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'Follow the science? Reasons to rethink the mantra.

 F. LaGard Smith
Courtesy of F. LaGard Smith

I believe in science.  If it weren’t for medical science, I wouldn’t be here today, having had a ruptured appendix at 23, from which I would not have survived but for the science behind the surgery and medicine that saved my life.  Yet, in our confusing COVID world, the now-familiar phrase, “Follow the science,” must surely beg closer scrutiny, if for no other reason than the lack of consensus among scientists themselves as to treating COVID, or the best methods of prevention.

Having become a polarizing political football, the phrase “Follow the science” is most often repeated by establishment voices in support of narratives favoring heavy-handed measures to combat the virus.  The mere mention of “science” (with its idolized cultural authority) presumably justifies whatever harsh restrictions are imposed, no matter how many other social, economic, or equally pertinent factors might bear serious consideration. 

Need an excuse not to reopen schools?  “Follow the science!” quickly becomes the rally cry, even though — with no evidence that schools are super-spreaders — “the science” happens to be overwhelmingly against the teachers’ unions.  (What’s more, the hypocrisy is glaring, with most of those same teachers telling their students NOT to follow the anatomical science that is so obviously contrary to all the current transgender hoo-ha, or the equally-obvious biological science confirming that what happens in an abortion is not simply the exercise of an abstract “choice,” but the death of a nascent human being.) 

A wider frame raises yet another question: Which science should we be following?  The science that has produced horrific nuclear weapons?  Or untold tons of plastic polluting our oceans?  Or the opioids that have devastated so many lives?  If you say, no, no, we’re only talking about COVID science, are we absolutely certain COVID itself didn’t come from some scientific experiment run amok?  Science is a gift from heaven itself, but it’s not sacrosanct.

Truth is, exclusively “following the science” in the midst of a global pandemic is not very scientific.  While science must surely trump raw politics, it’s asking too much of science, as science, to speak to issues of public policy regarding a host of non-scientific issues.  Not to mention that, more than once, scientific consensus has been notoriously wrong.  Merely consider the “science,” from Aristotle and Ptolemy on down, affirming the earth to be the center of the universe (with the Church lamely “following the science,” not the reverse, as is often claimed). 

Nothing has been more devastating to faith, and culture than following the prevailing scientific explanation for the origin of life.  Space doesn’t permit parading the many cogent arguments against Darwinian evolution (or, worse, the contrived, cake-and-eat-it-too “evolutionary Creation” championed by fawning theologians).  The day is coming when the world will awake with embarrassment to the hard fact that microbe-to-man evolution is grossly bad science, and arguably the world’s greatest-ever fraud. 

It’s a giant leap from the now-rapidly-evolving COVID mutations to a house-of-cards theory of origins wholly dependent on countless (near-miraculous) mutations over billions of years.  Blindly following evolution science has led to untold ruinous consequences, none more profound than deifying science itself, thereby dethroning God, ultimate Truth, and transcendent morality.  And we wonder why we’re in the throes of cultural chaos! 

At a time when endless tragic deaths the world over are now focusing a crucial spotlight on the meaning of life, a deified but soulless Science is clearly bereft of answers.  Dare, then, we bow our knee on any level — from the origin of life to today’s ultra -complex COVID issues — to uncritically “follow the science?” 

F. LaGard Smith is a retired law school professor (Pepperdine, Liberty, and Faulkner law schools), and is the author of some 35 books, touching on law, faith, and social issues.  He is the compiler and narrator of The Daily Bible (the NIV and NLT arranged in chronological order), and posts weekly devotionals on Facebook, drawing spiritual applications from current events.

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