How Social Media Undermines Scientists

How Social Media Undermines Scientists

Misusing your fear to get attention

Scientists work hard every day, conducting Sisyphean experiments to confirm or refute scientific questions. Not for themselves (well, a little bit, since they’re getting paid for it), but for the bigger picture. They’re doing it to solve questions regarding life, aging, medicine, food, environment, and you. Especially you, because your life wouldn’t be anywhere near the way it is right now without science.

It’s not easy, it’s not black and white and those questions can’t always be answered with a clear this is good and this is bad. Scientists know how unsatisfying this is for the population, as people like having clear answers and instructions. But I promise you, they’re doing their utmost.

The constant hollow talk of politically and financially influenced science, corruption and lies, which may be true in a few cases, destroys the credibility of each and every scientist. But it simply is not true all the time. But as soon as something gets controversial or uncomfortable — it must be flawed science.

Media is taking advantage of the fact that people are lost.

Unfortunately, it’s the main argument of those who otherwise have no valid points and who refer to it again and again, to polarize and confuse, instead of giving profound explanations themselves. They prefer taking advantage of the fact that people are lost and don’t know what to believe. Science doesn’t offer them a safe haven anymore. Science is too opaque, a pledged community, all animal testing and cruelty, and only lies in the end. We need to change our image to regain people’s trust.

I personally vouch for scientists. Let alone for the fact that it takes a very specific personality to be one and it makes them the most trustworthy human beings I can imagine. Those people are accurate, analytical, rational, sincere, honest, self-sacrificing, and perfectionist. Faking a result wouldn’t even come to their mind, since it would undermine their credibility and everything they’ve worked for, making their hours crouching in the lab point- and worthless. No scientist would do that to him(or her)self.

Of course, there are biases — negative results that are not as important as positive ones, publishing bias by certain major journals, partiality, and of course the overall question of where did the money come from. But it’s neither science nor scientist that are flawed. It’s politics and capitalism.

Instead of facts, the media is fighting with emotions — with people’s fears.

The major problem is science marketing. We just don’t sell very well. Science is one of the hardest things to convey to people and the media doesn’t have our back. Instead, they’re rooting against us, with unfair means. Because instead of facts, they fight with emotions — with people’s fears, with your fears. And science has nothing to counter them, we’re powerless, with boring theses that can neither be confirmed nor properly refuted and that are just too complex to explain. Media offers a short cut, a simple solution, like junk food. They bring quick satisfaction and you feel good because maybe you no longer eat gluten, avoid red meat, or drink oat milk. They make you feel special because you’re the one thinking differently, you’re not mainstream, no, not You! You’re thinking ahead. You’re smart. But you’re not. Reading about a topic for three minutes doesn’t make you smart or well-informed. That’s a dangerous fallacy.

Yes, we all eat and we all have opinions about our food. But food is actually a science, and a highly complex one at that. However, nutritional science is a new branch of science and goes back less than 100 years, unlike medicine or physics. Not everything is set in stone yet. In addition, it’s so complex that it’s impossible even for scientists to grasp everything, to consider all facts that might play a role. You can’t just read an article or two or even ten, call yourself an expert, and profess that you’ve solved every nutritional issue. It’s just f*** not that simple. And everyone who’s offering a final solution, an easy way out, claiming that one thing is right and the other is wrong — is a liar.

All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.

Will Rogers

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