Scientists for Science

It’s hardly a surprise that scientists are in favour of science. What is surprising is that so many people – and those with most power and responsibility including our political establishments here and in the US seem not to be. Our BBC, largely the voice of the establishment, maintains its pretence of impartiality by giving climate denying lunatics like Lord Lawson the same or greater prominence as climate scientists, and Facebook and the web are full of miracle cures for cancer.

Rather than listen to the experts, to those whose ideas are based on science, we distrust them. It seems likely to be our civilisation’s undoing in the not to distant future. I’m fairly sure our planet will outlast my lifetime (at least if people keep Trump away from that red button) but far from convinced for my grandchildren’s future.

Part of the problem is that many things that have little or no scientific basis set themselves out as science – and a prime area is of course economics, which seems to apply mathematics to derive results which are simply reflections of the premises of whichever school is involved.

Science isn’t really like that, though perhaps sometimes in minor details it can be mere speculation. The most basic necessity of any scientific theory is that it could be proved to be wrong and can survive such attempts. It’s good to be able to prove things are right, but necessary to be possible to prove them false.

Our particular culture in Britain has been one based on an education in the Classics and on the primacy of the word. In the beginning was the word, and for the rest of the way too, with numbers and playing with real stuff being relegated to the rude mechanicals. And we’ve shut them away in labs where they have done remarkably well, perhaps at least in part because they are away from the distractions of talking to the rest of us.

What can one make of a protest in which placards read ‘Do I have large P-value? Cos I feel Insignificant’ or ‘dT=α.ln(C1/C0)’? I have a couple of science degrees and had some idea about the first but had to go and ask about the second.

Scientists march for Science
Scientists Rally for Science


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