Are You Sure You Want to Reject Science?

by James Wallace Harris

Trigger Warning: Do Not Read While Flying

I assume we live in an objective reality understandable by the scientific method. There is a growing movement to reject science. Does that mean those people believe reality is explainable by something other than science? Or do science deniers assume reality is subjective and mutable by our thoughts, desires, and fears? What happens if science doesn’t explain an objective reality? What happens if we really do live in a reality where mind over matter rules?

I know science can produce inconvenient results, but do you really want to reject it? I can understand why the faithful rejects science, science invalidates their theories about life after death. I can also sympathize with business people who fear following scientific research means losing money. But still, do you really want to reject science? Hasn’t science created more wealth than faith?

What happens to our reality when everyone believes whatever they want?

First off, if you have doubts about science don’t get on an airplane. For hundreds of thousand of years Homo sapiens did not fly. Then we discovered science and took to the skies. If we were wrong about science, maybe flying really doesn’t work. If reality works by believing and we stop believing, what happens? If enough people stop believing in science will planes start falling from the skies?

Religion is based on faith. That means believing in believing is how things work. Do you really want to believe that? What if you’re lying in bed at night and imagine a monster is going to grab you and wad you into a bloody ball? Doesn’t rational thinking protect you from such dangers?

Whenever I’ve stood next to a jetliner I’ve marveled at its immense size and weight. It boggles my mind that science can explain how lift works, especially with something so massive. Yet, I put my faith in science even when it’s hard to believe. Science succeeds in so many millions of ways that I can’t believe it could be wrong even when I can’t understand.

What if the faithful are right, and it’s faith that makes things happen. If we lose faith in science, will that mean jets, televisions, computers, telephones, medicines, cars, and so on will stop working? Do you want to return to horses and plows? Do you want to bring back ghosts, demons, angels, pixies, devils, and all those other beings that science disproved? Do you want the world be be flat and just a few thousand years old?

What if mind over matter is true? What if technology works because we live in an age where Faith in Science works? Do you really want to stop believing in science and create a new age? I don’t believe it, but if you deny science, aren’t you believing that?

Back in the 1970s I got into a lot of New Age ideas. The foundation of those beliefs was mind over matter. Religions are based on the same principle. God created the world with the Word. If you take that to its logical conclusion, reality could be anything we imagined. That’s fine as long as you can maintain happy thoughts, but if your minds veers into darker ideas, it can get pretty damn scary. Think about the next time you’re 40,000 feet in the air. Don’t you actually prefer embracing cause and effect over the power of thoughts?

I decided way back then that I didn’t want to live in a reality ruled by mental power. I wanted reality to be objective rather than subjective. Of course, maybe I live in an objective reality because my mind subjectively built it that way, but I prefer not to even believe that. I want planes to fly because of the laws of nature, and not because of our shared beliefs.

Our species has a history of inventing explanations for reality. The only cognitive tool we’ve ever discovered that works in a consistent fashion is science. Magic, faith, religion, philosophy, gossip, conspiracy theories – all fail to produce consistent results – no matter how much we wish they could. Science has transformed our relationship with reality. Science isn’t easy to understand because reality is complex and thus hard to predict. Often the number of variables involve make it difficult for the statistical nature of science to be definite. But just look how we’ve improved weather prediction over the last several decades. Just consider how many diseases we’ve conquered. Just contemplate the marvels of technology. We can fly. Doesn’t the continual success of science validate it?

Just because science implies something you don’t want doesn’t mean disbelieving will alter the results. You don’t want to believe that – especially if you’re flying.

For those who believe in God, what if science is the way God works? In all religious texts, God or gods succeed because of magical abilities their believers can’t fathom. Faith is belief in the power of that magic. What if the belief in magic is wrong? What if reality isn’t ruled by magic, but science? People who reject science are people who believe in magical thinking.

The next time you’re flying in a jetliner, think about magical thinking. Does magic make it fly, or science.

But, like I said, decide before you get on the plane. Don’t think about it in flight – what if you decide wrong?

JWH

3 thoughts on “Are You Sure You Want to Reject Science?”

  1. I can’t really bring myself to *believe in* science any more. Science has come up with some pretty stupid things – harmful things. Like scientific racism. Like eggs being bad for blood pressure due to cholesterol. Like that it’s impossible for man to travel faster than the speed of sound. Like that heart transplants are impossible. Whatever. Science is constrained by the amount of data it has and the ways it uses that data. And science is also constrained by man’s inability to understand the minutiae of the process or the meanings of the results.

    What is this “science” you believe in? It’s probably evolution – okay fine. Of course, I believe in some kind of evolution. Or it might be climate change. Well duh – that’s just the plain old recording of observations and comparing them over the decades and then using them for projection – is that science?

    So let’s say I believe in the “scientific method” for a more general statement. And although it’s come up with some now outdated “scientific findings” the method itself works pretty well if it stays open to adjustments for future studies.

    Here’s a whole page of science stuff that hasn’t worked out:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superseded_theories_in_science

    And the scientific method:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method

    Becky

    1. Becky, I believe you are confusing science with the results of scientific experiments. Science is the scientific method. That’s just a procedure for looking for consistency in reality. The trouble is reality is very complex, and the results of any individual scientific experiment can be confusing. Sometimes it takes us years, decades, and even centuries to get consistent results on any particular aspect of reality.

      For example, our knowledge of the solar system is consistent enough that we can send robotic probes to any world within the solar system with amazing precision. Our knowledge of the human body is impressive, but humans are far more complex than planetary systems. We can’t predict with any consistency the impact of a specific food on a specific person. The results of any single or any group of experiments with eggs and human health can not be precise. It is expecting too much.

      People have problems with science mainly because of the press about science. We constantly hear about the results of a single scientific experiment and people assume it provides some kind of scientific answer. It doesn’t. It just gives some data, and quite often data can be misleading. Most scientific experiments end up inconclusive. And we never conclusively prove anything. What science does is look for consistency over time and space.

      We know science works because we can consistently predict behavior in many aspects of reality. Jet travel by plane is one area we’re good at. We aren’t so good at predicting the results of diet and health.

      1. Thank you, Jim.

        Scientists are just trying to figure it all out like everyone else including the Bible thumpers. But both of them make huge mistakes in everything from raw data to interpretation. Of course, I’ll still take science over voodoo and magic, but I think science is much more limited than much of the population believes. Science is over-rated. It makes mistakes. But saying “I believe in the scientific method” says almost nothing. I believe in observation and math? Ha! And science will show you the errors of that too as well as the errors of my interpretation and application.

        Science is doing a remarkable job with the Covid thing. I’m really impressed with how hard and fast the scientists (?) have increased our knowledge and ability to protect ourselves. Our death rate is way down from what it was in March (beats “thoughts and prayers). But it’s not perfect and years of research are going to be needed.

        Science will not tell us when it’s time to mandate masks – we need to look at our values to tell us that.

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