Follow the Science?
This book was a joint project with my friend, Alastair Noble. We recognise the huge advances made through various scientific disciplines and are amazed at the beneficial impact on society. However, we are also concerned that the essentially tentative nature of scientific conclusions is being replaced by a growing tendency to accord to science the last word on a range of subjects. While the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic of 2020 has shown some of the uncertainties associated with scientific research, this book demonstrates that these become more apparent in such fundamental areas as the origin of both life and the universe, as well as the abiding mystery of mind and consciousness. We argue persuasively that the limitations of science need to be kept in mind together with its unquestionable strength.
As the world has laboured under the effects of a novel coronavirus pandemic, we have been consistently impressed by the confidence invested in ‘science’ by both policy makers and the public. Having both been immersed in different aspects of the scientific world, we felt that ‘following the science’ was not quite what it seemed. Science is not a single authoritative entity and scientists have widely divergent views about the same data – what they mean, how to interpret it and how to apply the implications in other areas of life.
This has been particularly obvious when it comes to examining the ‘science’ in diverse areas such as public health, virology, and economics. To protect the public there are some scientists who call for isolation, social distancing, mask wearing, and locking down of the economy and wider society. Others make interpretations of the same scientific information and suggest a very different approach; questioning the real value of isolating groups within society, questioning the wearing of masks by suggesting that these are known to provide no meaningful microbiological barrier, and pointing to the mental and physical health consequences of instilling fear in society. One of the possible effects is that individuals with non-Covid, acute and chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular, and other degenerative diseases suffer on-going misery and the risk of mortality, as threatening in statistical terms as an aggressive respiratory virus.
Typically, the scientific evidence is not in dispute. The figures are usually agreed. However, the conclusions drawn from those figures by different scientists can be poles apart. So while ‘following the science’ does appear to be a logical and reasonable policy, especially when we have seen the amazing results of scientific development in every aspect of our daily lives, the problem is that following the science does not necessarily lead everyone in the same direction.
We have been aware of exactly the same phenomenon in other areas where evidence has rightly been trusted but the resulting consensus, on closer inspection, cannot be maintained. That is the principal reason we have written this little book. People are inclined blithely to accept what appears to be settled scientific accord when, in fact, on closer examination, the evidence points in a different direction.
It should not be lost on the reader that an important reason for such different interpretations is hardly related to the actual evidence at all. Rather it is the assumptions and pre-conceptions that are sometimes unwittingly used in arriving at a particular inference. We will look at how these philosophical hunches can radically alter the effects of following the science, especially in relation to the big questions that we would all love to answer - questions of ultimate existence and reality. Where have we come from and what is the meaning of life? Come, follow the evidence with us, and let us see where it leads…
“This book has a straightforward and timely message: the popular view, that scientific discoveries make belief in a creator unnecessary, is not supported by the facts. On the contrary, the more we discover about nature — from the fine-tuning of universal physical constants to the information necessary for life that’s encoded in DNA — the more it points to an intelligence behind the cosmos.”
Author of ‘Evolution Under the Microscope
“A rational tour through the exotic forest of ideas and the evidence separating naturalism and theism. The tour guides point out in expert style how to distinguish sound ideological concepts from hollow ones. They skilfully signpost the healthy trail leading to theism.”
Research Professor of Chemistry
University of St Andrews
“Follow the Science? is a marvellous little book that concisely explains the strengths and limits of science — as well as the strengths and limits of scientists. It will do much good for high school and university students struggling with extravagant claims about what science knows and how it knows it.”
Michael J Behe
Professor of Biochemistry
Author of Darwin’s Black Box,
The Edge of Evolution, and Darwin Devolves
"Design in nature is controversial. Whether you agree with it or not, this is an excellent introduction to key concepts which challenge a materialist worldview. Enjoy the debate!"
Hugo C van Woerden
Former Director of Public Health / Executive Medical Director
Public Health Agency
Visiting Professor, Ulster University
Visiting Professor, University of the Highlands and Islands