“Science doesn’t know everything.” We have all heard this line in one argument or another. It is often used as a strawman argument to dismiss a ‘scientific’ fact that refutes a person’s defensive claim.
I don’t mean to argue in favor, or against, a particular issue at this point, I only wish to raise awareness that people should stop using the word ‘science’ in arguments. Facts are facts. Knowledge is neutral. They can be used for good or wielded as weapons. Information is like an amorphous tool which can be shaped to anyone’s need through rhetorical devices. Science is simply a way of thinking. More than just an ideology, that notion should be reserved for scientific communities, science is a reasoning device. A simple set of steps designed to guide thought towards the naked truth. To filter information collected through the sieve of the Socratic method, study, and research. Yes, knowledge comes to us through a subjective lens that effects our interpretations, but scientific thought takes that discovery and descriptions of it and compares it to independently-collected observations until a clear picture forms based on similar observations.
‘Science’ is only a methodology. It cannot be blamed for the world’s problems because it has no consciousness. Do we blame the gun for a murder or the shooter? Or the gun manufacturer? Or the victim? All can be valid arguments in certain contexts, but you cannot personify science. If you think a scientist is espousing unethical inferences than say, “That scientist.” Or, better yet, “That person, who is the scientist who happened to collect the research which they are also using at the core of a political narrative which I deem to be unethical….”
Well, don’t say it in so many words. But do make certain that when you aim the weapon of words, you aim at your intended target. Science is ephemeral and, yes, science is not infallible. In fact, one of the core tenants of science is that your theory may be wrong, and you should be ready to accept that outcome. It should even be rejoiced over, for you have eliminated an untruth. But knowledge collected through scientific action is peer-reviewed and thus does have some claim to a more truthful and unbiased viewpoint. If some company paid for the research to be skewed, then that scientist was not practicing actual science. To warp the tenants of scientific thought should be just as heinous a crime as using the term “science” as a catch-all-fools rhetorical scapegoat of a trap.
Why am I so adamant on this topic? Because a Democracy is dependent on an informed electorate. Using the vague term “science” as personified evil, that you can then somehow vanquish heroically, is at its argumentative core anti-intellectualism. The goal is to have voters vote, irrationally, against their own self-interests and in favor of your agenda. We as university students, future citizens, and potential teachers should shun this practice as the antithesis of everything we stand for. Remember, if you disagree with a conclusion a scientist puts forth, you can use the scientific method to test their theories for yourself. “Science” isn’t an exclusive cult or community. It is one of many options. And I would argue it’s the best we currently have at our disposal.
Finally, I leave you with the immortal words of comedian Dara Ó Briain: “Science knows it doesn’t know everything, otherwise it would stop.”
Democracy’s real Achilles heel is its dependence on an informed electorate. Anti-intellectualism is kryptonite for democracy because is causing voters to vote irrationally, even to the extent of voting against their best interests.