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  • Writer's pictureRoger Tirazona

To Science or not to Science

An argument from authority is one in which the person making the argument is basically saying, "I have the knowledge, I am the expert, I know better, therefore, I am right and you should not question it"; possibly one of the most oppressive lines of thought in the history of humanity.

When the luminaries of the Enlightenment prioritised philosophical inquiry, with a general attitude that knowledge and education should be a liberating experience, they did not mean it to be for the very few. The maxim that would summarise the entire movement of the Enlightenment, which birthed what now know as modern science, was "SAPERE AUDE", or "Dare to Know" or "Dare to be wise". The light of knowledge was not meant for the elite, but rather it was meant for everyone who wanted to rise from the crushing weight of the oppressors and authoritarians. The Enlightenment in fact sparked the French Revolution of 1789, where people like Robespierre, Desmoulins and Danton, were influenced by people like Rousseau and Voltaire, and the masses being able to access liberty through the defeat of ignorance was their mission (not considering the darkness that fell over France in Robespierre's Reign of Terror after all that - I guess they too made the same mistakes when drunk with power).

It was due to this general attitude in favour of challenging authority and challenging the monopolists of knowledge, that the Enlightenment birthed the Scientific Revolution. Modern Science and making arguments from authority, and succumbing to the authority of others, are simply not compatible.

Our Public Health Commissioner, Profs. Gauci is a scientist. But with regards to COVID19 restrictions, telling the general population, "We are just following the science," is still an argument from authority rather than a scientific one, when science is still relegated to the ivory towers of the elite that can access it. When you have a significant population that are science deniers and scientifically illiterate people, "The science says so" is not a scientific argument or a convincing one.

Meetings behind closed doors about what should be the restrictions inflicted on our nation, our schools, our lives, are not compatible with the philosophy of Science and the Enlightenment. Scientists should be able to explain and educate the population, as is their duty, as to why the COVID19 restrictions are what they are being prescribed. "The science say so" is simply not enough.

When I'm dealing with my own personal health issues with my doctor, I expect nothing less than explanations as to why I am being prescribed that particular treatment, and to be involved as much as possible in that decision, in which I give my consent. My hypothesis to the lack of compliance to the measures by many people (as is evident EVERYWHERE, just go to Paceville in the evening if you don't believe me) is that people do not like a doctor who tells them "This is what you are supposed to take, because the science says so." That neither shows confidence, nor does it instill a sense of partnership with the patient. Compliance rate with doctors is proven to increase when doctors take their time to explain and educate.

There is also the issue of trust. I don't trust people who make arguments from authority, whether they are doctors or from any other profession and occupation. I want to know about the Science that you are talking about so that I can learn and scrutinize. Arguments from authority intentionally leaving knowledge out, are inherently oppressive and paternalistic, and will not help build a relationship of trust between doctor and patient, the latter in this case being the general population. And that dear readers, is the breeding ground of 'conspiracy theorists' who come up with all manner of colourful, out-of-this-world. opinions they claim to have researched, but actually would have watched 10 hours worth of nonsense on YouTube. These are people who in the absence of knowledge and education, prefer an unlikely, colourful, narrative that suits their own fears, than a hard-to-digest truth which is a better explanation.

On the other hand scepticism at this point needs to be shown, but scepticism starts by asking questions, not by coming to the conclusions before even begin to ask the correct questions as the Conspiracy nuts do. Recently we've had the announcement of the protocols for schools for example. What was the point of all the vaccination drive that was hands-down the best and fastest in the EU, with a high compliance rate, if the quality of life in schools is not going to change thanks to it? By quality of life I mean extra-curricular activities for example, that remind students that schools and desks are not just books and desks. Why aren't there more concessions to secondary schools, when those communities are the most vaccinated in all the compulsory school populations?

You cannot refrain from questioning the authority of the public health commissioner in relation to sports for example. Why is football being practised and played as if nothing happened, (allowing all the spitting and heavy breathing, charging and pressing other players since it is a contact sport) but Karate which can be practised without contact, requires so many restrictions? Things simply do not add up and do not make sense, or if they do make sense, nobody has bothered explaining anything to anyone. They just presented the protocols, and we just have to bow our heads and comply.

Should we trust Science? It is the best thinking tool we have so that we do not let others make fools of us. But telling us "this is what the Science says" and stopping there, is neither science, nor is it reassuring that whoever is saying it, is not making monkeys out of us.

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