"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Saturday, March 11, 2017

A March for Science

Scientists are not really in a privileged position to tell us what ought to be done. Science only reaches its conclusions by making careful observations and performing controlled experiments to test a hypothesis. Science works with data, not values. Evidence from science unfortunately is now increasingly either being ignored or even distorted by policy makers. A precarious situation is therefore unfolding across the globe in which we rationalize instead of reason. On April 22, 2017, a March for Science has been organized in various places to demonstrate what science really is and why we need to nurture and safeguard the scientific community.

Above copied from
MarchForScience
 The march has been organized in various cities across the world.

Above copied from
MarchForScience
However, there is no march scheduled in the Philippines. It is worth noting that chemists in the Philippines have been recently active in voicing out against a bill that has been approved in Congress.

Above copied from the
Inquirer
The issue at hand are provisions in the bill that "equate dangerous  drugs with precursor and essential chemicals". Precursors and essential chemicals have not been clearly defined in the bill and as chemists point, these include a large of number of compounds that are not solely intended for the manufacture of dangerous drugs. The chemists are therefore asking legislators to consult with experts when drafting laws before they wreak havoc on industry, agriculture, health, education and research. Whether legislators in the Philippines will actually heed this call remains to be seen. Lawmaking in the Philippines recently has not been guided by science. On the other hand, there is a senator, a world boxing champion, who often quotes the bible:

Pacquiao says Bible allows 'responsible mining'

What often divides the public from scientists is the public not knowing how scientists work. This is understandable since there are not that many scientists so the chances of someone personally knowing well a scientist are quite small. This is true not just in the Philippines but also in the United States. This gap can be easily seen in how the public has a high regard for scientists:


Americans trust scientists, but, at the same time, most Americans have opinions different from those held by a majority of scientists.


There is indeed a huge disconnect. And the gap is as fundamental as not understanding the nature of science and how science works. Perhaps, we likewise need a "March for Education". But that may not work either. We rationalize too much that even in our search for knowledge, we only pick those that support what we already believe. What we need is a "March for We May Be Wrong" because that is how science really works. Only with that acknowledgement can we really see the evidence right before our eyes.





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