Friday, February 27, 2009
Easy to scare people
Sharon Begley has a good article in Newsweek about the vaccine-autism scare that has now been debunked. The article tells the whole story of the scare and current science. Along the way we see that science is messy -- it gets to the right answer but doesn't get there quickly or along a straight line or without a lot of dead ends. It is easy to misuse science and easy to do bad science. It is easy to destroy trust in science. Media people, who thrive on controversy, are always much more interesting stirring up conflict than scientists trying to resolve that conflict. Bad science can divert attention and millions of dollars from true causes and treatments. Finally, "while it's very easy to scare people, it's very hard to unscare them."