No scientific evidence for that

A brilliant Facebook post by Kaj Sotala. Posted partly so I can link people here when I need to tell them there’s no scientific evidence for something:

One of the biggest ways by which scientists and science-minded people fail to communicate with laypeople, I think, is with the phrase “there’s no scientific evidence for X”.

Suppose that a layperson comes to a scientist and explains excitedly that he just heard of a new way to [raise children/lose weight/cure illnesses] that works great, and everyone should adopt that method at once!

The scientist replies that she has heard of that method too, but so far there’s no scientific evidence for it.

By that, the scientist means something roughly like “Well, there might be something to it, but the successes that you mention could very well just be coincidence, and it’s really really hard to figure out whether that thing actually works, even if we do lots of careful experiments. So although the thing that you mention could be worth looking into, we really don’t know whether it works yet, and most things like that actually turn out not to work when you do the experiments, so for now we should assume that it won’t work.”

  • Rod

    They come back with, “But my brither-in-law said…” or “My boss’ daughter told me that…. ” and think they have scientifc evidence.
    The old saw about anecdote is not data does not seem to fizz on non-science people.

  • vjack

    My guess is that someone without a rudimentary grasp of science won’t understand the expanded version any better than the brief version. But among those with some scientific background, it is certainly more accurate.

  • L.Long

    Yes the scientists do have some blame but I put most of it on the common people. For a scientist to try and explain quantum anything requires some really odd math or trying to use magic. I don’t understand much of quantum but I do know the scientific method -ya know the method NOT taught in most schools- and I can lookup that scientist on the infernal-net and reference him from other scientists I respect..that makes what the scientist say true enough for now. Just like if a ‘scientist’ is seen to have a BS in buyBull studies from Liberty U, then he is full of it and anything he says is suspect. This is not hard to do, but people generally are too flippin lazy!

    Is it clearer to say ‘the gene’ or ‘the little thingy thing that helps produce another thingy thing that regulates this function’? I can reduce the complexity to a point where the explanation becomes silly and still leaves everyone not knowing what is going on.
    I think that is the main reason that scientist can try all they like , it will do no good, as people don’t want to know! That’s one of the appeals of religion, I don’t need to know or think. The mystical magical powers say this is the way and the reward is eternity in happiness, good enough! Another example is the computer. When did it become used by almost everyone? When you could use it WITHOUT THINKING about it. If someone was using a C64 S/He was a geek and smart, Win95? just smart enough to find a mouse and click on a pretty picture.
    And explaining science is similar, you can’t explain much without the listener having the basics in math, science, and the scientific method, and good language.