It would be fair to say that Simon Jenkins has some interesting views about science. His latest article “Scientists, you are fallible. Get off the pedestal and join the common herd” is the latest in a series of articles where science comes under the scrutiny of Simon other highlights including: “Swine flu was as elusive as WMD. The real threat is mad scientist syndrome” and “Scientist v statesman: who can call the battle of the bicentennial men?“.
The title of the last article may not seem that objectionable but have a glance at the following quote taken from it:
Science may nowadays enjoy the status of medieval religion.
This one quote seems to sum up Simons’ view fairly well and possibly illustrates why he would so fundamentally misunderstand the reasoning and rationale behind the scientific method that he would think writing something titled: “Scientists, you are fallible. Get off the pedestal and join the common herd” – is somehow valid.
It isn’t valid it’s vapid, vaccous and vain the kind of thing surely only someone so wedded to their own set of beliefs and dogma could actually belive. A dogma and set of beliefs that science has demolished. There is a great and measured take down of Jenkins peculier brand of nonsense on swine flu here. Really I don’t know if there’s much more I could say with regard to Jenkins other then to point out (as this blog highlights) that Jenkins is also an AIDS denialist (to my knowledge he has not recanted his strange and dangerous views on the subject).
But to return to the battle of the bicentinial men Lincoln versus Darwin lets see how Jenkins see’s Darwin:
Darwin claims the crown for the scale of his intellectual revolution, but was he no more than an observer, a describer, a cataloguer?
Did he not fail Marx’s test, that any philosopher can interpret the world while “the point is to change it”?
The main problem being that scientists are not philosophers and it rather misses the huge social and scientific impact that Darwins ideas had on the world. Darwins ideas revolutionised biology and medicine and without his theory of evolution by natural selection there are many, many things we would have to do without. Darwins ideas also had fundamental philosophical and theological import and impact but that is glossed over by Jenkins. Perhaps to paint science as some sort of descriptive and mechanistic process and as something not deserving of intellectual merit or attention?
A means of justifying Simple Simons disregard for it and his abscence of any understanding of it what-so-ever maybe?
Jenkins also believes you can compare science and politics – well yes you can. But to what end? They are very different beasts afterall. But wait… Oh I see it’s just a way of lambasting science by reducing it to the level of politik and rhetoric. With talk of an “all powerful” science lobby and referring to science as having the status of a “medieval religion” Jenkins shows himself up as an ignorant buffon. One who seems willfully ignorant at that…
When it comes to science Jenkins really is a simple Simon and seems to think that it is just another form of rhetoric. Far, far worse then this it also seems that science and evidence are things that Jenkins is more then willing to accept if they bolster his already held beliefs (As this article seems to indicate). In this way Jenkins debases science by using it as a means of confirming his own prejudices and backing up his already held beliefs.
All this and he gained a knighthood for services to journalism?
I’ll end with a comment left on the article over on the twenty-first floor as it sums up my views fairly well. With thanks to Dario:
It’s abundantly clear from the article that Simon has no idea whatsoever what science even is.(Among eminent scientists guilty of alleged elitism he names, er, Carol Vorderman. No, really.)
Quote towards the end is staggeringly idiotic:
“I regard journalism as fallible and its regulation inadequate. But at least, like most professions, it has some.”
You’re right, Simon- if only scientists had some such means to keep their methods in check. Say, some kind of process subjecting their findings to review by their peers. What a novel idea.