Science, Scientism and Pseudoscience

Science has enabled humanity to come out of the darkness and into the light. Superstition and conjecture no longer guide us. We have the scientific method. It’s a beacon to truth. But like everything else, it can go awry. It depends on who is using it, what goals they may have, what they hope to establish. Are they seeking truth or do they just need a crutch to support their theory?

Science can be misused or misunderstood. It’s misuse occurs when someone makes an assertion of something they don’t actually know and/or have no reliable data to support their claim. If we question a proclamation that lacks solid evidence or proof we may be accused of being “science deniers.”

A powerful example of the misuse of science is when Richard Dawkins says science disproves the existence of God. I like Richard Dawkins. I’ve gained much from his many books on Darwinian Evolution. Two that I like best are The Blind Watchmaker and The Selfish Gene. The thesis of these books makes sense to me. The fact that our planet can create, change or even destroy things makes no case for believing it’s all guided by some “intelligent designer.” Dawkins is right about that. But faith and religion occupy realms having little to do with science. Throughout human history certain individuals have wasted a part of their lives in the attempt to find scientific proof of the existence or non-existence of God. It’s just not possible. If God really does exist, he’s laughing at us.

A true scientist understands that science is always open to skepticism. In fact, a skeptical attitude is part of the scientific method. I’ve said a lot about the scientific method in several different blog posts here. For a list of the them all put “scientific method” into the search box at the top of this page, and hit enter.

A short-hand version of the scientific method can be stated as, observe, hypothesize, test, analyze, interpret. You can see that 10 scientists may reach 15 different conclusions on a particular matter. What they will do is collaborate and refine their interpretations to something they mostly all agree on. Calling that a consensus is wrong. There is never a consensus because it’s always open to questions. It’s an ongoing process. Of course, there are good questions and worthless questions.

Those who claim to be “following the science” usually don’t know what they’re talking about but hope using that phrase will be effective to persuade or shame others into agreeing with them.

Here are two examples of “following the science” that have been a flop.

We were told that strict shutdowns were necessary to stop the spread of Covid-19. We now know that was a false assertion. We have the data on shutdowns. They don’t work. Allowing people to continue as usual has been just as good or better a way to deal with the Coronavirus. Another is the mandate that everyone wear a mask when they leave home. There is no data to support that. There is some data from years ago that severely question the efficacy of masks.  Worse, for every scientist that claims we must wear masks, there is another scientist that says just the opposite. If it’s a 50-50 proposition, it’s not science. It’s something much less honorable. It’s fear.

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