I was thinking if “The Science” were a person they would probably be pretty upset right now. I say that because a lot of people are spinning “The Science” to support a particular viewpoint or another. From your vantage point, don’t you see it? Misinformation is rampant, far more rampant than you imagine… it’s even in your own camp, no matter what that may be.
For instance, two scientists can look at the same data and arrive at completely different conclusions. It happens again and again right now. What do we make of that? Forget about off the wall conspiracy theorists for a minute I’m talking about legitimate scientists. How can this be?
Let’s focus on the booster campaign. The question before us is whether continuing with regular shots of this particular medication in this particular moment is the best path forward or not? I am not seeing anything near a consensus on best practice.
I hear scientists pointing to worrisome signals questioning the body’s ability to mount a net positive response to COVID through ongoing shots. They are saying it’s time to pause the campaign or at least be highly selective, and I hear others saying to carry on with boosters. The response to the boosters is positive, they say. They both claim The Science is on their side. I think neither side of the argument is free from spinning the data, deemphasizing findings that challenge their position.
Sometimes I wish “The Science” WAS embodied in an individuality capable of standing up and setting the record straight with an authority universally recognized. I imagine a scientist misrepresenting a data set, maybe presenting a limited part of the data and making unjustifiable claims. And I imagine “The Science” would then step forward with a full throated reply in the stalwart position of the unquestioned authority to set the record straight. It would be quite amazing actually. Even the slightest manipulations would trigger a decisive Scientific correction. People would learn very quickly how to check their biases and to stop the spin. Eyes would widen. The practice of taking liberties would end. I suspect whole periodicals and maybe whole industries would go out of business. The reckoning would be massive.
But it’s ridiculous to consider such a thing. It’s clearly not our path to have passive access to such clarity.
The fact of the matter is “The Science” has a different character than that all together. It is very soft-spoken. It is incapable of judgment or opinion. It humbly and quietly offers its results. Honor, duty and integrity accompany it. It wants no say in what is done with the results. It leaves that up to us. For its product to be used for good it needs our activity and our integrity. Our freedom to create a moral or immoral outcome has a central place on the world stage. That’s our actual situation. That the human condition.
Yes, “The Science” speaks in whispers. To learn the message we need to be silent. The true scientist is empty of opinion and free of any expectation. Personal motive gives way to inner stillness and clear observation.
It is difficult to access stillness. These days lobbyists are a part of the landscape. There is vested interest in certain outcomes. Stillness and morality are not part of their native language. If it doesn’t fit the story line, maybe it didn’t happen. Bias disrupts the stillness like a trumpet blast.
Because “The Science” has a passive character and because there is plenty of static we can’t say “follow the science” without a big risk we are more likely to be following the fanfare.
If you’re looking for something to follow, you should consider following the money. That often reveals quite a bit.
I would vote to replace “Follow the Science” with “Be Still — So The Science Be Heard.” We do that when:
- we ask the most relevant questions for our health through our study designs.
- we are open to what we may find.
- we are transparent with our results.
- funding practices do not determine study topics or have any say in determining outcomes.
We do that when we accept the struggle that comes with modern existence and when we see ourselves in each other and remember the goal of morality in our actions.
And don’t worry, we are not in some sort of acute modern decompensation. All we see now is nothing new. You’re talking about the country that took decades to conclude that cigarette smoking is bad for your health. Here’s a passage from the history:
“Cigarettes were recognised as the cause of the [new lung cancer] epidemic in the 1940s and 1950s, with the confluence of studies from epidemiology, animal experiments, cellular pathology and chemical analytics. Cigarette manufacturers disputed this evidence, as part of an orchestrated conspiracy to salvage cigarette sales. Propagandising the public proved successful, judging from secret tobacco industry measurements of the impact of denialist propaganda. As late as 1960 only one-third of all US doctors believed that the case against cigarettes had been established. The cigarette is the deadliest artifact in the history of human civilisation.”
Beautifully challenging, if you ask me. I see every bit of it as part of a noble exploration of our freedom. I don’t think the goal is to perfect anything, but rather to experience and challenge the imperfection and remain whole.
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