or present research that lacks scientific rigor. Our goal is to present you with the truth, no more, no less.
Now, that all sounds very intimidating. Don’t worry! Our goal isn’t to try to teach you how cells work or the name of every muscle in your body. This is not a lecture series. We simply want to take the time to explain what scientists are actually saying and what that means. Of course, you’ll see science-y words like genes, molecules, etc. But when we need to use those words, we’ll define them as best we can. We want to keep this as interesting, fun and informative as possible.
It’s important to be informed on scientific issues. Why? Well most people have beliefs about politics, society and morality. Research and statistics are used a lot in debates about these issues. If you’re like most people, you want to defend what you believe. So… how are you going to argue that science supports your view, if you can’t point to solid evidence? And no, Buzzfeed statistics and random stuff you got off the internet are not valid.
We’re far from experts, but we are a bunch of kids that love science, and we hope that by the end of this semester you’ll like it (even if just a little) more than before and know what the heck those men and women in white coats are talking about.
Kayla Kroning ‘18, Michael Shea and Emma Folkerts ‘20 contributed to this article.