March for Politics, Scientism and Scidolatry

But not for Science

Bill Nye, one of the featured players in Saturday's March for Life.

By William M Briggs Published on April 20, 2017

The upcoming March for Science — check with your nearest purple-haired activist for directions and times — is to no one’s surprise turning out to be one of those standard-issue paroxysms of “outrage,” grief, and angst directed against … well, this time against those who are against science.

Which is a group comprised of exactly no one.

Since there is no opposition to science, protesting against those who are against science ensures the March will be a success. Nothing burns as brightly as a Straw Man.

Let’s see if we can analyze this March scientifically. There are three broad motivations for participation: politics, scientism, and scidolatry.

Politics

Not only is the march providing moments of high comedy, it is allowing our self-appointed betters a stellar opportunity for virtue signalling.

Politicians and celebrities are courting injury, rushing to the nearest cameras, anxious to let their constituents and fans know they are “for” science.

Some in the march realize that the event has become just another political event, and are suggesting politicians try to maintain a low profile. You may as well ask fish to eschew water.

President Donald Trump is said not to love science with sufficient ardor. And by that marchers mean they believe Trump is disinclined to spend money on favored projects.

Hyperbole abounds. One for-instance. The East Bay Times screams the march is about “life and death,” because, they say, Trump won’t give money to Ebola research. A fatuous and false claim.

Perhaps the budget masters in the Trump administration wanted instead to cut expensive, government-funded research like “Development of a Stop Your Kids From Being Fat Website” ($615 thousand) and “When you’re drunk or fat, do you get hungrier when you smell delicious food?” ($401 thousand).

Sad fact is, apportioning money for research has fallen under the same diversity and equality politics and quotas as everything else. As President Eisenhower warned, there is too much money in the system, and this march proves it.

Scientism

Can you see the flaw in this argument? The heat of vaporization of tungsten is 774-thousand Joules per mole. Therefore, rape is morally wrong.

The number is correct. But nothing about morals or ethics flows from a scientific statement. Philosophy and religion precede science. Science cannot even say why 2 + 2 = 4 (though it can use that fact). The belief that science can answer philosophical questions is called scientism, the fallacy that science provides the answer to life, the universe and everything.

Science can tell us facts and make predictions. For example, science tells us this fact: a man pretending to be a woman is a man. But it is a question of morals and not science whether it is right or wrong for the government to insist we act as if this man is a woman.

Global warming models cannot make skillful predictions (and there is no difference between a forecast, scenario, or a projection). Scientifically, this means the theory underlying these predictions is wrong. But it does not follow that one has to abandon this busted theory if believing in it better accords with one’s political goals.

Another clue about scientism comes from organizations like the “Brights” and the Center for Inquiry, groups which promote atheism. CFI want marchers to “speak out” against those who “deny facts and reject reason on crucial issues.” (The conceit some atheists have is that because there is science, there is no God. Talk about rejecting reason on the most crucial issue!)

A favorite example of these groups is global warming. Yet even if global warming theory were true, nothing political follows from that fact. Nothing. What to do about a fraction of a degree increase in global temperature over the next few decades is a moral and ethical question, not a scientific one. A politician can ask a scientist, “What might happens to the climate if we do X?.” But the judgment whether to pursue X is not scientific.

Scidolatry

It’s hard not to escape the sensation that many marchers feel (not think)  that “Science” is some kind of mysterious being. And that Science isn’t happy with the state of the world. It must be appeased. It must be supplicated. It must be worshiped. “Hail Science!” “Raise your hand if you believe in Science!

If we do not pay enough attention to this grand entity, it might turn against us and refuse to reveal more of itself to us.

Celebrity scientist Neil DeGrasse Tyson says, “The good thing about Science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

Pure scidolatry, that.

Science isn’t true, nor is it false. It is a collection of facts and predictions, some of which are true or good, and some false or bad. Tyson is substituting Science for God, or suggesting that because a scientist says a thing, that thing is therefore true. Which is obviously false.

Does this fall under scidolatry or politics? An apprentice scientist remarked that the march “must be an inclusive event for it to be a success in my eyes. All organisms and things should be welcome and celebrated, from the microscopic to the astronomic.”

All organisms? Like the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which is responsible for botulism? Welcome smallpox? Anthrax? Cockroaches? Celebrate all things? Like volcanic eruptions? Earthquakes? Tsunamis? Rogue black holes wandering onto the plane of the ecliptic?

Black holes swallowing the planet? Hey. It could happen. Don’t you believe in Science?

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