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Subject: Please explain: Current hostility toward science rss

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aiton
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Someone please explain to me the hostility toward science we see nowadays. I don't understanding it all. If you don't trust scientific experts, who else is there?

I have the feeling there's more going on than just uneducated ignorance, but I don't know what it could be.


Here's an example of a headline that is baffling to me:

In Idaho, A Battle Over Climate In The Classroom
https://www.sciencefriday.com/segments/in-idaho-a-battle-ove...


There are plenty of others too - anti-vaccination, flat earth, anti-evolution, etc.
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Elias Någonsson
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This is a complex topic, but a few key factors I think are:

- Internet and the ease of gaining false information and getting caught in echo chambers.

- The rampant inequality and increasing poverty in the western world. We know at least religion tends to correlate with inequality and poverty, so I'd wager conspiracy theories might too.

- The systematic dismantling of public education.

- Deliberate anti-scientific efforts by a few major industries on a few key topics, such as the linked example of climate change.
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Atheists using science as a cudgel to bash religion hasn’t helped either.
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Scroopy Noopers hits it on the head.

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aiton wrote:
If you don't trust scientific experts, who else is there?


Why, the LORD, of course.

We are in a post-factual world. Things like knowledge and expertise are irrelevant.
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There is a rainbow of 'anti science' people and I feel that mashing them into one 'The other' group is unfair.

On the one end you have deniers of hard science that you can physically observe. Flat earthers are the furthest end of the scale here. Closely followed by hard creationists.

Next up are hard science with conclusions that could be debatable under certain circumatances. This level is the anti vax people.

Next are the topics that merge hard and soft sciences. These are generally fairly proved but impossible to draw hard conclusions by the nature of the work. This is the likes of climate change.

Then there are the long standing soft sciences. These have good established methodology but are pretty much impossible to prove by the nature of the work. This includes nature vs nurture and most of psychology etc.

Then you have modern theories that have only recently been seriously discussed or researched. Gender as a spectrum for example.

Then you start dropping into murky depths and I will refrain from examples.

Comparing flat earthers and modern soft social sciences is disingenuous.
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Aetheros wrote:
Atheists using science as a cudgel to bash religion hasn’t helped either.


I wouldn't limit it just to religion. There is a real trend for facts to be shared followed by a "so THIS must be done." What I see is a conversation where a fact is coupled with a solution, the ONLY solution. It was a lot worse thirty years ago, back when people were driving ceramic spikes into trees because the ONLY solution to the lumber industry was to cripple its workers.

So for right or wrong (wrong, in my opinion), there are a lot of people who equate "science" with draconian solutions. So they dig in their heels and act like science doesn't exist. But in doing that, all they do is remove themselves from any discussion of what ought to be done about various scientific facts and how best to work to resolve the problems they identify. And now with three decades lost in offering solutions, the only real option they see left is to continue to double down on denial.
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Aetheros wrote:
Atheists using science as a cudgel to bash religion hasn’t helped either.


Yeah, that's relevant. Or more generally, the combination of polarizing online communities and the emerge of the "geek macho", pseudointellectual cult of rationality.
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Aetheros wrote:
Atheists using science as a cudgel to bash religion hasn’t helped either.

Wrong way round. If religion can be bashed by science it's not very robust isn't it? It's patently inaccurate claims such as YEC that science attacks, and if you believe in that then you are incapable of science anyway.
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DavidDearlove wrote:
Aetheros wrote:
Atheists using science as a cudgel to bash religion hasn’t helped either.

Wrong way round. If religion can be bashed by science it's not very robust isn't it? It's patently inaccurate claims such as YEC that science attacks, and if you believe in that then you are incapable of science anyway.


The problem is more when people take facts unrelated to God's existence-or-nonexistence and simply show how the universe works and then declare emphatically that it disproves God's existence. It isn't the facts that state a nonexistence of God, it's the people who can't wait to grab random facts and misappropriate them to their cause. We've seen more than a few threads like that here in RSP.
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scott3387 wrote:
There is a rainbow of 'anti science' people and I feel that mashing them into one 'The other' group is unfair.

On the one end you have deniers of hard science that you can physically observe. Flat earthers are the furthest end of the scale here. Closely followed by hard creationists.

Next up are hard science with conclusions that could be debatable under certain circumatances. This level is the anti vax people.


No. The anti-vax argument was a fraud from the beginning. This one is in the done and dusted area too.

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Next are the topics that merge hard and soft sciences. These are generally fairly proved but impossible to draw hard conclusions by the nature of the work. This is the likes of climate change.


Climate change isn't soft science in the way that term is usually used. It's complicated but that's not the same as soft. The only remaining doubt here is the exact size of the effects, not whether anything is happening. So that's mischaracterised above too.

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Then there are the long standing soft sciences. These have good established methodology but are pretty much impossible to prove by the nature of the work. This includes nature vs nurture and most of psychology etc.


Use of the word "prove" indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of what science is. So fail here too. Putting that on one side, there are two errors you can make in areas such as this. The extreme version one way is to assume that no valid science can be done (which seems to be where you are going). The extreme version the other way to assume anything any scientist claims is good work. Care needed.

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Then you have modern theories that have only recently been seriously discussed or researched. Gender as a spectrum for example.


I'm not even sure what you are suggesting here "gender as a spectrum" is a meaningless phrase without a great deal of clarification about what you are even discussing.

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Then you start dropping into murky depths and I will refrain from examples.


And therefore haven't got a clue what you are talking about.

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Comparing flat earthers and modern soft social sciences is disingenuous.


Straw man you've constructed.

Flat earthism is straight up kookery. But the motivations behind creationism, misrepresentation of the nature of an embryo or a fetus, climate change denial and bogus theories of what being gay and whether it can be "cured" come from the same place, even if the science isn't the same.
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sajberhippien wrote:
Aetheros wrote:
Atheists using science as a cudgel to bash religion hasn’t helped either.


Yeah, that's relevant. Or more generally, the combination of polarizing online communities and the emerge of the "geek macho", pseudointellectual cult of rationality.


It's hard not to belittle a faith based paradigm when it is compared against a fact based, peer validated, repeatable one. Science ain't perfect; it adjusts to new facts/theories/experiments regularly.

But at least it adjusts.
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GameCrossing wrote:
DavidDearlove wrote:
Aetheros wrote:
Atheists using science as a cudgel to bash religion hasn’t helped either.

Wrong way round. If religion can be bashed by science it's not very robust isn't it? It's patently inaccurate claims such as YEC that science attacks, and if you believe in that then you are incapable of science anyway.


The problem is more when people take facts unrelated to God's existence-or-nonexistence and simply show how the universe works and then declare emphatically that it disproves God's existence.


You're conflating two things. Which is often done.

If someone says "I believe in a God that created the world six thousand years ago" then that God is disproved by that the world is not six thousand years old. (There's a couple more details to fill in such as also excluding a God who lies by creating false evidence.)

If someone (else) however then says "and that just about wraps that up for God" based solely on that the world isn't six thousand years old, then that too is an error. Maybe there's another argument, but that's not it.

But mixing up the two - the specific and the general concept - is done too often.

The stronger atheist argument is that every claimed case is either in category one or makes no predictions. At which point we get to the philosophical breakdown of on the one side the argument that the onus of proof on whoever makes a claim and that untestable assertions are vacuous, versus on the other side the impossibility of disproof and that not making scientific claims puts one outside science. It's a breakdown because neither side accepts the basic principles of the other side's arguments. It's not that the arguments differ, it's that the fundamental rules of argument differ.

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It isn't the facts that state a nonexistence of God, it's the people who can't wait to grab random facts and misappropriate them to their cause. We've seen more than a few threads like that here in RSP.
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I should make it clearer that although I've indicated areas that science denial comes from the same place, hostility to science (the subject line) isn't the same as science denial.

There's another big area of hostility to science that has as components opposition to government and big business, recognition of where science-based solutions have failed (though often it's engineering, or what really is the equivalent of that but not called that where the fault lies - and I say that as someone who has engineer in my current job title). And the use of "science" as a political/PR smokescreen, sometimes by scientists (who can be as human and flawed as others) but often by the sort of paid liar widely employed.

We've thus got a whole complex here of things like the failures of nuclear power (pretty safe, but not as safe as one would like, and always underestimated in cost), drugs failures (though the drug industry as a whole has produced wonders, it has tried to cover some failures up, and over-egged some things), the total abuse of science by the tobacco industry, and so on. And some things have been well-intentioned good ideas with unfortunate consequences like chlorofluorocarbons.

Unfortunately that hostility to some science often can't tell the difference between such cases and things like Andrew Wakefield's anti-vaccination lies, and further into denial heading for 9/11 and moon landing denialism with what appear to some to be (but aren't) scientific arguments against.

And to be clear, having a clear recognition of that, for example, evolution is real and the amazing understanding and advances science (with engineering in the latter case) has produced still allows room for that although science (plus engineering and mathematics) is the single greatest creation of humanity, it's still got room for improvement. Nothing is perfect (except mathematics).
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The hostility towards science is mostly a US thing. Our funding support for science has been in decline for decades and public trust and value in science is severely undermined by political and religious misinformation.

Meanwhile, countries like China, India and Canada are dramatically ramping up support to capitalize on our decline and are recruiting back their nationals running labs in the US. My section just lost our strongest member to an insanely great offer to go back to Canada. US science is struggling and the world is going to pick us apart. France has stated publically that they want American scientists to immigrate.

German scientists I know have so much money, they can't spend it all. Seriously.

On the plus side, England is in the same backward reactionary regression we are.

So the US is not the world leader in health, safety, education, science, manufacturing, politics, or freedom. Bad news everyone, we're not the "greatest country in the world" and we need to get that bullshit out of people's heads. Tragic that the conservatives that want you to think we are, are also the reason we're in decline in all of the points above.
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Dearlove wrote:
I should make it clearer that although I've indicated areas that science denial comes from the same place, hostility to science (the subject line) isn't the same as science denial.

There's another big area of hostility to science that has as components opposition to government and big business, recognition of where science-based solutions have failed (though often it's engineering, or what really is the equivalent of that but not called that where the fault lies - and I say that as someone who has engineer in my current job title). And the use of "science" as a political/PR smokescreen, sometimes by scientists (who can be as human and flawed as others) but often by the sort of paid liar widely employed.

We've thus got a whole complex here of things like the failures of nuclear power (pretty safe, but not as safe as one would like, and always underestimated in cost), drugs failures (though the drug industry as a whole has produced wonders, it has tried to cover some failures up, and over-egged some things), the total abuse of science by the tobacco industry, and so on. And some things have been well-intentioned good ideas with unfortunate consequences like chlorofluorocarbons.

Unfortunately that hostility to some science often can't tell the difference between such cases and things like Andrew Wakefield's anti-vaccination lies, and further into denial heading for 9/11 and moon landing denialism with what appear to some to be (but aren't) scientific arguments against.

And to be clear, having a clear recognition of that, for example, evolution is real and the amazing understanding and advances science (with engineering in the latter case) has produced still allows room for that although science (plus engineering and mathematics) is the single greatest creation of humanity, it's still got room for improvement. Nothing is perfect (except mathematics).


This is a good post. I especially like how it highlights another major problem, that the public and policy makers don't understand the fundamental difference between science and engineering.

Scientists are the explorers (aka "basic research"), engineers are the apply-ers (aka "applied research"). "Basic research" i.e. science is almost always publicly viewed as a waste of time and resources. But you need to roll the dice a lot to "get lucky". I love gold mining/crab fishing shows. They're the best science programs on television. Why don't they just mine/fish where the gold/crab is? Its hard work and if everyone knew where to gold is it would be easy. Science is prospecting (investment) and engineering is the making stuff to get the gold out.

Think of science and engineering like a pyramid. The base (the basic in basic research) of the pyramid is science, and the tip is engineering. The base has to be much wider than the tip because engineers are fundamentally limited by total pool of discovery, and only a small faction of what has been discovered is reasonably applicable at any one time. And sometimes, the best times, are when engineers draw from very remote points in the pyramid to make combinations the individual scientists couldn't see.

The US currently only values application and funding agencies demand that scientists apply their work, and therefore ask them to do a job they were never trained for, nor are interested in. The desire is to make the tip of the pyramid huge, and the base small. Doesn't work but the desire is driven by the American contempt for long term investment and demand for immediate profit return (nonsense). As a people, we're selfish, short-sighted, and dumb and it is difficult to know how to fix this.

The confusion is also compounded by the fact that many engineers also self-identify as scientists when they absolutely are not. Note the converse is not true, I've never met a scientist who would self-identify as an engineer. The closest gray area are the chemists but it is often best not to interact with them anyway .


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dkearns wrote:
The hostility towards science is mostly a US thing.


It's especially a US thing. And that it's actively supported by what currently is a majority of your elected politicians at the national level. But unfortunately it's not uniquely an American thing.

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Our funding support for science has been in decline for decades and public trust and value in science is severely undermined by political and religious misinformation.

Meanwhile, countries like China, India and Canada are dramatically ramping up support to capitalize on our decline and are recruiting back their nationals running labs in the US. My section just lost our strongest member to an insanely great offer to go back to Canada. US science is struggling and the world is going to pick us apart. France has stated publically that they want American scientists to immigrate.

German scientists I know have so much money, they can't spend it all. Seriously.

On the plus side, England is in the same backward reactionary regression we are.


Yes and no. (And I suspect you mean the UK, not England.) We've got the Brexit crazy. And we have dinosaurs like Lord Lawson who is both a Brexit ultra and a climate change total denier. And owing to actions from Tony Blair and later administrations, we do have some anti-evolutionism creeping in to schools in some places. And more needs doing to stop that. But the attitudes to science expressed by your average Republican congressman would get you ridiculed here. We need not to be complacent that this isn't eroding. But we're still mostly OK. And while science budgets are being squeezed, it's because all budgets are being squeezed. The position is still at "a higher science budget would be a good thing, we just can't afford it" not deliberately starving areas like earth monitoring because they are ideologically suspect.

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So the US is not the world leader in health, safety, education, science, manufacturing, politics, or freedom. Bad news everyone, we're not the "greatest country in the world" and we need to get that bullshit out of people's heads. Tragic that the conservatives that want you to think we are, are also the reason we're in decline in all of the points above.
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If you haven't read this book, you need to. Rather than try to post my thoughts several months after reading the book myself, I thought posting the NY Times (yes, the "failing" NY Times) review would give you a better feel for the content, which is depressing (though written in a somewhat humorous style)...



THE DEATH OF EXPERTISE
The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters
By Tom Nichols
252 pages. Oxford University Press. $24.95.

Donald J. Trump’s taste for advisers with little or no government experience; his selection of cabinet members like Scott Pruitt and Rick Perry, who have expressed outright hostility to the agencies they now oversee; and the slow pace of making senior-level appointments in high-profile departments like State, Treasury and Homeland Security — all speak to the new president’s disregard for policy expertise and knowledge, just as his own election victory underscores many voters’ scorn for experience.

This is part of a larger wave of anti-rationalism that has been accelerating for years — manifested in the growing ascendance of emotion over reason in public debates, the blurring of lines among fact and opinion and lies, and denialism in the face of scientific findings about climate change and vaccination.

“Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue,” the scholar Tom Nichols writes in his timely new book, “The Death of Expertise.” “To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong about anything. It is a new Declaration of Independence: No longer do we hold these truths to be self-evident, we hold all truths to be self-evident, even the ones that aren’t true. All things are knowable and every opinion on any subject is as good as any other.”

“The Death of Expertise” turns out to be an unexceptional book about an important subject. The volume is useful in its way, providing an overview of just how we arrived at this distressing state of affairs. But it’s more of a flat-footed compendium than an original work, pulling together examples from recent news stories while iterating arguments explored in more depth in books like Al Gore’s “The Assault on Reason,” Susan Jacoby’s “The Age of American Unreason,” Robert Hughes’s “Culture of Complaint” and, of course, Richard Hofstadter’s 1963 classic, “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.” Nichols’s source notes are one of the highlights of the volume, pointing the reader to more illuminating books and articles.

Nichols reminds us how a “resistance to intellectual authority” naturally took root in a country, dedicated to the principles of liberty and egalitarianism, and how American culture tends to fuel “romantic notions about the wisdom of the common person or the gumption of the self-educated genius.” (Though the country, it should also be remembered, was founded on the Enlightenment principles of reason and an informed citizenry.)

Nichols argues that the “protective swaddling environment of the modern university infantilizes students,” and suggests that today’s populism has magnified disdain for elites and experts of all sorts, be they in foreign policy, economics, even science.

Trump won the 2016 election, Nichols writes, because “he connected with a particular kind of voter who believes that knowing about things like America’s nuclear deterrent is just so much pointy-headed claptrap.” Worse, he goes on, some of these voters “not only didn’t care that Trump is ignorant or wrong, they likely were unable to recognize his ignorance or errors,” thanks to their own lack of knowledge.

While the internet has allowed more people more access to more information than ever before, it has also given them the illusion of knowledge when in fact they are drowning in data and cherry-picking what they choose to read. Given an inexhaustible buffet of facts, rumors, lies, serious analysis, crackpot speculation and outright propaganda to browse online, it becomes easy for one to succumb to “confirmation bias” — the tendency, as Nichols puts it, “to look for information that only confirms what we believe, to accept facts that only strengthen our preferred explanations, and to dismiss data that challenge what we accept as truth.”

Citizens of all political persuasions (not to mention members of the Trump administration) can increasingly live in their own news media bubbles, consuming only views similar to their own. When confronted with hard evidence that they are wrong, many will simply double down on their original assertions. “This is the ‘backfire effect,’” Nichols writes, “in which people redouble their efforts to keep their own internal narrative consistent, no matter how clear the indications that they’re wrong.” As a result, extreme views are amplified online, just as fake news and propaganda easily go viral.

Today, all these factors have combined to create a maelstrom of unreason that’s not just killing respect for expertise, but also undermining institutions, thwarting rational debate and spreading an epidemic of misinformation. These developments, in turn, threaten to weaken the very foundations of our democracy. As Nichols observes near the end of this book: “Laypeople complain about the rule of experts and they demand greater involvement in complicated national questions, but many of them only express their anger and make these demands after abdicating their own important role in the process: namely, to stay informed and politically literate enough to choose representatives who can act on their behalf.”


If you want to hear Nichols own words on the matter, here is a clip of a book lecture he gave on the matter. Again, mixing laughs with deadly serious matters...
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Dearlove wrote:
But we're still mostly OK. And while science budgets are being squeezed, it's because all budgets are being squeezed. The position is still at "a higher science budget would be a good thing, we just can't afford it" not deliberately starving areas like earth monitoring because they are ideologically suspect.


If you say so but I would argue that the motivation is often difficult to tell. The US decline started exactly as you describe and then became something else. Tread carefully.

Many of my colleague in the UK, are struggling for funding, and the BBSRC (along with the rest of Europe) places a high demand on "metrics", something extremely toxic, that the US, thank god so far, hasn't adopted.

If there is a bright spot in US science is that there is growing motivation to turn our backs on metric-based science.

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Dearlove wrote:
scott3387 wrote:
There is a rainbow of 'anti science' people and I feel that mashing them into one 'The other' group is unfair.

On the one end you have deniers of hard science that you can physically observe. Flat earthers are the furthest end of the scale here. Closely followed by hard creationists.

Next up are hard science with conclusions that could be debatable under certain circumatances. This level is the anti vax people.


No. The anti-vax argument was a fraud from the beginning. This one is in the done and dusted area too.

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Next are the topics that merge hard and soft sciences. These are generally fairly proved but impossible to draw hard conclusions by the nature of the work. This is the likes of climate change.


Climate change isn't soft science in the way that term is usually used. It's complicated but that's not the same as soft. The only remaining doubt here is the exact size of the effects, not whether anything is happening. So that's mischaracterised above too.

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Then there are the long standing soft sciences. These have good established methodology but are pretty much impossible to prove by the nature of the work. This includes nature vs nurture and most of psychology etc.


Use of the word "prove" indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of what science is. So fail here too. Putting that on one side, there are two errors you can make in areas such as this. The extreme version one way is to assume that no valid science can be done (which seems to be where you are going). The extreme version the other way to assume anything any scientist claims is good work. Care needed.

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Then you have modern theories that have only recently been seriously discussed or researched. Gender as a spectrum for example.


I'm not even sure what you are suggesting here "gender as a spectrum" is a meaningless phrase without a great deal of clarification about what you are even discussing.

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Then you start dropping into murky depths and I will refrain from examples.


And therefore haven't got a clue what you are talking about.

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Comparing flat earthers and modern soft social sciences is disingenuous.


Straw man you've constructed.

Flat earthism is straight up kookery. But the motivations behind creationism, misrepresentation of the nature of an embryo or a fetus, climate change denial and bogus theories of what being gay and whether it can be "cured" come from the same place, even if the science isn't the same.


You frustrate the hell out of me. You know fine well I'm using prove in the lay sense of confidence in a theory. If you want me to, I'll go back through and replace prove with no possibility to disprove a stated hypothesis with near certainty if you want. I only have a masters in science so I probably don't have a clue what I'm talking about.

Hard science like physics can replicate experiments with consistent results with in experimental error. Soft sciences cannot do experiments of this nature either due to ethics or complexity. You cannot experiment on the entire planet so climate change is a soft science. This doesn't make it wrong just harder to demonstrate causation without models that require assumptions.

If you want my scale can instead be viewed as the complexity of establishing an experiment to test hypothesis. Thus doubt in social sciences is slightly more understandable (as you need to model the population) than doubt in gravity that you can demonstrate with any object to hand. Or you can view it as the amount of evidence that would have to be brought to disprove existing theory.

Commenting on the nature or nurture of homosexuals is a fair discussion (leaving out the electrotherapy and any concept of 'correction') but debating evolution is not.
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dkearns wrote:
Dearlove wrote:
I should make it clearer that although I've indicated areas that science denial comes from the same place, hostility to science (the subject line) isn't the same as science denial.

There's another big area of hostility to science that has as components opposition to government and big business, recognition of where science-based solutions have failed (though often it's engineering, or what really is the equivalent of that but not called that where the fault lies - and I say that as someone who has engineer in my current job title). And the use of "science" as a political/PR smokescreen, sometimes by scientists (who can be as human and flawed as others) but often by the sort of paid liar widely employed.

We've thus got a whole complex here of things like the failures of nuclear power (pretty safe, but not as safe as one would like, and always underestimated in cost), drugs failures (though the drug industry as a whole has produced wonders, it has tried to cover some failures up, and over-egged some things), the total abuse of science by the tobacco industry, and so on. And some things have been well-intentioned good ideas with unfortunate consequences like chlorofluorocarbons.

Unfortunately that hostility to some science often can't tell the difference between such cases and things like Andrew Wakefield's anti-vaccination lies, and further into denial heading for 9/11 and moon landing denialism with what appear to some to be (but aren't) scientific arguments against.

And to be clear, having a clear recognition of that, for example, evolution is real and the amazing understanding and advances science (with engineering in the latter case) has produced still allows room for that although science (plus engineering and mathematics) is the single greatest creation of humanity, it's still got room for improvement. Nothing is perfect (except mathematics).


This is a good post. I especially like how it highlights another major problem, that the public and policy makers don't understand the fundamental difference between science and engineering.

Scientists are the explorers (aka "basic research"), engineers are the apply-ers (aka "applied research"). "Basic research" i.e. science is almost always publicaly viewed as a waste of time and resources.

Think of it like a pyramid. The base (the basic in basic research) of the pyramid is science, and the tip is engineering. The base has to be much wider than the tip because engineers are limited by total pool of discovery, and only a small faction of what has been discovered is reasonably applicable at any one time.

The US currently only values application and funding agencies demand that scientists have an application, and therefors asking them to do a job they weren't trained for. The desire is to make the tip of the pyramid huge, and the base small. Doesn't work but the desire is driven by the American contempt for long term investment and demand for immediate profit return (nonsense). As a people, we're selfish, short-sighted, and dumb and it is difficult to know how to fix this.

The confusion is also compounded by the fact that many engineers also self-identify as scientists when they absolutely are not. Note the converse is not true, I've never met a scientist who would self-identify as an engineer. The closest gray area are the chemists but it is best not to interact with them anyway .


My background is in maths. My job title (this month) has engineer in it. Because I chose that - the company would allow me to pick scientist or engineer as I felt like it.

So why engineer? Because my rule of thumb is if you're trying to find out how something works you're a scientist. If it's because you just want to understand, you're a pure scientist. If it's because you want to do something with the understanding, you're an applied scientist. If you want to actually do something, you're an engineer. So engineering fits better most of what I do, though applied scientist isn't a complete miss. (Pure scientist when I can steal the time.) plenty of people are applied scientists on some days and engineers on others.

And actually I can put CEng after my name (as long as I keep paying the annual fee - but that's not what gets you it). So someone up there thinks I'm an engineer. But I've often said that engineers think I'm a mathematician, while mathematicians think I'm an engineer.

But my father was, even more so than me, what I'd call an engineer. At one point in his career he designed some bits of hardware (which I never have). But his job title said scientist. And (less so now, but still to some extent) scientist has better PR (and isn't confused with whoever mends your washing machine - designing it is another matter). So, yes, absolutely agreed on that point.
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scott3387 wrote:
Dearlove wrote:
scott3387 wrote:
There is a rainbow of 'anti science' people and I feel that mashing them into one 'The other' group is unfair.

On the one end you have deniers of hard science that you can physically observe. Flat earthers are the furthest end of the scale here. Closely followed by hard creationists.

Next up are hard science with conclusions that could be debatable under certain circumatances. This level is the anti vax people.


No. The anti-vax argument was a fraud from the beginning. This one is in the done and dusted area too.

Quote:
Next are the topics that merge hard and soft sciences. These are generally fairly proved but impossible to draw hard conclusions by the nature of the work. This is the likes of climate change.


Climate change isn't soft science in the way that term is usually used. It's complicated but that's not the same as soft. The only remaining doubt here is the exact size of the effects, not whether anything is happening. So that's mischaracterised above too.

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Then there are the long standing soft sciences. These have good established methodology but are pretty much impossible to prove by the nature of the work. This includes nature vs nurture and most of psychology etc.


Use of the word "prove" indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of what science is. So fail here too. Putting that on one side, there are two errors you can make in areas such as this. The extreme version one way is to assume that no valid science can be done (which seems to be where you are going). The extreme version the other way to assume anything any scientist claims is good work. Care needed.

Quote:
Then you have modern theories that have only recently been seriously discussed or researched. Gender as a spectrum for example.


I'm not even sure what you are suggesting here "gender as a spectrum" is a meaningless phrase without a great deal of clarification about what you are even discussing.

Quote:
Then you start dropping into murky depths and I will refrain from examples.


And therefore haven't got a clue what you are talking about.

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Comparing flat earthers and modern soft social sciences is disingenuous.


Straw man you've constructed.

Flat earthism is straight up kookery. But the motivations behind creationism, misrepresentation of the nature of an embryo or a fetus, climate change denial and bogus theories of what being gay and whether it can be "cured" come from the same place, even if the science isn't the same.


You frustrate the hell out of me. You know fine well I'm using prove in the lay sense of confidence in a theory. If you want me to, I'll go back through and replace prove with no possibility to disprove a stated hypothesis with near certainty if you want. I only have a masters in science so I probably don't have a clue what I'm talking about.

Hard science like physics can replicate experiments with consistent results with in experimental error. Soft sciences cannot do experiments of this nature either due to ethics or complexity. You cannot experiment on the entire planet so climate change is a soft science.


That's just not how that term (soft science) is usually used. And using it looks like a small piece of undermining. You've pointed out (correctly) that you can't experiment with the planet (though collectively we're not so far off it). But failing to point out that doesn't mean there isn't real hard science in there is unhelpful let's say.

Quote:
This doesn't make it wrong just harder to demonstrate causation without models that require assumptions.

If you want my scale can instead be viewed as the complexity of establishing an experiment to test hypothesis. Thus doubt in social sciences is slightly more understandable (as you need to model the population) than doubt in gravity that you can demonstrate with any object to hand. Or you can view it as the amount of evidence that would have to be brought to disprove existing theory.

Commenting on the nature or nurture of homosexuals is a fair discussion (leaving out the electrotherapy and any concept of 'correction') but debating evolution is not.


I haven't a clue what you are saying there. What looks like one or two autocorrected typos isn't helping.
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dkearns wrote:
Dearlove wrote:
But we're still mostly OK. And while science budgets are being squeezed, it's because all budgets are being squeezed. The position is still at "a higher science budget would be a good thing, we just can't afford it" not deliberately starving areas like earth monitoring because they are ideologically suspect.


If you say so but I would argue that the motivation is often difficult to tell. The US decline started exactly as you describe and then became something else. Tread carefully.


Oh, absolutely.

Quote:
Many of my colleague in the UK, are struggling for funding, and the BBSRC (along with the rest of Europe) places a high demand on "metrics", something extremely toxic, that the US, thank god so far, hasn't adopted.


Yes, funding is terrible. But the only bright spot is not in order to close it down. The metrics (and some other related problems) is down to politicians not really understanding science (and a Treasury that only knows how to cut and squeeze everything). Politicians (mostly) think science is a a good thing, and (with exceptions) mostly want to make it better. They just don't understand better. They push it where they think is better (shorter term, more "aligned with industry", "successes" they can measure and issue press releases about). That often pushes it in the wrong directions. And the funding can be bad (and crippling at the individual short term contract after short term contract level). But it's (mostly, always need that qualifier) not ill intentioned.

Quote:
If there is a bright spot in US science is that there is growing motivation to turn our backs on metric-based science.


I hope you're right.

(To be clear, I'm not an academic. But I meet them and talk to them and even occasionally work with them. Or did.)
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The systematic dumbing down of the populous, which does a few things. Keeps us more malleable, at each other’s throats (divided) and, as a whole, easier to control and manipulate. Of course, I’ve been told that I’m paranoid, so take this with a grain of salt.
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fpvillalobos wrote:

The systematic dumbing down of the populous


Not to be that guy, but... it's populace
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