Monday, December 11, 2017

What Does It Mean To Be A Science Denier?

I've been hearing the phrase "science denier" tossed around quite a bit lately. Frankly, it's usually a rhetorical bludgeoning tool to dismiss someone who disagree with someone else about how to properly use the scientific method or how to rightly understand information and conclusions. It's almost never actually about someone "denying science" - unless they are postmoderns. 
In all these cases, it doesn't mean that both sides are right because they don't agree. I'm also not making the claim that both sides are using the scientific method with equal vigor. I am just noting that almost no one denies that the scientific method is good for studying the natural world. There are remarkably few actual "science deniers" in the scenarios I just mentioned. A better term might be "science challengers" or "establishment skeptics," since a scientific argument is occurring between two sides who at least claim to value science but strongly disagree about the robustness in which the method is being employed.

My point here is limited: "science denier" is almost always an inaccurate term, and I see it everywhere. It annoys me. It's a conversation stopper meant to poison the well in any discussion. In a world where real news is called fake news and words seem to increasingly lose their meaning, even small victories count.

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(1) I think there is an argument to made that all statements about origins are unavoidably theological statements in that they will make a claim about the necessity or possibility of God in the process. Some start with or without God and then make claims about science; some start with science and then make claims about the existence and/or nature of God - or lack of it. Either way, the two topics become tightly intertwined. Let's not kid ourselves: both sides are trying to tell a story of everything that enables us to hold a belief (or non-belief) about God that meshes with what the scientific method reveals.

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