Steps To Scientific Findings

Some people seem to distrust science because they’ve been disillusioned by the misguided belief that science and medicine can diagnose and cure each and every ill. Other times it’s a distrust that develops from people who begin to believe anything that is written or stated that seems to have a scientific ”flavor” to it.

Scientists don’t have all the answers, but they never claim to. Every answer is a building block, a guide for the direction of further research. In the end, all of us — from quantum physicists to horse owners — are only human. We do the best we can with the knowledge available to us. That said, we have an obligation to our horses to use the best information available. Like it or not, the scientific method produces reliable information.

At the heart of all branches of science is a logical path to find the truth. One of the most important scientific methods when it comes to medicine is Koch’s Postulates. This is a series of steps for proving whether or not an organism is causing a disease. The steps are:

1) The organism must be found in all animals with the disease, but not in healthy animals.

2) The organism must be isolated from a diseased animal and grown in pure culture.

3) The cultured organism should produce the same disease when introduced into a healthy animal.

4) The organism must be re-isolated from the experimentally infected animal.

Although other factors also come into play, such as the animal’s immune system strength, these steps are followed every time scientists come across what is believed to be a new disease agent. Declaring a new disease has been found before fulfilling all four steps is just plain bad science.

When sorting through what information is good or bad from a scientific viewpoint, your assessment should also include the credentials of the person giving it. We wouldn’t take advice about medical breakthroughs from a security guard, anymore than we would go to an orthopedic surgeon to treat breast cancer. If the person offering information seems like they might know what they’re talking about, show the information to someone else who will know. Your horse’s health and safety depends on it.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

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