It's Lowell's Turn: 'Trust us, we know the truth'

The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.

Our turn

Science and religious belief seem to always be at war. Scientists tend to discount belief as a reliable way to make sense of the world, and believers tend to discount science as being incapable of explaining everything. Scientists often fail to see the limitations of science, while believers often fail to see the strengths and usefulness of science.

When we think of science, it is usually as a collection of ideas and theories that explain how the natural world works. But science is also a method of discovery. Things that pass the tests that the scientific method provides are usually considered to be “scientific” and reliably true.

But not for all eternity. Real science is constantly changing as new information becomes available. Real scientists are willing to go wherever that information takes them.

One of the hallmarks of the scientific method is that an idea can be tested and falsified, or proven to not be true. The classical example of this would be the hypothesis that all swans are white, which could be falsified by finding a black swan. While many beliefs cannot be falsified, anything that claims to be scientific should be capable of being tested and possibly proven to be untrue.

However, some things are beyond the ability of science even if they could theoretically be falsified. For example, it would be impossible to scientifically prove that a sasquatch does not exist, even though finding one would falsify that claim. It may be logical or likely that sasquatches do not exist, but until we actually find one, science can’t really say much about their existence. We may have a strong belief that they do or do not exist, but we can’t call that belief “science.” We have to accept the fact that science has limits and cannot prove or disprove everything.


But science continues to try. Even with limited evidence available in some areas, theories and ideas can sometimes become accepted as scientifically true simply because they make sense as the best possible explanation. However, over time, these explanations can change into beliefs, which are assumed to be true and are resistant to change even as new evidence is discovered.

Strong beliefs can be seen in many ideas that are often considered to be scientific, with the two most obvious being evolution and climate change. Although both are capable of being falsified, neither ever will be because the beliefs are so strong that there is literally nothing that would ever be accepted as proof that the theories are incorrect. The problem, of course, is that both start with the assumption that the theories are correct and then work backwards from there trying to find proof to bolster that position. Both may be partially true and based on science, but the assumption makes it impossible for the theory to ever be shown to be false. So are they science or belief?

Although most scientists still embrace falsifiability, some scientific believers are now even abandoning that idea. In essence, they’re saying that science is objectively true whether we can prove it or not. Or, in other words “Trust us, we know the truth.”

That may sound extreme, yet it is pretty much what happened during COVID. While being told to “follow the science,” we were also simultaneously being told to ignore much of the scientific knowledge that we had previously accumulated regarding viruses, health and masks. Worse yet, we were told that we weren’t allowed to question the science.

Does that sound suspicious and anti-science? It should. Not being allowed to discuss or question is the very antithesis of science. But it is often a part of belief.

So, what’s the point? It’s not that we shouldn’t trust or use science. It’s that science and belief can get confused and intermixed. We need to learn to separate belief from science, especially as it relates to things that are repeated over and over and over like propaganda. And if we claim to trust science, then we need to trust the scientific method as well, which means continuing to question and being open to new evidence changing our scientific beliefs.

Lowell Anderson
Lowell Anderson

“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

Read more of Lowell's "It's Our Turn" columns

Lowell Anderson has been a photographer and writer at the Echo Press since 1998.
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