I was making a Costco run with my friend George on Friday, and the subject of the weather came up. It was a nice day, relatively speaking, but Saturday was going to be nicer – nearly 70 degrees. This was a nice change of pace from the polar vortexes and dump trucks full of snow we’ve been hit with here in Maryland for the past three months. Then I looked at my iPhone and noted the forecast calls for another possible large snowstorm Tuesday.
George said that seemed a little far away to predict such things with any certainty, and he’s right. Considering meteorologists rarely can tell you with any accuracy what happened yesterday, why should they be believed on what will happen next week? The fact is they shouldn’t.
What drives me nuts, as I told George, isn’t that they’re wrong so often. It’s the certainty with which they make predictions knowing they don’t truly know and so often are so off-base. It’s at this time that George, a medical doctor with a master’s degree in biology, a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and minor in chemistry, laughed, saying, “Nothing is absolute in science, except maybe in physics.” (Another area he spent a lot of time studying. He’s an over-achiever.)
It’s true: We know very little about the world in which we live or even our own bodies.
The Earth was flat and the sun revolved around it. Bleedings were prescribed for healing at one point by science. But we don’t need to go back that far to find confusion and contradictions in “settled science.”
Smoking causes cancer, but not in everyone and we don’t know why. Why eating a diet of fried foods makes one person fat but with normal blood pressure and someone else can be incredibly fit with a healthy diet but have high blood pressure remains an unknown. Science, at it’s most certain, is probability – sometimes extremely high, but still not 100 percent. And it’s changing all the time.
A few years ago, we were told saturated fat caused heart disease, and polyunsaturated fat was a “good fat” that was great for the heart. Labels were changed to highlight the absence of one and the presence of the other. Diets were launched. Cookbooks were written. Lives were altered. And it may all have been for naught.
The UK Telegraph reported this week, “Scientists have discovered that saturated fat does not cause heart disease while so-called ‘healthy’ polyunsaturated fats do not prevent cardiovascular problems.” This wasn’t just a 180-degree turn from what we “knew” to be true, it’s a full 540-degree loop from what used to be orthodoxy.