Some thoughts only on the content of this National Geographic “War on Science” cover:
Being critical of science does not necessarily mean declaring “war” or “ignoring” “facts.” I heard a great quote by Carl Sagan on remaining vigilantly skeptic of science that I haven’t been able to locate. Skepticism and critical thinking are healthy and important tools of science.
Science is not hard and true fact. It is constantly evolving (no pun intended) with new studies, new discoveries, new hypotheses, etc. That’s the entire point and function of it. Science has said a lot of things that we now know to be untrue, or at least not entirely true.
And especially these days, with money and power behind so much contemporary science, *not* questioning science is a sign, to me, of a fanatical and uncalled-for faith. You know, like religion.
Science is an awesome tool. But it is just that: a tool. It is not, in and of itself, absolute, capital-T Truth. It grows. It changes. It’s great when it accompanies actual, subjective, individual thinking.
Yes, there are a lot of self-righteous and unreasonable people in the so-called “anti-science” wing. I see just as many self-righteous and unreasonable people on the side of science. (Many people, I suspect, myself included, fall somewhere in the middle of this dualism.)
It could be said that the claim of this “war on science” is really just a war on critical thinking.
Carl Sagan himself suggested that a lack of rigidity and a changing of views is what makes science science:
“In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.”
(Thanks to Latest in Paleo for the quote.)
To put it another way: “Science is often flawed. It’s time we embraced that.”
Also, “Remember that science is not the pursuit of truth, it is the systematic acquisition of data for the purpose of understanding how nature operates” (Katy Bowman).
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