Defensive Scientists

Why are scientists more defensive about science than religionists are of religion? (question from Quora)

To me this question looks most interesting in relation to where I live, the US, at this moment in history. Since Trump’s election, the pendulum has swung wildly from science being the dominant rational means of discourse to imposition-by-faith being that means. Whether it’s faith in money-via-markets or morality-via-churchiness or justice-via-socal media, when it comes to the national stage, science as the arbiter of rationality has been given a humiliating demotion.

If I had read this question a year and a half ago, I would have noted that scientists (to be way too general) see themselves as serving the public good with their methodical approaches to discovery. Questioning the good of a do-gooder’s work naturally leads to defensiveness. Also, their paychecks depend largely on stacking the deck in the favor of positive perception. The same can be said of religions and religious do-gooders of course. (I’m in favor of doing good, so don’t get me wrong. It’s just that doing good is complicated.)

I also happen to think science is due for SUCH a radical shift that there’s a great deal of fear of the unknown (what will happen to MY little testable world?). It’s been brewing a long time, and with the current administrative demotion, at least in the US, many would rather deal with it by not dealing at all — choosing instead to get drunk once again on their own strange brews.

Original publish date Jan 23, 2018