More is emerging about tennis player Novak Djokovic’s crackpot views.
The tennis star has a track record when it comes to questionable scientific claims.
In his book Serve to Win, Djokovic described how in 2010 he met with a nutritionist who asked him to hold a piece of bread in his left hand while he pressed down on his right arm. Djokovic claims he was much weaker while holding the bread, and cited this as evidence of gluten intolerance.
And during an Instagram live, he claimed that positive thought could “cleanse” polluted water, adding that “scientists have proven that molecules in water react to our emotions.”
According to Dr David Nunan, a senior researcher at the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, “on the balance of probabilities it is highly unlikely that such claims are true – at least not by current conventions of scientific theory and practice.”
One paragraph in that news item however caught my attention because it illustrated a recurring problem that scientists have when asked by the media about nutty views. They just cannot bring themselves to express their views forcefully but instead are cautious.
In his response to Djokovic’s weird claims, Nunan speaks about the ‘balance of probabilities’ which immediately allows believers in bizarre theories to think that there is a good chance that their claims might be true. For them, the saying “Give them an inch and they will take a mile” should be rewritten as “Give them a tiny probability and they will take it to mean 50%”. For them, the only alternative to certainty is a 50-50 chance.
I don’t blame Nunan. Scientists tend to be rightly cautious in their pronouncements when they speak to the public or the media because they know that there is no certainty. They do not speak of the two extremes of probabilities, 0 or 1. Actually, they often use the word probability or likelihood not in any mathematical sense but to convey their judgment based on the evidence, and since it is a judgment, they are cautious about expressing things in absolute terms, always leaving a window of doubt.
In private, they speak differently. I bet Nunan would have told his friends and colleagues that Djokovic was talking utter rubbish.
Meanwhile Djokovic’s supporters, including his parents and the Serbian government, keep saying the he is being held like a prisoner, which is of course nonsense since he can leave at any time provided that he go to the airport and leave the country.
These pampered elites are all the same. The slightest limitation on their ability to do as they like is seen by them as a monstrous deprivation and they begin to whine like crazy.