By Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall (Rated G)
“Follow the science” is itself an unscientific expression, personifying science as a sort of cosmic Boy Scout troop leader or perhaps a soldier taking the point. It suggests that we should not follow our hearts (which is just as illogical), our music, our dreams, or anything else except science personified almost as a deity.
But science is an abstract concept, not a person. The word comes from “scientia,” Latin for knowledge of all sorts. In our time, we have narrowed the term for the purpose of discovering and proving facts that can be demonstrated to be valid or invalid [6 Steps of the Scientific Method (thoughtco.com)].
As an example, we humans have designed instruments arbitrarily marked with numbers for measuring the air temperature for utility. Even so, a scientist would not say that today’s temperature is 60 degrees Fahrenheit; he or she would say that at a given time, a given thermometer at a given location read 60 degrees Fahrenheit. He might go further and remind us that thermometers almost never agree with each other. So what is the temperature? Scientifically, we can’t really know, but even a caveman could tell us if the day feels warm or cold.
Unfortunately, many humans tend to accept uncritically almost any allegation to which the label “science” is attached, especially if that allegation is made via the Orwellian telescreens seemingly superglued to our hands. If a piece of information is beamed to us through a little made-in-China box that lights up and makes noises then it must be true, right?
We fancy we have in some way progressed because we believe in little boxes instead of the Delphic Oracle, but in the event they are only little boxes.
Even scientists aren’t always scientific; now they name storms and even attribute agency to them, a form of personification that reminds us of Greek paganism.
This brings us to the French scientist who posted to the InterGossip (which is scientific) a photograph (also scientific) allegedly taken by the James Webb Space Telescope (yes, scientific) and promoted it as a super-golly-gee-whiz image (scientific) of Proxima Centauri, a far-off star.
After a month or so, the scientist admitted that the picture he promoted as a wonderful bit of science was in fact not a star, but a cross section of a sausage. He said he was only joking [Scientist admits ‘space telescope’ photo is actually chorizo in tasty Twitter prank (msn.com)].
Follow the science, right?
When someone says “follow the science,” what he almost always means is that he uncritically believes whatever babble he last read on the InterGossip. In his small world, “you could research it” means to access whatever conspiracies are floating around among Orwellian telescreens without ever once considering the possibility that they might be inaccurate or even impossible – “Q,” for instance, or Hillary Clinton dismembering children in a pizza parlor, or the reincarnation of John F. Kennedy Jr. on the Grassy Knoll.
Not so long ago, anyone positing such absurdities would have been laughed out of the conversation; now that we have the science of the InterGossip beamed through the science of little glowing boxes, there are people who now believe such nonsense and sometimes act on it to the harm of others.
Following the science seems mostly to be a matter of bellowing thought-denying chants through bullhorns and raising clenched fists at each other instead of thinking things through and considering all the possibilities with both clarity and charity.
The six steps of the scientific method constitute a valid means of examining only those facts which can be evaluated and measured. Science cannot examine love, flowers, sunsets, a father playing catch with his child, or old friends playing chess around a fire, and so science, while valid in its own orbit, is but an incomplete study of Creation. Science itself is not a god, and we dare not presume to treat it as one.