The Dangers of Writing Off Research
The human brain is wired for envy, gloating, and schadenfreude. We want to see well-intentioned, prominent people fall from grace, and we’re unlikely to support something that we don’t agree with. We see it happen all the time on television and social media, and now we’re seeing it happen in science. When we fall down this rabbit hole, we enter a realm of radicalism that can be likened to intellectual terrorism. This is, in itself, a conflict of interest. You can’t objectively critique something that you want to bash for personal reasons anyway.
Scientists should be the first to admit holes in their methodologies and studies. But these same holes are what have stimulated many incredible findings throughout our history. Innovation is born from tinkering with these attitudes and thoughts, and that tinkering is only possible if we embrace science for what it is: thought-provoking.
Science is by no means an indicator of truth, and without it, we would probably still be in the dark ages, trapped by dogmas, opinions, beliefs, and extremist power that would negate our abilities to advance. For all its faults, science has allowed us to live longer, reduce suicide in manic-depressive illness, reverse erectile dysfunction, curb the impact of AIDS, and understand more about the biology of sexual orientation than ever imaginable.
Science has undoubtedly saved lives and improved the world around us. Looking at the big picture, does it really matter if one of these great discoveries happened to occur in a biased setting or if the results weren’t identical across studies?
It’s not worth undoing, diminishing, or halting scientific progress in a quest to achieve an unrealistic, unattainable level of experimental purity. While the integrity of medical science is of paramount importance, it is not productive to use the holes in the scientific method as a reason to bash science. Rather, it is more important to recognize the holes, see the potential innovation that can come from them, and try to improve upon what we know instead of being carried away by an anti-science bias that does society no good.
I do believe that critiques, reexamination, and retractions may be in order — but we also need to recognize that the holes in science are an opportunity for personalization, innovation, and improvement. They do not detract from the fact that the scientific method has much to offer medicine and, more importantly, the people who are served by it.