Tuesday, October 29, 2013

According to Science...

"According to science, gravity is responsible for human beings remaining on the ground and not having their eyeballs sucked from their sockets."

A pretty sound assertion. I don't think you'll find many advocates for the almighty Earth-Warden which chains you to the ground using the links of your mortal sins, but I'm sure they're out there. This post isn't about gravity, though. It's about science. Or rather, about what science has become to most people, particularly those he like to toss about the phrase "according to science" in Internet debates (and increasingly, in real life debate!). Cracked is notorious for using this phrase without actually knowing what it means, and they aren't the only one.

First, allow me to blow your mind: nothing is "according" to science. The phrase itself does science a disservice in that it treats it as a belief system. Thousands of atheists are up in arms now, but that's because they're the moronic kind of atheist who hasn't figured this shit out yet. Really, they're hipster atheists, so they don't count. Saying "according to science" or "science says" is absolutely baffling to me, even though I've done it! It's just an easy catch-all for telling the opposition to shut up. "Science agrees with me, so I must be right". It'll probably win you most debates if you have a link, provided you aren't debating with some kind of unflinching zealot which most people totally are.

Science is a method, it doesn't say anything. There are innumerable practitioners of science who say a vast array of things, but science itself does not say very much. What it does say is "be logical, be organized, and be damn sure you're applying me correctly". Science is nothing more than a series of steps in a process used to discover something about something. Science is literally a single word meaning: "use some fucking common sense before you go flapping your stupid, pink gums".

There are people who actively treat "science" like a gospel, claiming that gravity is not a theory, but an indisputable truth. Well, I wouldn't dispute them. I actively believe in gravity. In fact, I rather like gravity--keeps all my vertebrae where they belong. The thing is, it isn't science which suggests that gravity is an active force, it is (or was) a man who utilized science to reach a conclusion which suggested that gravity is a legitimate force. And I am actively choosing to participate in the beliefs generated by that man (and his intellectual descendants).

And that's the dangerous part of conflating "science" with "truth". Any individual can follow the scientific method and report on their findings. Those whose beliefs are accepted by the majority are called "scientists" and those whose beliefs are ostracized are called "whack jobs". This is the inherent issue of being human. Herd mentality is dictating what is and is not fact, and it always has and it always will. Much like how a person's core beliefs will impact what they choose to accept and what they choose not to accept.

It's true that believing in some of the purported findings made using science has led to great changes in our lives and made the world a whole lot easier to deal with. I think. It might have also brought us corporations, and that's kind of ruining everything else. But it cannot be argued that the acceptance of those findings was not, is not, simple belief. Belief in something which made, makes, logical sense to those who used it as their platform for creating new discoveries and new advancements.

Here's the problem: while I can experience the tangible results of supposed science, I cannot for myself verify that these findings are not the results of a self-perpetuating (and locked) belief system of a few individuals. When a scientist who specializes in quantum mechanics comes out and announces something to me, I take it that he knows what he's talking about. I choose to believe that he does. The issue is that he might very well not, and in fact there might not be any such thing as "quantum mechanics" and he could just be spouting nonsense and collecting grant money. I don't know about it, I don't know how right he is. I choose to believe he's right. But that's a choice, and a belief. It's a faith.

When it comes down to it, all understandings are a belief and a faith. Some can be shaken, some cannot. They are all chosen. Oh, but not a single one of those beliefs is "science". Because science is just a method of finding belief. Anyone can use it. Everyone should use it. Everyone should believe everything claimed by the practitioners of it?

Not so much.

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