Can we Separate Science from Ideology – No

Separating science from ideology is one of the great myth of our times. Scientists butt against this myth all the the time. There is the old boys club and the subversives with new ideas. Both camps are invested in some ideology. Even when a promising young scientists has a new idea and unconventional results, she has an ideology baggage with her. The ideology of truth, and pure science is still an ideology. In the process of doing the science, she will go against the grain and as a result get worked over and over. As a result whether she likes it or not her sense of ideology will become better focused, refined, and invested with more resolve.

Scientists are humans being. They are human beings with a great sense of right, mission, vision, and getting things done. In short many scientists are ideologist.

Scientists are also very ambitious. They want to make names for themselves. They also have a great sense of discovery and adventure. I watched Ruud the bug guy over and over again. Ruud Kleinpasteis an Indonesian born bug expert. He also has a TV show about his obsession with bugs. In one episode, Ruud went ant hunting with an ant expert. The ant expert was thrilled to discover a new species of ants. He enthused about how the particular species of ant has “never been” seen by humans. Maybe not by white men. Maybe not by scientists, but the definition of human must definitely include the indigenous peoples. People who have been there, poking into the soil looking for anything good to eat, looking for potential medicines.

Scientists don’t really talk about fraud, they talk about malfeasance. Dr. Hwang Woo Suk of South Korea is a good example. He was a superstar in the exciting field of genetic cloning. His great and prolific work became under suspicion and he was discovered to have fabricated some of his results. That was enough to bring his whole body of work under suspicion and te incident effectively ended his career as a scientist.

In 1912, Charles Dawson discovered the Piltdown man in Sussex, England. Apparently England had developed a Neanderthal envy, so someone had to find a human ancestor in some form in the UK. Piltdown man has since become a byword for a fake salted in a promising site. Science like fraud is fueled by ambition.

Then there was the Cold Fusion controversy. In 1989, Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann announced that they’d discovered cold fusion. The scientific community went ballistic with enthusiasm and skepticism. The results of the wildfire experiments could not be duplicated, thus failing the test of science. Pons and Fleischmann were over nigh sensations and villains just as quickly,

Scientists are human beings or ideological being. There is no way to separate the two. Can we separate science from ideology? No. We can only hope to train the scientists adequately enough so that they don’t taint their science with their ideology.