One of the long-term casualties of our time is that many of us will lose some of our trust in the ethics, wisdom, and accuracy of science and scientific method. More precisely said: we will (rightly) suspect human presumption and media-designated science, perhaps not distrusting scientific method per se.
Please understand that I am normally partial to logical, “scientific” lines of thought. I deal in them fairly often. A very good friend of 20+ years is a trained researcher (a scientist in one area of inquiry), and another friend of 30+ years is a scientist/engineer in another. My parents’ lifelong friend is a trusted medical doctor, I know another doc fairly well, and I have numerous friends and acquaintances who hold doctoral degrees in other subjects. While I am also given to ponder things from other angles, I highly value logical thought and “scientific method.” But I am having a problem these days. I give two examples below.
I read the following a couple days ago. The excerpt mentions some particular ancient text scrolls that were displayed in the Museum of the Bible, which was founded and bankrolled by Hobby Lobby CEO Steve Green.
It’s not the first time I’ve read about the problems associated with the Museum of the Bible. There seems to be no reason to doubt that the MoTB and its founder Steve Green made poor, even unscrupulous decisions–and that the DSS fragments formerly housed in the MoTB were frauds. (Green is said to have done all he could to make things right after the fact.) The point here, though is this: L ast year, I would have reacted quite differently when seeing that they appealed to “scientific method.” I would have trusted the phrase almost implicitly until proven otherwise. Now, I immediately recoil and wonder. The problem I’m calling attention to here is not the facts of the matter; the problem I’m having is my negative reaction to the phrase “scientifically proven” in the news report.
I read this guidance the same day, in a COVID-related document published by a professional organization:
I immediately want to yell out, “Whoa! True scientific method would not be able to determine such a thing! Not across the board, anyway.” It’s not as though scientists should agree on ensemble rehearsal duration across the board. They don’t know enough about this scene, and there are multiple variables to be considered . . . yet the world now likes to wait on such “decrees,” trying in vain to appear circumspect, careful, and caring.
We ought to stop looking for guidance on everything from people who are rushing to be heard but have limited or no expertise in an area. Good scientists will often admit that their studies are limited, and perspectives do evolve. Hasn’t past science has shown us most of what we need to know about not getting sick? I know this is a bad virus, and we have a global pandemic on our hands, but I doubt there is any way to “kick this virus’s butt” by one or more human/scientific means. Its ultimate effects on the human race are unknown, but nothing we do is going to matter as much as some seem to think. It’s going to run its course. (I label the foregoing as an opinion that is not based on “science,” really, but I imagine “science” could be found to support it.) This is not to downplay hospital care and suffering of the few. I know those things–along with the fears of those with compromised immune systems–are very real.
Science, though, is imperfect. Science is evolving. Always. And the humble scientists worth their salt know they don’t have all the answers and never will. Moreover, the number of non-scientists who think some marginally scientific, short-term opinion gives them the right to say “scientifically proven” is shocking.
So, could we please we all just stop using “scientifically proven” as a mallet to be wielded against those we think are knuckleheads (so maybe they won’t turn the mallet on you), and simply do things that make sense?
Go outside for exercise and sun, eat vegetables and fruits and proteins. And use good ventilation. Those factors could be underestimated. Notice that I didn’t say they are “scientifically proven,” but I probably could have, with just as much logical weight as some of the non-scientist media folks who think they have the answers.