With the advent of COVID-19, science has become the victim of increasingly partisan crusades. Democrats fashion themselves as stewards of “the science” and, by proxy, bash Republicans as its opponents. In so doing, Democrats, and all other partisans who echo their rhetoric, devalue science—thereby making it harder for true scientific inquiry and knowledge seeking to flourish.
It goes without saying, then, that the statement “I believe in science” has become a loaded political phrase. It masquerades as a means of communicating a belief in the efficacy of science and the scientific process, but it’s actually fraught with fallacies. Most who declare “I believe in science” are disingenuous (or worse).
Sadly, recent rhetoric concerning “the science” shouldn’t be surprising. Historically, Democrats weaponize their purported solution to a political problem by calling it “science” and then they try to force this “science-based” solution upon others. In opposition to the Democrats’ schemes, Republicans too often make the mistake of rejecting both the Democrats’ solutions and the actual science concerning the topic. This is corroborated by a study which found that people of both political persuasions often disagree with the facts of something if they disagree with the proposed solutions to the problem. In other words, people are more motivated by beliefs than facts. The most salient examples of this occurring are in discussions concerning climate change and evolution.
However, while both political sides ignore aspects of science, only one purports to champion “science” wholesale, disingenuously claiming to represent it. Democrats pretend to be the party of science, but science has no party affiliation. No matter what they say, Democrats have no monopoly over its usage.
Case in point: liberals by and large accept human evolution, but they seem opposed to some of the consequences of it, specifically concerning the biological differences between sexes. For example, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Massachusetts) once tweeted, in reference to biological males competing against biological females, that “Trans athletes are not a threat.” This is obviously untrue from just a cursory look at the difference between male and female world records for track and field. However, Warren’s disbelief in science didn’t preclude her from tweeting “I believe in science. And anyone who doesn’t has no business making decisions about our environment” to former President Donald Trump, in response to him appointing a panel largely composed of scientists to review the science of climate change.
While Warren’s intellectual dishonesty may have just been her virtue-signaling to her base, her tweets represent a thought-pattern prevalent on the left: unscientifically attempting to mitigate gender differences. The most ludicrous example is the deliberate blurring of the physical differences between men and women, with statements like “some men do have periods.” These pronouncements follow from the left’s desire to accept individuals with gender dysphoria as the opposite of their actual gender and from the left’s confused philosophy overall concerning the difference between sex and gender. To be clear: sex is the biological dimorphism present in the animal kingdom, while gender is how those biological differences manifest in human society. So, while gender is somewhat subjective, it is by no means arbitrary. And as sex is determined by gametes, so is gender, meaning it is immutable. Statements like Warren’s willfully ignore this fact.
To make matters worse, not only does the political co-option of science lead to ridiculous assertions masqueraded as science, but the very phrase “believe the science” has nonsensical implications. Knowledge derived from scientific inquiry is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Hence, the statement “I believe in science” is as meaningless as it is vapid.
Scientism, or the belief that science alone can be society’s lodestar, is wrong. Science is not an unimpeachable good; it can also be used for evil. Eugenics is as much a science as epidemiology. Science has neutral value, and so for science to have a positive impact, there must be some hierarchy of values which provide a basis for its utility. Science itself cannot determine these values; they must be based on human morality.
The abuse of science is evident through its self-serving weaponization by Democrats, who wear the mask of “science” without fully accepting its consequences (as evidenced by their position on gender). This false use of science results in its devaluation as it both distracts from the true essence of science and misplaces its role in society. Science can be integrated within a society that recognizes its proper place and has a healthy orientation towards the good. But in a confused society like today’s, science has been elevated to a hegemonic status while, concomitantly, a man can be called a “woman.” To reiterate, it is not science that is the problem, as it has neutral value, but rather its misuse.
*The views expressed in this article solely represent the views of the author, not the views of the Chicago Thinker.