You can blame Sarah for this, since a bit of Skype chat got the pair of us bitching about the neuron-deprived morons who proudly proclaim “I believe in science”. Precisely how one believes in a process that’s based on observation, experiment, repetition, and deduction is another matter – except that the declaration labels the speaker as the kind of fool who regards “science” as just another religion.
One might as well say “I believe in logic”, or “I believe in mathematics”. You don’t actually have to believe in any of these things because they aren’t things. They’re observable processes that can be demonstrated to produce the same results from the same inputs every bloody time.
The entire point of the scientific process is that if you can’t repeat your results with the same inputs then you’ve got something wrong. The something could be that there are more variables you didn’t know about. Or it could be that your hypothesis doesn’t match what’s actually happening. Since all scientific knowledge starts with the hypothesis that the world – the universe – is governed by natural rules that can be determined by observation, experiment, repetition, and deduction it’s perfectly acceptable that more evidence causes rethinking and in some cases throwing out long-held rules and theories.
Newton’s laws lasted for a long time – but research and experiments in the 20th century determined that Newton’s laws fall apart when working on scales that are – for the most part – outside the ability of humans to understand. It’s actually not that different than the way recipes typically neglect to mention that they’re assuming the person doing the cooking is somewhere reasonably close to sea level, and in an area that’s neither utterly freezing nor horrifically hot. Trying to follow a normal recipe somewhere like the US badlands in summer or three quarters of the way up Mount Everest or somewhere in Antarctica would not produce the expected results.
The problem is that there are far too many people who don’t understand that if words don’t have clear meanings then there can be no communication. If there is no communication, then everyone is easy prey to a scammer playing semantic games with normal linguistic shortcuts. Don’t believe me? Listen to a politician speak – or better, read the transcript. More often than not, you’ll get a whole lot of words that luff and flap around the supposed topic but never actually say anything that means anything.
Of course, the benighted sods who claim to “believe in” science are likely to fall to the linguistic scams, because anyone who feels a need to believe in a process is not using the material between their ears to think with. Let’s face it, believing in science is on the same level as thinking that a statement like “No human is illegal” has any relevance to a discussion about illegal immigration. The shortcut of calling an illegal immigrant simply “illegal” is just that. A shortcut. It’s not saying the person is illegal, it’s saying their immigration status is illegal.
That kind of bad faith argument is typically not something the placard-wavers would understand. I’m sure they think it sounds wonderful and humane and all very enlightened. Except that what it’s really saying is that this country – and no other, because strangely enough you never hear arguments about how horribly inhuman anyone else’s immigration policy is – does not have the right to enforce its own laws.
It’s one thing to find a law objectionable. There are legal ways to deal with that, which can be escalated all the way up to constitutional amendments. That’s part of living in a law-abiding, high trust society (trust me on this, there is no way you can have a law-abiding low trust society. Rule of law goes out the window once trust levels drop enough because people don’t trust any government entity).
It’s another, and far, far worse thing to say that a nation, a state, or a city does not have the right to enforce it’s laws. And if a nation doesn’t have the right to enforce one law, what gives it the right to enforce any other law? I’m quite sure there’d be enthusiastic agreement from some of these people, right up until they found themselves the victims of criminals, at which point they’d suddenly see a need for law and order.
And yes, scientific processes can describe all of this. Not terribly well, because the amount of variability in human behavior is something that’s beyond our ability to model, but enough to be relatively predictable.
So after that little rant, have a cat picture. Today it’s the Husband’s much loved cat Tia Clawmarks.