What is the difference between rigorous scientific processes and ideology?

"I believe in intuitions and inspirations...I sometimes FEEL that I am right. I do not KNOW that I am."

― Albert Einstein

"The Seven Social Sins are:

Wealth without work.

Pleasure without conscience.

Knowledge without character.

Commerce without morality.

Science without humanity.

Worship without sacrifice.

Politics without principle.

From a sermon given by Frederick Lewis Donaldson in Westminster Abbey, London, on March 20, 1925."

― Frederick Lewis Donaldson


The cycles of modern, global civilization occur over and over again. Nations, cultures, groups, bosses, employees make the same mistakes again and again.

There is a simple reason for this: Science and ideology affect people in fundamentally different ways. The process of doing science and the act of thinking something you want to believe are very different ways of viewing the world.

If one is sincere about one's pursuit of truth and knowledge, it's essential to understand that one can't turn away from severe problems or uncomfortable situations. Cruel circumstances can arise at any time; one often fails and encounters dead ends. Those of us who find it painful to fail will find that they are much more inclined to embrace ideology over experiencing the process of doing science or philosophy.

Let's look at a definition of ideology.


n. A set of doctrines or beliefs that are shared by the members of a social group or that form the basis of a political, economic, or other system.

n. The science of ideas or of mind; a name applied by the later disciples of the French philosopher Condillac to the history and evolution of human ideas, considered as so many successive forms or modes of certain original or transformed sensations; that system of mental philosophy which derives knowledge exclusively from sensation.

n. The science of ideas.

There is a lot to ponder within that definition. "The science of ideas" sounds good. What's not to like about ideas? Well, perhaps bad ideas are less likable than good ones. A synonym for "sensation" is "feeling." The bedrock of ideology today is more emotional than it used to be and less reliant on facts, data, reason, or science. Money and tribalism motivate people to be true believers rather than critical thinkers.

So how would one know if one were a true believer vs. a rational, scientific, critical thinker? Well, as a first step, let's take a look at the meaning of science.

Here's a definition of science from a dictionary.


n. The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.

n. Such activities restricted to a class of natural phenomena.

That's a simple definition. Let's expand on that a bit.

"The principles and empirical processes of discovery and demonstration considered characteristic of or necessary for scientific investigation, generally involving the observation of phenomena, the formulation of a hypothesis concerning the phenomena, experimentation to demonstrate the truth or falseness of the hypothesis, and a conclusion that validates or modifies the hypothesis."

From: answers.com

"Sciences: Rigorous, systematic approach, designed to eliminate bias and other subjective influences in the search, identification, and measurement or validation of facts and cause-effect relationships, and from which scientific laws may be deduced."

From: businessdictionary.com

I think you can see that science is more rigorous than pure ideological belief.

Let's go a bit further and discuss the scientific method in general. Below is an excellent, brief article on that. Please take a moment and read it unless you already think you understand the subject well.

What Is Science? By Alina Bradford, Live Science Contributor | August 4, 2017

So this is all very basic. You probably knew all of this already. Why did I bring it up? Because these days I am having too many conversations with people who don't want to know about problems in our world and don't want to be part of the solution to those problems. When one turns away from Climate Change, for example, and says that there is nothing they can do about it, they instantly become the problem. Apathy is not the answer.

When one thinks that our current socioeconomic model is the best there is, they instantly become the core of the problem. Our system needs a lot of structural improvement, or we will keep making the same mistakes over and over again. (I'll defend these propositions in posts to come.)

Through science and other means of inquiry, we can identify problems and create solutions to those problems. If you think that doing nothing is permissible, you are wrong.

When a country decides to go to war, people should never blindly follow. Ideologically inspired blind obedience happens again and again throughout history, and most of the time, nothing good comes of war. It would be better if more people worked to understand what was happening in a broader, more in-depth way and fought, instead, to prevent conflict and make peace.

We must learn about nuclear energy, economics, sociology, culture, and other vital subjects in a profound way. Then we can be a part of the solution instead of the core of the problem.

All of this is to say; we must educate ourselves and each other. If someone is too frightened or uncomfortable to face the terrible truth of a situation, we must keep teaching. If some people can't listen, move on to those who can and hope that, eventually, the sheer number of enlightened people will gain sway over the willfully ignorant masses.

And there are those who are utterly unteachable. People like that prefer to imagine themselves in a safe space where no one can challenge their beliefs. Some people, who are full of faith, feel terrorized when their faith is argued with or criticized. They are more helpless than most and are usually more reliant on ideology and groupthink. Their reasoning is motivated mostly by emotions. It's sad to say, but sometimes one has to let those people go and focus on communities more open to reality.

If I have any hope, I hope that you will be optimistic in your ability to learn and to teach. In a scientific, rational, logical, and sincere way, of course. It takes a little courage, and you may never be the most popular person in your village, but I think you will find your efforts well worth your time, energy and yes, even emotion. Rewards will come through the efforts you make and the positive stresses you encounter on your journey, making you stronger, more resilient, and creative.


Steven Cleghorn

Steven is an autodidact, skeptic, raconteur and film producer from America who has been traveling since he was a zygote. He's a producer at The Muse Films Ltd. in Hong Kong and a constantly improving (hopefully) Globe Hacker. He's seeks the company of interesting minds.