In trusting ‘the science,’ we’ve followed Alice into the rabbit hole

By David Lightsey

Back in 2018, I wrote “Left vs right: Which is really ‘anti-science’?” for WND. As a follow-up, in this piece I explained two main points.

  1. Conservatives do not directly distrust science; they simply do not embrace all the counterfeit science liberals do.
  2. Liberals fail to recognize that a paper appearing in a scientific journal or published by a reputable university does not automatically qualify it as “science.” This is far from the truth.

On Aug. 2, 2022, Ivan Oransky, one of the directors of Retraction Watch I mentioned in the 2018 article, published “Retractions are increasing, but not enough,” in the journal Nature. Oransky points out that in 2010, retracted journal papers were at a rate of roughly 45 per month, while “last year saw nearly 300 a month,” with the total of more than 35,000. Even though this is a fraction of what is actually published, as well as what may also be retractable with the appropriate discovery resources, it illustrates the growing problem of junk science and how it negatively affects public policy, politics, lifestyles, medicine, education, etc.

As an example, the journal Science, July 21, 2022, published “Blots on a field? A neuroscience image sleuth finds signs of fabrication in scores of Alzheimer’s articles, threatening a reigning theory of the disease.” Science points out that its six-month investigation provides strong evidence into image tampering, or falsified data, as to the causes of and therefore treatment of Alzheimer’s. If true, this has enormous implications.

“‘The immediate, obvious damage is wasted NIH funding and wasted thinking in the field because people are using these results as a starting point [my emphasis] for their own experiments,’ says Stanford University neuroscientist Thomas Südhof, a Nobel laureate and expert on Alzheimer’s and related conditions.”

The term “starting point,” is critical here. Starting point would be analogous to the Latin term a priori, which means a type of knowledge, or belief, a person has when he or she philosophically embraces some “fact” without having any evidence from experience. Justification for such belief is based upon assumptions, which may or may not be true. It routinely leads to a false conjecture based upon a false assumption, currently a widespread cultural problem. In this particular case, it refers to the assumption by Alzheimer’s researchers that the earlier data on the causes of Alzheimer’s was accurate and not tainted. If this assumption, or a priori, is incorrect, then any ongoing “research” based upon this false belief will be fruitless and a waste of a large amount of financial resources and misdirected efforts for the treatment of the disease.

However, this is not the main point of this column. The above Nature and Science papers just further illustrate why conservatives do not embrace science as a religion as liberals do, as I pointed out in prior articles, because of the enormous number of unverifiable assumptions (a priori) that are often part of the process. The main point is is captured by an expression that comes from the book “Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland,” “falling down the rabbit hole,” where Alice is falling and falling and falling down a rabbit hole and loses all touch with reality, experiencing strange things along the way to the bottom. For those of us who have witnessed this occur in family members with Alzheimer’s, the “Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland” story is not meant to be symbolic of Alzheimer’s, although it is, but the culture at large.

Our culture is falling, and falling, and falling down the rabbit hole and has definitely lost touch with reality, much like an Alzheimer’s patient, and we are certainly experiencing strange things along the way. “Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland” is “seen as an example of the literary nonsense genre,” but the irony here is that much of what we now call science, or normal, falls into the cultural and science nonsense genre as essentially a trip down the rabbit hole with Alice. Examples of this are illustrated in this column.

The take-home message is that good science practices have and will continue to provide us with benefits, but it is only a tool that, like any other tool, must be used properly to provide its benefits. However, if it disagrees with the only reliable a priori, or staring point one should have, Scripture, then it falls into the nonsense genre.

1 Corinthians 3:19: “For the wisdom of this age is foolishness with God.”

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