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Can we Separate Science from Ideology – Yes



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"I believe."  What you believe can hurt you. How you declare your belief can make everyone who deals with you miserable, and it can change for the worse the way you interact with the world. "That's a good thing," you say? Your opinion is your own, but we should examine what it means.

Ideology is usually based on our early learning. A family member probably taught you when you were a child, and you were expected to agree with and build on those teachings as you matured. If this involved religion, the parental expectations found themselves strengthened by cultural roles. If you deviated from these teachings, someone in the church or synagogue or mosque might set you straight, or you might find yourself lonely.

There are people who think that science and scientific discovery have become a religion, too. They are certain, so they say, that scientists are bound to their opinions just like religious people, and they say that the outcomes are just as bad. Is this true? Far too often, the pot that calls the kettle black has a gaping hole in it. Let me explain.

Ideologies tend to be unchanging, traditional, sometimes literally graven in stone. Science, on the other hand, is built on observation, hypothesis, and evidence, meaning that any observable change in natural conditions ought to produce some change in the reported data. Thus ideology and science are not co-equal commentators on reality.

There are still people who claim that scientists wish to disprove the existence of one or another of their religious icons or persons of interest, even God. It is painful to listen to them prattle on about the supposed conspiracy that exists among the world's most highly-educated and, for the most part, most dedicated seekers after knowledge.

It is an ideologically-motivated trait, not a scientifically-based one, to assert such wrongdoing on the part of others. It demonstrates a lack of understanding concerning the work of scientists, and it confirms for public viewing that someone has neglected to do their homework when speaking out publicly.

The way it was

In grade school, we had the story of the little train that could. It could climb that hill, despite the difficulty, because it kept on saying, "I think I can, I think I can." This may have started some people off on the wrong foot, thinking that believing a thing to be possible makes that thing real. Many people call that "wishful thinking."

Ideology advances this sort of thinking all the time, and there's nothing wrong with positive thinking, since it actually can change the perspective and therefore the achievement level of persons who employ it. Science needs more than positive thought to function properly.

Have you asked yourself why some people are afraid of science? Could it be that they are simply nervous when they hear about discoveries they don't understand? Or does it go deeper than this? I have believed for years that much of this fear, at least among religious people, is based on anxiety. They think that science might be successful in disproving some cherished tenet of religion. Evolution comes immediately to mind, but scientific inquiry touches on all avenues of the natural world, so the possibilities are endless that something "faith-based" might suffer.

While this is unfortunate, science cannot simply declare off-limits any discussion, investigation, or data that touch on "sacred" areas of life. We have microwave ovens and pacemakers today because scientists used discoveries from the space program to improve the quality of life of persons who will never travel in space. There are people who still believe that we ought to stop development in the space sciences because there are too many problems here on the ground. Is that an ideological or a scientific statement? You decide.

Just think about it

Science and ideology are two aspects of life without which we simply could not live. People always seem to be curious about how their world-and others-work, but they also seek high powers to worship. In the public expression of our lives, when we are working with others communally, we need to be clear about which aspect we're exploring, then cooperate appropriately in the work at hand.

We can separate science and ideology publicly, and we must if we hope to build a stronger, wiser, and more technologically savvy future.

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