Speaking of Science: Why do the facts keep changing? A look at active research during the Covid-19 pandemic | Lifestyles

Of course, the fact that science is designed so that it can be refuted means it often is. As our technology improves, as we ask new and better questions, as our sample sizes increase, we often draw conclusions that directly contradict those of the past. In such situations, the conflicting conclusions must battle it out: do we have more reason to believe that one is more accurate than the other or do we see flaws in one we missed before? Almost always, the answer is yes, and one theory wins until future, and hopefully improved, experiments bring the victorious theory back into the ring for another round.

It might seem a bit alarming that the ability to constantly refute science means that what we know, or think we know, will change. As a species, we don’t like things we do not understand. The fear of the unknown is real. But think of the alternative. Until nearly the end of the 1800s, scientists, correctly recognizing that human waste and garbage could lead to illness proposed that the bad smell was itself the culprit.

Some historians even hold that the famous “ring a ring o’ roses; pocket full of posies” rhyme refers to individuals placing flowers in their pockets as protection against the bubonic plague, which caused ring-like rashes. Earlier than that, Egyptians mistook the red-colored sweat of the hippopotamus for blood, leading to the idea that releasing copious amounts of blood from patients could somehow cure their ills. The idea of “bleeding” patients to cure them continued to be supported by “scientific” research into the 1900s. Of course, modern knowledge of the body tells us that extensive release of blood from the body is far more likely to do harm than good and the germ theory of disease suggests that viruses, bacteria, and other small parasites and organisms cause disease, not smells.

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