The Rejection of Science Itself

I’m most interested by the news that an increasing number of people are rejecting science, altogether. With 31% of Americans believing that human beings have existed in their current form since the beginning, and only 35% percent agreeing that evolution happened through natural processes, it’s no wonder that parents reject immunization for their children and voters support candidates who value fervor over fact.

To be sure, science has brought some of this on itself, by refusing to admit the possibility of any essence to existence, and by too often aligning with corporate efforts to profit off discoveries with little concern for their long-term impact on human well-being.

But the dangers of an anti-scientific perspective, held so widely, are particularly perilous at this moment in technological history. We are fast acquiring the tools of creation formerly relegated to deities. From digital and genetic programming to robots and nanotechnology, we are developing things that—once created—will continue to act on their own. They will adapt, defend, and replicate, much as life itself. We have evolved into the closest things to gods this world has ever known, yet a majority of us have yet to acknowledge the actual processes that got us to this point.

That so many trade scientific reality for provably false fantasy at precisely the moment when we have gained such powers may not be entirely coincidental. But if these abilities are seized upon as something other than the fruits of science, and if they are applied with utter disregard to the scientific context through which they were developed, I fear we will lack the humility required to employ them responsibly.

The big science story of the century—one that may even decide our fate—will be whether or not we accept science at all.