The RH bill: Resolving the controversy with science
Most published and posted commentaries on the RH bill show poor public understanding of science. I am sharing here a summary of my comments posted at the online forum on Philippine science. It is focused on the nature and role of science.
The objectives of science are not to find the truth. They are aimed to understand nature and the universe. Researchers do studies to produce information, which is used for education, development programs, policy-making, etc. for the people’s well-being.
Many studies are meant to build up or strengthen scientific consensus, as in evolution and climate change. These are factual conclusions — that is, supported by valid data. They are not the truth nor are they permanent; they can be changed by more studies. This is the progressive nature of science.
That nature of science explains why most harmful predictions — like Paul Ehrlich’s “Population Bomb” (1968) — have largely failed. Continued research stopped the serious threats.
The same corrective actions of science can stop side effects or unexpected results — serendipitous nature of scientific research. The discovery of DDT for saving lives from malaria had unexpected by-product, which damage ecosystems.
On the other hand, the threats on the economy of demographic winter (or reduced, aging human population), peddled by nonscientists who are against the RH bill, are without scientific basis. I have yet to see properly published studies verifying the claims (find out with Advanced Google Scholar, by searching for publications covered in Science Citation Index or Social Sciences Citation Index. These are the internationally accepted criteria in evaluating research performance.
Hence, results of scientific research — that is, properly published — are reliable bases for resolving crucial controversial issues, and making policy decisions. In the DDT case, for example, they influenced the decisions for its medical use and for its subsequent worldwide ban.
Scientists do not debate religious views. They try to explain science. “Science and religion are different ways of understanding. Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of both to contribute to a better future.” (Read more in “Science, Evolution, and Creationism” <http://www.nap.edu/sec>).
Retired professor of marine science