Let’s talk about science.
Science is not a liberal conspiracy.
Science is not a destructive cult.
So what’s the problem?
What we call science is simply this: any activity that systematically studies the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
There are lots of different sciences, which basically break down into three categories: physical sciences, life sciences and earth sciences, but these mix and match so the lines dividing these are not solid. For example, there’s physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, paleontology and more.
There are also social sciences, such as economics, anthropology, archaeology and sociology. We call these sciences because these fields use scientific methods as tools for understanding society and the claims made by social scientists are based on evidence, not pure conjecture, and can be tested and replicated by other social scientists in order to prove their validity.
The common ground for all these activities is observation, evidence and experimentation. Nothing in science is sacred and nothing need be taken on faith. You don’t have to believe in science for it to be true because nothing is valid in science if it can’t be proven, meaning there is data and evidence you can point to and challenge and more than just one person has to be able to show that data and evidence are valid.
There are some people who claim that people who follow science or who advocate for science are themselves cult members, that somehow they have fallen into a kind of dogmatic and unthinking worship of anyone who claims to have scientific answers. They say that because scientists have made mistakes – sometimes really big ones – that science doesn’t have all the answers either and it therefore has no more validity than religion.
There are many flaws in this. First off, one of the reasons a destructive cult is destructive is because its members unquestioningly follow the dogma and directions of a cult leader or leaders. In order to remain in the group, they are not allowed to think for themselves and they must not ever question the authority of the cult leader. To do so is to enter fear, uncertainty and doubt into other members of the cult, which cannot be allowed to happen lest they discover different answers from what the cult leader is giving them. A cult leader survives and thrives on the fact that his word alone is all the authority his members need to get along in life.
The way science works is the exact opposite of this. In science, every conclusion and even the validity of the evidence that forms those conclusions is open to question from any one at any time for any reason. And even more importantly, science is based on real world observations and experimentation. It’s not based on the thoughts or imagination of one person. In other words, the truth of any assertion in science can be tested right here, right now, by just about anyone. Sure, you may not have a particle accelerator in your back yard to repeat experiments done by the guys in CERN, but you are not obligated to take what they say on faith. You can look at their data, challenge their results and question their conclusions. Anyone can do this.
As to mistakes that scientists make, it’s those mistakes which actually prove what I’m talking about. As anyone who is familiar with destructive cults knows, cult leaders don’t make mistakes. Ever. They are never wrong about anything. Scientists are proven wrong every single day of the week. Then they go back to the drawing board, review thier data, look over their experiements and figure out what went wrong. Do you think cult leaders do this? Hell no, they don’t. If you challenge them, they don’t stop and consider what they are saying and say “Hey, you might have a point there.” They kick you out and maybe they hire private investigators to follow you around and intimidate you into silence.
The fact is that scientists are supposed to make mistakes. Lots of them. To expect every conjecture a scientist makes to be true, to expect that every experiment they do to have perfect results every time and to think that scientists are above being human is just ridiculous. No one can or should be expected to meet such a standard. Sure, scientists are pretty smart people but look at all the factors they are dealing with, all the variables they have to juggle and the complexity of the work they are trying to do. It strains the brain of almost anyone. So of course they are going to get things wrong.
Now probably one reason why people can get so confused about this is because of the level of certainty and dedication that some advocates of science can show for scientific principles. When there is a preponderance of information that points to a certain conclusion, it’s easy to go overboard and say that conclusion is 100% fact. The truth is that in science, there are no 100% facts. There are no absolute truths. Science isn’t really about ultimate truths, it’s about explaining observable phenomena.
We have a very good explanation for why the sky is blue. Light comes to us from the sun and it’s white, meaning it contains all the colors of the rainbow mixed together. When the light hits our atmosphere, it is interfered with by the gases and particles in the air, so when we look up at that light, we end up seeing the scattered blue light up above. During sunset, when we look towards the sun we are seeing red and orange colors because the blue light has been scattered out and away from our line of sight.
Now that is an explanation which is based on our known understanding of light and atoms and how our atmosphere works. Every part of that explanation can be shown with physical evidence. We can show how a light goes through a prism and breaks down into different colors. We can show what molecules exists in the atmosphere and we can show what happens when light tries to go through those molecules. All of this is even repeatable in any laboratory anywhere in the world. It may be that our explanation is totally wrong, but so far no one has been able to show that. Every attempt to disprove our explanation for the sky being blue has failed, so we stick with this one.
It would be incorrect to say “We know why the sky is blue and no other explanation can possibly be right and anyone who claims otherwise is just plain wrong.” That is where people make mistakes with science and they need to stop doing that. We have to acknowledge that there can always be an error, there can always be a new discovery which disproves the old. If that possiblity is not left open, then someone who is advocating for science can look like they are being dogmatic. People who don’t understand how science works can use scientific discoveries or information to forward their personal agendas or views and if they do it wrong, they can come off looking like cult members. That is their problem, not a problem of science.
On the other hand, if someone comes along and says “Well you don’t know everything. The sky is really blue because the Greek god Helios drives his golden chariot across the sky each day and he’s got streamers which give off blue glitter and that’s why.” Well, you can make that claim but until you can get some evidence that Helios is a real person and that his chariot is a real thing and that blue glitter is something we can directly observe, that explanation isn’t going to get any traction. You can believe it as hard as you want and you can try to tell everyone that is the way things are, but because you can’t provide any evidence that you’re right, very few people are going to believe you. And no one should believe you, because your explanation can’t be proven. In other words, it’s nonsense and people are going to call it nonsense and you don’t have a leg to stand on to say otherwise.
Scientists are people too and they struggle with the same problems that everyone else does. Most of them are honest, hard-working, dedicated people who have to work in some pretty rough conditions and under trying circumstances to get their job done. Like any group, some scientists are greedy, some are dishonest, some are more interested in vying for position than they are in telling the truth. Because many of them are in the academic world, they have to play politics just to keep their jobs, just like people in the corporate world. They also have their own opinions, biases and prejudices. There is not one human being in the world who is free from any of this. The scientific method and the procedures scientists follow are designed to root out those biases, especially since no scientific discovery is valid until other scientists can duplicate them. What we have in science is the best methodology that human beings have developed in our time on this planet for figuring out how and why things work.
Anyone who holds science and scientists to a standard of perfection, or who thinks that science is just another destructive cult like Scientology simply hasn’t thought the thought through. Having more than a little knowledge and experience with destructive cults, I thought I’d try to clarify some of that, so I hope this helps.
Thank you for watching.