WHY SCIENCE AND RELIGION MUST NOT SOCIALLY DISTANCE
Are experts back in fashion or not?
One senior UK politician has long since repented of his Brexit-fevered outburst that the public had had enough of experts. In any case, he made the remark about economics, which Keynes himself admitted is the ‘dismal science’. There’s always been a faint hint of confirmation bias about economics – that political leanings guide economic theories rather than vice versa. But leaving the social sciences to one side, do we trust scientific experts?
The next year will determine this for a generation.
There is always a principle of uncertainty in science, especially so in virology, which depends on the random interactions of millions of people. And so different countries have tried divergent approaches to containing the virus. But there is something more unsettling still in the traction that disbelievers in science have obtained.
Science is becoming a matter of opinion for some. Scientists have long sought to separate their feelings from the observations they make, to remainder any personal biases. But new forces are gathering against them.
One is the dramatic loss of trust in institutions and their professionals. Experts are considered by some to be arrogant and out of touch, presenting as people with a superior perspective that others don’t have. This is supported by the second force: while scientists look to park their identities and preferences outside the laboratory, new thinking suggests it isn’t that easy, offering succour to those who believe unconscious biases lead scientists to distorted conclusions that protect vested interests.
Some scientists are intentionally goaded into reaction by social media trolls. As their emotion comes to the surface, the trolls hope to unmask the scientists as angry and impulsive and not to be trusted because they are as biased as anyone else.
When post-modernism spread virally from architecture to other disciplines it gave the rest of us a chance to sound intelligent as we mentioned it as often as possible. The speed with which it has captured the way the public thinks was never anticipated. For the post-modernists, truth is never objective; it conceals a quest for power. People now speak freely and unashamedly of ‘my truth’ instead of ‘my story’. And so we have different personal truths concerning climate change, vaccinations and pandemics that claim equal weight to others.
Where will the Church of God stand in this?
When Darwin’s theory of evolution first emerged, it was embraced by church leaders before a malign process was set in motion that juxtaposed science and religion for generations and which has still not been excised from popular imagination. In a strange outcome, some parts of the global Church today which believe in the objectivity of the Gospel have a desire to deconstruct truth elsewhere. In the process they marginalise rather than glorify God and open the wider Church to a ridicule it does not deserve.
TV interviews with Christians entering churches in different places loudly proclaiming that God will protect them from the virus while they are in his building is dream footage for secular-minded journalists. It is also symbolic of a wider held perception that people express their liberty by doing what they want, without regard for those who are affected by what they choose to do.
When truth is dethroned, power is consecrated in its place. And its rule exposes the weak and vulnerable because they are least able to look after themselves in a world that sanctifies strength.
Experts are not always right and they can’t leave all that forms them at the door when they set about their work. But if we give up on the quest for public truth, we take another step towards a world where the kingdom does not come and the weak must watch their backs.
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