Anti-Science Label Can Be Misused
The world’s leading science journal warns its members to beware of the anti-science label.
The Editorial in Nature this week warns, “Beware the anti-science label.” The reason? “Presenting science as a battle for truth against ignorance is an unhelpful exaggeration.” reads the sub-heading. Anti-science does exist, as they point out with the disastrous policies of Trofim Lysenko in communist Russia and China, that led to the starvation of millions of people. But such cases cannot be compared with less threatening examples. The article lists several reasons why overusing or abusing the term is unjustified:
“Those who claim persecution in their pursuit of science would do well to consider whether the pursuit is as pure as they might wish.” –Nature
- Overusing the term ‘anti-science’ cheapens it.
- [I]t’s wrong for researchers and others to smear all political decisions they disagree with as being anti-science.”
- Science is not a single, unified entity,.
- Science does not speak with a unified voice; debate is lively at scientific conferences.
- Scientists’ motivations are not always pure.
- Science is “ripe with problems”— irreproducible results, manipulation of statistics, widespread sexual harassment and gender discrimination, and conflicts — or at least what seem to be conflicts — of financial interest, to name but a few.”
- In political decisions and appointments, “Many ‘anti-science’ measures have nothing to do with science at all.” Funding cuts might be about efficiency or cutting waste.
- Depicting disagreement as “name-calling and portraying the current political climate as a war between facts and ignorance simply sows division.”
The Editors don’t discount the evil of corruption and conflict of interest in politics, but they point out that science has its share, too. Nature advises scientists to consider how their haughty self-righteousness comes across to a public that sees science’s own house out of order.
This is a refreshing partial attempt at peacemaking. Unfortunately, the Editors fling some labels of their own:
In no way does this defence of politicians excuse the blatant climate denial, the politically motivated budget cuts and the interference with peer review that all too frequently characterize government. Plenty of politicians, particularly in recent years, have made a habit of choosing certain inconvenient facts and dismissing them entirely. But to claim that this constitutes a strategic war on science is to argue that science is a single, unified entity: that if you are not with science on any given issue, you are against science.
In other words, nobody is allowed to disagree with the consensus without being a ‘denialist’. What, pray tell, is the difference between that and ‘anti-science’? And isn’t peer review undergoing a revolution right now because of its problems? (see previous articles). Don’t Darwinists constantly dismiss inconvenient facts about the Cambrian explosion, irreducible complexity and genetic entropy? What about clinging to mystical forces like dark energy and dark matter against all evidence? What about waving the magic wand of millions of years and the Stuff Happens Law of natural selection to solve any and all problems with evolution? Who is really anti-science in those cases?