Science and the Battle Against Dogma, Superstition and Conspiracy Theories

Scientists at work. (Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels)

“Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority”
– Aldous Huxley

Science upsets things.

Science told us that man was not the center of the universe. Science then told us that man was not even the center of the galaxy. Science told us that the earth was not flat and that man evolved from a simple creature that crawled out of the mud billions of years ago. Science gave women control over their reproductive cycles. Science took us to the moon.

Science has of course done so much more, but these particular scientific achievements deserve mention because of the havoc they caused. And continue to cause. Many of these achievements are still rejected in the 21st century by people who cling desperately to dogma, superstition and conspiracy theories like a thread-bare teddy bear.

Whether the religious deniers who insist the world was only created about 6000 years ago and that dinosaur skeletons were left by a god as a kind of cosmic joke or those insist the earth is flat because that is what their eyes tell them and anything that undermines that belief is a “conspiracy” to hide the truth or those people who insist we never went to the moon because, well, we didn’t or we were just trying to fool the Soviets, they all deny science because if they accepted what science had achieved their imaginary worlds would be turned upside down.

Science asks questions. Constantly. Even about accepted science. Good science is constantly upsetting the apple cart, even among scientists.

Authorities hate questions. They prefer the known order, the ‘right’ way of thinking. Dogma. If authority tell the public this is the truth, then that is the truth, even if it isn’t.

Authorities of any political ideology hate science. The Soviets suppressed knowledge that did not conform to their communist ideology, just as China does today. Conservatives have suppressed science through the ages.

Which is why conservatives and the far-right in America have worked so hard to undermine science and knowledge almost since the beginning of the country. While founding fathers like Franklin and Jefferson were certainly men of science, the people who came after them largely were not. The men (and it was men back then and even mostly now) who controlled power and authority …and money… hated science because it so often acted as an antidote to their formulas to achieve more power and money.

Denials don’t matter

As we head further into the 21st-century science has never been more important than it is now. It has also never been under such a sustained attack from the right. Whether the issue is climate change, vaccines that have saved billions of lives, less polluting forms of new energy to replace fossil fuels, or how to combat a world-wide pandemic, science constantly fends off attacks, most of them ridiculous.

But here’s the thing about science. You can deny it all you want but that doesn’t change the data or what will happen. GOP governors and senators can hide data that blows up their lies or try to prevent scientists from speaking out. The president can lie about infection rates or try to peddle snake oil about “potential cures.”

It doesn’t matter.

The oceans will still rise. The infection rate will still grow. More businesses and people will choose new forms of energy. Discoveries will continue that show the earth’s age is about 5 billion years in a universe about 15 billion years old. Women will still continue to use contraception. Vaccines will still save billions of lives.

Conservatives and authorities can change. The Catholic Church that once jailed Galileo now not only champions his theories but accepts a “divinely inspired” form of evolution. A Catholic priest first formulated the idea of a “Big Bang” start to the universe. Things that many people once viewed as magic are now seen as everyday natural events – thanks to science.

Dogma. Superstition. Conspiracy theories. These are the enemies of humanity, which often try to masquerade as “the truth.” But they will always lose in the end. It may take a while, but science will not be denied forever.

Science is still the best bet humanity has for prolonged survival. Which is why every time authority seeks to undermine science it must be challenged and confronted. Not just by scientists but by all people who understand its value and importance.

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