Science is not a class you endure in high school. Science is not a degree you earn in college. You may have passed your science class and possibly earned a degree in a specific area of science. It is entirely possible that you have done one or both of those things. It is also entirely possible that you have never really realized the importance of the scientific process in your life and the lives of those who share your world.
Your life has been impacted by science in ways you probably never even consider. In our lifetime the average life expectancy has increased by 20 years. If you get to enjoy those 20 extra years, you can thank those who have dedicated their lives to the fields of medical and nutritional research. Advances in these fields have made it possible to live healthier, longer lives. For the most part, these advances didn’t happen by accident.
I don’t get sick often. I haven’t had the flu in at least five years. I have no idea why other than the possible explanation that I am lucky, (or there some truth to the notion that there are even some things the flu can’t stand). However, this year I decided to take a little more control over my health and I broke down and got a flu shot. I didn’t get the flu this year either. Is it because of the flu shot? I have no idea. However, I do know that my system was prepared ahead of time in case I got exposed to that nasty flu that was going around.
Did getting vaccinated for this years’ four most common strains of influenza virus guarantee that I wouldn’t get the flu? Absolutely not! However, it meant that the chances of getting the flu were significantly decreased. I will take those odds every day. Thanks to the results of years of medical research, I can be prepared.
Are you a parent? If you are you have been inundated with claims about ways to keep your child healthy. Are all of these claims true? Of course not! How are you supposed to know what to believe? Can you trust the science? Can you trust the claims of others? How do you separate legitimate truth from partial truth? If you know how to think scientifically you can make legitimate decisions that can impact your life in positive ways. You can also ignore scientific evidence and ruin your life and the life of others.
Do you smoke cigarettes? If you do you have completely ignored the evidence that has been developed through the scientific process over the years stating that you are at least twenty times more likely to develop lung cancer than a non smoker. Does that mean you are going to get lung cancer? No, it only means that you have a far greater chance of getting lung cancer than someone who doesn’t make that decision. Have you ever heard someone say, “I know someone who has smoked for forty years and doesn’t have cancer.” If you use that for an excuse what you are saying is that because one person dodged the cancer bullet, you are going to do the same. Scientifically speaking, smoking is playing Russian roulette with your health. You have that option. Ignoring scientific evidence that has been produced by multiple researchers using multiple methods of studies with multiple lines of supporting evidence is not the brightest move one can make. However, you are welcome to make the decision.
Here are some areas of scientific discovery that you may have made decisions about in your life:
- Is the development of autism in children in any way related to vaccinations?
- Do seatbelts save lives? Do I make my kids wear them?
- Do condoms stop the spread of disease? Do they prevent pregnancy?
- If my son plays football, is there a chance of serious head injury?
- Is ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)(Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in any way related to the amount of hits to the head I may receive when playing football?
- Do female soccer players experience more concussion injuries than males? If so, why?
- Is second-hand smoke dangerous?
- Is obesity related to heart disease?
- Is diet related to heart disease?
- Is smoking related to heart disease?
- What is the relationship between diet and diabetes?
- Are claims by those selling products that “promote or support” any given system in your body legitimate?
- Does Echinacea really limit the symptoms of a cold?
- Is there really a significant portion of older men in our society suffering from “low-T?” (lower than normal testosterone levels)
- Does estrogen therapy contribute to an increase in breast cancer?
- What about x-rays? Is my dentist or doctor contributing to an increased possibility of me getting cancer?
- Do cell phones cause brain tumors?
- Does green coffee bean extract really work as a means of losing weight?
- Is green coffee bean extract safe to use?
- Is using adderall to increase concentration dangerous?
- Is exposure to asbestos safe?
- Does exposure to high-tension electrical lines cause serious illness in children?
- Does increased carbon in our atmosphere contribute to climate change?
- Does increased carbon in our atmosphere contribute to an increase in the number and severity of killer storms?
I could fill three or four pages of questions like these. Some of the questions may seem trivial to you. However, every one of them can impact the lives of your parents, spouses, children and friends. You can probably think of your own related questions if given 5 minutes to think about it. As a matter of fact, you probably have a question in the back of your mind about a specific concern right now. (If you want you can send it to me. I would love to provide some feedback and get a conversation started).
Here is my point. Your life has been significantly impacted by the contributions of science. Interestingly enough, you may have been impacted, but you may not have an understanding of even the most basic facts about what science really is, who does science, where is science being done, and who pays for it. Here is a big one….how can I trust scientific claims? You may not even believe that you should even know those things.
Let me ask you a question. How do you determine what to believe and how to respond to any of the science-related issues you are bombarded with daily? Do you automatically believe every claim you are presented with? If you are curious, you can find answers that make sense.
Science is both a process and a body of knowledge. It is also a way of thinking that will go a long way to improving your life. After reading this, do you feel you need to know more?
If you want to learn to think analytically about the questions you have, class is in session.