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Scientists Correct Misconceptions Average People Have That Drive Them Nuts

Listen to the experts!

Those of us without genius level leanings seem to be ruffling the feathers the Mensa crowd. Apparently we're getting a few things wrong or continuing the lifespan of a few misguided myths. Sorry guys we don't know it all. So tell us.

Redditor u/charlychapal reached out the smarty pants folks on Reddit by asking... Scientists of Reddit, what misconceptions do us laymen often have that drive you crazy?

Life is old... 

Geologist here, people don't understand the massive time scale of the earth, and how little we know absolutely beyond the last 100-1000 years. LulaMaybeBarnes

Same for evolution. 20,000 generations just to get a bacteria to use a different sugar? It's VERY difficult to comprehend huge numbers. CortexiphanSubject81

Math ain't easy...

Mathematician here, but it's astounding how many people think that people get Ph.Ds in the subject simply to be "human calculators." I once told someone I had a degree in math, and the person proceeded to ask simple mental math questions. Once I answered them (toughest was 17*15) he admitted that I really was amazing at math and that my degree was put to good use. I don't think I've face palmed harder.


You're hiding the truth! 

I am a scientist and my sister legitimately thinks the cure for cancer has been found and 'we' (I am not a cancer scientist but apparently we're all in on it together) are keeping it from the public. She does not understand what cancer actually is or that its really bloody hard to treat but gets really angry at me whenever cancer is mentioned because I'm the reason people are suffering. Wtf. yasellpro

What the What?

"What's the use?"

Most of the time, we either don't know or have a vague idea of how research could go out of the lab. It is usually written in conclusion of articles, sometimes a bit too emphatically, which gives sensational headlines. Stockholm-Syndrom

People always get it backwards. Necessity isn't the mother of invention, usually we invent something and then try to find a use for it. See: Viagra. They were trying to treat heart disease, turns out the drug's side effects were waaaaaaaay more valuable. grendus

I don't recall CRISPR...

Back when CRISPR became big news I kept seeing articles about how in the next 5 years we'd be custom making designer babies. Meanwhile I was trying to make a CRISPR mouse where I made a single nucleotide change and it took MONTHS. It's an incredible technique and miles faster and easier than some of the old methods of mouse model generation but hot damn, it's not 5 years to superhuman babies fast.... Mumblechops

Big Pharma

I am a cancer scientist and I get this all the damned time. It's always "follow the money!" Like cancer therapies are expensive and that proves BIG PHARMA can't allow a cure to come out. A legitimate cure for cancer would be a trillion dollar drug in its first year, I guarantee you BIG PHARMA would murder to get their hands on it and sell it if it existed. And I work in big pharma.


Also, the loons who think this probably wouldn't even trust the cure if we had it. I'm an oncology pharmacist and the amount of people who forgo chemo and biologics for frankincense and essential oils from their "trusted" naturopath is mind-numbing.

9 times out of 10, they show back up in our office a year or two later with stage IV metastatic cancer and beg us to save them. Usually at that point the most we can do is palliative treatment to slow tumor growth.

The worst part is, after they eventually die the families are distraught and sometimes want to sue the naturopath for misleading them into thinking cancer can be cured with crystals and oils. But it's almost always unsuccessful because an MD can't be would be an irrelevant expert witness against a naturopath in a malpractice claim, they would need another naturopath (or so I've been told). So the naturopaths continue this irresponsibly fatal nonsense, and people continue to die of treatable cancers because they think they know better than modern medicine.


Oh Higher Education...

I go to a 4 year university and I'm getting my BS in biology soon. Right now I'm having to take upper division electives in other subjects. I had an anthropology professor last semester... mind you this is someone with a higher degree than the one I already have... tell the whole cultural anthropology class that designer babies are here and widely accessible. She even quoted prices; 200$ for eye color, 500$ for skin color. Same professor told the class That mothers are "not allowed" to give birth in a squatting position in the United States. That class was just a whole semester of me trying not to scream. SnoozingBeauty

It's more than 10? 

Neuroscientist here. If everyone stopped repeating that "we only use 10% of our brain" thing, my blood pressure would probably drop significantly. sqrrl101

Silly kids... enjoy the "air!" 

That there could ever be some great global conspiracy of scientists to hide the "truth" about climate change or evolution.

Research science is as filed with pettiness and ego as any corporate boardroom. Everyone is trying to get out the next big discovery, and the competition between labs is fierce and sometimes nasty.

There is no way 97% of climate scientists are getting together and sharing a cheese plate while discussing how to take away your Suburban. Asasarame

Tip The Man

If there's one thing I've learned as a math major, it's to not tell anyone I'm a math major. Then they just want you to calculate the tip for dinner.


Beyond tips and discounts do you run into people flat out not believing you if it's over their heads? They have to 'see it for themselves'? There was a segment on the Sunday morning shows about this pervasive theme.


X is not always the spot! 

The biggest one I deal with at work is "scientists know everything." I work as a food scientist/R&D, and whenever we have something unexpected happen (e.g. a product is way stickier than I thought it should be, takes more water than our quality regs allows to prevent mold, etc.), no fewer than 4 people will come to me with a product in-hand and ask "why did this happen?" No context; not even sure what the actual problem is, just that they're holding something that's apparently not right. Depending on what the problem is, I usually have a couple ideas. Follow-up is then "well which one is it??" Like I'm actively trying to avoid giving them the one correct answer... No, it could be any one of them OR it could even be a combination of all of them. We just have to try them out to find know for sure. My boss is the biggest offender of this, where he'll send me an email saying "Product X doesn't look good. What happened. We need to fix it" and I have even less to go on..

I don't have all the answers, and scientists aren't fiendishly withholding knowledge from people. camomcg

The Big Bang

Sciences aren't about telling what reality is, it's about making models that fit observation. These models can have a 99.99999% certainty to be true, but they're still only models. It's a concept that's often overlook but is actually very important. Maybe the actual explanation of chemical reactions or physical phenomenon is completely different of how our scientific theories explains them. It doesn't matter. It wouldn't make the models less valid because they're still fulfilling their role: predicting results based on initial conditions.

So whenever someone goes "And how science explains X or Y then?!" as if an unexplained anecdote will suddenly bring the sum of all or scientific knowledge to its knees, I just roll my eyes and sigh. At best they find the edge of the model, it doesn't make the model invalid -its framework will generally disqualified itself from trying to explain stuff it's not meant to- nor is an invitation to fill it with whatever myth you want, it's just an area where we still have to work on.

Example: what there was before the Big Bang.


Equal pay for all! 

Zoologist here there are two misconceptions that drive me up a wall:

1.) When people say, incredulously, that humans evolved from monkeys, as if to denounce the whole idea of evolution as some crackpot idea. No, we did not evolve from modern day monkeys, we both share a common ancestor.

2.) Whenever people say that modern AZA zoos steal animals from the wild. They did do that in the past, but nowadays pretty much all animals you see in a reputable zoo are bred in captivity using SSP guidelines. Of course the same people who like to spout such nonsense also support shoddy "reserves" that have less funding and less support for their animals, and sometimes are no better than those roadside zoos that only see their animals as money makers.



Patcharin Saenlakon / EyeEm / Getty Images

Racism is an insidious, and unfortunately prevalent, force in all of our daily lives. Maybe we're on the receiving end of it, being treated differently and losing opportunities because of others' preconceived notions.

Or maybe we're on the other side of things. Even those who aren't actively racist or discriminatory still have to process the world through the filters of the things they've been told about people who are different.

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