Science in an Age of Fear
"Don’t you believe in Science?” she asked. She was a devoted member of the Party of Science -- the party that doesn’t recognize that men and women are different.
“No,” I said. “I am a scientist. I practice science, I don’t believe in it.” For more than half a century I have been a professional physicist. Professional -- that means someone pays me to practice my craft.
Far too many people believe that science is some mysterious entity which speaks in oracles and delivers miraculous new toys for people to marvel at and play with. This form of Science is a Cargo Cult. This Science is a kind of benevolent deity to be worshiped without understanding and without questioning.
Others have correctly pointed out that science is not a thing. Science actually is a methodology. It employs a dialog among competing ideas about the nature of reality. Intellectual independence and controversy is an essential part of the process.
This dialog can only be resolved through experiment. Only with intellectual freedom can experiments be defined which will show which ideas are correct and which are not. As Richard Feynman famously said: “It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science.”
Without freedom of thought and speech, without opposition and testing, science is a mere catalog of previous discovery. Without full intellectual freedom Science is dead. It has become Science. It has become ritual.
Unfortunately, some misuse science. Some of their intentions, are far from benevolent. They see science as a mechanism for political power and control. There is great danger from those who would use science for political control over us.
How do they do this? They instill, and then continuously magnify, fear. Fear is the most effective instrument of totalitarian control.
We are immersed in an Age of Fear. For decades, now, “scientists” have told us that the world is facing calamitous global warming because of industrialization. I put “scientist” in quotes because the whole issue has little real technical support. The so-called scientists who are pushing the idea that our carbon dioxide emissions are lethal have a political agenda, not a scientific one. They are, in reality, “political scientists,” not the real thing.
How do we know this? That’s easy. We get statements like: “Science says that wicked mankind is causing run-away global warming. The case is closed. There is no room for dissent.”
We need not go into the technical issues to recognize that man-caused “climate change” is likely wrong. We only need to recognize that no dissent is to be tolerated. This is pure totalitarianism. It tells us that the basic proposition is on shaky, and probably indefensible, grounds.
Another example: For the last dreadful year we have suffered from a virus. Without question COVID-19 is a disease to be feared. Many have died. Many families have grieved. We will be glad to put this epidemic behind us – we normal people, that is. Some glory in the abused power that fear of this disease has given them.
The fear of this epidemic has been used by governments to imprison us. After all, “lockdown” means we must remain in our locked cells. The lockdown has wreaked havoc with our economy, obliterated multitudes of businesses, and demolished the savings of millions of citizens.
There is no science behind this imposed tyranny. It should be obvious that the directives coming from those charged with managing the epidemic are based not on scientific understanding but on intentionally magnifying fear for political advantage.
Consider: Early on President Trump relayed the good news that a cocktail of Hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Azithromycin showed great promise when given to newly infected patients.
An avalanche of political attacks immediately followed. A myth, preached by Dr. Anthony Fauci, said the cocktail had no effect on the viral infection, that it actually was dangerous. The FDA warned against using the long proven safe drug Hydroxychloroquine. The respected medical journal, The Lancet, published (and later retracted) an article against its use. No debate was allowed. “Medical Science” proclaimed that the cocktail was useless. Authoritarian State Governments banned its use.
Doctors on the frontlines knew otherwise. My doctor specializes in infectious medicine. All nearby doctors go to him when they get sick. From the beginning of the epidemic he worked literally day and night to save lives. Sometimes he failed. Most times he succeeded.
I asked him if he used the Hydroxychloroquine cocktail and if it really worked. He did, and it did. He then surprised me when he used unexpectedly strong language to castigate Fauci and all those who had politicized the epidemic.
We live in an Age of Fear. Big Tech censors our expression, deplatforms nonconformists, and destroys their sources of revenue. Government agencies -- even parts of the FBI -- are out of control. Some courts no longer protect our freedoms. Cancel Culture has made people afraid that they will lose their jobs if they speak their minds about the tyranny of fear that the Left is imposing.
Leftist intellectual conformity is now mandatory in many of our schools, in academia, in our work, in the military, in government, in entertainment, and in many other parts of our society. Science suffers and, in certain disciplines, is starting to wither.
Large parts of the nation remain in lockdown even though it is now apparent that lockdown, mask wearing, and social distancing are not effective in preventing the spread of disease. Lockdown is not scientifically valid.
The tyranny of fear is being used to impose real political tyranny. We must resist the fear. We must not be afraid to say what we really think. In so doing we are very likely to discover we have unexpected allies. Never forget that intellectual freedom is the shield protecting all our freedoms.
And always remember that when “Science” says the matter is closed, the truth is very likely the opposite.
The philosopher Isaiah Berlin warned us: “The first people totalitarians destroy or silence are men of ideas and free minds.”