Science exists for the noble reason to find truth. Sometimes the message is dissonant. We don’t want to hear it. Take climate change, for example. The scope of it is so daunting as to incomprehensible. The consequences—the real ones and not the ones blow out of proportion by popular media—are equally as unintelligible. Yet, it is real just the same. But the greatest misconception about science appears more innocuous.
The Greatest Misconception
We like endings to our stories. I remember seeing “The Empire Strikes Back” when it first came out. I remember being so disappointed that it was just an episode in the series, rather than a wrapped-up-with-a-pink-ribbon type of movie. That’s kind of how it is with science.
You see, science rarely closes the book on anything. The greatest misconception about science is that some people think, “Oh, they figured it out. Glad that’s done.” What many don’t realize is that it is the true never-ending story. Science evolves. It is provisional.
If new evidence comes to light to refute past observations (read: egg and cholesterol story), then, science changes course. It’s not a failure to learn you may have been wrong the first time. You learned something, and that is truly wonderful. But now, you’ve learned something new, and that too is truly wonderful.
The Misconception In Action
Here is how the misconception plays out in the wild. Take this bit of tripe from the Toronto Star. The paper has since put a disclaimer on the story that suggested that HPV vaccines are harmful. The paper also thankfully reworded the headline to be less
yellow journalism sensational. The problem stems from hangers-on clinging to old and discredited studies about vaccinations.
The same thing is routine practice with the anti-GMO crowd. In each case, individuals are trapped in the greatest misconception about science: that it stands still. Science keeps moving on. They are cases where people hang on to old science and use that as their flag.
Stick with the Tour
The best thing we can all do is accept and appreciate the fact that science learns from itself. It builds upon previous knowledge. It is not afraid to say it was wrong. The greatest misconception about science forgets that knowledge is a living and evolving thing. Failing to follow the path of science is a fool’s occupation. Stick with the tour.
The point of the Science Matters series was to highlight the uphill battle that science and scientists face while trying to pursue knowledge. It is, after all, the greatest good. Our lives are better because of science. And we all have scientists to thank for that. Thank you, Science.