Lance Scranton: The great science debate settled!
March 17, 2015
I'm not a scientist, but I read about science quite often and stay well informed. The news I've been reading lately makes me very concerned by the absolute certainty that some in the field are describing as "settled science" implying that anyone who disagrees is obviously uneducated, ill-informed, conspiratorial, ignorant or just plain stupid (and likely an oil-loving, coal-supporting, anti-environmental, greedy capitalist).
With highest regard to those who know much more about particular scientific matters and its specialized language and vocabulary than this humble high school teacher, I give you just a few of the scientific communities greatest concerns or discoveries of my lifetime:
The next ice-age was fast upon us, and I lived in Canada so I was really concerned! Power lines were causing cancer, killer bees were going to make living in the USA dangerous, Silicone implants (this was a big deal; even put a major company out of business) were causing immune-system issues and Y2K would send us all back to the technological stone-age (I bought a candle). However, Cold Fusion was going to solve our energy problems and MTBE was going to take care our pollution issues just by adding it to our gasoline.
Science, as a part of technology, has been incredibly beneficial (although I am still waiting for computers to make my life simpler and easier). We live longer, healthier lives because of developments in antibiotics, vaccines and appetite control supplements like fen-phen (oops, another science promise that ended badly), and artificial sweeteners (are any safe? — I get confused).
Needless to say, I am not an expert but do, like you, have some life experience that provides a certain amount of wisdom and understanding that not everything science claims should be considered "settled." With increasing regularity, science purports to know what is best for all of us but their claims and demands can have severe and far-reaching consequences. Take some time to read about the scientific veracity of the Sterilization Act of 1924 in which Eugenics (settled science at the time) was to be used to limit human reproduction in "worthless" and "defective" populations in order to better the human race.
I've forgotten a few because the demand of day-to-day living forced me to get on with life, but blindly trusting science when it demands our unquestioned allegiance and immediate public policy solutions can be a dangerous mindset.
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Maybe settled is just another word for scientific dictatorship.