Stephen Jellen / Opinion

'Anti-Science' Attitudes May Be

 Symptom of More Practical 

Realities, Lack of Opportunity

By Stephen Jellen 

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - 12/22/2020 - Some Americans are obviously disdainful of science, or at least some science. That is hard for those who respect science to understand. To gain insight we might consider the practical effects that science has had on the lives of many Americans. Science has created machines that have taken unskilled workers' jobs. That process is just beginning. 

Views on science and society. Graph courtesy of Pew Research Center.
    Technology has facilitated globalization, allowing jobs to move overseas. Many workers have been recently thrown out of their jobs by the science of epidemiology, which makes them choose between health science and employment. Some have decided to reject the scientific basis of the epidemic in order to make their choice easier.

We should empathize with them. They are literally scrambling for their lives. Science has created new jobs but they are not suitable for many. It has destroyed many old jobs. This has produced a cultural fragmentation based on education and ability to do technical work. Science has thus made some folks vastly richer while many have been made poorer by it.

Scientific expertise can put young people over older folks, breaking a time-honored social protocol. Old skills are less useful now. Old work ethics are less relevant. It is no wonder that many reject science as they double-down on traditional belief systems. Science has made traditional religion seem more like a fairytale.

In having to accommodate a world vastly better explained by science, many Americans have turned fundamentalist in their views, sometimes rejecting science in total. The power of science seems more like a danger to them than a benefit. Thus many cling to their religious traditions defiantly against all evidence, sometimes with outright hatred for that, and for those, which they see as threatening their foundational beliefs. Some Americans rejected electricity and automobiles when those became available at the beginning of the 20th Century. They cling thus yet today, driving horse-drawn vehicles, lighting with kerosene and shunning communications. Their communities remain centered on religious traditions.

It is highly ironic that now the latest iteration of reactionary anti-science relies on the internet received on cell phones to facilitate social reinforcement of selective anti-science ideology. And it is unusual in that it is politicized the way it is. Past reactionaries sought to isolate themselves, to get away from "the world." Today's reactionaries want to dominate the world, to force a specific acceptance of science.

Thus what looks like anti-science may be more about disaffection with social and political developments. These would be economic inequality and the lack of opportunity for many Americans. Thus it might be better to see what looks like anti-science to be a rejection of supply side, trickle-down governance. It might be a reaction to the failure of government to provide effective public education, and to provide labor policy that allows workers to share in the wealth created science that claims to benefit all of mankind. For so long as science gives some vast wealth and deprives others, it shall not be the universal friend of mankind. And it shall not find universal acceptance.

Stephen Jellen is a long-time resident of Edwardsville and a frequent contributor to area publications on matters of politics and social policy.