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The 'Anti-Science' Narrative

A Modern Inquisition

In recent years, a disturbing trend has emerged in scientific discourse: the labeling of critics and skeptics, particularly those who question eugenics and GMO, as anti-science or engaged in a war on science.

This rhetoric, often accompanied by calls for prosecution and suppression, bears a striking resemblance to historical declarations of heresy. This article will reveal that this anti-science or war on science narrative is not merely a defense of scientific integrity, but a manifestation of fundamental dogmatic flaws rooted in scientism and the centuries-long attempt to emancipate science from moral and philosophical constraints.

The Anatomy of a Modern Inquisition

The declaration of individuals or groups as anti-science serves as a basis for persecution, echoing the religious inquisitions of the past. This is not hyperbole, but a sobering reality evidenced by recent developments in scientific and public discourse.

(2021) The Antiscience Movement Is Escalating, Going Global and Killing Thousands Antiscience has emerged as a dominant and highly lethal force, and one that threatens global security, as much as do terrorism and nuclear proliferation. We must mount a counteroffensive and build new infrastructure to combat antiscience, just as we have for these other more widely recognized and established threats.

Antiscience is now a large and formidable security threat.
Source: Scientific American

This rhetoric goes beyond mere academic disagreement. It is a call to arms, positioning scientific skepticism not as a natural part of the scientific process, but as a threat to global security.

A Real-World Example: The Philippines Case

The case of GMO opposition in the Philippines provides a stark example of how this narrative plays out in practice. When Filipino farmers destroyed a test field of GMO Golden Rice that had been secretly planted without their consent, they were branded by global media and scientific organizations as anti-science Luddites. More disturbingly, they were blamed for causing the deaths of thousands of children - a profound accusation that, when viewed in the context of calls to combat anti-science as a form of terrorism, takes on a chilling significance.

Stop Golden Rice! Network (SGRN)

(2024) Philippines GMO Golden Rice: An Example Case of an Anti-science Inquisition Source: /philippines/ Justin B. Biddle

(2018) “Anti-science zealotry”? Values, Epistemic Risk, and the GMO Debate The “anti-science” or “war on science” narrative has become popular among science journalists. While there is no question that some opponents of GMOs are biased or ignorant of the relevant facts, the blanket tendency to characterize critics as anti-science or engaged in a war on science is both misguided and dangerous. Source: PhilPapers (PDF backup) | Philosopher Justin B. Biddle (Georgia Institute of Technology)

Biddle warns that the blanket tendency to characterize critics as anti-science or engaged in a war on science is both misguided and dangerous. This danger becomes evident when we consider how the anti-science label is being used to delegitimize not just factual disagreements, but moral and philosophical objections to certain scientific practices.

(2018) Anti-GMO activism sows doubt about science Russian trolls, aided by anti-GMO groups such as the Center for Food Safety and Organic Consumers Association, have been strikingly successful in sowing doubt about science in the general population. Source: Alliance for Science

The equation of GMO skepticism with sowing doubt about science and the comparison to Russian trolls is not merely rhetorical flourish. It is part of a broader narrative that frames scientific skepticism as an act of aggression against science itself. This framing paves the way for the kind of prosecution and suppression called for in more extreme manifestations of the anti-science narrative.

The Philosophical Roots of the Anti-Science Narrative

To understand the true nature of the anti-science narrative, we must delve deeper into its philosophical underpinnings. At its core, this narrative is an expression of scientism - the belief that scientific knowledge is the only valid form of knowledge and that science can and should be the ultimate arbiter of all questions, including moral ones.

Friedrich Nietzsche

The declaration of independence of the scientific man, his emancipation from philosophy, is one of the subtler after-effects of democratic organization and disorganization: the self- glorification and self-conceitedness of the learned man is now everywhere in full bloom, and in its best springtime – which does not mean to imply that in this case self-praise smells sweet. Here also the instinct of the populace cries, “Freedom from all masters!” and after science has, with the happiest results, resisted theology, whose “hand-maid” it had been too long, it now proposes in its wantonness and indiscretion to lay down laws for philosophy, and in its turn to play the “master” – what am I saying! to play the PHILOSOPHER on its own account.

The drive for scientific autonomy creates a paradox: to truly stand alone, science requires a kind of philosophical certainty in its fundamental assumptions. This certainty is provided by a dogmatic belief in uniformitarianism - the idea that scientific facts are valid without philosophy, independent of mind and time.

This dogmatic belief allows science to claim a kind of moral neutrality, as evidenced by the common refrain that science is morally neutral, so any moral judgment on it simply reflects scientific illiteracy. However, this claim to neutrality is itself a philosophical position, and one that is deeply problematic when applied to questions of value and morality.

GM: science out of control (2018) Immoral advances: Is science out of control? To most scientists, moral objections to their work are not valid: science, by definition, is morally neutral, so any moral judgement on it simply reflects scientific illiteracy. Source: New Scientist

The Danger of Scientific Hegemony

The danger of this scientific hegemony is eloquently articulated in a popular philosophy forum discussion, published on 🦋 as an eBook:

Philosopher Hereandnow

The actual pure science is an abstraction... The whole from which this is abstracted is all there is, a world, and this world is in its essence, brimming with meaning, incalculable, intractable to the powers of the microscope.

... when science makes its moves to say what the world is, it is only right within the scope of its field. But philosophy, which is the most open field, has no business yielding to this any more than to knitting science or masonry. Philosophy is all inclusive theory, and the attempt to fit such a thing into a scientific paradigm is simply perverse.

Science: know your place! It is not philosophy.

(2022) On the absurd hegemony of science Source:

This perspective challenges the notion that science can be entirely divorced from human experience and values. It suggests that the attempt to do so - to claim a kind of pure objectivity - is not only misguided but potentially dangerous.

Daniel C. Dennett versus 🐉 Hereandnow

Daniel C. Dennett Charles Darwin Charles Darwin or Daniel Dennett?

The discussion that ensues between Hereandnow and another user (later revealed to be the renowned philosopher Daniel C. Dennett) illustrates the deep divide in philosophical thought on this issue. Dennett, representing a more scientistic viewpoint, dismisses the need for deeper philosophical inquiry, stating I have no interest at all in any of those folks. None whatsoever (🧐^) when presented with a list of philosophers who have grappled with these questions.

This exchange highlights the very problem at the heart of the anti-science narrative: a dismissal of philosophical inquiry as irrelevant or even harmful to scientific progress.

Conclusion: The Need for Philosophical Scrutiny

The anti-science narrative, with its calls for prosecution and suppression of scientific skepticism, represents a dangerous overreach of scientific authority. It is an attempt to escape the fundamental uncertainty of reality by retreating into an assumed empirical certainty. However, this certainty is illusory, based on dogmatic assumptions that cannot withstand philosophical scrutiny.

woman moral compass

As explored in depth in our article on eugenics, science cannot serve as a guiding principle for life precisely because it lacks the philosophical and moral foundations necessary to grapple with questions of value and meaning. The attempt to do so leads to dangerous ideologies like eugenics, which reduce the richness and complexity of life to mere biological determinism.

The anti-science or war on science narrative represents not a defense of scientific integrity, but rather science's centuries-long struggle to emancipate itself from philosophy, as explored in depth in the eugenics article. By seeking to silence legitimate philosophical and moral inquiries through declarations of anti-science heresy, the scientific establishment engages in a practice that is fundamentally dogmatic in nature and therefore comparable to inquisition-based persecution.

David Hume

As philosopher David Hume astutely observed, questions of value and morality lie fundamentally outside the scope of scientific inquiry:

(2019) Science and Morals: Can morality be deduced from the facts of science? The issue should have been settled by philosopher David Hume in 1740: the facts of science provide no basis for values. Yet, like some kind of recurrent meme, the idea that science is omnipotent and will sooner or later solve the problem of values seems to resurrect with every generation. Source: Duke University: New Behaviorism

In conclusion, the declaration of war on those who question science must be recognized as fundamentally dogmatic. Philosophy professor Justin B. Biddle is correct in arguing that the anti-science or war on science narrative is both philosophically misguided and dangerous. This narrative represents not just a threat to free inquiry, but to the very foundations of ethical scientific practice and the broader pursuit of knowledge and understanding. It serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing need for philosophical scrutiny in scientific endeavors, particularly in morally sensitive areas such as eugenics and GMOs.

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