‘Science is a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility.’ ~ Carl Sagan (May 1996)

Rational skepticism is the underlying strength of science. It attempts to examine hypotheses based on empirical verifiability and falsifiability. Challenging status quo and critiquing consensus is what drives science forward. This is all the more essential because humans – including scientists – are fallible, and sometimes biased. 

For example, the universally accepted cosmos was geocentric, since it was first proposed in AD 150 by Claudius Ptolemy’s Almagest. Over a millenium later, in AD 1536, Nicolaus Copernicus compiled decades of observations in his book De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres). In it, he hypothesised a radical shift to a heliocentric cosmology; a direct contradiction of the prevailing consensus. Copernicus resisted releasing his book fearing the scorn to which he might be exposed to. It was eventually published after his death and was met with fierce push back; including the Roman church banning his book and calling him a fool. However, it was this book that ushered in the scientific revolution. Within a century, Johannes Kepler, having dedicated years to the study of Mars’ orbit, published Astronomia Nova (New Astronomy) in 1609 and Harmonices Mundi  (Harmonies of the World) in 1619 postulating the three laws of planetary motion. In the process, he ratified the veracity of Copernicus’ heliocentricity. Sixty Five years later, in AD 1684 Isaac Newton’s book De Motu Corporum in Gyrum (On the Motion of Bodies in Orbit) built on Copernicus’ and Kepler’s work, mathematically explaining the underlying gravitational laws that upheld planetary orbits and periods. Then in 1904, Nobel laureate Albert Einstien published the four Annus Mirabilis (Miracle Year) scientific papers including topics as quantum mechanics, a special theory of relativity, mass-energy equivalence, and the speed of light. Einstein’s work began where Newton’s ended, showing how gravity was the strongest and most influential force on cosmological scales. This then is the natural progress of science, both critiquing and building on itself, constantly growing, never concluding.

If you review the periodic abstracts of scientific publications such as The Lancet, Nature, Science, you will realize that in studying the universe above, astrophysicists have concluded that the universe behaves in a way that cannot yet be explained with known science, and have come up with theories such as dark energy, dark matter, and multiverse to quench their bewilderment. In studying the world around, scientists have not even one plausible theory to explain the origin of self-conscious, self-replicating life. They have also concluded that the fine-tuning of the earth to sustain life is too complex and refined to be a result of random events. In studying the genome within, molecular biologists have concluded that the hyper-complex nature of the information contained therein defies explanation.

Of note is that folks like Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, and Einstien would never dare to say their science was settled. It is of concern then that we hear this phrase more often deployed in public discourse today. When ideology overbears on skepticism, when governments want to push a bill into law without sound scholarship backing it, that’s when this mantra is brought into play. It was a ghastly crime against humanity when insufficiently tested mRNA gene therapy to fight SARS-CoV-2 (with their 

science is settled

potential of life-threatening side effects well known to its creators) was yet mandated on the public. Whenever doubt was expressed, forth came the dictum in defense: ‘The science is settled; believe the science’. You will no doubt hear this with other issues as anthropogenic climate change. Unhinged alarmism will not be too far behind. When I hear ‘the science is settled’, its akin to hearing, ‘God has spoken.’ It is a phrase used with the clear motive to shut down dissent, inundate hesitancy, and end debate.


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