Stephen Jay Gould: Facts and Science

Link: Quote Details: Stephen Jay Gould: In science, ‘fact’ can… – The Quotations Page.

In science, ‘fact’ can only mean ‘confirmed to such a degree that
it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.’ I suppose that
apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit
equal time in physics classrooms.
Stephen Jay Gould
US author, naturalist, paleontologist, & popularizer of science (1941 – 2002)

We struggle with this in medicine all the time…when is the right level of evidence to decide that it’s time to foist a intervention on an otherwise unsuspecting population.  That answer depends on the condition and the population, not just the weight of the evidence – and that’s what makes advocacy groups so powerful, and, unfortunately, enables them to skew our focus.  Rational decisions about such things would include an assessment of the prevalence and disease burden of the condition, the acceptability of the intervention, and an assessment of where this intervention will fit amongst the competing demands of medicine.  Says me (and others), this threshold should be higher for screening and preventive activities than it is for treatments.