Since March 2020 we’ve been bombarded with the cry that “we’re just following the science!” But from the beginning we’ve known, if we ever sat in a science class, that science isn’t a “thing.” It isn’t a commodity you can go buy by the pound, or somehow package for consumption. Science isn’t something you can point to and say, “Hey, isn’t that science over there on that bench?” And for sure you can’t find some science tracks in the mud and shout, “Hey, c’mon, let’s follow this science!”
The fact is science is a method. It is more a process than a product. Science is the process of evidence gathering and hypothesis creating. It is the process of designing experiments to test the various hypotheses and eventually determining which of the options are viable and then which is the most viable. Even then the scientific method continues trying to refine and prove the best hypothesis, even as additional evidence and experiments are needed to explain additional actions and reactions to the original problem. And in most cases, the process of science continues even as the experiments bring new and even more complex questions requiring hypotheses. Right?
And while we may have grown a bit combative with the way “science” has been thrown at us during COVID, at least we always knew that, if there were to be any rational, reasonable arguments and experimentation and discovery and just plain answers to be found they would come to us from the world of science.
We trust science — when done properly — because we are rational creatures. As human beings we operate rationally and expect the solutions to our problems to be reasonable. By that I mean we expect them to align with the rules of logic, that something, for example, cannot be “both A and not A.” Our ability to reason, to agree that 2 + 2 = 4, and that an object at rest tends to stay at rest testifies to the unique nature of humanity. Trust me, the squirrels in my yard don’t do math, and they are not sitting around wondering if the sanctions being put on Russia are sufficient to end the hostility.
And so, that’s why I have this huge problem. Given that we humans are rational beings, how come we are now being expected to agree to irrational arguments and assertions? How come we are being told, for example, that the ending of a fetal life is really “maternal health care?” Why are we being labeled as haters if we don’t believe a biological male can in fact become a female despite the fact that he will never menstruate, never conceive a child, and never breast-feed, all of which are distinctly female and, by the way, are what actually define a large part of the uniquely female experience?
And most of all, why are those of us who do not believe homosexual activity is moral referred to as “homophobic?” As you all know, “phobic” comes from the Greek “phobia” meaning “fear.” Literally, a “homophobe” is one who “fears homosexuals.” Just because you think something is wrong doesn’t mean you automatically fear it. I think those who litter our streets, and overwater their lawns and lie and steal and do any manner of other things are just plain wrong, but that is not the same as being afraid of them.
What’s my point? Truthfully, I am not aching for an ideological or theological or sociological fight, although I believe I could hold my own. My point is that if there are differences of opinion, of belief, and more to the point, differences in our ethical systems and behavior, it does no good to muddy the waters of dialogue with unreasonable labels, declarations, and worst of all, expectations.
My take is this: If you hold an irrational position, you’re forced to create a playing field that is irrational. You’re reduced to manufacturing irrational labels for your opponents, creating an irrational narrative, and attempting to shout that narrative so loudly that you are unable to hear the reasonable arguments coming back at you. This keeps you safe and secure in your absurdity, but unfortunately, it has at least two negative results.
First, it keeps you in your echo chamber, unable to factor in evidence and truth that might undermine your chosen ideology. Second, it fosters deeper and deeper division between rational human beings who — we all agree! — fare much better in life when we live at peace with one another.
And I guess that’s my real point. We actually will do better at settling the problems we face if we can reasonably and rationally dialogue, listen, honor one another as fellow human travelers on life’s roadway, and with respect, disagree as agreeably as possible.
But can we at least agree that, as rational beings, we ought to argue reasonably, using arguments and counting as evidence that which at least abides by the rules of logic?
What do you say? Let’s be reasonable. Let’s not allow the irrational to replace the rational. After all, our kids are watching.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.