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How Did We Become a Society Suspicious of Science?
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Author:  DrCaleb [ Fri Oct 17, 2014 7:25 am ]
Post subject:  How Did We Become a Society Suspicious of Science?

A couple of related articles:

Quote:
How Did We Become a Society Suspicious of Science?
Keith M. Parsons
Philosopher, historian, author; Professor of Philosophy at University of Houston-Clear Lake


I grew up in the heroic age of American science and engineering. In my lifetime, the space program put men on the moon, the interstate highway system connected the continent, Salk and Sabin conquered polio, and computers went from room-sized behemoths to hand-held wonders. In my youth, America clearly led the world in its ability to conduct large-scale science and engineering projects. True, some of these projects were morally disturbing. The Castle Bravo test of March 1, 1954, a 15-megaton thermonuclear blast at Bikini Atoll, caused radioactive fallout to rain down on unsuspecting victims. Yet the nuclear tests also represented scientific and engineering expertise of the highest order.

When John F. Kennedy said in 1962 that we would go to the moon in that decade, he was not indulging in wishful speculation but was confidently projecting on the basis of proven success. Tom Hanks, playing Jim Lovell in the movie Apollo 13, said that it was not a miracle that we got to the moon. We just decided to go.

Now our infrastructure is crumbling, we have to hitch rocket rides with the Russians, and every few weeks a new study asserts that our students don't know a protein from a proton. Have we lost our scientific mojo? I doubt it. We still have some of the finest science and engineering schools and departments and many outstanding individuals in the STEM fields (though we need more kids going into those fields).

But something has been lost. Fifty years ago science was king. Science had respect; it was bigger than ideology. No longer. Radio blowhards contemptuously dismiss scientific findings and endorse ideological claptrap. Anti-science stalks the halls of Congress and kooky ideas are rife among Boards of Education. Formerly, all parties in public debate, liberal and conservative, displayed deference to science. Now we have Senator James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, openly denouncing the findings of climate scientists as a hoax. The Texas State Board of Education, which is dominated by religious fundamentalists, prefers the propaganda of ax-grinding cranks over the recommendations of hundreds of qualified scientists and scholars.

How did this happen?



http://www.huffingtonpost.com/keith-m-p ... 78360.html

Quote:
In Defense Of Science
Jonathan Bines
Staff writer, Jimmy Kimmel Live

In human history, no practice has more profoundly advanced human understanding of the natural world than that of science. So it seems tragic, in the year 2014, that science should require a defense (by a comedy writer, no less). And yet, in both the national dialogue on issues such as climate change, evolution, and vaccines, and in recent conversations I have had with people I consider reasonable and well-educated, I have discovered a shocking anti-science narrative emerging; a fundamental ignorance of or distrust of science that expresses itself in opinions such as:

*Scientists have been wrong in the past and thus should not be trusted now
*Scientists are biased by personal prejudices, financial incentives, and the desire for personal or professional success, and therefore their conclusions are suspect
*Scientific results are not certain, and therefore they can be discounted
*Science is just another way of knowing that should not be given primacy over other ways, such as intuitive knowledge or personal experience.
*Some scientists disagree with the consensus view so there is no way to assess who is right.
*Science is the cause of the problems resulting from technology and therefore suspect.
*Policymakers may ignore science on the grounds that they, themselves, are not scientists.

While some of these opinions are simply misguided, others, at some level, could offer potentially useful critiques of the actual practice of science. However, none of them represent any kind of a rebuttal to the basic, essential fact that, for all its imperfection, hubris, sloppiness, or uncertainty, science works. Like a flashlight shined into dark spaces, science shines the light of its analytical method into the opaque mysteries of the natural world and makes them comprehensible. And it does this over and over again, in field after field of scientific inquiry.

Science is able to achieve its results by following a rigorous method of investigation involving the creation and testing of hypotheses against observational evidence. At every stage, these hypotheses are subjected to intense challenge. First, they are tested through the process of scientific research. Then through the process of publication and peer review they are subjected to challenge by the larger scientific community. After publication, they continue to be challenged, corroborated, modified, or refined by new research and new hypotheses. Science that has withstood this onslaught of skepticism is seen to be accurate and trustworthy, and consequently it earns the backing of a consensus of practicing scientists.

Because science is based on such a strong foundation of evidence and analytical rigor, anyone who would challenge science, particularly well-established science such as that on evolution, climate, or vaccines (or, for that matter, gravitation and quantum mechanics), rightly faces a very high burden of proof, a burden which most science skeptics fail even to acknowledge, much less satisfy. Science cannot be refuted by appeals to intuition or personal experience, attacks on the character or motivations of scientists, accusations of institutional bias, or by "cherry-picking" a particular authority figure, alternative theory, or research study. It cannot be denied because it is inconvenient, or because one dislikes the policy implications. It cannot be dismissed on supernatural grounds or through suggestions of conspiracy. It cannot be undermined by dreaming up alternative hypotheses (unsupported by strong evidence), or by pointing to remaining uncertainties in the established theory. All these are utterly inconsequential as refutations -- not because scientists "know better" than the rest of us -- but simply because they fail to convincingly meet the burden of proof.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan- ... 99976.html

Author:  andyt [ Fri Oct 17, 2014 7:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How Did We Become a Society Suspicious of Science?

I'm not suspicious of science, I'm suspicious of some things presented as science. The "science" of pharmaceuticals, a lot of which is very poor quality. The publish or perish pressure that gets people to cheat, and the lack of replication studies because there's no glory or money in them, means that a lot of what we think has been established, hasn't been. Scientism, the idea that only science can say what is real, and if science doesn't know about it it's not real, turns me off.

Author:  DrCaleb [ Fri Oct 17, 2014 7:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How Did We Become a Society Suspicious of Science?

andyt wrote:
I'm not suspicious of science, I'm suspicious of some things presented as science. The "science" of pharmaceuticals, a lot of which is very poor quality. The publish or perish pressure that gets people to cheat, and the lack of replication studies because there's no glory or money in them, means that a lot of what we think has been established, hasn't been. Scientism, the idea that only science can say what is real, and if science doesn't know about it it's not real, turns me off.


That's pretty much what the first article concludes too.

Quote:
Again, how did we go from a society that once revered science to one suspicious of it? There are many factors we could cite, but to discover the biggest reason, follow the big money.

Author:  andyt [ Fri Oct 17, 2014 7:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How Did We Become a Society Suspicious of Science?

As usual. The fundamentalists certainly play their role. I can not understand how an engineer or doctor can say they don't believe in evolution. Evolution is based on so much more fundamental science - geology which is based on chemistry and physics. Basically they're denying all of science.

Author:  DrCaleb [ Fri Oct 17, 2014 7:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How Did We Become a Society Suspicious of Science?

andyt wrote:
As usual. The fundamentalists certainly play their role. I can not understand how an engineer or doctor can say they don't believe in evolution. Evolution is based on so much more fundamental science - geology which is based on chemistry and physics. Basically they're denying all of science.


Again - that's why I liked this article:

Quote:
Big Tobacco found the way to fight science. What do you do if the science shows that your product is deadly, killing tens of thousands of your customers a year, yet that product brings you profits beyond the dreams of avarice? You deny the science. You hire your own "experts" to do science your way and reach the conclusions you require. It is easy. The comic strip Dilbert shows just how easy. In one strip the evil CEO Dogbert enters a business with the name "Weasels R Us." Dogbert says to the weasel behind the counter: "I need three bitter and unsuccessful scientists and a hundred lazy journalists." The weasel says, "Consider it done!" The final panel shows Dilbert reading the headline "Toddlers Thrive on Pollution." You can always find somebody with "Ph.D." after his name willing to say what you want to hear. So, the way to fight science is to set up an alternative "science" of your own.

Author:  Regina [ Fri Oct 17, 2014 7:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How Did We Become a Society Suspicious of Science?

Often the ones that ask the questions don't understand the answers. Therefore dismiss the answer.

Author:  andyt [ Fri Oct 17, 2014 8:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How Did We Become a Society Suspicious of Science?

DrCaleb wrote:
andyt wrote:
As usual. The fundamentalists certainly play their role. I can not understand how an engineer or doctor can say they don't believe in evolution. Evolution is based on so much more fundamental science - geology which is based on chemistry and physics. Basically they're denying all of science.


Again - that's why I liked this article:

Quote:
Big Tobacco found the way to fight science. What do you do if the science shows that your product is deadly, killing tens of thousands of your customers a year, yet that product brings you profits beyond the dreams of avarice? You deny the science. You hire your own "experts" to do science your way and reach the conclusions you require. It is easy. The comic strip Dilbert shows just how easy. In one strip the evil CEO Dogbert enters a business with the name "Weasels R Us." Dogbert says to the weasel behind the counter: "I need three bitter and unsuccessful scientists and a hundred lazy journalists." The weasel says, "Consider it done!" The final panel shows Dilbert reading the headline "Toddlers Thrive on Pollution." You can always find somebody with "Ph.D." after his name willing to say what you want to hear. So, the way to fight science is to set up an alternative "science" of your own.


We've also been raised to believe there is certainty in the world. Science was held up as providing that certainty, as well as religion. So when we find out that science is far from certain, that it can never provide 100% certainty, then people turn to something that will. Like the growth of fundamentalism, or some new agey version of it.

But look at the climate change debate. It certainly does seem that the AGW scientists have at times overstated their case. Or look at what that scientist Suzuki comes out with, where doubters should be put in prison. OTOH, it always kills me to read people (like on this forum) claiming that AGW is a money making scam, when the big money in this argument comes from big carbon and the bullshit it puts out. Big carbon makes big Tobacco or big Pharma seem like pikers.

Author:  PluggyRug [ Fri Oct 17, 2014 8:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How Did We Become a Society Suspicious of Science?

Another problem is the way the media brings science discoveries to the public.

A scientist says "the result shows a moderate 4 or 5" the media will say "the results without a doubt show an earth shattering breakthrough with a 5 to 10".

Author:  andyt [ Fri Oct 17, 2014 8:31 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How Did We Become a Society Suspicious of Science?

Good point. Look at news about nutrition for instance.

Author:  DrCaleb [ Fri Oct 17, 2014 8:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How Did We Become a Society Suspicious of Science?

PluggyRug wrote:
Another problem is the way the media brings science discoveries to the public.

A scientist says "the result shows a moderate 4 or 5" the media will say "the results without a doubt show an earth shattering breakthrough with a 5 to 10".


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Author:  Zipperfish [ Fri Oct 17, 2014 9:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How Did We Become a Society Suspicious of Science?

Science has lost its appeal to authority. There are many reaons for this, in my opinion. The first is (ironically) the science of how we think. Though capable of rationality, we are not intrinsically rational beings. We tend to make up our minds based on a number of heuristics ("rules of thumb") and emotional responses. Studiers of communication techniques learned this long ago. A well put-together propaganda campaign will win every time over rationality. The entire AGW denier campaign works on this principle. The deniers want to "debate" the scinetists--in other words they want to move the argument out of the realm of science and into a forum where rhetorical hyperbole is more likely to carry the day than rational argument.

Secondly, scientists themselves are to blame. There has been far too much advocacy science, far too much of talk like the "science is on my side." Public health agencies are perhaps the worst for this in my experience. There does not seem to be any social ill petty enough nopt to call for massive state intervention. Many so-callled peer-review journals (or are merely advocacy science fronts to start with) become co-opted and the level of peer-review is atrocious.

As well, evenagelical scientists like Dawkins and Pinker annoy people with their intransigent views.

And finally, people are simply subject to so much poor quality information these days that they can find a myriad of evidence for any given crackpot theory with arguments that aren't so much scietnific as science-y.

Author:  BartSimpson [ Fri Oct 17, 2014 9:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How Did We Become a Society Suspicious of Science?

Quote:
How Did We Become a Society Suspicious of Science?


That's easy to answer. And I agree with Andy that the pharmaceutical industry got the ball rolling on the distrust.

After WW2 the pharmaceutical industry was revered for delivering 'miracle' drugs like penicillin, Polio vaccines, a raft of other vaccines and antibiotics, and people were almost instantly trusting of the industry.

Then they introduced other products that they marketed under that umbra of miracle medicines: Thalidomide, Valium, LSD, and etc. and each of these 'miracles' turned out to be curses. Consequently trust was eroded.

Then over the past twenty or thirty years we've all become accustomed to 'scare' studies that tell us things like how Alar on apples is going to cause children to bust out in tumors and die. Except that's not true. The way things work now is something is reported as bad/good one day and then an opposing report comes out a week or two later. What do you trust?

And then we come to people like myself who, when we were young, were told horribly scary stories about how the world was going to go into an ice age unless pollution was stopped. And that meant ending industrial civilization and returning to an agrarian economy that would 'live in harmony' with the 'ecology' (ecology being a word that was terribly abused back then).

Then when the ice age failed to appear then the very same people who had started the ice age scaremongering got in front of the parade with dire warnings of catastrophic global warming. Naturally, their 'solution' remained the same: ending industrial civilization at least in the West (because pollution from developing countries apparently does no harm).

Most recently it's the handling of the Ebola epidemic that's causing trust in scientists to decline. Just yesterday we had this gem surface:

Quote:
Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said during a telephone press briefing Wednesday that you cannot get Ebola by sitting next to someone on a bus, but that infected or exposed persons should not ride public transportation because they could transmit the disease to someone else.


Did you get that?

See, if you don't have Ebola then you can't get it from sitting next to someone on a bus so don't worry about it.

But if you have Ebola then don't get on a bus because you might give it to someone sitting next to you and you should worry about that.

He's on video saying this in one breath. :roll:

Is it then any wonder that trust in scientists and the tortured logic they apply to their 'science' has eroded?

Author:  Zipperfish [ Fri Oct 17, 2014 9:18 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How Did We Become a Society Suspicious of Science?

LSD? I don't think that was ever used therapeutically except in reserach. Thaldomide was a disaster for sure, but I'd be hard-pressed to find another example like that, and that was--what--50 years ago?

AIDS is a recent success story. And survival rates for cancer.

No argument from me on the public health agencies though.

Author:  Thanos [ Fri Oct 17, 2014 9:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How Did We Become a Society Suspicious of Science?

It probably can't be underestimated how much damage has been done to real science by the practitioners of pseudo-science over the last several decades. Real science can be frustrating to understand, and boring to anyone who doesn't have visions of quarks and muons dancing in their head. But a charlatan peddling easy answers about nonsense, like some tit on the "History" Channel going on about how aliens founded the Roman Empire, gets attention because of the simplicity of what he's selling. 99 out of 100 people are going to favour the simplest answer possible because humans avoid anything complex if they can help it. That's why it's so easy for frauds, evangelicals, pushers of holistic nonsense, and others that tell people what they want to hear, instead of what they need to hear, will always have a willing audience ready and waiting for them.

One really can't discount the conjunction of anti-science with the proliferation of conspiracy theorists either. That evangelism, conspiracism, and a reflexive disbelief in what's been proven (or what will be proven) scientifically have all gained ground at the same time probably isn't coincidental. Challenge someone's belief in the "good ol' days", even if those days were entirely mythical, and there's going to be a reflexive pushback, and more often than not the pushback is going to rely on illogic and unreason as it's basic foundation. Myths are comforting because they confirm one's belief in their own unchallengable goodness. Science and reason sometimes prove that one's behaviours and preferences aren't good and can be quite damaging. But it's probably far more natural to attack the person or process that points out "we should probably be changing some of our ways of doing things" than it is to make the effort (or go through the annoyance and pain) of actually changing behaviours to something less destructive and damaging.

Author:  andyt [ Fri Oct 17, 2014 9:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How Did We Become a Society Suspicious of Science?

Zipperfish wrote:
LSD? I don't think that was ever used therapeutically except in reserach. Thaldomide was a disaster for sure, but I'd be hard-pressed to find another example like that, and that was--what--50 years ago?

AIDS is a recent success story. And survival rates for cancer.

No argument from me on the public health agencies though.


Stan Grof

But unfortunately the CIA gave it to Ken Kesey and that was that. It should be brought back as a regulated drug, has many applications for therapy. In Switzerland they give it to the dying.

It's like anything else, can be used for good and bad. Most people I know seem to have used it without ill effect, wouldn't go back and change the past to not having taken it. OTOH, I was at a biker party where they talked about having taken it and then wanting to use their hunting knives to cut out their brains - couldn't understand that mindset at all. As Leary said, set and setting, and most people, including myself, didn't' always get that right, didn't always take it seriously enough.

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