I had an interview yesterday, and I had a slightly scientific answer for one of the questions. It wasn’t anything crazy, but it is definitely a result of how I’ve been thinking lately. My mother and father both have masters degrees in biology, and I’ve mentioned before how my mother was my science teacher at one point. Growing up in a household with a geneticist and a toxicologist, there is one thing I had drilled into my head: science cannot prove anything, it can only disprove things.
That’s why it bothers me when people will start a sentence with “It’s been proven…” because nothing has ever been proven. We have no “proof” that the earth is round, exists on an axis, and rotates around the sun. However, there is significant evidence to support the claim that those three characteristics of this planet are indeed real, but no scientist will ever tell you they’ve been proven. That’s because science is always changing. Twenty years ago, scientists convinced an entire generation of people that fat was going to kill them. Now, we know that the anti-fat agenda was funded by companies that wanted to market their low-fat products as healthy, but keep the taste the same by adding more sugar.
This, however, is only one reason why we should be careful to label scientific theorie’s as “proven.” There are more theories on how our planet operates than any scientist or person could imagine. By labeling any one of those theories as proven, you’re dismissing the millions of others as false. The reality is, we don’t have the knowledge or the capacity for information to pick out which theory will be correct. It could also be that bits and pieces of each argument are relevant. So claiming one that theory, one single idea can explain phenomenons we are just beginning to understand is to limit what we may discover in the future.
Next time you catch yourself saying “it’s been proven that [insert idea] is correct,” try saying something along the lines “there is evidence to uphold the claim that [insert idea] is true.” Not only does it make you sound like you know what you’re talking about, but it leaves more room for the conversation to continue. Someone can now challenge whatever evidence you’re presenting and share their own as a counter.
It’s always valuable to be reminded of our insignificance. Humans love to think that the universe was created just so they could figure it out and that it’s existence were tailored to our needs. It’s quite the opposite though, most theories you find will support the idea that humans evolved to suit the climate that the planet offered them, not the other way around. Mother nature is superior and does not bend to human will or science. Who knows? Maybe every theory even the most veteran scientists accept as the truth (think gravity) could be wrong.