Throughout history, man has sought, for practical purposes or to satisfy his need to find explanations, to understand how our body and the world around us work. Let’s look at an example related to agriculture. Farmers had to know what to plant, when to harvest, etc. To do this they needed to know if it would rain, if the heat was coming early… This is how the weather forecasts of the local ‘shaman’ appeared, the seasons, the cabañuelas… This story is reflected in a large number of local sayings and proverbs. However, all this meteorology has no scientific basis. In some cases, for a place with a specific physical geography, the local proverb and/or sayings may come close to reality. But, that proverb or prediction cannot be extrapolated to other places. What happens with meteorology can be applied to food, hygiene, diseases, stars…
In some cases it has been science itself, unintentionally, that has generated erroneous beliefs. This happened in the past, when the truthfulness requirements of scientific, theoretical or experimental demonstrations were quite lax and the formal structure of scientific research was not well established. For example, the earth as the center of the Universe. In some cases, amoral scientists have been the ones who have intentionally ‘sneaked’ erroneous scientific publications for personal purposes: fame, power, promotion in the ranks… This, very casually, can happen now. It is avoided by the rigorous and truthful controls that serious scientific publications have.
Currently there are other means to introduce erroneous beliefs, much more effective, because they reach all audiences. Of all of them, the most dangerous is the information obtained from the Internet, which increases its availability with the infinite sources of information provided by ICT (Information and Communication Technologies). A recent study indicates that it would take 50 years to read all the available information about just four diseases. This information overload and ‘infosaturation’, which have not been followed by an increase in the quality of the content, are giving rise to the appearance of myths and beliefs on a multitude of topics, especially scientific ones.
Let us remember that myths are misconceptions or ideas, false, in the sense that they do not correspond to the current level of knowledge. This is because many of those who write about science do not have the necessary knowledge to understand, well, the subjects they write about. In some subjects, for example health, this low-quality information, not backed by knowledge, can even be a risk to one’s own health. For this reason, today, young people should be taught how to select information when they browse the Internet. The very common phrase: “Google says so” cannot be accepted. Even Wikipedia can contain errors because there is little quality control of knowledge.
Dismantling all the myths, beliefs and explanations without scientific foundation is currently an impossible task due to what is called ‘infoxication’. Loss of the ability to process and use information efficiently. In compulsory education it would be necessary to teach, very well, what scientific rigor is and how we know that something has rigor. But, we must keep in mind that recent studies show that there are students with misconceptions that remain intact when they finish their studies. However, something can be done. Thus, from this science section, from time to time, some of these beliefs will be analyzed, in order to get closer to what current scientific knowledge says about them.
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