Writing in the New York Post on conservatives and science skepticsm, University of Tennessee law professor and blogger Glenn Reynolds makes an important distinction between the methods of science and its institutions and public spokesmen. Conservatives are more inclined than liberals to doubt the latter two — and reasonably so, he writes. Part of the reason lies in “the increasing use of science as ammunition for big-government schemes.”
Beyond that, referencing a paper in the American Sociological Review, Reynolds observes:
While one should trust science as a method — honestly done, science remains the best way at getting to the truth on a wide range of factual matters — there’s no particular reason why one should trust scientists and especially no particular reason why one should trust the people running scientific institutions, who often aren’t scientists themselves.
In fact, the very core of the scientific method is supposed to be skepticism. We accept arguments not because they come from people in authority but because they can be proven correct — in independent experiments by independent experimenters. If you make a claim that can’t be proven false in an independent experiment, you’re not really making a scientific claim at all.
And saying, “trust us,” while denouncing skeptics as — horror of horrors — “skeptics” doesn’t count as science, either, even if it comes from someone with a doctorate and a lab coat.
After a century of destructive and false scientific fads — ranging from eugenics to Paul Ehrlich’s “population bomb” scaremongering, among many others — the American public could probably do with more skepticism, not less.
It seems like some of us around here have said similar things lately. Quick check…yes, we did.