Science intimidates many people. It shouldn’t. It’s common sense, and that’s something we’re big on here at Horse Journal.
We’ve heard science criticized as not meaning much because it’s always changing, but that’s its strength, not a weakness. Science is always asking first ”What'” and then ”Why'”
Science isn’t about absolute answers or unquestionable facts. Science is about discovery and refinement. Some things are obvious. If you stick unprotected flesh into a fire, it will burn. Science could be applied to this observation, but it’s so self-evident we really don’t need the statistics and don’t have to keep repeating the experiment to prove it’s true.
Where science comes in is in reference to making sense of the other things around us that aren’t quite so obvious. Science is about describing and explaining what we observe. Every individual observation and experience is important as a starting point, but science and common sense basically tells us that if 1,000 people observe the same thing it means more than if just one person sees this. That simple concept is the heart of statistics.
Jane Doe feeds her horse XYZ supplement and finds her horse has a brilliant coat. However, if 999 other people feed the same supplement and don’t get a better coat, what does this mean'
It means that Jane Doe’s supplement appeared to work for her horse’s coat, but not for 999 others. It doesn’t tell you why, so it doesn’t make Jane’s results any less valid. What it does is put them in the context of a much larger group. Good science then takes these observations and asks two questions: Why did it seem to work for Jane' Why didn’t it work for 999 other owners'
Good science doesn’t knock Jane’s results because she is in the minority. It is just as interested in why Jane had a good response as why the 999 others didn’t. It may turn out that Jane’s results actually had nothing to do with the supplement. The ”odds” would give a 1:1000 chance her supplement improved the coat.
Armed with the information that 999 other horses did not respond the same way, Jane can ignore that or can look for something unique about her situation that explains the response. She can also check for other changes that may be the real reason.
Questioning what you believe to be true can feel uncomfortable, even threatening, to some people. It’s really not. It’s about using logic and common sense to get to the truth.
”Science is simply common sense at its best.” (Thomas Huxley, 19th century scientist)
-Eleanor Kellon, VMD