I am intrigued by something I’ve observed across generations, from people who are so dissimilar I would hesitate to say they have anything in common. It is a very strange attitude about science.
I observe it most often in social media, because … well, that’s where I interact with the largest number of people, I suppose. They will post an article about something science has proven: the benefits of writing, the harmful effects of sweeteners, the medical benefits of coffee, etc. They will be victorious! Emphatic! Science has proven it; it’s incontrovertible.
But then science will prove something they don’t like. Perhaps they don’t like that tanning beds cause cancer, or that more and more evidence keeps piling up to support the big bang, or that … I don’t know, take your pick, there’s always something. Then suddenly, science knows nothing. Why, just 50 years ago, butter was going to kill you and you needed to eat margarine! Now they’re saying margarine is bad and butter is good. And 500 years ago, scientists thought the earth was flat! What do “scientists” know?
Never mind that not all branches of science are created equal. Nutritional and medical science, for example, versus earth science. The former has so many variables that, while we can continue building up strong foundations, we will probably never understand everything about each individual body, precisely because each body is individual. While earth scientists have a completely different data set and way of forming hypotheses and theories. Never mind that we have clearly made a net gain in scientific and technological advancement. When I want it to be true, it’s true; when I don’t like it, it’s false.
So which is science—magical guessing games or methodical, proven, reliable?