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Will respect for science survive the polarization of our era?

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In a thoughtful article, a political scientist speaks the fears of many in the wake of COVID-19:

Trying to make decisions in an ever-changing, perpetually uncertain situation, leaders of all stripes have invoked the prestige of science in efforts to rally support for their bandied interventions. The NBA, the first of the major sports leagues to cancel games, based their decision on science. Higher education administrators are following the science—though often in different directions. Actual scientists are following the science, though, again, it seems to be taking them to different destinations. And politicians are most definitely—if you take their word for it—following the science.

For all the talk of science—what with its systematic, rigorous, unbiased approach to asking questions and proffering answers—things on the ground are about, umm, clear as mud. For the average Joe trying to make heads or tails of it, a pretty simple question emerges: how is it that everyone, from the President on down, is following the science, and yet winding up at dramatically different conclusions?

The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare our society’s problematic relationship with scientific knowledge.

Patrick Pierson, ““Following the Science” in a Polarized Age” at Front Porch Republic

Indeed. When church services are cancelled but angry political gatherings are not, you have to know that science isn’t driving the process anyway. So our moral and intellectual superiors are not really looking to science for rescue. Thus, “science” may increasingly mean only the authority to force people to do things, irrelevant to outcome.

Alternatively, it may become possible to have a discussion about what, exactly, science is.

For example, in the case of the ATP turbine, “Natural selection did it” has the same explicit explanatory value as “God did it.” But natural selection is somehow science and God is not. Why? How?

In the ruins, some conversations may become possible that were not possible before.

4 Replies to “Will respect for science survive the polarization of our era?

  1. 1
    Battman says:

    “But natural selection is somehow science and God is not. Why?”

    1. Natural selection cannot select anything that doesn’t already exist. Random variations (e.g. undirected mutations) are the real Darwinian god-of-the gaps.
    2. Natural selection acts to eliminate useless transitional stages that might ultimately produce major evolutionary change.
    3. Who created nature that does the selecting anyway?

    The real question is “Will Respect for Science Survive Darwinism?” How long will “It Just Happened” pass for real science.

  2. 2
    Querius says:

    Looking into the future . . .

    Of course respect for Science will survive and even grow to new heights! Why? Because CNN and other “respected” media will tell us that science is highly respected and no one will be allowed to disagree without being cancelled. Simple. This fact will also be confirmed by respected political and religious leaders and institutions, which will all unanimously agree.

    Why is anyone even asking this question?

    Just like in Venezuela, the press will assure us that we’re living in a worker’s paradise and that there are no shortages, no power outages, no fires, and no inequalities anymore!

    There will be reports of amazing cures for everything and reports of new technologies that certain eminent scientists will be awarded discovery of by way of recognition by the Nobel committee. There’s no one (alive) who disagrees, so it must be true.

    Fundamentally, everyone needs to realize that we are entering a new age of Solipsism. Truth is whatever the largest mob is currently screaming and whatever is not reported in the news or in respected journals doesn’t exist or didn’t happen. Darwinism is unassailable because eminent journals and all the textbooks say it is. Conversely, a “Michael Behe” never existed.

    All truth is political truth and thus must conform to the current ideology. For example, in a mobocracy, punctuated equilibrium will quickly gain preeminence as the press creates reports of fabulous new fossil evidence!

    Rejoice! We have freed ourselves from racist history, racist math, and racist logic, and we have attained a pure golden age of political and science fantasy!

    – Q

  3. 3
    Truthfreedom says:

    3 Querius

    Rejoice! We have freed ourselves from racist history, racist math, and racist logic, and we have attained a pure golden age of political and science fantasy!

    The West is the biggest kindergarten ever.

  4. 4
    polistra says:

    Querius, you’re exactly right …. in the crazy places.

    The world is dividing into crazy places and sane places. Broadly, the sane places are states and countries where manufacturing and farming are still dominant. In the US, Dixie and the wheat states have resisted the “virus” monstrosity best. Manufacturers and farmers do REAL science all the time. They are constantly running REAL experiments to see which materials and tooling methods work best, or which seeds and tilling methods work best. They are resistant to theory.

    From a political perspective, places that depend on industry need LIVE PEOPLE using their skills and intelligence. Places that depend on debt and software don’t need or want live people, so they kill everyone.

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