TW Viewpoint | Follow the Science

June 3, 2022 | Stuart Wachowicz

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We hear an urgent plea these days, to "follow the science." Science is promoted as the guardian of all things truthful and factual. The mantra seems to be, "If science says it is so, it is so." But just how reliable is "science"?

The definition of science is the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence. The Science Council is a registration of practicing scientists who meet stated competence and conduct requirements. But all of these scientists are flawed human beings, like the rest of us, who can and do make mistakes.

The scientific method is generally objective observation, experimentation, reasoning, analysis, verification, and testing. But there isn't a single "scientific method" that has unalterable, fixed steps, completed in an unchangeable, predetermined order. Methods can vary across scientific disciplines. And don't forget that the scientists pursuing knowledge are humans doing the hypothesizing, analyzing, and interpreting, and so are subject to human error and prejudice.

Science is not the god that far too many seem to think it is. Rather, science is a body of human individuals pursuing knowledge and is only as reliable as humanity itself. A study of the history of scientific pursuit quickly verifies this.

We all enjoy and benefit from scientific advancements. This video being published via the Internet for people to watch on their phones, tablets, or computers—handy products of science, all—provides a case in point. We simply need to view science from the proper perspective.

An objective review of historical scientific mistakes is illustrative of the proverbial clay feet of humanity. Science is error-prone—not because scientists are inept, but because science often tackles highly complex subjects that don't give up their secrets easily. We humans are, well, human, and therefore prone to mistakes, as well as subject to technological limitations to what we can know or observe at various times throughout history.

Look at numerous products that are recalled every year because of safety issues or defects, including food, baby formula, toys, video games, hand sanitizers, sunscreens, vehicles, and chemicals. The blame goes to human error, flawed science in manufacturing, or flawed management putting their bottom line above consumer safety. Either way, the flawed human element is the common denominator. But we can give some credit to whatever science caught the flaws.

While science has been helpful in many areas, the realization that flawed human beings are involved in the equation, means that science will never be perfect and is by no means a god.

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