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What could science have done better?


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Diario de Navarra

Carlos de Miguel Vázquez

Professor department Biochemistry and Genetics, University of Navarra.

Since the beginning of this pandemic, I have been surprised by the incomprehensible roots of the anti-vaccine movement. Looking for an explanation for this "success" of the rejection of vaccines, I believe that the failure may come from science itself, which has not known how to convey the message well, but above all in a sincere way. Perhaps it has lacked this point of sincerity and has had too much conceit or arrogance. Scientists know that science is built through a process of essay and error, which leads to conclusions that are not immutable, subject to continuous scrutiny and subject to the principle of falsifiability. With the available data an explanation is elaborated that satisfies the observations up to that point. But science does not stop, it continues to investigate, and this process can modify the conclusions, sometimes radically, even to the point of changing them completely. Science, the real science, does not enunciate dogmas, that is just the opposite, anti-science.

It is when science falls into the vain temptation to deify itself that it generates distrust. On another level, it is like the moral superiority that certain left-wing ideologies attribute to themselves, as if the mere fact of possessing this political label gave them reason to be right. Or on the other side of the spectrum, the economic superiority that some right-wingers claim for themselves, thinking that their recipes are the only ones that work and will bring about the common good. Something similar can happen to science: you have to believe me because I am science and I have the necessary knowledge that you lack.

This is not the way to communicate science, and perhaps this is the failure that has caused the movement, denialist and conspiracy theorist at its most extreme Degree , and anti-vaccine at a less absolutist but equally belligerent Degree , to expand as it has done. The best way to get messages across is simply to tell the truth. Without scaremongering or arrogance, considering that the population is an adult and understands that the recommendations are based on the programs of study recommendations made. Explaining that this pandemic has been a tsunami that made it necessary to react quickly to avoid a terrible cost in lives. Acknowledging that in the face of a new virus and disease, more research is needed to better understand causes and effects. We must admit openly that in the light of new research, vaccination patterns, behaviour and therapies may change. I would like to think that with this sincerity and honesty it would be better understood that what is transmitted and advised is the result of continuous experimentation. That it would be better understood that, precisely for this reason, things can change with new observations.

In this way we would make science feel close, human and fallible, and above all that, to face these challenges, as men, science is the best and almost the only thing we have. I know that there will always be terra-planners and people who prefer to rely on the animated fantasies of yesterday and today, but that is also part of the human condition.