Science, Time and Confusion!
After reading both The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and “Perspectives on the nature of science,” I was left feeling unsettled. First in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks we read about the different scientists changing their theories about HeLa multiple times throughout the book. Later, the article “Perspectives on the nature of science” described this phenomenon in more general terms by basically saying that, contrary to popular belief, scientists really don’t know everything. It was surprising for me to realize that the scientific ‘facts’ that we know and trust today could be proven to be false in a matter of days, weeks, months or years. And then those theory revisions could later be proven false. It is a never-ending cycle, which is causes discomfort.
I found the relationship between scientific theories and time to be interesting, especially in regards to technology. In a lot of instances only time will reveal whether or not a scientific theory or idea will be falsified. For example, the theory of cell phones causing cancer. This issue has a personal connection to me because I know someone who recently passed away from brain cancer. This person was used his cell phone often, and his tumor was found close to his ear where he held his cell phone. Since this has happened, I have been skeptical of cell phone use. The theory that it might cause cancer is so new that it is difficult to prove or disprove, similarly to how the fact that cigarettes cause cancer took a long time to be proven by scientists.
This raises the questions: how trustworthy of modern technology should we be? And also, how trustworthy of scientists should we be? The readings and class discussions have awakened me to my naivety in trusting everything I hear from scientists just because they have the label “scientists.” Then I had the thought: if you can’t trust scientists who can you trust? Now I’ve ended up in a cynical spiral of losing faith in all of humanity. I’ve finally concluded that it is important to know yourself enough to filter what you believe and what you do not. I think (and hope) that this skill will improve over time and with life experience. And here we are again at yet another example of time changing things… Great.