An open letter to science-deniers and science-ignorers

Many of this journal’s readers have assumed an attitude of science denial, or at least of ignoring recommendations from the scientific community. This could be in areas such as politics, nutrition, and/or in parenting (which is certainly the most ominous among the examples provided).

I recently stumbled upon a quote from Steven Kotler’s Tomorrowland which I find quite relevant:
Science is not always factually accurate, but it’s usually directionally accurate. It is the result of torturous investigation, vociferous argument, and hard-won consensus. One of the best tests of veracity is when conclusions reached in multiple fields begin to strongly overlap.

In other words, it is true the scientific community constantly flip-flops on issues. Today, you follow their advice, only to be told in the following decades it was total nonsense. Obviously, an understandable knee-jerk reaction is to ignore scientific advice, and “go with your gut.” While understandable, it is nevertheless suboptimal.

It becomes an issue of probability. The question is: under which course of action does the individual minimize unwanted or unpleasant outcomes? Statistically, it is more likely that your “gut” will lead you to unpleasant or unwanted outcomes. Your “gut” is essentially the sum of your acquired knowledge, but also including your prejudices, false beliefs, and lack of knowledge. In most cases, scientific research is more likely to give good advice than your “gut.” If you cannot accept this, you are most likely an arrogant douche.

Best regards,
Casey Flaherty

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