May 05, 2017

An original Heroin bottle, by Bayer. Credit: Mpv 51 / Flickr Creative Commons 

Scientific discoveries have changed our world. We live longer. We can do incredible things with technology. But discovery doesn’t always mean progress. Dr. Paul Offit, author of Pandora's Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong, says that sometimes, scientists have done more harm than good.

Three Takeaways:
  • Back in 1898, Bayer came out with what it thought was a miracle drug. Heroin was available over-the-counter, and, despite the quickly overwhelming evidence, was advertised as “safe” for almost twenty years. And the worst part? Mistakes like this kept happening. "We just continued not to learn this lesson," says Offit. 
  • Offit doesn’t think we should doubt science as a whole, but he would like us to be cautious: “[I don’t] mean that you can’t trust science. But... you should be skeptical of scientists because scientists get it wrong all the time.”
  • Over 4,000 scientific papers are published every day. The best way to figure out which ones are worth your time? Offit says to wait for a result to be reproduced by other scientists.
More Reading:

science, Paul Offit, Sci and Tech, mistakes, failure, Sci & Tech

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