Perhaps one of the most thoughtless and deceptive statements uttered today is people who say “I believe in science.” Whenever I run across someone who says that, I ask for clarification to see if they can actually meaningfully articulate their position. I have yet to discover a person who claims disbelief in science, though there are many who question whether “science” is sometimes politicized or tainted by preconceived ideological commitments.
Of course, today, “I believe in science” does not mean trust in the results of the scientific method, but a strict and unquestionable adherence to a proscribed narrative established by consensus which buttresses their own political position. Inherent in this profession is the supposition that all persons with scientific credentials are perfectly objective and flawless in their conclusions.
The late Dr. Stephen J. Gould laid an axe to the root of this sort of mindset, when he stated…
"Our [scientists'] ways of learning about the world are strongly influenced by the social preconceptions and biased modes of thinking that each scientist must apply to any problem. The stereotype of a fully rational and objective 'scientific method,' with individual scientists as logical and interchangeable robots, is self-serving mythology."
Often, the “I believe in science” mantra is part of a placard or meme which spouts a host of other tautologies that demand deeper explanation and are equally dogmatic. It is almost a given that you will be able identify the political and economic perspectives of the person who touts this slogan.
Robert Tracinski, in his op-ed Why I don’t “believe” in “science” tells us of the origin of this phrase’s popularity.
“I believe in science” is meant to use the reputation of “science” in general to give authority to one specific scientific claim in particular, shielding it from questioning or skepticism.
“I believe in science” is almost always invoked these days in support of one particular scientific claim: catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. And in support of one particular political solution: massive government regulations to limit or ban fossil fuels.
But these two positions involve a complex series of separate scientific claims—those global temperatures are rising, that humans are primarily responsible, that the results are going to be catastrophic for human life, that rising temperatures can be halted—combined with a series of economic and political propositions. For example: that action to ban fossil fuels would be more efficacious than using the wealth made possibly by fossil fuels to help humans adapt to future climatic changes.
Over three years have passed since Tracinski’s piece was published. One could certainly make the case that the “I believe in science” sentiment today also applies to the litany of information disseminated about Covid, beginning with the “15 days to flatten the curve” proscription. This has further led to the popularity of the twin darling, Orwellian terms ‘misinformation” and “fact-checking.” It has come to the point that nearly anything currently excoriated as misinformation, will eventually be demonstrated to be true, though without apologies. Fact-checking is little more than a means of discrediting an opposing idea and less about getting at the truth of a certain issue. Fact-checking is applied recklessly and disproportionately for political gain.
People who say they believe in science probably really don’t. Science is not a dogma to believe in, but a methodology by which things may be understood. Nor is science tantamount to scientism, a perspective that dogmatically declares science is the only way of knowing. It becomes a self-refuting proposition because the claim itself can’t be proven scientifically.
“I believe in science” is really a political observation. When people who say they believe in science can’t begin to offer a rational explication to questions such as “when does life begin’ or ‘what is a woman,” we know they genuflect to ideology and not science. Such people must be called out to halt the siege against common sense and permeation of group think in this culture.© Robert Meyer
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