The current age is one of science and technology. Together, they have remade the world. They have improved nutrition and extended life spans. They have provided an abundance previously unknown. Their cooperation is fundamental and transformative to mankind. However, while science and technology are partners, they are not the same thing. The words “science” and “technology” are derived from different roots: science from the Latin word scientia for knowing; and technology from the Greek words techne for art or doing, and logos for reason, speech, or understanding. Knowing and doing, of course, are not the same thing either. Knowing is receptive and observant. Doing is active and assertive. The classic authors claim that both knowing and doing are natural and necessary to us, but they are distinguished. Doing is an exercise of power, and power can get in the way of observing and therefore knowing. Hillsdale College’s Academy for Science and Freedom will combat this danger by preserving both the integrity of scientific study and the realm of choice and freedom that is proper to everyone, scientists and non-scientists alike.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, widespread and aggressive moves have been made against both the individual and academic freedom required to conduct and interpret science. This pandemic has exposed grave problems in the essential functioning of science, research, and debate. Institutions, including elite research universities, public health agencies, and top scientific journals, quickly fell in line with herd thinking about remedies for the pandemic. They loudly and publicly supported solutions like lockdowns that continue to generate enormous collateral public health damage to this day. Moreover, many important clinical trials were suppressed for political reasons. This is because policymakers were unduly influenced by what they understood to be a consensus in the scientific community, a false notion that resulted in draconian policies.
Instead of open and free discourse to seek the scientific truths underlying urgently needed solutions, the opposite way of thinking has taken hold. Scientists whose research and data interpretation differ from the desired narrative have been silenced, censored, and slandered. Academia and the research community, dominated by a single viewpoint, now actively engage in intimidation and false declarations of consensus, and they abuse the peer-review system for publishing findings. This intolerance has fostered a climate of fear and has inhibited other scientists and experts from contributing to the public discussion, effectively inducing self-censorship. This has severely damaged the environment for civil discourse, and consequently, it has become extremely difficult for the public to arrive at any objective understanding of facts.
This dangerous trend threatens the free exchange of ideas essential to republican government and the public good. Hillsdale College’s Academy for Science and Freedom will provide a framework for study and discourse that will serve to educate and inform the citizens and leaders who will be faced with the inevitable public health crises to come.