Disclaimer: This is an entirely selfish post. It is not directly under the umbrella of Baby/Mama health. I just wanted to let off some steam.
Let me just start by saying that I am a bit of a dork. I have three degrees (a Bachelor of SCIENCE in Kinesiology, a Masters of SCIENCE in Applied Clinical Nutrition, and a Doctor of Chiropractic, which is a whole lot of SCIENCE study) and I have been known to throw into a conversation “oh, I just read this article, blah blah blah”. This is not an anti-science rant. This is not an anti-anything rant. This is a call for reason.
What is science? If you ask Google to define science, she will tell you it is “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment”. Science is a pursuit of knowledge based on asking questions, designing clever ways to increase the information base, and attempting to objectively observe the world around us. Science is never complete. There is no final answer. It does not chose sides. One of my profs in chiropractic college used to always say “Science giveth and science taketh away” because of the ever-evolving tides of knowledge that we try to keep up with and base our clinical decisions around. Let’s keep in mind what “science” actually is before moving on to explore some of the ridiculous slander being propagated in popular media as of late.
Science is a pursuit of knowledge based on asking questions, designing clever ways to increase the information base, and attempting to objectively observe the world around us. Science is never complete. There is no final answer. It does not chose sides.
This whole spew was initiated while my husband (another passionate knowledge enthusiast) and I were going through the grocery store check out and saw the new National Geographic cover. The cover story title is “The War on Science” with a list of subtitles hitting every hot button, from climate change, to vaccinations, to genetically modified foods, with a hint a moon landing conspiracy theories. Full disclosure: I actually like National Geographic, but I did not read the article mentioned. The audacity of the title itself was enough to irk me and send me into a tailspin. My poor husband!
In my opinion, science and faith are not mutually exclusive. You can be a very keen scientist and have a strong desire to understand the world around you and still believe that there is something bigger out there. I see no conflict in that one. I know nothing of the lunar landing, I am passionate about being good stewards of the planet, and comprehend a fair bit about the chemistry of food. My “position” and “believies” in all of these areas is not what this blog is about. This blog is about people abusing the good name of “science”.
So what is this “War on Science”? From my perspective, I have seen a whole lot of the word “science” being used as an argument and battering rod in and of itself, without any discussion of actual scientific exploration. I see an angry, polarizing debate going on in most of these hot button topics, with very little actual information being explored and very few people interested in investing in a meaningful conversation meant to enhance understanding. Asking questions is NOT the same thing as waging a war on science. Asking questions and exploring answers are the fundamental backbones of science.
Asking questions is not anti-science.
The problem (at least as I see it) is that people aren’t having a discussion on science. They are in the midst of a crusade. People did abominable things during the crusades because they were convinced that the Lord Almighty was on their side, that their interpretation was infallible, and that all who opposed it were heathens deserving retribution. Sound familiar? Confess and conform to my ways or die! Yea… Haven’t we moved past that point in history? To a point where people are free to ask questions, to talk about their point of view without being showered by hate, to have different beliefs systems, and to explore understanding?
Why aren’t we asking any questions?
Two sides are yelling at each other from opposite sides of the road and no one is willing to meet in the middle and try to understand what the other person is fighting about. If you look into both sides of the many “debates” going on, they aren’t even arguing about the same facts; they are in operating in different paradigms. For example, so much of the pro-vaccine propaganda likes to quote ad nauseam that vaccines don’t cause autism. Have you had a conversation with a parent questioning vaccines recently? The majority of the people I have talked with do not even bring up autism as part of their decision process. Do you even know the data and understand the points you are fighting for or are you caught up in the wave and regurgitating headlines? What questions are you asking? Why is there a tendency to jump straight to trying to refute an assumed argument rather than listening to points of concern and then attempting to elevate understanding and maybe educate as needed? Is it possible that if we could meet in the middle of the road, compassionately hear each other’s sides, questions, concerns, and reasoning, that we could combine our knowledge in a mutual pool of understanding and actually come to a completely new conclusion together? Or at least let go of some of the angst guiding some very cruel gestures.
The land of the free.
We consider our modern, industrialized nations to be champions of human rights. We value freedom and self-expression. Freedom of what? Speech? Choice? Spiritual beliefs? Autonomy over one’s own body? Freedom to question authority? To question anything? That is not what I am seeing. There is more discussion over choice-less enforcement than maintaining the integrity of freedom. Is there a conflict between individual human rights and the “great good”? Where is that line and who gets to define it? Again, have we learned nothing from history? How many times has someone or some group of people decided that they held the ultimate key and had the right to enforce their “greater good” via any means necessary? Consider the greater good that Nazi Germany was adamantly enforcing. The Nazis conducted experiments that greatly contributed to scientific understanding and were very sound methodologically… but were incredible unethical and inhumane. Good scientific process does not over-ride the value of a person. How did they come to the conclusion that this was ok? What base assumptions had to be thoroughly engrained in their psyche? Either way, it was clearly ruled that this sort of reasoning – that it was ok to forcefully submit people to your mandates because it was for the “Greater Good” – was absolutely not OK. Who defines the greater good? You could get into a lot of trouble using that as your only filter for mass action. Not to mention, for many (if not all) of the topics listed on National Geographic’s headline, we do not have complete information for which to base our decisions. We are still in the phase of exploration and have a long ways to go in our understanding. The jury is out. Science isn’t choosing sides. Science implores systematic study and we live in a real, wonderful, messy world full of a very vast array of valuable people with differing experiences and ways of processing. The issues with today’s debates are centred more around emotional turmoil than they are around scientific information. I’m not saying that we need to take the emotional and human elements our of our decisions entirely act like science robots. I just think we need to be conscious of our own process and what baggage and preconceptions we are bringing to the table with us.
This is not a war on science. It is culture clash. Let’s keep that in mind as we move forward with the goal to increase our understanding of not just these hot topics, but of the other human beings that we share this planet with. Let’s make science proud. 😉