Science doesn’t tell you what to do.
The Scariest Climate Science of All
Andy Revkin

I understand you’re talking primarily about climate science and similar fields of study, which indeed are focused on understanding phenomena, not giving advice.

But I do take issue with where this leads next in your essay: Science can’t tell us what to do. Therefore, when we cite scientific data as motivation for certain actions, we’re actually just leaning on a different kind of faith. That’s why people don’t listen to those who advocate about climate change (or at least one reason); they just don’t share the faith.

True, many decisions cannot be easily reduced to a scientific test, but there are many deliberations that may and must be submitted to rigorous scientific analysis. Should we add new air filters to N coal plants, or replace one plant with natural gas? Does policy X or Y do a better job at reducing automobile emissions? Science can’t give us all the answers, but it can suggest which solutions to try and evaluate how well they are working.

I know you’re not in any way arguing against evidence-based decision making. I just think that, given how much our society has already eschewed evidence and reason for gut feelings and tribal norms, we should avoid presenting science as just another belief set, or an interesting collection of factoids with only an indirect bearing on pragmatics. As your article details, scientific arguments may only go so far in convincing the public into action, but that doesn’t mean we should concede their relevance.

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