The March For Scientism, The Religion
The ‘war on science’ that I am most concerned about is the war from within science – scientists and the organizations that support science who are playing power politics with their expertise and passing off their naïve notions of risk and political opinions as science. When the IPCC consensus is challenged or the authority of climate science in determining energy policy is questioned, these activist scientists and organizations call the questioners ‘deniers’ and claim ‘war on science.’ These activist scientists seem less concerned with the integrity of the scientific process than they are about their privileged position and influence in the public debate about climate and energy policy. They do not argue or debate the science – rather, they denigrate scientists who disagree with them. These activist scientists and organizations are perverting the political process and attempting to inoculate climate science from scrutiny – this is the real war on science.
The real problem I have with today’s various “Marches For Science” is not that they are marching for science, but something closely related: Scientism, the philosophical (and in some quarters, religious) belief in Science–often without understanding what “Science” really is.
And this fundamental error creates a whole host of problems.
We confuse science spokesmen like Bill Nye–who is an engineer, not a scientist–on pedestals presuming they have a moral and ethical position superior to their opponents.
Nye is a good example of someone who promotes science as a close-minded ideology, not an open search for truth.
We allow activist scientists–many of whom do not have degrees in the topics they opine about–to drive political debate without acknowledging the potential validity of the opposition.
One problem is that many of the marchers apparently believe that scientific evidence necessarily implies the adoption of certain policies. This ignores the always salient issue of trade-offs.
And this religion of Scientism has its acolytes, the protesters who believe in a close-minded ideology with priests and priestesses who pronounce from the altars of Science the unquestioned Truth.
Here, the march organizers offer little help. As they portray the world, there are only two kinds of people: pro-science and anti-science. Likewise, there are only two ways of acting: on the basis of science—facts, truth, data, evidence—or unscientifically, in accordance with ideology, self-interest, or mere caprice. “Political decision-making that impacts the lives of Americans and the world at large,” the march website declares, “should make use of peer-reviewed evidence and scientific consensus, not personal whims and decrees.”
And of course it ignores the real problems we’re seeing in the scientific realm.
A true “march for science” might tackle problems like the “replication crisis” or “confirmation bias.”
A real “March for Science” would celebrate scientific puzzles, disagreements, and competing ideas rather than fear them.
The March for Science has unleashed many things, that will be clarified with some distance and analyses from different perspectives. Hopefully some of these things are for the good of science, but I fear substantial backlash may be the main result of all this.
I don’t think there will be a backlash, because it’s very apparent to most of us what the “March for Science” really is.
A thinly veiled political attack on conservatives by liberals who are trying to use the fig leaf of science to promote liberal values.