Over the past few weeks, we’ve gotten notes from Verge Science readers wondering why news from the incoming Trump administration has seeped into our science coverage. I wasn’t surprised: it’s tempting to believe that science is apolitical. But science and politics are plainly related: science is the pursuit of knowledge, knowledge is power, and power is politics.
The scientific method consists of generating a hypothesis, attempting to disprove the hypothesis through testing, and accumulating those tests to come up with shared knowledge. And that method also contains ideology: our observed, shared world is the real world. This ideology even has a name: empiricism. An incoming president who clearly picks and chooses facts to suit his own version of the world changes the relationship between science and culture, in potentially destructive ways.
“To be taught to read – what is the use of that, if you know not whether what you read is false or true? To be taught to write or to speak – but what is the use of speaking, if you have nothing to say? To be taught to think – nay, what is the use of being able to think, if you have nothing to think of? But to be taught to see is to gain word and thought at once, and both true.”
Tomorrow, in a mirror, darkly.
The attack on science is a tragedy and at a time where the issues facing the world, such as climate change can only be understood using reason and empiricism i.e. using science. This attack maybe part of an unfolding disaster. The ideas of the enlightenment – science has been responsible for the progress we have made accepting its inequalities, unevenness and horrors.
Where did this come from? Unfortunately the post socialist, post modernist left must take much of the responsibility. Recognising real philosophical issues with science they have developed the idea that it is impossible to know the truth, empiricism is illusory and science is simply a social construction, part of a the grand narrative created by power and patriarchy. Consider Newton’s Principia Mathematica as a “rape manual”.
However this has gone beyond the left the right is now running with the idea, allowing them to reject any science it doesnâ€™t like Darwinism, climate change etc. The right and the post truth politics of today may well be the opening shot of a coming apocalypse.