Letter to the Editor

Conservatism and science

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

There are two routes to understanding the world:One route involves examining evidence that reality provides and drawing conclusions based on informed evaluation of what that evidence suggests. According to this approach, what the data and reality reveal guides our opinions.

An opposite route is to start from preconceived judgments and decide that the world operates according to what these dictate. This approach leads to the rejection of data, evidence and reality when they fail to conform to those preconceived judgments. This approach leads to a world view that is an illusion; it is based on fantasy and generates misunderstanding.

The former approach is science. It leads to understanding the world as it actually exists.

The latter approach replaces science with unsupportable belief and rejects understanding the world as it actually exists.

Nature, one of the most reputable international science journals, recently published an editorial making an important point about the U.S. political scene. It argued that powerful elements within the Republican Party hold opinions that demand rejection of science. The most prominent proponents of this anti-science view were identified as Limbaugh, Beck, Fox News and Palin. To accept anti-science opinions and follow them politically demands rejection of reality and replacing it with illusion.

Conservatism -- a word having the same root as conservation -- should not require rejection of science. Individuals who maintain pre-conceived opinions that require rejection of contrary evidence sometimes think that scientists apply the same "data must conform to opinion" thinking. Fortunately, science does not operate this way.

ALAN JOURNET, Cape Girardeau