They say you should avoid discussing religion and politics. Why? Because people have strong convictions about these subjects. They can get ‘cranky’ if their convictions are questioned or challenged. You could lose a friend.
Now the subject of science may be taking its place alongside religion and politics. People have strong convictions about science. They have arrived at certain conclusions about how to understand the data which science presents. As with religion and politics, people may get irritable if their interpretations are questioned.
Science is viewed by many as an immovable edifice of truth. Once an idea is embraced by the scientific community, everyone is supposed to bow down and submit, or at least be quiet and not ask questions.
Current events are demonstrating that science may be more like religion than we thought. It turns out that science is subject to political views and ideologies. Data that supports a political ideology is amplified. Data that challenges the ideology is conveniently filed away for further study.
As the current worldwide pandemic unfolds, we can see in real time two irrefutable facts. First, science takes time to get it right. Second, politicians use science to advance their worldview through public policy. And number two happens faster than number one.
True science is careful and methodical. As a result, it sometimes moves too slow to help with pressing public policy issues. Sometimes we must decide now. Incomplete science can create wrong or even harmful public policy decisions.
At the beginning of the current pandemic, ‘scientific’ conclusions and predictions were used to create support for certain public policy decisions/reactions. Some leaders insisted that science would show us “the way.” We could simply follow science and good things were guaranteed to happen.
Some of those early scientific predictions were wildly inaccurate. Why? The science was incomplete. Moreover, converting scientific data into public policy is not a simple formula. Economic shutdowns had terrible unintended consequences that science said nothing about.
This is why we vote for leaders, not scientists. If science were as simple and clear as some people claim, we could send the government home and make policy based on a printout from the lab. That won’t work. We need leaders who understand more than science because we need more than science to live healthy successful lives.
Perhaps one lesson we learn from the pandemic will be about science. Maybe we will learn to adopt a more realistic view of science’s proper place in human experience.
Science has been increasingly elevated to a godlike status by many people. Science gets the final word. Challenging scientific consensus is the new blasphemy. But science is used both for great good and for terrible evil. The common denominator is humanity.
Knowing science is not enough, even when the science is accurate (and especially when it is not!). We must understand humanity. Effective leaders must know people. Knowing people requires more than chemistry and biology.
Science cannot replace our need for politics. Neither can science replace our need for religion. The popular notion that science and religion are in a ‘winner-take-all’ battle is misleading. True science and religion have long co-existed. More than that, science and religion have often worked together. They will continue to do so.
God has blessed us with a physical world that makes sense and with minds to make sense of it. God and his word are a vital part of the human experience. We need not fear speaking the truth with love. Let’s not be afraid to tell the good news!
May God’s Spirit inspire and enable us,