More About Science

Originally appeared at: Monomakhos

Every now and then we get a perfect storm of events.  In this case, events indicate that things didn’t quite turn out as planned.  At least for one individual in particular.

Patriarch Bartholomew, off from an otherwise non-impressive trip to Ukraine, decided to enter the scientific arena.  Not known as an immunologist, he sermonized on the superiority of “science” and how his patriarchate in particular (as opposed to you-know-who’s) is absolutely, positively, resolutely devoted to science.

Otherwise, I guess, you’re a yahoo.

So the other day (which is Indiction on the New Calendar), he deigned to address “the Plenitude” (that’s Catholic-speak in case you were wondering):

If I had to guess, I’d have to say that the trip to Ukraine didn’t have the impact that he thought it would.  So in order to get any traction at all on the world stage, he hoped that his annual encyclical on the Indiction would remind everybody about his earlier championship of the environment. Curiously, not one word about Christ, evangelism, or theosis.   

It’s sad in a way because science is not what laymen think it is.  For one thing, it’s never “settled”.  Pick any subject you want –e.g. physics, chemistry, physiology, astronomy, and even anthropology–and you will come up with different findings given enough time.  Yesterday’s orthodoxy is today’s heresy.  As for tomorrow, who knows? 

I can’t stress this enough.  Medical textbooks from fifty years ago are out of date.  Treatment modalities are constantly changing (and sometimes, not always for the better).  True story:  back in 1979, I asked my anthropology professor about the pre-Columbian Norse settlement on North America.  I was told that that was merely a legend.  In pharmacy school, we were taught that certain antibiotics had to be taken on an stomach.  Now that’s considered malpractice.  

Not being a pessimist, I’m always looking for the silver lining.  Given the paucity of news that came out of his trip to Kiev, I’d have to say that nothing of consequence happened.  All things being equal, that’s probably all for the best.  

At any rate, we all need to step back and take stock of what “science” is.  It’s just an epistemological method of explaining phenomena.  There’s nothing magical or sacrosanct about it.  Even its methodology has changed over the centuries.  And as for its conclusions, they are very often unsettled.  

Consider for example the Linnaean classification system.  There has been a debate over whether the human races are actually sub-species.  Needless to say, that’s controversial.  Some theorists have postulated a newer classification system that avoids all of the different strata (e.g. kingdom, phylum, order, etc.). 

Also, the definition of what constitutes living organisms is unsettled.  Viruses, for example, do not meet all the criteria that every other organism does, yet no one would go so far as to say that they are not “living” organisms.  Based on this alone one could say that our long-accepted definitions break down.  Consistency is hobbled, if not from the outset, then certainly the farther down one digs into the research.  

As for the scientific rigor that went into the research and development for the mRNA vaccines, a lot was left to be desired.  This is not only the opinion of epidemiologists but internal regulations of the FDA.  As a health professional, I cannot in good conscience state that I have no reservations.  This hesitancy on behalf of physicians, nurses, and academic researchers is well-known.  If anything, it appears to be growing in scope.

Anyway, it would be wise for Christian leaders to take these things into account and not pontificate on a phenomenon that is still in the early stages of its existence.  Trust me:  when the book is finally written on this subject and the initial hysteria has died down, there’s going to be a lot of recriminations.    

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