Many of us seem to be selective in whether we believe in science. Yet we unquestioningly depend on the products of science for much of every day.
For example, do you travel casually in automobiles, confident that features like cruise control, power steering, and anti-lock braking systems will function as expected?
Do you put a cellphone to your ear, or carry it in your pocket, assured that the battery will not explode?
Do you stay in the same room while your microwave is running, without a thought about its radiation?
These and other modern devices are available for our use, and generally perform to very high, safe standards, thanks to various disciplines of science.
Researchers and engineers apply laws of physics, fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, and more, as well as laws of probability, to advance our technical knowledge and capabilities. The scientific rigor of hypothesis, testing, observation, recording, and the ability to consistently reproduce equivalent results have added much to our civilization.
Certainly, some “silver linings” have come with a “cloud.” Some “advances,” like DDT or asbestos insulation, have proven to be net negatives. Perhaps more testing and evaluation of down-stream consequences would’ve resulted in these products’ not being produced for use in the first place.
Still, we rely daily almost blindly on science in myriad ways. Except when we choose not to.
Science indicates you’ll more likely survive a vehicle accident if you wear a seatbelt or helmet, and what designs and materials will protect you most effectively.
If you choose not to wear them and are killed or are disabled, you’re the only one directly harmed — assuming you exclude the economic and emotional impact on any dependents.
Science tells us that smoking — including second-hand smoke — poses dramatic health risks. Sure, you can ignore that, too. In this case, your decision also threatens the health of others in your household or that you spend a lot of time with.
Science emphatically affirms that vaccinations can prevent or reduce the likelihood of contracting certain life-threatening illnesses. You can decline vaccinations for yourself and your children.
But now, you’re not only placing your family at risk, you’re posing a threat to the entire community, even people you’ve never met.
The overwhelming scientific consensus is that certain human activities play a major role in climate change, which has a potential to disrupt civilization, if not the entire global biosphere.
You can reject that consensus and even oppose taking steps, individually or collectively, to address this issue. This time, your decision contributes to a threat to potentially every living thing on the planet.
Those who dismiss certain concerns as deriving from “junk science” should be sure where they stand. Can they produce, or at least cite, more credible scientific results that refute those concerns?
Perhaps they should just honestly admit that they believe in science when it allows them to do what they want to do, but not when it gets in their way, no matter who it harms.