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A Further Example Of The Failure To Differentiate Knowledge From Belief.

Further to exemplify this ubiquitous failure, I now refer to the attempt by Tim Stanley to answer the question ‘what does follow the science really mean? (Daily Telegraph, 27/4/20).  He concludes that it means what questioner want it to mean.  In support of this conclusion, he cites Drs. Dan Ericson and Artin Massiki of Bakersfield, California who claim that extrapolation of currently available test results shows that the number of those infected by the Corona virus is probably in the millions which puts the mortality rate as low as 0.1%; that the lock-down was a mistake; and that by staying indoors we are weakening our immune systems, while, in contrast, he cites the counter-claim another Bakersfield physician that social isolation has no effect whatsoever on the immunity system and in consequence he and asks rhetorically, ‘what does it mean to say politicians are following The Science?  Tim Stanley himself then claims that science is all about the collection and observation of data while at the beginning of the epidemic hardly any data was available and little more is available even now; and that the public health consensus supported the lock-down, a few scientists did criticise it, as did the Standford epidemiologist John Ioannidis.

However, Tim Stanley does not describe the nature of the data cited. Nor does he define what he means when he uses the term, science, or the term scientist.  Nonetheless, he goes on to quote Professor Gordon Dongan who poses himself the following questions on the Cambridge University website: can the Corona virus hide in patients who have no symptoms; will it burn itself out; or will it go away, to which he gives the following answers: ‘we do not really know; we hope not; and we hope so, but it is not certain’, and he asks ‘what is the value of experts like me?’ in concluding that ‘we are all trying to make informed guesses.’  Tim Stanley then goes on to opine that the point is that science is not a religion or an ideology with all the certainties these entail; that it is a method of analysis and as such it ought to be accompanied by doubt and debate; that science without data is just theory; and that some theories about what should be done are confusingly different from others- i.e. on his own analysis such theories are just more conflicting data.  On this basis, he concludes by saying that we should not let the science become a shield for political decisions and political mistakes.  However, by now my readers will now be aware we cannot let the science be a reason for acting one way or a shield for acting the other way without knowing what science actually is.

In response to the above, I can only repeat my Campaign message that scientific knowledge is indisputably acquired by evaluating its compliance or non-compliance with reality that this positive or negative knowledge; that this acquisition is achieved by experimentation  designed to substantiate  a hypothetical (believed) cause-effect relationship certified by experimentation designed to ensure that the hypothetical cause of the observed effect certified is the actual cause by excluding all other possible causes; that if the hypothetical cause does not produce the effect, then other hypothetical causes must thus experimented with until the real (actual) cause is identified; that in contrast pseudoscience does no such cause-effect experimentation; and that pseudoscience can thus be identified as the correlation of two parameters arbitrarily selected as cause and effect.  Again, in contrast to pseudoscience, a scientific experiment enables the demonstrated cause to be altered in magnitude and correlated with the observed alteration in the magnitude of the effect; that this correlation of magnitudes is then expressed in a mathematical equation which enables the magnitude of the effect to be calculated from any measured magnitude of the cause ever after; and that this will remain true whatever other knowledge may subsequently be found by experimentation in its own or in any other field of science.                

Indeed, despite my long experience of it, I continue to be astounded that scientific method of knowledge acquisition remains so totally misunderstood by the media of what is now the twenty first century. 


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