Michael Hawkins, in a recent post at the atheist/evolutionist site (n.b. – his conflation, not mine) ‘For the Sake of Science’ tells a tale of his youth where he encountered his first ‘anti-science’ stance. In his story, he first learns about the earth spinning on its axis via a kindergarten teacher. Fascinated by this new knowledge, he excitedly shares it with his young neighbor friend as soon as he gets the chance. Alas, there is a problem; his friend is skeptical of his claims! He thus concludes:
I really had no response to this. I had basically been told some facts which were consistent with observation. I didn’t have a full grasp (nay, nary a tenuous grasp) on gravity or anything that would have helped me explain to David [the young friend] why he was wrong. I was only able to repeat what I was convinced was true. This was the first time I had been frustrated by someone taking an anti-science stance. I didn’t know his position was in opposition to science since I was about 5 or 6, but that’s what it was. Fortunately, his position can be excused since he was about the same age. But this raises an interesting question.
What is everyone else’s excuse?
It is always interesting to me that those who claim to speak for science, nay, have a blog presumed to exist ‘For the Sake of Science’, display so little knowledge of what science actually is. Let’s begin with a breakdown of what happened.
Young Mikey gained new information from a teacher, a trusted authority, about certain natural phenomena. So far so good; that is the purpose of educators, to convey the most current information about such things. Lil’ Mike then shared this information with his friend as fact; his friend responded with skepticism. Michael concludes this is ‘anti-science’ because he considered it a denial of what is plainly true, much as those evil evolution deniers do. However, nothing which transpired between Hawkins and his friend qualifies as ‘scientific’ except perhaps, the reaction of his very young friend!
Like many evolutionists Hawkins concludes that the word of an educators or expert is equivalent to science – it’s not; science relies on repeated observation, and experimentation, not the opinion of experts or authorities, who have repeatedly been proved wrong in their claims. Indeed, an ‘appeal to authority’ is an oft used logical fallacy. However, one key component of science is skepticism; that is not taking what someone claims at face value, not even the supposed experts – exactly the attitude his friend displayed.
So what really happened was that Michael heard something from someone he trusted, a claim that appealed to his own thinking – and so he adopted it as true, which is actually an act of faith not science. His friend questioned that claim, which is the beginning of rigorous scientific inquiry. So in this case it was actually Micheal himself who was being ‘anti-science’.
The question I have for Michael is why as a grown-up who is supposed to be trained in science, is he still defending such faith-based thinking?