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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 retired 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 moves to overturn it that are wrongly and hastily honored by the authorities. 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)? Most of all, shouldn't we develop the capability to ask those in such powerful positions the right questions, those about their intentions and the impact of their decisions on the public? Shouldn't we be entitled to ask, "Where are the data, and why are they interpreted the way they are? Why the foot-dragging on clinical trials? Is the technology we are asked to depend on properly tested? Does what seems to be a global problem mostly affect certain readily identifiable groups of people?" We also might be better judges of what the moral high road is where scientists have conflicts of interest, and we should persist in identifying what they are.
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? And we need to be asking these questions of the powerful people who make sweeping healthcare decisions for our countries. 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.
Our federal government does keep the public informed about its executive branch policy decisions in great detail as required by the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946. Its websites contain information designed to be understood by the average citizen. This Act even provides for 30-day public comment periods on proposed rulings by its agencies. Perhaps the most important information citizens should know are the basics of what is considered to be standard medical practice today, i.e., what you are likely to encounter at an annual physical exam. These web pages provide this information:
In this spirit, I have written the following essays:
Major essays (heavily researched literature reviews)
"Subclinical" Hypothyroidism: Is Restricting Treatment Based on Science or on Politics? (begun January 22, 2013, with continual revisions through September 26, 2021)
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)
Bat Viruses, Gain-of-Function Research, and National Security (July 31, 2021)
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
Mitral Valve Prolapse: Personal Thoughts (December 16, 2016)
Copyright © 2013-2021 by Dorothy E. Pugh