‘That’s not the country I remember growing up in. Not that we didn’t have challenges. I’m old enough to remember the 60s and the 70s. We had a hot war and a cold war, a civil rights movement, and all this was going on. But I don’t remember any time when people were standing in denial of what science was.’ ~ SCIENCE IN AMERICA
The astute and ever eloquent Neil deGrasse Tyson argues in favor of science, our best tool yet in tackling the challenges surrounding us.
The more we pretend not to understand the facts, spending time in expedient denial, the more we delay the political process that will address the problems that face us. The more we disregard what has been corroborated around the world by thousands of separate studies, the deeper we delve into a hole of our own making, out of which we will have a hard time to climb.
Not that science is infallible — on the contrary, it is very fallible. It makes mistakes all the time, setting itself up for correction, reexamination, improvement, reconfiguration. In fact, the fallibility of science is what separates it from other dogmas, making it stronger. It is always up for improvement.
This doesn’t mean that we can throw the previously established facts out the window willy-nilly and call them trash. It doesn’t work like that. What has been proven to work stays in operation until proven otherwise. What has a theory behind it deserves to be acknowledged and heeded.
To clarify: theory in science means an established set of principles; a ‘plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena’ [definition in Merriam-Webster]. It goes beyond the hypothetical. The theory of light, the theory of evolution: plausible or scientifically acceptable bodies of principles through the use of which we come to terms with the visible world and the genetic continuum across biology respectively. Not just ideas drawn out of a hat on a hot summer day. We’re talking strong, well-substantiated concepts of how reality works. Far from perfect and infallible, they’re nevertheless rigorously tested and corroborated to the degree we can measure and understand them and them physical world we they define. In time they will be improved. Parts of them will be reassessed, tweaked, even disproved, made redundant or obsolete, replaced by stronger, more solid, comprehensive explanations.
But throwing everything we’re not ideologically fond of out the window just because they it doesn’t fit with our ideological preconceptions of what we think the world is, or ought to be, that’s not the way do achieve anything of value. It would be a disservice to ourselves and our progeny, to whom we will bequeath the world, a world we have somehow decided to treat like our kindergarten playground, acting dumb and stupid and self-righteous inside it with no clue on the bigger picture.
Our temper tantrums will cost us if we keep at them. They’re already showing their nasty blowback. Scepticism is a healthy process, but we have abused the process like we abuse technology, embracing it whenever it makes something easier, looking away when we have to discuss its side-effects. When the going gets tough and we have to make some really hard, intelligent choices, we revert to plain old childish dumb state of mind, kicking the can around, unwilling to go home and do our homework.
You know what happens to kids like that, don’t you? You ought to. The religions and dogmas you so fervently believe in — the same ones in whose name so many people are denying hard facts, and science in general — talk about irony! — are rife with cautionary tales about childish, selfish, solipsistic behavior. They call it hubris, and it never goes unpunished, especially when it’s been taken too far.
See, a little hubris never hurt anyone, in fact, it benefits a cause, making things go round. But a planetful of it over the course of centuries, well, it comes with serious blowback, the effects of which we are feeling today, both in the way science has been abused and in the manner it’s being denied.
I think doctor Tyson would agree.
From your succulently inquisitive Spin Doctor,
Eyes open, mind sharp.