Thursday, December 6, 2018

Science, not Superstition

Harrison Ford made an impassioned plea in a speech recently, that we should stop electing people to power who do not believe in science.

I sympathize with Ford's frustration. Part of the challenge we face, we scientists, is the language we have to use to discuss the problem. Ford asks us not to give power to those who don't "believe" in science, but science is the antithesis of "belief."

The value of science is that it works whether you believe in it or not. That's because it is a method rather than received wisdom as religions are. The law of gravity or the theory of evolution are not received wisdom handed down by elders, they are simply observations of how things around us seem to work. I have never seen a dropped pencil not fall to the floor. I see a food source, say nuts, cease to grow on an island (think Galapagos) and the critters who ate them die out and I think, "that's how it goes."

It's not about believing in science, it's about having a method of understanding the world around us that is based on evidence not superstition. Ford should rather have said, stop electing people who "believe" in superstition, eg. Reagan and his astrology, or wishful thinking, eg. Trump's meteorological scheme, or the preaching's of scam artists, eg. Mormon Mitt Romney who believes the Book of Mormon presumably, else he's also a hypocrite.

Bertrand Russell, (1872-1970) Professor of philosophy, Cambridge U. wrote, "we ought not to believe in that for which there is no evidence.".