MINISTERS are forever using the s-word, namely science, to justify and assure the population that measures taken so far in this crisis are based on science. Using the word simply in this way – “it is based on science” – is meaningless, even to a scientist!

The trouble is in the use of and understanding of the word in English and in the inappropriate reverence we attach to the term. There is no such construct as “science”, there are sciences which are empirically evidenced-based theories with concomitant practices at one end, and at the other the science can be simply a hunch! It all depends on the evidence available and indeed agreement on cause and effect, which can never be self-evident.

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Furthermore, the etymology of the word science simply means “knowledge”, something that is known. When we strip the reverence and pseudo-religious awe from the term and its practitioners, we can observe that science and scientists are fallible humans, many in the past have been inhuman, their observations, theories and practices are very often tentative and only as good until more knowledge is gained from theory and application on any particular standpoint.

In the case of Covid-19, all paradigms, theory and practice are tentative at present, but a worldwide body of evidence and practice around it is building up for for further investigation.

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We can see how the UK Government and its chief scientific advisor shifted overnight on its “scientific” herd-theory for mass infection to lead to mass immunity for this outbreak – a mad-scientist construct indeed to use the public as an uncontrolled testing ground. Almost immediately, other scientists worldwide criticised the standpoint of Sir Patrick Vallance. There are scientists and sciences plural, and multiple applications available.

On a scarier note, scientists have been responsible for discoveries and applications across all areas of life for good and for ill. Atomic isotopes are used in treatment of cancers, but nuclear scientists are creating more and more weapons of mass destruction, all in the name of science.

No doubt, populations will now look upon science and scientists more critically and less reverently than ever before. Ironically, that is excellent scientific procedure and practice, this time “peer” review and critical scrutiny will encompass us all so that blind obedience to the hallowed authorities of the past and present will be done with.

That was how empirical science itself developed after the Enlightenment, where unquestioned theories and practices, often stemming from the ancient Greeks or there by want and custom, were subjected to test and in-depth scrutiny.

The critical approach we as a public must take is to ask simply: “How do you know, and what is the basis of your knowledge of the ‘science” on this matter?

John Edgar

NOW would be an opportune time to start a “citizen’s wage” for all those with a Scottish tax code. The amount could be debated, but it would alleviate what will become a massive logistical problem when unemployment strikes not just those on zero-hours contracts, but many who currently consider themselves in secure jobs.

I believe the organisation of such would be far simpler than that which will be required, especially with respect to face-to-face interviews, in the event of a significant rise in unemployment.

Mick McCready