Scientists say this. Scientists say that. Researchers have found. A new study reveals.
The headlines have different endings, but the beginnings are always the same. Science is an ever-evolving search for knowledge and understanding in our world and universe, and new results crop up all the time. Which is good! After all, if we already had all the answers, we wouldn't need to, you know, keep doing science.
And we all know that the scientific mind is constantly changing. New evidence, new models, new paradigms, new new new. Scientists must, as a matter of obligation, update their beliefs in accordance with new evidence. If we believed the same things we did forty or four hundred years ago, what would even be the point of all this hard work?
We all search for support for our beliefs. Whether to use as ammunition in an argument or to settle our own thoughts so we can get on with our lives, we constantly seek validation. And it's oh-so-tempting to find validation in science. After all, it's science! Scientists know things. They test things. They measure things. They wear lab coats. They speak in incomprehensible jargon. They carry themselves with authority.
Here's a warning, from me to you: don't look to science for cheap validation, ever, because it will end up breaking your heart.
The process of science simply doesn't care what the answer is. Sure, individual scientists may and will have their individual biases and preferences and hopes for a result. But in science the ultimate arbiter is the universe itself. The data we collect decide the outcomes, despite our individual preferences.
This means that what we now hold as near and dear beliefs might get completely obliterated tomorrow, and reinstated the next day, as the evidence continues to pour in and as the analyses continue to grapple with it. So if you've turned to a latest result to back up a pre-existing belief, well, you might wake up in the morning to a little shock.
This is a danger not only to ourselves but also to society. Scientific results carry the aura of respectability and credibility, and are often used and abused to serve other purposes. Then when new, updated, and even contradictory results come out, those new findings are either outright ignored (lest the prevailing boat get dangerously rocked) or promoted by the opposing side for their own gains.
Meanwhile, the public is left confused, as the supposedly impartial empirical results of the scientific method are touted by all sides. And where does that leave their view of scientists? Perhaps just as mere malleable tools to be wielded whenever the opportunity is right?
To combat this dangerous use of science to cheaply validate beliefs, you need to...not use science to cheaply validate your own beliefs. The road of science doesn't point in any particular direction, if it can even be described as a road at all. Don't snatch onto the late headline with glee, but wait. Be patient. Over time science does build to robust conclusions and consensus views (which of course are always subject to change and updates), but it takes a lot more than a single study or new idea to get there.
Instead of forming a belief and then searching for a result or study to back you up, let the studies and results guide you. Remember that the world is a very complex place, and in many cases fundamental understanding is only found buried deep under layer after slippery layer of confused searching.
Science is a tool, yes, but not a tool for backing you up. It's not a weapon to wield. It's a framework for understanding nature, no more, no less.