Who hit you with science?

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So many people today are wasting their own good time questioning “science”. From US congresspeople to radio blowhards, to the world’s billion bloggers, all prattling on, to the guy at the next table talking much too loudly; they really don’t need to challenge “science”, except, maybe, to demonstrate to themselves their own not-so-obvious brilliance. They don’t need convoys of truckers or even boats, nor do they need crusades against abortion rights for women — science is already being challenged every day in labs and classrooms, trials and experiments that range cross the cosmos. What can silence science is not all this libertarian noise, but plain old “dumb-shit luck”, to use the technical term.

Every single day, somewhere, scientific conclusions or hypothesis are contradicted or at least challenged. No vitriol nor the showmanship of modern politicking needed!

Every day experiments collapse, trials backfire, a loved one in seeming great health drops dead …. all by pure luck. It’s curious that what also takes a beating from Luck is morality and ethics. The best, the innocent, the honest can get hit by a car as easily as the worst of us. Where’s justice! someone will shout. The hardworking father of five is flash-electrified, leaving his family devastated. No justice!

As we strive to make sense of our chaotic times, it’s natural that we look to society’s leadership for, well, leadership — and we’re not getting much.

This is no one’s fault; the world is super complex, especially now in what may be the pandemic’s midterm pause, when we can’t see what’s heading our way. So we grasp at straws. Enter the cheery people who blame all social ills on the scientific effort and its community.

This doesn’t look good for the rest of us. Us, and we’re just ordinary folks who read, follow, and echo today’s social media, the Wonderful World o’ Stupidities. Here everyone is or can be a victim, where there’s not an adult in the room, just patriots, vigilantes, and warriors who must save the world by destroying much of it, at least those parts which have made our lives
comfortable, productive, long and rewarding.

Of course, to claim social media is all bad is ridiculous, but those who insist “social media” is a social good are like those earlier folks who claimed prostitution was good because it relieved the stresses of so many men. But at what cost? Ask the same question of social media.

Nevertheless, it is mind-boggling that someone can insist that they know and trust no-scientific conclusions which are not reproducible, not independently verifiable, nor testable, without witnesses, without intelligible explanations — and all this yields conclusions (to them) which are unquestionable, as compared to science? What do these views and methodologies from the Middle Ages say about today’s educational systems?

There will be future pandemics, existential threats and crisis (“Don’t look up!”). If we’re not in accord with what constitutes evidence or what is even believable, then, yes, we’d best prepare never
to look up again.

There are folks who insist they have “native intelligence” — “native” in that it resides in each person’s head. This native intelligence tells them what’s good and not, no outside sources needed. Is a one-off truth as reliable as a lab-tested conclusion? Is the heart never mistaken? What if two hearts contradict each other? Can both be true? Can “yes” and “no” both be true? Or do they trust ancient precepts from when slavery, rape, might-is-right were correct?

Think about “science” and scientists. Aren’t they attracted by challenge and the unknown, by calm study and experimentation, by testing and exploring? Don’t they trust the rules of logic, the substantive nature of evidence? Don’t they trust to comparisons of alternative conclusions, no matter their religious perspectives? Every scientific conclusion is by its nature tentative, disprovable, and scientists trust these processes for their conclusions, not to confirm inner feelings, traditions and certainties, no affinity for drama, nor the chaos offered to us by social media.

Yes, science can be sloppy in its language (for example, teleological language is everywhere in scientific literature!), scientists still commonly attribute intentions to all-natural processes … but this is small stuff compared to the hostile servings on social media.

Lastly, think of the new Webb space telescope. Building it and getting it up there, placing it exactly where it needs to be so many millions of miles distant, calibrating it and repairing minor collusions from this distance — that’s what “science” can accomplish. Even more so for this discussion, what science can show us in Webb’s new information and infra-red imaging is the mind-boggling beauty surrounding us in this
universe — our home. Yes, science can be mis-used by people of bad faith, but nothing comparable to the encouragement and optimism for the future which “science” continuously does give us.

Really, who can’t accept this? Who needs fear as an alternative?