baffled

If someone tells you “scientists are baffled” about something, there are two questions you might want to ask right away.

The first one is, “Which scientists?” If the answer you get is, “The two scientists I interviewed before I told you this story,” then you might want to see what a lot of other scientists have to say about the “baffling” turn of events. Or: Read some related research. You might find a perfectly reasonable explanation all on your own.

The second question to ask is, “Did the scientists actually say they were baffled, or did they just say they didn’t know exactly what happened?”

Not knowing the exact answer to a question is not the same thing as being baffled. Like let’s say you have the flu and a journalist asks you how you got it. You say, “Hmm. Maybe I caught the virus from my roommate, or maybe I picked it up from the child who sneezed in my eye on the bus. I don’t know for sure.” You wouldn’t expect the journalist to turn around and say you were BAFFLED BY MYSTERIOUS FLU OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN.

That kind of thing happens to scientists all the time. Watch out for it.