Further to Matt Ridley’s recent comments at the Wall Street Journal,
‘Science” has become a political catchword. “I believe in science,” Joe Bidentweeted six days before he was elected president. “Donald Trump doesn’t. It’s that simple, folks.”
But what does it mean to believe in science? The British science writer Matt Ridley draws a pointed distinction between “science as a philosophy” and “science as an institution.” The former grows out of the Enlightenment, which Mr. Ridley defines as “the primacy of rational and objective reasoning.” The latter, like all human institutions, is erratic, prone to falling well short of its stated principles. Mr. Ridley says the Covid pandemic has “thrown into sharp relief the disconnect between science as a philosophy and science as an institution.”Tunku Varadarajan, “How Science Lost the Public’s Trust” at Wall Street Journal (July 23, 2021)
Scientists, by and large, are relatively stupid. Even worse, they’re accustomed to being more or less unaccountable. They’re high-level midwits, for the most part, which is why so many epidemiologists failed to note the obvious: if you make an incorrect prediction that costs people a considerable amount of time, money, or freedom, you will not get a second chance to tell them what to do.Vox Popoli, “Why people don’t “believe in” science” at Vox Day (July 26, 2021)
In Canada — just for example — schools were shut in Ontario but open in BC (without incident). Churches were shut in BC but bars were open. As if the virus cares whether you pray or booze. Any number of similarly inane restrictions were put in place in many places which did nothing but convince the more intelligent members of the public that the “science” behind it all was nonsense.
That raises an uncomfortable question. How much science is educated nonsense?
Most people want to believe in science. For example, if a loved one has cancer, we totally, definitely want to believe that science has answers that work.
But when witless bureaucrats turn it all into a very costly and painful nonsense panic, it’s precisely the smarter part of the public that they are alienating.
On the bright side, there should be a market for adult ed in philosophy of science! Let’s see what we can do to help people understand what science is and isn’t.