It Would Be So Much Easier to “Believe the Science” If We Could Trust the Scientists

science fraud

During this Corona Virus crisis those who have questioned the conclusions of scientists and the decrees of politicians have often been depicted as “science deniers,” a term most often assigned to anyone who questions the accepted pronouncements of climate change. As with climate change, however, the reason many people question or disbelieve the edicts from those at the top is simply that they don’t find the people making them to be trustworthy. Too many examples abound of scientists and politicians who are mistaken, revealed to have an agenda, or who act hypocritically.

There are some obvious violations of trust, such as “Dr. Lockdown” in the UK, Neil Ferguson, who was the architect behind the shutdown and social distancing there, discovered not to be social distancing from the married woman with whom he had a sexual tryst last week. Or the mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, who got a haircut last week, despite the fact that barbershops and salons remained closed under stay-at-home state mandates. While seemingly minor offenses, they go to show that sometimes authorities that enforce restrictions on others feel they themselves are above the law. This certainly does not encourage trust in the “experts.”

Less nefarious, but more to the point, scientists and doctors are sometimes wrong. Notice how the protocols for ventilator use have changed. Previously the experts said to use ventilators “this way.” Now many are saying to use them “that way,” or not at all in many cases. The shortage of ventilators has now become a glut. This is one of the problems with “trust the science.” Either the doctors were right in their first use of ventilators or they were wrong. If they were wrong, then they should not have been believed. If they were right at first, they need to explain now why the protocols have changed. The same is true of the use of face masks.

HONG KONG-CHINA-HEALTH-VIRUS

The very nature of science is one of ever-changing conclusions, as old “settled facts” are refined, revised, or overturned. In addition, scientists disagree among themselves, so that science does not speak with one unified voice in regard to many practical applications. This has become obvious in the home-made videos of doctors on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis challenging the protocols they believed were killing patients. Scientific data has to be interpreted and two scientists can agree to the facts yet disagree on the interpretation of those facts.

When we factor in experts with a vested interest in certain conclusions, our skepticism about “always believing the experts” proves wise. Over 50 years ago Thomas Kuhn’s book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutionsexposed the illusion that science is a completely neutral venture. Science has to be funded and often comes with an agenda, scientists sometimes seek to enhance their careers at any cost, and sometimes they are simply wrong in their conclusions. As an example, Neil Ferguson predicted in 2005 that up to 200 million people could die of the bird flu. In reality, in the years before and after that prediction only a few hundred people died of the bird flu.

This is not an anti-science piece. It is rather a warning against scientism, the belief that science is the only path to knowledge because the material world is all that exists, and only science is equipped to discover knowledge of the material world. Scientism breeds a naivete and credulity about scientific authorities that is unhealthy because it is uncritical. Yes, science should be believed when it stays in its lane and recognizes its limitations, but when it seems less than objective and its purveyors stand to benefit from its conclusions, we the people ought to challenge the pronouncements of science and the resulting fiats from politicians until they can actually prove them to be true and necessary for the common good.

The Bias of Skeptics

Black-Swan-900

Most skeptics I talk to think they operate completely without bias in their skepticism and agnosticism. They often demonstrate a startling lack of self-awareness of their assumptions. One hundred years ago, the British essayist G. K. Chesterton noted the frustrating contradiction of the skeptics arguments:

“I remember once arguing with an honest young atheist, who was very much shocked at my disputing some of the assumptions which were absolute sanctities to him (such as the quite unproved proposition of the independence of matter and the quite improbable proposition of its power to originate mind), and he at length fell back upon this question, which he delivered with an honourable heat of defiance and indignation: “Well, can you tell me any man of intellect, great in science or philosophy, who accepted the miraculous?” I said, “With pleasure. Descartes, Dr. Johnson, Newton, Faraday, Newman, Gladstone, Pasteur, Browning, Brunetiere—as many more as you please.” To which that quite admirable and idealistic young man made this astonishing reply—’Oh, but of course they had to say that; they were Christians.’

“First he challenged me to find a black swan, and then he ruled out all my swans because they were black. The fact that all these great intellects had come to the Christian view was somehow or other a proof either that they were not great intellects or that they had not really come to that view. The argument thus stood in a charmingly convenient form: ‘All men that count have come to my conclusion; for if they come to your conclusion they do not count.’

How Good Science is Often Misused, Misreported and Misinterpreted

Every few months a major news story breaks about a new scientific discovery that will either change life as we know it, or that disproves once again something Christianity teaches. So, Christians live with the ever frustrating task of explaining once again how they are not against real science, but against “what is falsely called knowledge” (or science)-1 Tim. 6:20.

Truly, science is not the problem, but rather the interpretation and reporting of scientific data. As a Christian I believe that every fact in the universe reveals the glory of God and is to be interpreted in that light. So I recognize that any scientific “fact” that is reported must necessarily be interpreted, and I can only accept interpretations that square with biblical revelation.

Not only is scientific data quite often misinterpreted, but in getting the data to the public, media outlets often misreport, distort, spin, and strip it of its context. Here’s an illustration of how this happens:

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2010/10/30/2838/

Resources for Answering Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking’s new book The Grand Design was released last week, and it has already caused quite a stir. Hawking, a British theoretical physicist and cosmologist, is most well known as the genius in a wheelchair, having lived with neuro-muscular dystrophy for many years.

The Grand Design is oddly named since Hawking denies the need for a designer, at least an intelligent one. He trots out the same worn-out idea of a non-existent universe creating itself and designing change along the way:

Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going.

Somewhere along the line, most evolutionary scientists missed the logic class in their college years, and therefore proceed to make nonsensical statements such as this. The “nothing” which he says sparked the universe is, logically and scientifically speaking, no-thing. And every good scientist knows that nothing can come from nothing. Everything only comes from a pre-existing something.

A number of theologians and Christian philosophers have already begun to respond to Hawkins. Here are a few links to good articles that demonstrate the foolishness, irrationality and illogic of a universe that created itself:

http://proginosko.wordpress.com/2010/09/05/stephen-hawking-versus-god/#more-555

http://wordonfire.org/WoF-Blog/WoF-Blog/September-2010/Culture–Stephen-Hawking—More-Tiresome-Atheism.aspx

http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/the-grand-design