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A Science Student's View of Science in Daily Life
Cyclohexane (C6H12): Chair Conformation.  Cyclohexane is a hydrocarbon consisting of a ring of carbon atoms, each bonded to two hydrogen atoms.  Pictured is a 3-D model of the most typical arrangement of its atoms in space, as visualized in two dimensions by convention.  

Disclaimer:  These essays represent the views of a former natural science student and former clinical trials lead statistical programmer/analyst.  Nothing in these essays should be interpreted as a recommendation for a scientific experiment.  The essays that this page lists do not challenge medical orthodoxy, although some of them examine skeptically recent attempts to overturn it.  For more details about the background of the author, Dorothy E. Pugh, see About Us

What should we really be doing to "follow the science"? Should it simply mean to accept unquestioningly the opinions of scientists in powerful government positions regarding public health, medical care, and even the details of our daily lives?  Or should it mean to use our knowledge and reasoning skills to examine the bases of their judgments and rulings?  Wouldn't it be a good idea to develop the skills to read influential scientific publications critically, or at least to get the background on technical terms politicians throw at us without explanation (and perhaps without understanding)?

This is why one might choose to study science, other than to prepare for a relevant career.  You would learn the thought processes necessary to do valid science.  It might help you not only to change the way you lead your daily life but to see how the world is run.  It might change your perception of yourself as a person and as a citizen of a society that bases a large and increasing number of its laws and customs on the findings of scientific experts.  You can begin by wondering what kind of person would make a good scientist and how to look at the world more rationally and with more curiosity. These essays tackle these big questions, but also some small day-to-day problems.  Sometimes there is a connection between the two: sometimes what seems to be a personal problem on your part might be the door that opens your mind to a pervasive problem that troubles many people.  

I believe that it's important for everyone to learn as much as possible about science, not just its discoveries but its processes.  How many people suffer unnecessarily from health problems or even lose their political freedom because of our reluctance to become full participants in social and political decision-making guided by interpretations of scientific discoveries?  In order to protect our health and well-being, we need to become informed citizen-scientists, i.e., people who are responsible clients of scientific services.  I'm putting forth the perhaps radical idea that we don't need to be heavily degreed to do this, but should just try to drink up every last drop of knowledge in the science courses that we do take.   You need to be introspective: how do you feel about these concepts?  What are their implications?  What doesn't seem to come together, both in the sense of how and of why?  We need to stop thinking of science simply as something mysterious that only highly unusual, privileged, people do and to start seeing it as a natural process that answers a basic human need.  If we are afraid to do this, we might lose the freedoms that we have come to take for granted, perhaps all that define our democratic republic.

In this spirit, I have written the following essays:

Essays

Major essays (literature reviews)

"Subclinical" Hypothyroidism: Is Restricting Treatment Based on Science or on Politics? (begun January 22, 2013, with continual revisions through November 11, 2020)

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble: The Hard Problem of (Very) Soft Water   (Major revisions on July 27-August 21, 2008)

My Two Cents on the Cost of U.S. Medical Care   (July 11, 2008)

Thinking outside the box: hypotheses worth pursuing or just fun stuff

Race, Age, and Other Surrogate Variables: Are We Really Thinking This Through? (September 18, 2020)

Noses and Common Sense in the Time of COVID-19  (September 5, 2020)

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer Live Cam Stills: Ocean Animals (July 14-15, 2017)

An Unprecedented Disaster or Just the Tip of the Iceberg? Lessons from a Recent Medical Scandal (May 19, 2017)

A New Regulatory Catch-22: Hypothyroidism and Depression (October 21, 2016)

In Defense of the EpiPen: Human Factors and Social Progress (August 28, 2016)

My Two Cents on Climate Change (February 17, 2015)

What about the water in climate change models? (January 6, 2014)

How Chemistry and Physics in the Kitchen Might Affect Your Biology  

How to Ask a Good Naïve Question  

Probability Bites Back: The Monty Hall Problem   (June 14, 2008)

Mitral Valve Prolapse: Personal Thoughts (December 16, 2016)

 

Copyright © 2013-2020 by Dorothy E. Pugh

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