Daryl Ilbury

The dangers of anti-science

In Eish!, Fools, Science on April 13, 2015 at 11:52 am

NGM2015_MAR_CV2-275x400When I turned 10 my estranged father (my parents were divorced when I was young) bought me a science text book – Science For Your Needs (yes, I still remember the title). 

I devoured each page, revelling in the images of explosive geysers, giant crabs and all manner of scientific artefacts. I didn’t understand a lot of it, but the fascination it inspired held true for many years thereafter. In fact, it was the seed of my current passion for science. 

I have to take this into account whenever I try to understand why so many people, it seems, are distrustful towards science. Are they really against science, or am I just overly enthusiastic towards it.

This wouldn’t matter if a resistance towards science was unproblematic, such as a resistance towards, say, football. But football doesn’t examine and affect every single element of our lives. Science does. So when people are against science I find it puzzling; when they employ anti-science rhetoric to negatively influence the lives of other people, I get angry. Here are some cases in point:

  1. The anti-GMO lobby who sit in their cosy homes, shrilling about rural African farmers who choose to embrace safe, tested GM seeds to bolster their harvest;
  2. The rapidly dwindling club of climate-change denialists who steadfastly refuse to accept the vast multidisciplinary research that shows climate change is a reality, because they believe to do so invites interventionist regulation by big government, which is anathema to their political beliefs;
  3. Anti-vaxxers who continually quote a discredited research paper as evidence of the dangers of vaccinating their children, in the process endangering not only their children’s lives, but those of others;
  4. Blind devotees of the myriad different religions who each claim sole verity, but reject scientific certainty, claiming because they are religious they have that right. They don’t, especially if it affects other people. If you reject a blood transfusion for your child and that child dies, you should be charged with homicide. If you condemn the use of contraceptives because you believe every sperm is sacred, you sentence the faithful poor to a life in poverty.

Special mention must go to those who cherry-pick from science to suit their needs but aggressively reject the same science when it nullifies their fundamental religious beliefs. Example: ‘Answers in Genesis’ (AiG) creationists who’ll rush their children to hospital for an emergency medical procedure, but brainwash those same children into believing that Adam and Eve shared paradise with dinosaurs. If you’ve got a bit of time, here’s the famous debate between Bill Nye and AiG’s Ken Ham. National Geographic carried a feature piece in its March 2015 edition called ‘The War on Science’. Here’s a brief snapshot. 

Science doesn’t know everything. If it did, as I’ve said before, it would stop. But science is defined by evidence, so if you’re going to challenge it, bring the evidence.

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