A reader of the Guardian is now better informed than many scientists
The fact that lots of healthy living schemes claimed to be scientific tells us something about the power, authority and appeal of science at the time. It’s easy to be cynical and suggest that putting ‘scientific’ on a bottle of tonic was just a crude money-making scheme – and sometimes that was the case. But clearly some of the people involved believed that they were right, and that they were doing important scientific or medical work. They had been trained in the same institutions and taken the same exams as their critics. So how could they disagree over whether they were ‘faddists’ or ‘scientists’? And how can we as lay people tell the difference?
Part of the problem is the difficulty in defining science. While it’s practised by all sorts of different people, with different qualifications in different places, one thing that’s supposed to be constant is the scientific method. Many scientists, and most of us who study science, recognise that there isn’t actually a single, unifying ‘Scientific Method’, but that doesn’t stop people trying to find it, and there’s a ‘common sense’ version that’s often suggested, which runs something like this:
(1) Form hypothesis (2) design experiment to test hypothesis (3) run experiment (4) adjust hypothesis according to results