In our current age of information overload, one phrase seems to cut through the noise and command our attention.
This qualifier commands respect. It brings authority and gravitas to whatever it attaches to. It demands to be taken seriously.
What are the magic words that can end all debates and drop the mic on a conversation?
Proven by science.
If you’re debating with someone who likes to hook into known facts rather than live in the realm of feelings and intuition, “proven by science” is your magic key.
Look around and you will see it everywhere. It’s the add on to headlines that turns them into click bait.
Consider these two headlines:
3 Ways to Start Your Day With Increased Energy.
3 Scientifically-Proven Ways to Start Your Day With Increased Energy.
Which one would you click on?
Which are you more likely to trust?
In an uncertain world, with information coming at you non-stop, if you’re a person who seeks certainty and control, you’re more likely to gravitate towards and trust claims that are “proven by science.”
This isn’t bad, or wrong. It doesn’t make you gullible.
But it can make you short-sighted or narrow-minded if you don’t remember some key facts about what is “proven by science.”
(1) What is Proven is What is Researched
Not every hypothesis that is researched or studied becomes proven, but everything proven by science was researched or studied.
This means someone had a hypothesis about it first. And that they had the ability and capacity to study it.
This not only applies to topics, but also to populations and demographics.
Until about 20 years ago, most medications were not tested on women or minorities. The subjects were largely white males. Men metabolize medications differently from women.
Therefore the “scientifically proven” effectiveness of a medication was proven only with regard to white males.
This same principle applies outside of pharmaceutical science. Most neuroscience historically studied neurotypical populations. If you’re neurodivergent, those “scientifically proven” facts wouldn’t necessarily apply to you.
This brings us to point 2:
(2) What Gets Researched is What Gets Funded
Research studies require funding. Funding tends to go to bigger, more prominent, and more mainstream causes and issues.
Consider all the funding supporting cancer research, or heart disease, compared to lesser-known or lesser-prevalent illnesses.
The fact that a theory isn’t proven by science doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. It may mean that nobody sought funding to study the theory, or that nobody was willing to offer funding to study it.
What gets funded typically reflects the interests of the people offering the funding. Which again points us to the fact that most funding omits issues that face minority populations or underrepresented demographics.
(3) What’s Proven is Always Evolving
New experiences yield new information and new insights, which can change the landscape.
As issues get studied over time, with more information, new results emerge.
Often, people may live with certain theories for years before anyone actually thinks to research their validity.
On the flip side, some studies don’t hold up over time.
What is “proven by science” is often a lagging indicator of what’s actually true.
Does this mean you should brush off what’s “proven by science”?
But neither does it mean that you should dismiss what hasn’t been proven by science.
And just because something has been proven by science doesn’t mean it’s universally true for everyone.