Science Matters

Science Matters

It's true that "science matters". It's also true that anti-intellectualism and anti-science are on the rise in the United States. But scientists and those who deify science are at least partially responsible for the epidemic of anti-intellectualism. There are those who corrupt science by serving special interests, and those who hide behind their big titles and spew nonsense as if it were science. The line between science and scientism is fast blurring. Careerism is rampant in science. And, science institutions are failing; Remember the Sokal affair.

Just because something is labeled "science" or "scientific" does not mean that it is. Case in point, most so called "scientific polls" predicted a Hillary Clinton win in the presidential race beyond their error margins, but they were wrong - Donald Trump won. Those of us who have a science background might go back-and-forth about the pitfalls of statistical polling, but the average person sees it another way: "Science failed". If science can fail in such seemingly simple things, what else can it fail in?

Another problem is the non-neutral implementation of science. Science has reached a complexity where only large corporations and governments have the resources to fund even the most basic research. Consequently, those who "invest" most in science use its "fruits" primarily for their own "interests" which often conflict with the interests of common people; Weapons industry, fossil-fuel industry, financial innovations, surveillance, 24-7 entertainment, robotics, automation, pharmaceuticals, etc., etc., etc., all require great investments in science and technology but they primarily benefit the powers that be at the expense of humanity. In fact, it is actually the way we've structured science and technology that is likely the greatest cause of apocalyptic issues like climate change.

In our current system, science perpetuates itself through major investments. For science to happen we need constant economic growth. And perpetual economic growth means that we end up trashing the world and cause more cataclysmic problems. It's really difficult to determine whether science is contributing more to the problem or to the solution. Of course it all doesn't have to be this way...

All that said, President Donald Trump's denial of climate science, his deregulation policies and his defunding of the Environmental Protection Agency and dismantling of its functions is a serious matter. On the other hand, so long as we pursue an economy-first agenda in the way we organize just about everything, we can not solve the grand problems we face no matter who is in charge or how much science we throw at them.
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