How to fit in with the strengths and weaknesses of science during a pandemic

A year into the pandemic, science is one of the most present social elements in our lives. Not only because of the importance of everything that happened in hospitals, but also because of the demand to know what was happening to the virus. At the biological and medical level, but also at the social level. This has been and remains a fascinating subject of social and media study. We now know more about the virus, about the strategies to combat it from various fronts and how we can change our habits after some learning.

After a year of science in society, perhaps the time has come to assess an impact that is not to be reckoned with. We refer to the investigation to what extent the great effort of scientific publishing has penetrated outside the strict scope of each scientific discipline and a healthy environment. Do biologists, sociologists, physicians, chemists, psychologists, economists, physicists, historians, and mathematicians understand each other? What key information will remain in the general public after a certain time? Are we really going to be over Scholars?

If one considers that science opens doors Right And he is infallible, once he manifests his fragile and insecure appearance, once he realizes that there are sides that escape from him, even if they are inaccessible, can generate frustration and disappointment in those who need to know everything immediately. More at this time we had to live, train to access and obtain information with the click of a button. We will suffer the consequences of asking science what it cannot provide, or if it is translated into the popular proverb, we will order the pear from the elm.

We are living by example in these months. At the end of December, against all odds, the first vaccinations arrived. The need to end the epidemic has caused excessive expectations and confidence in the scientific system. Now, when we face its limits, with the difficulties inherent in any biotechnology production process and with the ethical evaluation of priority groups and vaccination arrangement, mistrust and arbitrary accusations arise. Something like falling in love after a very unrealistic method of love that can lead, not the first time, to a rejection of science and even contempt in favor of occult knowledge and conspiracy theories. This is how the fallacy works ignorant: What he does not know follows what attracts the ignorant the most.

Another example is the inability to understand how every particular person becomes infected and sick with SARS-CoV-2, although similar customs and constitutions exist. Nor is it easy to understand how unevenly the disease develops. Some patients do not have symptoms, others get sick and respond quickly to medical treatments, others do not overcome the infection and leave others with serious consequences, their causal relationship to the virus is far from known.

These differences are partly due to the genetics of each individual, but gene regulation and epigenetic activity also plays an important role in these differences, although we don’t know them precisely yet. On the other hand, the biology of the virus and how it interacts with the body’s cells is an aspect that must be taken into account and not yet fully understood. Science, at the moment, does not have a clear, decisive and easy-to-understand answer to these pressing questions.

Philosophy as a counter

Faced with this complex situation, it is easy to despair. Here philosophy can be a good antidote to this sinister influence. Philosophically taking things can be Serum Against those unwanted effects. In particular, we can turn to Georges Santayana’s philosophy of science (Madrid, 1863 – Rome, 1952).

Santayana was a contemporary of positivism and science, although he did not feel the need, like others, to resort to irrational or false science for self-defense. He was also a contemporary of Idealism, he knew how to discover in it its methodical inescapable side, and reveal its wrong side, when he transforms nature into the human experience of nature. Ethical rigidity and political liberalism were questioned from within. His brilliant and flexible style is associated with that of Locke and Hume, and the strength of his arguments inherits that of Spinoza and Schopenhauer.

Already in his first philosophical system, The Life of Reason, he dedicated one of his volumes to it Mind in science (1906). Later, when there was another boom in interest in the sciences similar to the present one, despite being in another field – the field of physics, in the context of discussions about relativity theory and quantum mechanics by Albert Einstein – Santayana wrote in his article Revolution in science (1928):

The moral requirement is that the pride of science must be transformed into humility, and that it is no longer imagined that it reveals the essential nature of things. The paradoxical conclusion is the following: that the methods of science are optional, such as different languages ​​or forms of notation. One of them may be more appropriate or subtle than The other, depending on the location, senses, interests, and scope of the explorer; reform in science can make ancient theories outdated, such as the habit of wearing robes, or nudity, but cannot make them false, or true in their own right. Limbo 22 (2005).

In his recently published book, Essays on the History of Philosophy, It can be read:

“The existence of the world – unless we relapse for a moment in unsustainable doubt – is a certainty or, at least, something to be assumed without a doubt. Experience can explore it as an adventure and science can accurately describe it, but after traveling up and down for years and after gathering all possible information about her habits. , This world itself, being intrinsically present and not invented, is still something strange and miraculous for the soul: it cannot be perceived as a drop of water or as it is to the one you love.

In conclusion, scholars must learn to communicate without noise, from humility, dialogue, and without dogmas, because we know that any scientific problem accepts different approaches. In this way, we will not create false expectations in the public, and we will avoid disappointment with science. With good posting, it would be evident that the weakness of science is in turn its strength regarding Guarantees Pseudo-religious or scientific, weaker than that, despite the fact that it is presented as truth, revealing or esoteric.


In this article, Daniel Moreno Moreno, member of the editorial board of the magazine Limbo. Santayana International Studies Bulletin, KRK Editions.


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