Scientists Reveal What They Wish Society Would Better Understand

Scientists Reveal What They Wish Society Would Better Understand

It's no secret that scientific literacy is on the decline in the United States, and this has resulted in many people failing to grasp some really basic concepts, like what peer reviewed studies are. Or how statistics work. Or that the Earth is round and goes around the Sun. We need to ramp up science education so we can have a brighter future. Our survival depends on it.

TheMeisterAce asked, Scientists of Reddit, what is the one thing that you wish the general public had a better understanding of?

Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.

Papers that are peer-reviewed are more credible than one-off reports.

Just because it's a paper it doesn't mean it's credible. The idea behind peer reviewed articles vs non. Along with small sample size studies are generally not a good representation of the entire population.

Anecdotes are not evidence of anything because personal experience can't be replicated.

Averages and Sample Size.

So we can get rid of anecdotal evidence, as often seen in the media.

This makes sense, which in science is not usually necessary.

99% of all accidents happen close to home. BECAUSE THAT'S WHERE YOU ARE MOST OF THE TIME.

We learned this in what, fourth grade?

Also the difference between mean, median and mode.

Read beyond the headlines, especially for science reported in the media.

When mainstream media reports something like "a new study shows that...." the conclusion is either exaggerated or taken out of context to make the news article more attractive.

Scientific discovery leading to understanding is not a quick process.

How long the scientific process actually takes and is accepted by our peers.

I dreamt it would rain, and it rained. Therefore it rained because I dreamt it. NO.

The difference between causation and correlation.

A scientific theory is supported by evidence and accepted as fact - like evolution, or gravity, and heliocentrism.

The word "theory". It doesn't mean the same thing colloquially as it does in science. A scientific theory has an overwhelming amount of evidence to support it.


Antibiotics and antibiotic resistance. A lot of people are under the impression they're a magical pill that will cure a lot of symptoms or diseases, when they are only effective against a handful of bacterial infections. Which means your common cold or flu are not treatable with them. So demanding your doctor to give you unnecessary antibiotics when you're sick is unhelpful and possibly even dangerous, as it may lead to increases in antibiotic resistance. This could make the most basic drugs we have completely useless, and return to a Victorian era of common infections leading to death.

This ties into anecdote not counting as evidence for or against anything.

Error bars.

Sometimes changes are significant. Sometimes they're just random noise. Differentiating between the two is VERY important. See: "Global warming is a hoax cause it was cold yesterday"

Science is a diverse field and not all disciplines are interrelated.

One that bugs me is that science!=engineering. An astronomer does not build rockets. An aerospace engineer doesn't study expansion of the universe. Both are awesome but they are fundamentally different.

Inertia is real.

An object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

So remember to wear your seatbelt and drive safely.

GMOs are safe. GMOs are safe. GMOs are safe.

Genetically modified foods, it is not what you think.

Darwinian evolution explains our physiology. Cultural evolution explains our psychology. Both are real and quantifiable.

I get a lot of heat when I say this here for some reason, but as an evolutionary biologist with a background in anthropology, I wish people understood that almost all of the behaviors we see in humans around us are due to cultural evolution and not biological evolution.

Cultural evolution is so much faster than biological evolution that these traits we see never had time to develop biologically or to be "hard wired" in. Also, people far too often think that what they see in their culture around them is a universal. One thing I learned as an anthropologist is that for everything we find desirable or natural, another culture finds repulsive or taboo (or vice versa). People are always saying things like, "we do XYZ because back when we were cave men you needed to do it to survive being eaten by a tiger/get more mates" or some such.

Physics explains the how, not the why. At least, for now.

Physics doesnt know why most things work, we just know that they do work, and we work backwards from what we observe.

Also just because we have small computers does not mean the rest of science is at Star Trek levels.

There is no absolute certainty in science.


Scientists are the type of person who do not like saying they're 100% certain of anything (we've been hurt too many times before). So if a scientist says "I'm 99.9% sure it will work," another scientist hears "this is worth betting on working, but we live in a universe where there's always a chance of failure." But a non-scientist hears "this isn't something that's absolutely proven and therefore isn't always true."

For example, there has never been a recorded instance of someone becoming infected with HIV while properly taking Truvada (to my knowledge). But still, any advertisement for it says that it has a 99.9% chance success rate.

Though the takeaway here isn't just to round up and consider a 99.9=100. The takeaway is to realize that it's very hard to be 100% certain about anything, and to understand that

It's been proven as fact, time and again, yet people still deny it. It's not even that hard to grasp.


Science is based on evidence, not opinion or belief.

Applied scientist here (engineer).

Science is NOT a belief system. Attempting to dismiss something studied and supported using science by saying "well, I just believe something different. How can you expect me to respect your beliefs if you won't respect mine?" isn't valid. Further, science should NEVER set out to prove something is true. It should only find out what is supported by evidence, even if it's contrary to your hypothesis (and possibly desires). Honestly, I wish more scientists respected this.

DNA is the most efficient data storage system known to science.

Speaking from my little corner of the scientific community, I wish people understood DNA evidence better.

DNA analysis is a fantastic tool! We can detect very minute amounts of DNA, so in some cases we could tell if you've even just touched something. In the past 20 years, the capabilities of analysis have just gotten better and better. You used to need enormous amounts of stain to produce a profile.

This of course has led to DNA evidence being collected for more than just murder. And that's fine -- we're here to catch the perpetrators. (Though it does mean crime labs suffer backlogs as more and more evidence gets sent to us to test.)

The proliferation of the technology and its recent entrenchment in popular culture, however, has led to a courtroom expectation that it will be present in every case, and that there's some sort of failure of legitimacy if it isn't there. They really do call this "the CSI effect," and while it affects the whole forensic community, nowhere is it worse than in DNA.

What DNA can tell you:

  • a profile that can be compared to a known standard and a probability of a match can be assigned
  • What DNA can't tell you:

    • how that DNA got there
    • when that DNA got there
    • whether it's probative to the crime (whether it really means anything)
    • whether it means someone is guilty or not
    • You need more than DNA evidence to convict, and merely having DNA evidence is not indicative of guilt! It needs to be considered as a whole case, not just one piece of evidence.

      Please, if you ever get placed on a jury, give your fellow man the proper consideration he's due, and listen to the impartial experts. (Yes, defense lawyers can hire experts to say whatever they want, too, so be careful!)

      Listen up, paranoid parents.

      Drugs are expensive so I'm not going to put them in your kids Halloween candy.

      Have you ever found yourself in an argument so stupid and/or pointless that you were sure you were being punked? Like you keep looking away from the other person to check your surroundings for places Ashton Kutcher and a camera crew could come popping out of?

      You're not the only one.

      u/Anti-hollowkid asked: What is the dumbest argument you've ever been in?

      Brace yourselves, folks. Some of these arguments are breathtakingly bonkers. The sheer number of people who are willing to argue with someone over provable facts and what that other person likes or doesn't like is just ... stunning. It's stunning, you guys. Just not in a good way.

      I Know What I Like


      My wife and I once argued over whether or not I liked mustard on my hot dog. I was for me liking mustard, she was against me liking mustard.

      The argument lasted way longer that you could ever imagine it would.

      - AardvarkAndy

      A Stair Step

      My brother and I argued if our staircase had 13 or 14 steps, based on an argument about if the floor of the second floor counts as a stair-step or not. We still have no solution.

      - RazerWolf04

      My dad is a stairbuilder and I spent many summers working at his warehouse, so I can clear this up. 14.

      - Apples9308


      My husband and I have this thing where we only say "I love you" on Saturdays. Every other day it's "I love you, but only on Saturdays." I don't know how it started, but it's been going for 11 years now.

      We're both shiftworkers, so sometimes we have to stop and think what day it actually is. We had an argument recently over whether it was Saturday or not. I said it was Saturday, he said it was Friday. It was Monday.

      - FormalMango


      I remember when I was about 13 my parents had an hour-long shouting match that ended with them almost getting divorced. The issue? Whether or not the nation of Iraq has a coastline.

      My mother arguing that Iraq had a coastline, while my stepdad argued that it did not. This was back in 2004, and they are still quite happily married to this day. That incident is something they look back on and laugh about, and both of them admit it was really a pretty stupid thing to argue over.

      - dontcryformegiratina


      With an ex:

      "I owe you $80 for the bills of ours that you pay, and you owe me $40 for the bills of ours that I paid. Here's $40 in cash; we're even."

      She did not understand this.

      I literally had to go get another $40 out of the ATM, and hand the $80 to her. Then I had her hand me the $40 she owed me.

      "Now how much do you have in your hand?"

      She still didn't understand.

      She somehow has a college degree.

      - Speedly

      Mini Wheats

      When we were kids my brother and I got in a physical fight because he said I like mini wheats and I insisted I didn't. His argument was that I always sang the mini wheats song and I was deeply offended that he wasn't aware that it was just stuck in my head but I hated the cereal. I actually did like the cereal I'm not sure why I was arguing with him about it but I remember how genuinely angry I was.

      - shicole3



      I'll tell you about the only legal trouble I've ever been in, the fight that got me arrested. It started over whether we should return a box of crayons or not, and to this day I don't have any idea how it escalated to the point of the cops being called, but they were and I was the one taken in.

      - CorrectionalChard

      That's Unfair

      My boyfriend insisted that when two people are in an argument and one makes a point so reasonable and logical the other one can't disagree with it - it's unfair. I tried, logically and reasonably, to explain several times why that is just winning the argument, proving your point thoroughly and is completely fair.

      His answer was that I was being unfair.

      - ShyAcorn

      Pure Masochism

      How the ch in masochism is pronounced. My friend caught me saying "masoKism" while he would say "masoSYism."

      To be fair, he grew up speaking French, in which the ch in masochism is pronounced in "his" way. But he insisted that I was the wrong one here and that was just infuriating.

      - argofire

      Emailing NASA

      A woman was adamant that looking at the big solar eclipse on the television was unsafe unless you were wearing glasses. She wouldn't believe us and insisted on emailing NASA to check.

      - derawin07

      A Non-Standard Ruler? 

      I worked for a company that made signs. We had a customer ask for signs that were 7mm wide that were to go on a door. Our sign makers figured the order meant inches because 7mm is pretty small, so made them 7 inches. I got a phone call from the customer who went mad at me for making them the wrong size. So I put a reorder through for 7 mm.

      Argued with the sign makers over it but they eventually agreed to do it after I shown them the order in writing. I even had the customer put her complaint in writing, reiterating the size they wanted.

      7mm signs went out and a day later I get the customer on the phone literally screaming at me.

      Cue the dumb argument - we ended up having an argument over how big a millimetre is, and obviously everyone in the office were laughing, but this customer just wouldn't accept it and said we must be using a non-standard ruler to measure.

      Ended up being escalating to the sales department manager who refused to issue a refund. We still don't know what they actually meant.

      - Lovelocke

      This Unusual Vegan Argument

      Was in a pub with a few friends, and some random Dude dropped an ear, and somehow figured I'm vegan. Well, people like him are the reason I usually avoid mentioning it. He came up to me and insisted on starting a discussion about veganism. He claimed that by the end of it, I would be eating meat again.

      He listed some stupid arguments, I told him I was not convinced and then tried to keep on drinking beer with my friends. He followed me, and wanted me to "try to convert him to a vegan." I stupidly listed some of my reasons thinking it would make him go away. He told me he still was not convinced, so I was like whatever. Again, I really just wanted to drink beer with my friends.

      That dude followed me all night and expected me to try make him vegan. Doesn't matter what I said, and all the reasons that for me are obviously good enough to be vegan. He'd be just like "No, that doesn't convince me, therefore your argument and how you life is stupid."

      Didn't matter how often I told him that I honestly don't care; 5 minutes later he would come up to me again "I'm still not vegan, so veganism is stupid, all your arguments were stupid, now give me a good reason to become vegan!" At one point, I was literally yelling at him that I don't give a single flying f about what he eats and why, that it's in no way my responsibility to "turn somebody vegan" and in no way his business what I eat.

      Honestly, for that dude, I would have bought a whole ham, just to shove it up his stupid annoying face.

      - onlytruebertos

      Monty Python

      In college my roommate and I argued about a line in Monty Python & the Holy Grail. The scene with the Black Knight where the line "Alright, we'll call it a draw" is uttered. We argued about who said that line, whether it was King Arthur or the Black Knight.

      It went on for hours longer than it should have because I was stubborn and refused to admit I was wrong.

      - Skrivus

      Albert or Arnold


      Whether Albert Einstein or Arnold Schwarzenegger would be more useful to have around during a Zombie apocalypse. How on earth would Albert Einstein come in handy!?

      - Gerrard1995

      Below Sea Level

      I live on an island and when you go upland and you look out the sea looks like it's higher than or on the same level as the land. It's just a weird perspective thing because of the horizon. One day some kid says that it's because the island is under sea level.

      I'm like wtf bro all of us would be with the fishes. He argues that no that's not true and if I just go upland I'll see. We then spend a good 5 minutes of my time arguing about it until I decided to leave this kid in his stupidity. He even said we shouldn't believe everything adults tell us and sometimes we need to think for ourselves.

      This kid was older than me and was going to a good school. Lost my respect for him ever since then.

      - -justforclout-


      Someone tried to fight with me over how to spell my name.

      Now, my name is in a lot of languages with slightly different spellings. I would have accepted any of those spellings, but this one was just... Not even close. It didn't make any logical sense.

      An analogous example is if my name was Thomas and someone was insisting it was spelled Tomash. And not just the name Thomas in general, but that me specifically, on my birth certificate, was named Tomash. I know how to spell my own name.

      I swear to god, it went on for like an hour.

      - TK-DuVeraun

      Whales Are Mammals

      I was in an online chat room one day, and we were talking about whales. I commented on how whales are mammals and the next thing you know, someone was arguing with me and trying to convince me that a whale was a fish.

      - kawaii_psycho451


      Stupid microwaves. Having a man child talk down to me about how microwaves work only for him to google it and prove me right. He slept on the sofa that night.

      - sun_phobic

      Shower Schedule

      My friend keeps telling me that the norm is that a person should shower once a week. This has been going on for years. I'm almost convinced he's trolling me.

      - LibrarianGovernment

      No Balloons For Grandma

      My cousin and I argued over a balloon going to Heaven. We were at his big sisters prom send off and he let a balloon go and it went high into the sky.

      He then said this balloon will go up past space and go to Heaven and reach grandma (God rest her soul). And I was like no it's not and it's probably not even gonna reach space. Releasing balloons is terrible for the environment and kills/harms so much wildlife.

      He got really mad and defensive and started telling me to google it and do my research and I'm like I don't have to google it you idiot. He was mad at me for a good week.

      - Dskee02

      Spontaneous Dolphin Existence


      How dolphins reproduced. It took me a few solid minutes of explaining to her that dolphins have reproductive organs and that they did not just pop into existence. The argument began with her saying she wanted to work with sea creatures.

      Personally, I hope she was messing with me cause I lost a little faith in humanity that day.

      - thebeststory

      Male Chickens

      I repeatedly had the argument with a friend over whether roosters were chickens. She was convinced that only the females were chickens (hens). We were 18 at the time.

      - bee_zah

      Lightning McQueen

      Me and my friend were drinking underage, we ended up in an argument of whether lightning McQueen's eyes were blue or green. Somehow throughout the whole thing both of us never thought to straight up google a picture.

      - 23071115

      But ... Ice Floats

      Waiter/Host here.

      Woman wanted ice on the bottom of her drink.

      Now read that sentence again and try to imagine arguing with that particular brand of stupid.

      - FarWoods

      Time Zones Exist

      Coworker claimed that it was the same time of day and the same season on the whole globe. Had to get 4 coworkers to confirm to him that time zones do in fact exist.

      - JustARegularToaster


      My brother is colorblind. And he CONSTANTLY tries to correct me on what color things are.

      "Hey could you hand me that red _____?"

      "that's orange"

      "no, it's red"



      It is the base of our most common and heated arguments.

      - droneb2hive

      Andre 2000?


      I'm late, but I saw this question and instantly remembered that I was booted from a Facebook group because I called someone out on a lie that was not only bull, but extremely pointless. She was friends with the moderator and they made the case that my argument over such a little lie was more of a problem than the lie itself (though they didn't refer to it as a lie.)

      The woman said that she used to babysit for Andre 3000 and that his name was Andre 2000 - but he changed it after the year 2000 had passed. This was so easily disproven it was ridiculous. Their debut album came out in 1994 and he was already going by Andre 3000 at that time.

      The argument wasn't a huge long drawn out thing, but the fact that either of us were on Facebook at separate times meant that the responses were over a long period of time so this argument lasted a few days.

      It was stupid.

      - P1ST0L_Wh1PP3D

      Stars Like Our Sun

      I was arguing with my grandpa about stars he didn't believe that there are other stars like our sun. Basically he thought there is only the sun, the moon and the earth.


      Richard Nixon

      I have a degree in history. I mostly focused on nationalism. Wrote a 50 page paper on it and Richard Nixon with around 50 100 sources. Looked at micro film for hours on end. Part of the paper focused on how Nixon being chair of the house committee of Unamerican Activities was used as a powerful weapon to use against political enemies. It also inspired Joe McCarthy. Have had people tell me I was wrong and Nixon was never elected to a position besides the president and Joe McCarthy came before Nixon. I stopped trying to talk history to people.

      I also know quite a bit about the history of the Balkans its amazing how many Serbs refuse to believe Tito did anything wrong.

      Wrote 100 page paper on nationalism in Israel. Its frustrating to talk about because for some reason a lot of people think Palestinian firing rockets randomly into Israel is ok but if Israel retaliates the people get up in arms over a targeted air strike that kills 3 people.


      Balloon to Heaven

      My cousin and I argued over a balloon going to Heaven. We were at his big sisters prom send off and he let a balloon go and it went high into the sky. He then said this balloon will go up past space and go to Heaven and reach grandma (God rest her soul). And I was like no it's not and it's probably not even gonna reach space.

      And he got really mad and defensive and started telling me to google it and do my research and I'm like I don't have to google it you idiot. He was mad at me for a good week.


      Binder Clips

      I got into an argument with a co-worker over how we were attaching two pages of a letter together: small binder clips or paper clips.

      He felt that paper clips would leave a "dent" in the paper when removed, but binder clips won't. He refused to staple them together. I felt that binder clips would also leave a "dent", so we might as well just use the paper clips.

      It ended with him saying: "Do what you want [me], I don't care!" and storming off.



      Once got accused of faking being Jewish. Why? I have no clue. We argued over the course of a month, any time I'd bring it up and she heard about it, she'd begin going after me for "faking it".

      My mother's side is ethnically Jewish. Grandparents were practicing.




      3 friends and I once got into an argument about how to pronounce Nutella. It lasted for about 3-4 months. It was hilarious how serious we took it, it'd get heated but never for real serious.

      I think someone even called the company that made it to check, or that may have been for the Cheetos company. We were really bored in high school.


      Lingerie Boxes

      Late to the party, but there it is.

      I'm a manager at a small store. We're only 4 working there, so my team and I grew very close and we joke around a lot. Once during a slow shift, my employee and I had an argument because we were looking at the lingerie boxes, and I thought that two specific boxes had the same woman on it, but she was 100% positive they weren't the same person.

      Looking back, I don't know why it was such a big deal to us at the time, but we even called another employee who lives across the street to come and tell us what the heck was up with that. Turns out I was right, and she was pretty salty about it. It was a great night.


      Wicked Witch of the West

      I almost got into an argument with an old girlfriend over Glinda the good witch from Oz. She insisted that Glinda was manipulating Dorothy to assassinate the Wicked Witch of the West and convince the Wizard to leave to create a political void she could fill.

      I conceded the issue when I heard the whole premise because I thought it was too damn stupid to get worked up over.


      Keep Your Hands to Yourself

      Just the other day I legit got in an argument with my co-workers on why I don't like my butt being grabbed by anyone (I'm a guy). Seriously.

      They went on about "I don't mind it. Mike and I do it all the time and we don't care." Yeah, that's nice dude, but I'm not you, and there's something called "Keep your hands to yourself" (which was taught to a good portion of us growing up). Just like how Karen wouldn't like it if I touched her boobs or her grabbing your crotch or frankly ANY area you wouldn't like being grabbed, keep away. In general, you should not be touching me in any areas after I've told you not to several times before.

      So unless you're sleeping me or dating me, keep your damn hands off my toosh.



      My best friend and I argued over whether or not telekinesis was possible. Her argument was that humans don't yet know what the human brain at 100% usage was capable of, and that telekinesis was inside the possibilities.

      I said the brain does use 100%, just at different times.

      We didn't speak to each other for four days.



      How dolphins reproduced and whether or not ghost existed (back to back with the same person). It took me a few solid minutes of explaining to her that dolphins have reproductive organs and that they did not just pop into existence (the argument began with her saying she wanted to work with sea creatures).

      How it shifted to the existence of ghosts is a solid and reasonable question to ask (I don't remember why). I had to then proceed to tell her that ghost hunting TV shows do not constitute as undeniable evidence.

      Personally, I hope she was messing with me cause I lost a little faith in humanity that day. This was in high school SO... hopefully she was kidding.


      Dogs and Chocolate


      I told this stupid woman that chocolate is toxic to dogs. She went on to tell me how a little bit will just make them hyper and then they will calm down. I told her to google it. Her and her bf shut right up. Now they have a kid. Good luck, Jeremy and Andrea. morons.

      I should also add that this argument started because Jeremy was giving his tiny dog chocolate and I told him it was toxic.


      Is water wet?

      My roommate and I have a recurring argument over whether or not water is wet l, and whether or not a person is considered wet underwater.

      For the record, it is no to both questions.


      Mission Trip

      A kid a church telling me about the mission trip I went on. Not only was I not on that trip, but I had never been on any mission trip. We were good friends, so it's not like he would've mistaken someone else for me.

      He insisted I was there as if an entire week long trip would just fall out of my memory. He even had stories of things we'd done together. I'm not sure if he thought I was lying, joking, stupid, or crazy, but I was pretty sure he was some combination thereof.


      Dragon Tales

      One time I got into a shouting match with my mom and little brother in the car. The issue? The names of the two-headed dragon from the PBS kids afternoon show Dragon Tales. I swore it was Zack and Macie.

      It was actually Zak and Wheezie. I don't even remember why we were yelling about it.


      Green Or Yellow?

      When I was about 15 or so my mother and I spent about 20-30 minutes arguing about the color of a shirt. We agreed it was blue/green, but to me it was just a shade more blue, while to her it was just a bit more green.

      Turns out, your eyeballs yellow as you age and hers were 24 years yellower than mine, so I think that skewed her color vision.


      Stars In Their Multitude


      I once got in an argument over whether or not a line from the song "Stars" in Les Mis says "...but mine is the way of the lord" or "mine is the way of the law".

      I didn't even really care what he thought but he was so adamant and cocky that it got me heated. By the end of it we were shouting at each other and I had to apologize, which I think is what he wanted the whole time.



      My brother is colorblind. And he CONSTANTLY tries to correct me on what color things are.

      "Hey could you hand me that red _____?" "that's orange" "no, it's red" "orange" "YOU CANT EVEN KNOW".

      It is the base of our most common and heated arguments.


      Hot Water

      About five years ago, my girlfriend (now wife) once had a very intense argument about whether or not hot water cleaned things better than cold water.

      She genuinely believed that water temperature didn't matter. This is someone who has not one, but two masters degrees.

      We argued for something like 2 hours, and we seriously almost broke up over the whole thing.


      Biology Class

      I had an argument with a girl IN THE MIDDLE OF A BIOLOGY CLASS in high school about how humans are not mammals. She thought a human was a human and we are not mammals because "mammals are animals and humans are not animals"

      I tried explaining to her the difference between reptiles and mammals and how humans fall under the mammal category to try and educate her... but she just wouldn't listen.

      I still have no idea why the BIOLOGY teacher did not get involved...


      Solid Or Liquid?

      Some classmates and I got into a heated debate as to whether or not the human body could count as a soup, salad, or sandwich. The teacher got mad at us, but hey! All we were doing was watching a movie.

      For the record, my logic lays with soup- Liquid contained within a solid, at a hot temperature.