Careful What You Wish For: The Threat of Antiscience

For the last two or three years I’ve been concerned with the idea that the number of science deniers have been growing. This thought started to gain traction as George W. Bush made it increacingly more difficult for scientists, particularly those employed with public money, to express their findings to the general public. There has come to light that the second President Bush’s administration created policies that forced scientists to have research findings vetted through communications offices. There, lawyers with little to no scientific background edited and even redacted sections of these research papers.

Why? Because the scientific findings conflict with the interests of the supporters of that administration. Since then the pattern has remained unchanged since that time. It became an issue as science conflicted with where the money comes from in Ameican politics.

einstein quote

There. I said it. When science conflicts with the powerful special interests, money wins. Period. End of discussion.

Dr. Victor Stenger wrote in a blog post in the Huffington Post about the rising threat of the antiscience movement:

A movement based in the notion that where science and religion conflict, science is faulted because it disagrees with religious precepts.From its very beginning in prehistory, religion has been a tool used by those in power to retain that power and keep the masses in line. This continues today as religious groups are manipulated to work against believers’ own best interests in health and economic well being by casting doubt on well-established scientific findings. This would not be possible except for the diametrically opposed world-views of science and religion.

So what does this have to do with my position of the science/ political money conflict? Plenty. The religious right have denied evolution since the theory was first proposed. The only evidence the deniers have ever offered was the infallibility of their religious texts of the God created universe. Keep in mind, dear readers, the plethora of conflicting creation myths across the religious spectrum. Couple this with the need of lobbyists from the likes of the oil and coal industries to deny the fact (yes, fact) of global warming. Strange but powerful bedfellows are made, indeed.

So what? Here is the reality as I see it: Science is self correcting. The Scientific Method sees to this. If a hypothesis is refuted by observations, it is reworked until the new hypothesis matches observation, no matter how long the hypothesis or theory is held. Don’t believe me? The world of physics went on after Classic Mechanics was challenged by the Theory of Relativity. No one got hurt, the Earth still revolved around the Sun; water, barley malt, hops and yeast still made beer.

Religious belief, on the other hand, is seen as ultimate truth. As such it is unassailable by the facts of the truth of observation. Stultified to the point that if it challenged by fact or observation, it is in danger of shattering and bringing the whole religion (whatever the religion) crashing down.

By the same token, we cannot allow those who are well heeled and who have an ax to grind, determine what science is determined to “legitimate”. We will all simply become members of a society where not only science can be made illegitimate but anything that encroaches on profit can be challenged. Think workers rights/ safety issues, environmental issues, and the list goes on and on.

To say that I’m anti-religion would be incorrect. Religion has its place as a way of creating an ethical framework for some, as a means of creating a sense of community for others. But for myself, I find both in my friends in the scientific community.

There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere. -Issac Asimov