Some consider it miraculous, some fear it and still others wish it never existed.
The “it” is science that can create awesome wonders and produce fearful results.
Thanks to science, our lifespan is longer, crippling pain has been reduced and we are better protected against deadly diseases. On the other hand, science has created the possibility of Armageddon through its discovery of the atom and the development of weapons of destruction.
When we put aside the pros and cons of science, we learn being a scientist sometimes isn’t as glamorous as it looks. One of its dark sides is the validity of its findings not always being accepted.
This is especially true regarding the role that air pollution plays in climate change. Are scientists exaggerating its damaging effects, or are they correct about the need for immediate action to correct impending danger?
Throughout the centuries, scientists have frequently come under fire. Galileo is a prime example of a man condemned for his findings — findings centuries later admitted to be right. President James Garfield didn’t die from his assassin’s bullet, but due to infection resulting from doctors’ skepticism of antiseptics. President Garfield’s statue in front of the U.S. Capitol is testimony to the harm of being foolishly skeptical of scientific discovery.
Why is there resistance to science when evidence seems to back it up? One reason is because it calls for changes some consider inconvenient. It may require lifestyle changes or costs that some feel are unnecessary.
While conducting sociological studies, my colleagues and I were criticized for the “disruptions” our findings were causing. To discredit us, they stated: “Your unsettling findings create self-fulfilling prophecies.” We had identified changes needed to ensure the future welfare of the priesthood and, in return, we received backlash.
It was perhaps Shakespeare who said, “Knowledge maketh a bloody entrance.” We might add that blood is at the heart of life and without it there is death, the very death scientists are trying to prevent with climate change.
No doubt arguments around climate change will continue, and the cries of the crowd will get louder. Backlash, skepticism and thoughtless prejudice will clash with outcries of disbelief over the blindness of supposedly intelligent people protecting their self-interests.
The clashes go with the territory of science. What doesn’t go with the territory is becoming matter-of-fact. The truth of the matter must be pursued at all costs, even to putting one’s life on the line.