What Scientists Really Mean When They Say No Proof
Some things are just unknown. And nowadays this is a lot. Since the coronavirus became a threat, there have been far more unanswered questions than answers. When the virus is only five months old, what do you know?
This uncertainty is the reason why we see many statements that there is “no proof” of anything related to the coronavirus. The World Health Organization said in January that there was no evidence of person-to-person transmission of the virus ; they recently tweeted that there is no evidence that people recovering from coronavirus are immune to it.
But it turned out that people were passing the virus on to each other. Many scientists and doctors believe that people are more likely to develop immunity after recovery. So who was wrong?
As they say, lack of evidence is not proof of absence. In this context, “there is no evidence that …” actually means “the available evidence does not tell us …”
Give it a try: In January, available evidence did not tell us if the coronavirus can spread from person to person. (Right). At the moment, the available data do not make it possible to say unequivocally whether people are immune to the coronavirus after recovering from it – or, if so, for how long.
It doesn’t help that this phrase has a second meaning. Sometimes we say “no proof” to mean “no reason to believe.” For example, there is no evidence that desire on crystal can cure cancer. One could carefully check and try to refute this statement, but is it necessary? The “no proof” statement is true and avoids the question of whether anyone tried to refute it.
The phrase “no proof” is convenient, but without context it can be confusing. So when you see someone using it, be sure to read it more carefully to determine what they are actually trying to say. Some things are just unknown.