Science vs. Anti-science

by Bill Schlesinger

This is a blog that attempts to translate science to the general public, using simple language to describe what we know and what we don’t know about how the world works. Among its basic goals, Translational Ecology tries to make people understand what science is and what it does, especially as it applies to the environment.

Science is the unbiased pursuit of how the world works, through observation, experimentation, hypothesis testing, and strong inference. Science continually subjects its findings to further scrutiny using new approaches, new techniques and instrumentation, and better experimental design. Thus, at any time, science gives us its best explanation of what is true. Decisions made without science are derived from folklore or superstition—not great alternatives when the lives of humans and other species are at stake. George Washington did not survive a blood-letting, which at the time was thought to let out the bad blood that accompanied disease.

Next week, we have an opportunity to choose between science and superstition. Scientists say the world is warming; superstition says that global warming is a hoax. Science said that COVID-19 would be widespread and deadly. Superstition said don’t be worried, it will go away. Science predicts the path of hurricanes; superstition projects their trajectory with a black sharpie.
President Trump mocks Joe Biden for promising to follow the advice of scientists. But when Trump was given remdesivir as a treatment for his COVID, it was not delivered to his bedside as a divine gift from the heavens. A lot of laboratory work went to develop the drug.

Accusations of fake news, belief in alternative facts, and playing down the predictions of science are superstition. As a sapient species—Homo sapiens—we should choose the alternative.

Stevie Wonder said it best in 1974….
When you believe in things
That you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition aint the way

William Schlesinger

Former Director of Cary Institute, Millbrook
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