The Logic of Science

When someone I know argued that scientists keep changing their minds about COVID, I had to remind her that they were changing their opinions based on the latest, up-to-date data.

“One week they say one thing, and the next week they say something else,” she argued.

“That’s because they have new data in front of them,” I said.

“Then they should say that!” she said.

We went round and round as we walked the two dogs, one walking normally, the other pulling like a sled dog.

“Think of scientists long ago,” I said. “They thought the Earth was flat. They thought the sun revolved around the Earth.”

She didn’t say anything.

“They figured stuff out as they gathered more data.”

The neighbor, Perils of Pauline (so I wouldn’t forget her name), was approaching with her miniature poodle. As a scientific observer, I knew that my bigger dog, Pepper, would snap at her dog, so I stepped into the grass and got off the sidewalk.

“I hardly ever see the white dog on a leash,” she said.

“I know, right?” I answered from twenty feet away.

“Can’t the little dog say hi?” Pauline asked.

In my scientific studies, I had learned that Daisy could be on a leash on a walk around the Lafayette reservoir and that she could go up to another dog and sniff faces and butts with no problem.

“Sure,” I said.

But one of the variables had changed. I wasn’t the one controlling her. My friend had Daisy on a very short leash, so short that Daisy’s front legs were lifting up off the ground.

My friend let Daisy get closer to the miniature poodle. The next thing she did was a surpise. Daisy snapped at the smaller dog.

“I am so sorry,” I said to Pauline, who looked at us like we were all aliens from another planet.

I hadn’t expected that behavior from my Jack Russell. But every time she is at the reservoir, I’m the one holding the leash, and I don’t make it so short that she can’t put her front legs on the ground.

I told my friend my hypothesis, that Daisy snapped because she had been on a shorter than normal leash. She didn’t feel comfortable and relaxed, not to mention that my friend was scolding her for her sled-dog ways.

In the future, I’ll have to be the one walking Daisy if I want her to feel comfortable greeting another dog.

It doesn’t take much for a three-time rescue to feel insecure. Daisy was feeling that way when she was forced into greeting that black poodle instead of walking up to her on her own.

Poor Pauline.

My friend doubted that the leash length had anything to do with Daisy’s snappiness.

But I know.

It’s the same as with the Windex on the brushed bronze faucet. How may times had I cleaned those faucet fixtures and never rubbed off the finish? But when my friend (she works for me) sprayed them with Windex and then let it sit while she cleaned something else, the finish came off and exposed the silver chrome underneath.

“I don’t think it was the Windex,” she argued.

But the only variable that had changed was the product used to clean the faucet. Ajax and Comet had never taken off the finish. But Windex, with its ammonia-containing formula, did. It’s a matter of observation, changing only one variable at a time, and seeing the difference in the outcome.

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