Back in college my buddy Russ and I were talking about science and religion, their exclusion and confluence, and if there was any notable overlap in historic terms and best guess sci-fi projection.
A part of the conversation that stuck with me is the aphorisms “It’s not rocket science” and “It’s not nuclear physics.” The thing is, both of these comparatives of difficulty are readily achievable with undergrad studies in many scientific, engineering, and mathematic disciplines. For funsies, we made a small plutonium breeder reactor our sophomore year.
It was the sci-fi projection that came down to a different measure of difficulty that applied to both science and religion, and that’s fact and truth. Science has been about tangible (if abstracted) reproducible observations and applications. This is considered fact. Religion is more the purveyor of truth, that what is real is intrinsic and accepted, what can be called faith.
The sci-fi thought experiment centered on what happens when science becomes so unique and beyond the scope of understanding except for a very few. Will the lack of peer accountability and the reach of common academics falling short of tangible scrutiny get to the place where science must be taken on faith and itself be about truth and not fact?
As sci-fi projections go, that’s where we are now. The common belief is the C19 precautions dictated by a very few medical researchers are presented as science and therefore are fact. Facts above questioning. However, how is this fact defined? What methods were used to detetmine these facts? Given the same data populations, would independent researchers – assuming the same rarified skill set and knowledge base – be able to reproduce the same conclusions time and again?
“Because science” is the go to argument for why we must wear masks and social isolate and stop dead our economy. But who here can honestly explain what this science is and why this science backs the decisions our governments are making for us? “Because rocket science” and “because nuclear physics” can be critiqued with evidence provided. An undergrad with the right core classes and proper materials can put a rocket into stable orbit or construct a fission bomb. Not true of the “because science” of this pandemic. We’re asked to trust Fauci, the CDC, and WHO, to believe that what they claim is righteous and accurate. We are asked to have faith in the “because science”, even if we can’t test the results ourselves. In important ways, this pandemic science shares more in common with religion than traditional science.
And that was our central thesis, Russ and I. What would it take to make science a religion? As it happens, it’s a pandemic and the public’s readiness to accept scientific faith as scientific fact.
I can’t compete with your new-found religion
The good word seems everywhere
But good words only
– Jimmy Eat World