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Science is getting a pretty bad rap these days – and sadly, it is not totally undeserved. It is so common to hear or read about people promoting a particular political agenda saying, “Follow the science.” What they mean is that scientists have done experiments and research and demonstrated something to be true.
However, these days, too often when people say that, they are not promoting science at all – they are promoting some political policy or other agenda. How many times have we heard politicians and bureaucrats tell the public that cloth masks will keep you from getting COVID, or that people getting the COVID vaccine will not get the virus and can’t spread it. And on top of that, anyone who dares question the “science” gets cancelled on social media.
But what is coming out more and more is that what has been touted as science is not actually science at all. It is partisans trying to use the word “science” to promote a personal agenda. What is so bad about that is that as the truth comes out, it makes people not trust science at all – even when it reveals something true.
I came across an interesting article recently that promoted false science in a different way. This one was entitled 3 Easy Ways to Make People Like You That Are Backed by Science. It was written by Minda Zetlin, a freelance writer who covers business, money, tech, and leadership. She is also the co-author of The Geek Gap, and former vice president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. But while she writes on these various subjects, she is not a business person or scientist. She is a writer, so she depends completely on expert sources that she chooses to listen to for the info in her articles.
In the article mentioned above, the three things she said people should do to make people like them that are backed by science are:
Now honestly, the three probably constitute good advice and probably will influence people like you better. They are things that put you in a place where people are, doing things that make them feel good and comfortable. The advice itself I have no issue with. The problem I have is her claiming it is backed by science.
Science is the use of observation and experimentation to prove the truth of something in the material world. But you simply can’t prove things that relate to human behavior using the scientific method. Whenever scientists make observations and do experiments, they gather data, then interpret that data through some kind of lens (some set of presuppositions).
When dealing with natural (hard) science, there are actual physical measurements that can be taken and analyzed. The presuppositions that scientists work with have to do with the nature of the physical universe itself. There is a lot that is still not understood, so they end up creating theories and hypotheses, as they work to figure things out. But at least there is something tangible to work with.
When dealing with the social (soft) sciences, however, you don’t have that. Social scientists try to analyze human behavior. But since there is no physical data to be gathered, the researchers must use such tools as surveys, interviews, focus groups, field observation, statistical modeling, and the like. Then they take that data and do various kinds of statistical analysis to compute averages and means. From that, they infer normal and abnormal behavior. In other words, these social scientists try to use the scientific method on things that cannot be dealt with using science.
Now the point here is not to say that there is nothing useful to be gained from social science research. Leaning how people act on average does have certain uses. However, it is not a kind of science that can come up with what is true. It can tell you statistically how people tend to act and respond, but it cannot tell you what is true and right. And even the three things Ms. Zetlin noted above are not actually “true” in an objective sense. In fact, there are, no doubt many exceptions. There are people who don’t like those who ask them questions or smile. The point that I am emphasizing here is that not everything that is touted as science is actually science, and not every truth can be discerned by science.
Science is good for what science is good for. It has given us lots of great insights about our wonderful world, and formed the basis for all kinds of knowledge that make our lives better. But it is not the be-all-end-all of life. There are a lot of people who think it is, but they are simply wrong – factually wrong. Honestly, the most important things related to human life have to be discerned by faith. And the only place ultimate truth can be received is from God.
Freddy Davis is the president of MarketFaith Ministries. He is the author of numerous books and has a background as an international missionary, pastor, radio host, worldview trainer, and entrepreneur. Freddy is a graduate of Florida State University with a BS in Communication, and holds MDiv and DMin degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a popular speaker, particularly on the topic of worldview and its practical implications for the Christian life. He lives in Tallahassee, FL, with his wife Deborah.
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