“Feeding Infants Peanut Products Could Prevent Allergies, Study Suggests” (nytimes) is a recent example of the public learning about the incompetence of medical researchers. Previously these folks had told parents to keep children in a nut-free bubble so as to prevent nut allergies from developing. Now they are saying that a nut-free bubble may lead to a nut rash later in life. In a society that spends so much of its time and effort trying to separate children from nuts and so much money on medical research, how could this question not have been answered definitively and correctly many years ago?
From a consumer’s point of view an epidemiologist or other medical researcher is a “scientist” in the same category as a physicist or chemist. So the manifest inability of “scientists” to answer a simple question such as “Is a child more or less likely to develop a peanut allergy given early peanut exposure?” could easily make a consumer skeptical when a “scientist” says “I have a pretty good idea what the average global temperature 100 years from now is going to be.”
What do readers think? Do these constant reversals on everyday questions make consumers wary of science in general?
Related: Back in the early 1980s the great mathematician Gian-Carlo Rota would say “The methods of the biologist are not distinguishable from those of the stamp collector.”
[Of course it may well be the case that Earth turning into Venus 100 years from now is a simpler question than the origin of nut rashes. But that would not be obvious to someone without a degree in the physical sciences.]