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COVID Crisis Post 43: Science, Defined.


Well, my previous post was pretty well timed, huh??


It is AWESOME to see a huge number of my own physician colleagues push back against this garbage and informing their friends and loved ones of this! These unethical individuals should have their medical licenses revoked, and I know some groups who are taking action to do just this.


They have NO idea the degree of devastation COVID-19 has inflicted. And sadly, this devastation extends not only to the patient and the family, but to the first-responders and providers themselves.


And NYC lost two by suicide yesterday in Dr. Lorna Breen, 49, and super young EMT John Mondello, 23.


PTSD is real.


PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types (symptoms may vary): 1. Intrusive memories 2. Avoidance 3. Negative changes in thinking and mood 4. Changes in physical and emotional reactions


Please, if you have suicidal thoughts, reach out to a loved one, a member of your faith, doctor or mental health professional, or call a suicide hotline.


In the United States - National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to reach a trained counselor: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.


I could not wait to mention the above, so apologies for the now-lengthier post 😅.


On to Science:


The language of science is unique. As a result, when scientists speak to non-scientists, sometimes things get lost in translation. Same words, yet so different due to the precision used to define such terms.


And perhaps as a result of this misunderstanding, few professions are questioned more than medicine due to its roots in science.


To start, let us look at how the Oxford dictionary defines science:


"The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the SYSTEMATIC study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through OBSERVATION and EXPERIMENT."


This process describes a dynamic learning process where the facts of our world may change. This may seem contradictory to many, as many would describe fact as something concrete and static.


But one fact may be replaced with a new fact as our knowledge of the world changes. Your spouse factually may be faithful one day, and then factually be unfaithful the next.

And this type of dynamic learning is EXACTLY how we want to approach COVID-19, an ever-evolving disease process where those at the front-lines need to be able observe the disease systematically and then easily pivot and adapt to new information provided. This same learning can and should be applied to life in general.


My goal is for everyone to think a bit more like a scientist. And we all have our own examples of where the Dunning-Kruger effect has been confirmed, so scientists and non-scientists alike should work to minimize this effect!


Let's get to today's scientific vocabulary lesson. I will also list the non-scientific (NS) definition of each from the Oxford dictionary so one can see how their definitions vary:


Question: What is the scientific method? Answer: Per the Oxford dictionary - "a method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses." NS: "a particular form of procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, especially a systematic or established one."


Question: What is a scientific fact? Answer: An observation that has been REPEATEDLY confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as "true". However, these scientific truths can change - not only because our knowledge of the world grows, but the scientific methods used to evaluate new information improves and changes as well. NS: "a thing that is known or proved to be true."


Question: What is a scientific hypothesis? Answer: A tentative statement about the natural world leading to deductions that must be BOTH TESTABLE AND FALSIFIABLE (this is NOT the same as being able to prove the hypothesis correct!). If the statement cannot be tested or there is no way to prove if it is false or not, IT CANNOT BE CALLED A HYPOTHESIS. And if enough evidence finally accumulates to support a hypothesis, a scientific theory is borne out. NS: "a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation."


Question: What is a scientific theory? Answer: A well-substantiated explanation acquired through the scientific method and REPEATEDLY tested and CONFIRMED through observation and experimentation. NS: "a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained."


Question: What is a scientific law? Answer: A statement based on REPEATED experimental observations that describes some phenomenon of nature. It is used as proof that something happens and how it happens, but not WHY it happens. NS: "a thing regarded as having the binding force or effect of a formal system of rules."


EVERYTHING in science is predicated on proof generated through well-designed studies where variables and bias are minimized and independent confirmation can occur. Science is NOT opinion. I hope these definitions alone increase your understanding of how scientists think.


But a brilliant essay written by Tania Lombrozo, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, entitled "What Makes Science Science?" perhaps encapsulates all of this best. An excerpt:


"...science is about actively hunting for where we are wrong, for where we are fooling ourselves. Scientific methods thus evolve alongside scientific conclusions, and the engine that drives this change is remarkably simple... science is powerful because it involves the systematic evaluation of alternatives...


Scientific thinking isn't just a tool for working scientists; it's an approach to getting the facts right by entertaining all the ways we might get the facts wrong. Only when viable alternatives have been eliminated can we be pretty confident we've got something right.


So let me end with a plea. The plea isn't for people to accept any particular scientific consensus, or any particular public fact. It's a plea for people to embrace the value of considering alternative possibilities, and evaluating those possibilities against the best evidence and arguments at our disposal. And it's a plea for us to do so together, with the kinds of evidence we can verify and share, and the kinds of arguments we can subject to public scrutiny. And if you're not convinced, please consider the alternatives."


So please. Think critically. Reach out for clarification before sharing. Stop the spread of disinformation. And help cure the infodemic.


And let's limit the loss of life due to the bully known as COVID-19. The bully may physically beat you down, but the unseen mental trauma may pack an even greater punch.


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