by David Banks
“Science isn’t just a set of facts or a method for arriving at those facts, it’s a collection of institutions, and those institutions haven’t given many people a reason to trust them, let alone go to bat for them when they are embattled. The spoils of science have been severely misallocated and there is little reason to trust, let alone pay attention to, science experts. Austerity has ravaged health services, making relationships with health professionals few and far between. Industrial disasters seem to be increasing in frequency while major scientific breakthroughs and engineering achievements are reserved for those that can afford them. College is less affordable than ever before. The question should not be why do many reasonable people doubt science” it’s the opposite: “why do many reasonable people still believe in science at all?” ”
“There are values and perspectives embedded in the work. As Donna Haraway famously said, scientists are not the mere “modest witnesses” they claim to be. Science is a human enterprise that intersects with race, class, and gender power relationships. The work of Darwin and his contemporaries never focused so heavily on competition and dog-eat-dog environments. The naturalist and anarchist scholar Pytor Kropotkin even wrote a book, and had several exchanges with Darwin, about species’ tendency to provide mutual aid in times of scarcity. The downplaying of cooperation and the focus on competition, despite many examples of both, shows the final and most basic reason for doubting science: it doesn’t feel like a tool of liberation anymore.
I would care much more about the teaching of evolution in classrooms if it taught that cooperation and reciprocity, the sorts of things that make strong communities and fulfill lives, were foundational to life itself. I would care more about stopping anti-vaccination movements if I thought anyone other than the most selfish among us were able to believe them. I would do more about climate change if scientists worked to prevent it as much as they work to bring products to market. I would convince people that we actually landed on the moon if I thought there was any political will left in my country to do something that amazing within my lifetime. I doubt science because it doubts us.”