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there's science and then there's "the science"

“I believe in science,” Joe Biden tweeted six days before he was elected president. “Donald Trump doesn’t. It’s that simple, folks.”

What does it mean to believe in science?
Steven Koonin served as the undersecretary for science in President Obama’s Department of Energy. In his book Unsettled, Mr Koonin claims there are significant points where the popular perception about climate and energy is very different from what the science actually says. He explains, “Science, with all its certainties and uncertainties, becomes The Science” when it gets summarized and communicated. And important realities are lost in that process.

British science writer
Matt Ridley draws a distinction between classical science—science as a philosophy and The Science—science as an institution. Science as philosophy was birthed and nurtured by the Enlightenment. It might be defined as “the primacy of rational and objective reasoning.” Science as institution was born and nurtured by government funding.

Mr Ridley says the pandemic has exposed the disconnect between philosophical science and institutional science. He claims most popular science writers are cheerleaders for institutional science. Institutional scientists have adopted a top-down view of the political world, which is odd if you think about how bottom-up the evolutionary view of the natural world is. He asks, “If you think biological complexity can come about through unplanned emergence and not need an intelligent designer, then why would you think human society needs an ‘intelligent government’?”

The pandemic has politicized epidemiology. This is partly the fault of outside commentators who hustle scientists into political boxes. But it’s also the fault of epidemiologists themselves, who press release data that fit their political prejudices while burying data that don’t.

The Science (politicalized, institutional science) has resulted in a loss of confidence in science. Distrust of The Science may be justified, but that distrust leaves a vacuum which is often filled by a superstitious approach to knowledge. To such superstition Mr. Ridley attributes public resistance to technologies such as genetically modified food, nuclear power—and vaccines.

Covid-19 vaccination, Mr. Ridley argues is “the lesser of two risks, at least for adults.” We have “ample data to show that—for this vaccine, and for others, going back centuries.” He opines that vaccinations may be “the most massive and incredible benefit of scientific knowledge” to civilization.

Social media enforces conformity through ‘fact checking,’ mob pile-ons, and blatant censorship. But conformity is the enemy of scientific progress.

The late physicist and noble laureate
Richard Feynman claimed that science is a belief in the ignorance of experts. Mr Ridley claims The Science and the scientific establishment has morphed “into a church, enforcing obedience to the latest dogma and expelling heretics and blasphemers.” ~

Dan Nygaard