Dismissing science

Today’s modern society is built upon science. It uses the discoveries of science to find solutions to problems in areas such as health, transport, product development, nutrition, and so forth. Its industry and hence its employment is clustered around science-driven innovation. So you would expect that respect for the potential of scientific discovery lies at the heart of political strategy? Well, yes and no. Many politicians do understand this, and large-scale funding for science (by bodies such as Science Foundation Ireland) reflects this.

But there are other voices in politics, and some of these are becoming influential. Many of them are in America. In fact, at least two leading candidates vying for the Republic nomination for President – Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann – hold views that are profoundly anti-science, calling key scientific theories into question and suggesting bad motives on the part of scientists. There are touches of something medieval here. If someone with such views were indeed to take over the US presidency, the results could be profound, and could easily lead to the United States becoming a backwater in geopolitical terms.

It is not, or at any rate should not be, the task of politicians to second guess science, or to declare its theses right or wrong based on ideology. That approach is total madness. No country can afford it, not even America.

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4 Comments on “Dismissing science”

  1. anna notaro Says:

    Following the Republican nomination debates I have come to the conclusion that there are fascinating degrees of madness. In one such debates hosted by CNN a couple of weeks ago
    Bachmann attacked the frontrunner, Texas governor Rick Perry, for his 2007 order to vaccinate young girls against human papillomavirus (HPV) speaking of “innocent little 12-year-old girls forced to have a government injection”. She also added the unsubstantiated claim that this was a “very dangerous drug” that could lead to “mental retardation”. Perry defended his intended order as sound policy to prevent cervical cancer, saying: “Texas is a place that, day in and day out, protects life.”
    Pity that his enthusiasm for protecting life doesn’t extend to death row of Texas’s prisons.
    What we are witnessing is a war between science and religion which stems from a strog anti-intellectualism always present within American cultural tradition and resurrected during the George W. Bush presidency.
    As Professor Singham argues in The Chronicle ‘The new war pits those who argue that science and “moderate” forms of religion are compatible worldviews against those who think they are not.’
    Not surprisingly the pervasivness of religious narrative invades American popular culture as well in so far as time after time Hollywood depicts scientists as fools (fascinating topic for a PhD thesis!) http://tinyurl.com/3cfodl3
    Clearly Bachman’s positions are religiously motivated, or better motivated by a medieval idea of religion which does not contemplate a clear distinction between faith and state, (Dante might be a useful read for Bachman and other Tea Party leaders!) ironic that Muslim traditions (sharia law etc.) are often criticised from right wing-religious quarters for a similar lack of distinction.at this point the words of a prophet from Nazareth come to mind:
    ‘Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?’ (Matthew 7.1-5)

  2. John Carter Says:

    There is a difference of course between dismissing science and dismissing some scientists. Some of them come out with some awful rubbish.

    I’m afraid there is a tendency for people to believe anything a self-proclaimed ‘scientist’ says, whether or not it makes any sense or whether or not he is any good. It reminds me of the undeserved deference the public had to clerics in the past.

    The truth is, there are quite a few ‘scientists’ running about, whom I wouldn’t trust to calculate the area of my table.

    There’s more to science than a job description.

    • anna notaro Says:

      Yes the risk is that science itself becomes a kind of religion. As the recent experiment at CERN has demonstrated by apparently questioning Einsteins theory of relativity science is a process and cannot provide all the answers only evolving questions

    • John Carter Says:

      The scientific (fact and reason based) and religious (faith and loyalty based) are fundamentally different.

      My point is that many ‘scientists’ are inclined towards the latter.

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