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The Inviolability of Ignorance
Epistemic humility can never be a match for belief-based certitude.
Understand that there are two ways evidence can be used.
The first is the true scientific method; asking a question, forming testable predictions, testing that question, getting an answer, then moving forward with that answer, updating our mental models to incorporate that answer with current knowledge, shaping new questions, then testing them anew. In this respect, the true scientific method is a forward-moving, iterative progressive evolution of knowledge that brings us closer to an approximate truth.
The second is the anti-science method; having an belief, scaffolding that belief with personal experience and anecdote, then moving backward with that scaffolding to seek any information that will uphold the scaffold, reconciling the belief against current knowledge by dismissing contrary information. In this respect, the anti-science approach is a backward-moving, regressive devolution of knowledge that moves us away from approximate truth.
The difference, to paraphrase Hunter, is that the former can be characterised by evidence-based decision-making, while the latter characterised as belief-based evidence-making. Doesn't every quack, hack, and disinformation pedlar in 2021 claim to speak for "the science"? In reality what they speak for is belief-based certitude on complex topics, the manipulation of the scientific method as a process open to questions in order to supplant reasoning with the inviolability of ignorance, masquerading as enlightened “truth”.
The true scientific method is a dynamic process, continually in flux. Current knowledge, for example, about Covid-19 is exponentially greater at the time of writing than in February 2020. This is the nature of the inquiry, the forward-moving iterative progressive evolution of knowledge. In this respect, the status quo is always open to question because everything is open to scientific question, and in the true sense of the words 'science' and 'proof', scientific proof doesn't truly exist. Because proof is not absolute, the true scientific method creates and operates within an epistemic framework to allow for the investigation, evaluation, synthesis, and extrapolation of evidence.
A unifying axiom of intellectual honesty and epistemic humility binds the forward-moving iterative process of the scientific method with the epistemic framework for making sense of the knowledge derived from that method. The epistemic framework, otherwise known as the 'hierarchy of evidence', provides a base point of departure from which to consider multiple lines of evidence. In reality the hierarchy is not a static evaluative process, but a guiding tool to consider the persuasive power of a body of knowledge, and to consider strength of available evidence in informing a given conclusion. By nature, it allows for blindspots to be identified. It acknowledges that every evidence-base has limitations, and that acting on imperfect knowledge requires that conclusions be arrived at that are sensible, safe, and have a greater likelihood of benefit than harm.
This is not perfect. It could never be perfect: it is a human endeavour. The hierarchy of evidence was intended to be a tool, not a pyramid of idolatry. The development of particular paradigms within this epistemic framework, like 'EBM' (Evidence-Based Medicine) has spawned a culture of what may be seen, particularly from the patient or layperson's perspective, as didactic dogma. It may be difficult for some to see how this process is one open to question, when "do as we say" may be the high watermark of patient-centred care experienced by individuals.
However, take any limitation of the method, and you'll find that these limitations are recognised, acknowledged, and often the subject of intense academic debate in the literature. This is fundamentally a product of the axiom of epistemic humility and intellectual honesty that anchors the true scientific method; it engenders the identification and awareness of limitations within the paradigm. With examples like that above of EBM, it is also important not to conflate the implementation of a healthcare model with the actual scientific method, the process of inquiry and framework of evidential assessment.
Standing in diametric opposition to this true scientific method is the regressive, backward-moving belief-based certitude of anti-science thinking. There is no axiom of intellectual honesty or epistemic humility, because when people create a narrative worldview around what they want to believe, the means justify the ends in being selective with what 'evidence' they choose to construct their belief-scaffolding. Within a paradigm of belief-based certitude, 'evidence' is not an issue of methodological rigour or quality, merely defined as "any bit of information which may uphold the belief-scaffolding".
In this regard, there is no epistemic standard. There is no corollary to the epistemic framework of evidential assessment in the true scientific method. The epistemic standards are zero. With no standard, the evidential goalposts can constantly be set, moved, or taken down entirely. This provides a justification to claim that their arguments have never been refuted, or adequately addressed. It provides a justification to dismiss entire accumulated bodies of evidence as inconsistent with the belief-based scaffolding. In this way, rather than be able to identify blindspots, it purposefully discards the possibility that blindspots even exist, because blindspots in belief-scaffolding are incompatible with certitude.
Those who construct belief-scaffolding demand perfection in the true scientific method, holding it to unattainable epistemic standards as a justification to dismiss the entirety of the body of knowledge derived from the method. In place of the uncertainty of the true scientific method, it offers something better: the perfection of certitude. Belief-based certitude assumes perfect knowledge, justifying conclusions that may be ridiculous, unsafe, and have real potential for harm.
And it is becoming increasingly difficult not to notice the privilege of ignorance. The classist and exclusionary nature of pseudoscience, embraced by the wealthy and the healthy careening to their yoga class in the SUV, ready to embrace namaste nonsense as a justification for putting other peoples' lives at risk. The fucking irony. It takes a life of privileged suburban boredom and vacuous materialism to be seduced by the vapid rhetoric of New Age spirituality and pseudoscientific spew. The very people who don't need healthcare, but have the comfort of healthcare access on demand, double as the very reason why the healthcare system is burdened under the vicious cycle of disinformation and infectious disease.
There is a helplessness to the current predicament. To see evidence, facts, reason, and logic, falter in the face of belief-based certitude. An epistemic clusterfuck conceived in a cesspool of ideology. In this framework of belief-based scaffolding, ignorance becomes inviolable. Impervious to falsifiability, impenetrable to reason, unassailable to logic, ignorant of its own deep-rooted ignorance. And the true scientific method stands with its finger in the dam, the crushing weight of social media and BigTech behind the dyke wall, as the rest of us all watch the worst social experiment in human history, made a front-row spectacle by the Covid-19 pandemic, dumbstruck and powerless to do anything.