Everybody Hates Science


Everybody hates science. Okay not everybody and not all the time. Everyone loves science when it confirms our long held beliefs and prejudices and hates it when our common sense understanding of the world is challenged. We really hate it when it interferes with our ability to hate. Or to carry on living our selfish lives the way we want to.

Your politics are largely irrelevant in terms of your attitude towards scientific discoveries. If you are on the right you may hate science for what it shows about climate change. That can’t be true, you bellow, it will cost me money. Or some such. If you are on the left, you object to science finding that GMO foods are apparently harmless and that cancer is mostly caused by chance. But, but, that evil corporation must somehow be causing these terrible things! (Not that corporations aren’t evil — but it’s all about money, not science)

Even worse than those who hate particular aspects of science are those who embrace a single study to prove some point or other. It doesn’t matter if the study can never be replicated or if it is shown to be bad science or, in the case of vaccines, an outright fraud done for the most pernicious of motives. If it supports what we want to believe than some of us will embrace it whole heartedly.

I think that people generally find science difficult to grasp because scientists keep changing their minds. Take the recent study that shows that being cold can, in fact, increase your risk of getting a cold. This was very upsetting to me — I’ve spent years pooh-poohing the idea that such a link could exist. But the study seems to be valid and contains both evidence and a rational explanation for why it is true.

So what’s a poor boy to do but change his thinking? Cause that’s what we do in science. Scientists formulate theories that can be tested — not to be proved right (impossible to do with any finality) but to see if it is wrong. Falsifiability is the hallmark of a good scientific theory. With every study that goes by that doesn’t show the theory wrong, we gain more confidence in it and eventually we accept it as being conditionally true.

But people keep running experiments and every once in a while a false result comes up and other scientists rush about trying to replicate those results. If they can, then the understanding of a phenomenon must change and, if they can’t, they try to figure out what may have gone wrong in the first place.

And that is the problem most people have with science. It demands that you dwell in a country of constant uncertainty. Wouldn’t it be so much easier just to have a set of laws given to us from on high — whether from a religious belief or a political ideology? Then we could go along blissfully certain about all sorts of things that weren’t true.

We could ignore the results of science. But that’s okay, because science pretty much ignores the silly lies we tell ourselves. It’s okay not to care about the laws of the universe because they certainly don’t care about us.

And that’s ten minutes.


One thought on “Everybody Hates Science

  1. While this is, indeed, the general idea that most of science espouses — along with the scientists — it isn’t supported by all, and I wish it were.

    A clear example of an exception is currently occurring in cosmology, where supporters of the dominant Big Bang model are refusing to consider any possible altenatives. [I support one, plasma cosmology, which has better evidence for it than most other rivals.]


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