Why Might Science Be An Unreliable Friend

2251 words - 10 pages

Science is an invaluable tool that explains and exposes the world, however science goes beyond the goal for an absolute understanding. Science is a complex and co produced form of knowledge that crosses boundaries, resulting in science being a social activity. A concept most applicable when assessing the environmental movement. Environmentalism is a political and ethical movement that seeks to improve and protect the quality of the natural environment through changes to environmentally harmful human activities; through the adoption of forms of political, economic, and social organization (encyclopaedia britannica). In Yearly’s statement he believes that, although science is beneficial, we ...view middle of the document...

Flaws in this statement can be picked out firstly by assessing how scientific data is observed. Scientific knowledge is not a passive or impartial activity. Scientist’s use their objectivity to emit authority, however Gould states, ‘The stereotype of a fully rational and objective ‘scientific method,’ with individual scientists as logical (and interchangeable) robots, is self-serving mythology.’ (1995k, 93–94). Perception is not a passive practice, but instead, one that is susceptible to the tricks of the human brain and inevitability of human error. Observations are interpreted in a different manner depending on the situation or goal. Charles Darwin once wrote, ‘How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service!’ Scientists are not exempt from human behaviour that leads people down the path of seeing what they want to see. Henceforth the natural world cannot be separated from human bias. Deconstructing scientific methods of measuring also highlights unreliability due to environmental science being intangible (Nicolsn) and difficult to measure. Science is based in theory, predicting things that are yet to happen. Yearly states, ‘scientists theoretical debates are not fully decided by the factual evidence available to them’. This is because scientist cannot always collect all the evidence they might want due to data being difficult to obtain or measure. This is especially relevant to environment and climate data which can be difficult to obtain. (example) Environmental science is so vast and complex because the ecosystem is an open system and one that cannot be equally mimicked on an experimental scale. Scientist may also take different approaches to the same idea. For example inductive reasoning where conclusions are made by generalising and extrapolating from initial data and information. Or deductive reasoning where one starts with a premise and data is used to argue that premise. This does not mean that scientific facts are not true instead it suggests that science is not as unassailable and authoritative as people believe. The way scientific observations and studies are interpreted can lead to disagreement among scientist. Therefore scientists are not an ally to environmentalist because their lack of knowledge is exposed p.129 this is caused by a lack of ability or expertise or because they don't know as much as the public would wish. However because knowledge is temporal, and historically scientific knowledge has changed, competing theories often exist. Here we encounter the problem that in the future more knowledge will bring new ideas to light and theories will have to be reshaped. Current claims and counter claims could change in time when new facts appear, therefore refuting present scientific theories as unwavering fact. For example the modern idea of conserving biodiverisity, an environmental issue brought forward by science but still being reshaped today....

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