For over the past year, from February-March of 2020 to the present, Americans, in “combatting” the coronavirus, especially in being vaccinated and wearing masks, have been told by not a few politicians to “Follow the science;” “Follow the results of science;” “The science says….;” “Trust what the scientists are saying;” and “America is guided by science.” Is science following politics or is politics following science in making such statements?
Now, I am not an obscurantist, opposing the value of science. It has brought “great” benefits to humanity and, undoubtedly, will continue to do so for future generations. However, science, being a human discipline and endeavor, like all human disciplines and endeavors, is limited by the finite, fallible nature of human beings, even the best of scientists themselves. Thus, science can and does err, because humans, who observe, measure and calculate in scientific laboratories, can and do err. For that reason, a scientist must be humble about his or her scientific finding and, when wrong, willing to admit it.
Keeping the previous paragraph in mind, I would like to return to the current, confusing announcements about “science” and the coronavirus pandemic, especially its aftermath in America. First, the “science tells” Americans to “mask up” in public and in private gatherings, where the virus may spread to others. Then, for Americans that have received both vaccinations against the coronavirus, it is alright, “according to the science,” to relax the mask mandate, so that Americans do not need to wear a mask in public or private gatherings. Now, “the results of science” have changed again, because Americans are being told to “mask up again in public and private settings,” even those that have already been vaccinated both times.
The mixed messages about what is and is not “science” and about America’s leaders speaking on behalf of the scientific community, are confusing many Americans about science itself and its reliability. The confusion may even be evoking anxiety and fear in the hearts of many American citizens.
Americans, undoubtedly, want to know the truth and science is about finding the truth, objective truth — not about personal feelings, nor beliefs, nor opinions – about public, verifiable facts. Nor does science, rightly understood, align itself with partisan politics, which may jeopardize the objective pursuit of truth. Contradictory statements, resulting in confusion, are not indicative of the truth. Quid est veritas? “What is truth?”