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Science Politics

The Encroachment of Fact-Free Science 962

Posted by Soulskill
from the truth-is-out-there dept.
G3ckoG33k writes "Fact-free science is not a joke; it is very much on the move, and it is quite possibly the most dangerous movement in centuries, for the entirety of mankind. One can say it began as counter-movement to Karl Popper's ground-breaking proposals in the early 20th century, which insisted that statements purporting to describe the reality should be made falsifiable. A few decades later, some critics of Popper said that statements need peer acceptance, which then makes also natural science a social phenomenon. Even later, in 1996, professor Alan Sokal submitted a famous article ridiculing the entire anti-science movement. Now New York Times has an article describing the latest chilling acts of the socially relativistic, postmodern loons. It is a chilling read, and they may be swinging both the political left and right. Have they been successful in transforming the world yet? How would we know?"
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The Encroachment of Fact-Free Science

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  • by Intron (870560) on Monday March 07, 2011 @10:33AM (#35405064)

    Let's agree not to call this a "Republican" or "Democratic" position. The problem is that there are adherents to scientific claims who don't know the truth on both sides. I don't claim to know much about climate science, evolution, natural history or reproductive biology. So me claiming a "scientific" position on global warming, creationism, evolution or abortion is to some extent who I want to have faith in. Generally I choose respected scientists, but its still faith on my part because I haven't done the research myself.

    • by Alex Belits (437) * on Monday March 07, 2011 @10:40AM (#35405132) Homepage

      The problem is not that someone is ignorant, it's that people who are ignorant and unqualified to make any decisions, make those decisions based entirely on ideology, and present their ideologically-inspired beliefs as "truth".

      What, I guess, is a step up from doing the same with religion instead of political ideology (hi, "pro-lifers" and evolution deniers), but not by much.

      • by nharmon (97591) on Monday March 07, 2011 @10:58AM (#35405368) Homepage

        There is a problem with ideology being thrust into issues that are not ideological. Which is why I found it a bit strange you lump "pro-lifers" in with people who deny evolution. Doctors and other qualified medical people are not entirely on one side of the abortion debate. And it is often the case where two people can be well-informed on reproductive biology and still arrive at different positions on the issue.

        This is because abortion is fundamentally an ideological issue, incorporating morality, reproductive freedom, and value of life. Which is wholly different from taking an ideological stance on an issue that is not at all ideological, like evolution. In contrast to abortion, with evolution it is very rare for two people who are well-informed of the facts to arrive at different positions on the issue.

        So while I agree with you that ideology does get thrust into situations where it should not be, the reverse of that; taking an ideological issue and demanding that it be evaluated purely on scientific grounds, is equally problematic.

        • by h4rm0ny (722443)
          Seconded. It is absurd to lump anti-abortion in with Creationism. I am strongly anti-abortion. I also find the theory of evolution eminently believable. Making divisive issues like abortion a part of political factionalism is just a means of keeping opposition from organizing.
        • by hedwards (940851) on Monday March 07, 2011 @11:19AM (#35405602)

          It's really not strange to lump pro-lifers in with those anti-science nutters. They frequently take the position that a fetus is a person complete with all that entails and that a fetus exists from conception. Such a clumping of cells isn't any more a person than that wart I had removed was.

          A person is entitled to have an opinion on that issue, but rewriting our knowledge to suit somebody that's probably too stupid to recognize that IVF results in far more embryos being disposed of than abortion on a per instance basis.

        • by Tom (822)

          This is because abortion is fundamentally an ideological issue, incorporating morality, reproductive freedom, and value of life.

          Ideologies and morality do not spontaneously emerge from nothing. They are also the products of context and evolution (in a wider sense). Science can bring new points-of-view and shed light on things not previously known.

          For example, we now have a fairly rough idea about this thing primitive humans called "soul" for lack of better understanding. We can make - still rough, but substantiated by evidence - guesses at the point, or rather phase, in which a cluster of rapidly duplicating cells within a female bo

        • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday March 07, 2011 @12:08PM (#35406314) Homepage

          Pro-lifers get lumped in with creationists because they tend to be busy bodies.

          Proper "pro-lifers" are all about interfering with other people's choices and playing the role of Puritan.

          They also tend to be the same sort of evangelical fundie types that can't leave people alone in general.

          Pro-lifers and Creationists both are all about "I don't like this choice and I won't let you make it either".

      • I really wish you hadn't included the "pro-lifers" in your comment. The abortion debate is not even remotely similar to being an AGW or evolution denialist. Whereas global warming and evolution allow for testable hypotheses and have sound science backing them and those denying it are ignoring science because of their ideology. Abortion, on the other hand, is not a debate over acceptable science, but rather it is strictly a moral debate as to when a fetus becomes a human with a right to life, and further, wh

    • by chemicaldave (1776600) on Monday March 07, 2011 @10:48AM (#35405240)

      Let's agree not to call this a "Republican" or "Democratic" position. The problem is that there are adherents to scientific claims who don't know the truth on both sides. I don't claim to know much about climate science, evolution, natural history or reproductive biology. So me claiming a "scientific" position on global warming, creationism, evolution or abortion is to some extent who I want to have faith in. Generally I choose respected scientists, but its still faith on my part because I haven't done the research myself.

      It most certainly is a Republican/Democrat position. The difference is that Republicans who don't understand something dismiss is altogether, while OTOH as the Sokal incident pointed out, some Democrats held too much faith in scientists. I would hope that, in matters of science, politicians have more faith in scientists and in, say, religion. I mean, this is pretty chilling.

      As John Shimkus of Illinois, who also sits on the [House Energy and Commerce Committee]— as well as on the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment — has said that the government doesn’t need to make a priority of regulating greenhouse-gas emissions, because as he put it late last year, “God said the earth would not be destroyed by a flood.”

      This kind of ignorance is dangerous and baffling. It's not as if he's arguing against anthropogenic global warming using science. Hell, maybe he believes in global warming and that it really is man-made. But he refuses to accept what will happen because the Bible says otherwise. What. The. Fuck.

      • by rjames13 (1178191) on Monday March 07, 2011 @11:32AM (#35405816)

        This kind of ignorance is dangerous and baffling. It's not as if he's arguing against anthropogenic global warming using science. Hell, maybe he believes in global warming and that it really is man-made. But he refuses to accept what will happen because the Bible says otherwise. What. The. Fuck.

        He actually misunderstands the scripture he references. God says "never again will I curse the earth because of man...". This entirely precludes man himself doing it.

      • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Monday March 07, 2011 @11:55AM (#35406106) Homepage Journal

        But he refuses to accept what will happen because the Bible says otherwise. What. The. Fuck.

        It's not that surprising actually. That is precisely what the Christian faith teaches from day one. You are born, raised by Christian parents, brought to a Christian school once a week (more if you're extra special), and told continuously when you make an inquiry that, "God works in mysterious ways," "Well let's see what the Bible has to say about that," and, "The Bible tells us that if our faith is true, then God will protect us," and other stuff along those lines.

        When you are fed an ideology like that continuously for the first 18 years of your life, and then you see your mentors (parents) react violently or offensively if anyone else comes along and proposes a different viewpoint, then by the time you are an independent adult, you may well consider statements like those made by the representative above to simply be fact, a given, as natural as 2 + 2 = 4.

        That was the final straw that turned me away from my own faith when I hit my young adult years. I realized just how close to outright brainwashing religion was. The fact that some of my otherwise intelligent friends absolutely refused to dig deeper on certain paths of thought (evolution, big bang theory, etc.) simply because they were taught from day one that such types of thinking are, "dangerous," or "unacceptable." Personally, I couldn't force myself to support an institution that actively suppressed curiosity and the quest for knowledge. It just went against everything I felt was important.

        Of course, such teachings aren't exactly the same across the entire religious spectrum. There are some sects of Christianity that actively promote coexistence with scientific research. There are also a lot of intelligent Christian folk out there. But when it comes right down to it, they type of thinking displayed by the representative is not that surprising or baffling to anyone that was raised in the church. It's pretty par for the course for someone of the Christian faith to turn to the Bible on matters or problems that are vexing or frustrating or even scary.

      • by Incadenza (560402) on Monday March 07, 2011 @12:46PM (#35406972)

        This kind of ignorance is dangerous and baffling. It's not as if he's arguing against anthropogenic global warming using science. Hell, maybe he believes in global warming and that it really is man-made. But he refuses to accept what will happen because the Bible says otherwise. What. The. Fuck.

        Well, it remembers me of the very appropriate joke my daughter told yesterday evening:

        One rainy night, a priest walked into a hotel and asked for a room. About an hour later there was a knock on his door. "Quick, Quick!", screamed the hotel manager. "There's a terrible flood happening. Get yourself out into the rescue boat before you drown!" But the priest remained calm. "The Lord is my Saviour, and He will save me."

        Not long afterwards, the water had risen to the second floor. A second boat sailed past the priest's window and the captain looked inside. "Good God man, jump in here before you die!", the captain screamed. "The Lord is my Saviour, He will save me."

        Soon enough, the flood raged higher and higher, until the priest was forced out onto the hotel roof. A nearby helicopter saw the man's plight and dangled a rope ladder down to him. "Hurry up!", yelled the pilot. "Grab onto the rope!". The priest smiled. "The Lord is my Saviour, He will save me."

        The flood rises even higher, and the priest drowns. Then the priest enters heaven and meets God himself. "My Lord!", he wailed. "Why did you forsake me?" "Forsake you? I sent you two boats and a helicopter !!!!"

    • by Noryungi (70322) on Monday March 07, 2011 @10:56AM (#35405338) Homepage Journal

      Let's agree not to call this a "Republican" or "Democratic" position.

      Have you read the article? It clearly states that the vast majority of Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates are against global warming. So, yes, this is clearly, first and foremost, a "Republican" problems -- though I'll be the first to admit Democratic politicians also trade in "woo".

      So me claiming a "scientific" position on global warming, creationism, evolution or abortion is to some extent who I want to have faith in.

      First of all, how can you have a scientific position on abortion? It's a moral issue, not a scientific one.

      Second, Abortion is pretty much a clear-cut case: the vast majority of abortions take place while the foetus is several millimeters long. They are not human beings, don't even have a brain let alone pain centers, and don't even remotely look like a child. You may still be against abortion -- and I am even willing to admit there is a moral component to this -- but it definitely require a bit more than the fuzzy statement given above.

      Third, evolution is also pretty much a clear-cut case: we have evidence of evolution happening right now, under our very noses. Evolution has been proven true, again and again, since Darmin formulated it in the 19th century, and only the brainwashed religious masses still contest it. There are even 'sophisticated' theologians who are perfectly willing to admit that evolution and the existence of God are perfectly compatible, for Pete sake!

      Fourth, pretty much everything I said about evolution is also true about global warming: this is not a scientific problem: it is a political problem and a problem of corporate propaganda (meaning: there are some very very rich, powerful and influential people who still want to pollute unhindered by rules and regulations). Period.

      Generally I choose respected scientists, but its still faith on my part because I haven't done the research myself.

      No, you are just propagating Republican talking points. if you have nothing to offer to this discussion, please, by all means remain silent and let other debate with more ideas and facts on both sides.

      There, i have finished my rant, feel free to mod me down to the center of the Earth...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mveloso (325617)

        Well, evolution is just a theory, just like general relativity. You're doing exactly what you accuse others of doing. Science isn't really about true or false; Newtonian physics is an accurate description/model of reality, up to a certain point.

        Theories are tools for making sense of the world. Equating the theory with reality is probably a bad thing to do, given the process. Theories tend to be simplified models - which by definition aren't reality.

        "The theory of evolution is true" is a statement of belief.

        • by recoiledsnake (879048) on Monday March 07, 2011 @12:32PM (#35406722)

          Well, evolution is just a theory, just like general relativity. You're doing exactly what you accuse others of doing. Science isn't really about true or false; Newtonian physics is an accurate description/model of reality, up to a certain point.

          Theories are tools for making sense of the world. Equating the theory with reality is probably a bad thing to do, given the process. Theories tend to be simplified models - which by definition aren't reality.

          "The theory of evolution is true" is a statement of belief. "The theory of evolution seems to account for the different variations of life" is probably a more accurate (or maybe a more careful and precise) way of presenting it.

          The problem is the agenda of the people discounting evolution. It is not about just finding loopholes in evolutionary theory (scientists welcome that, it makes the theory stronger or just kills it if it's wrong), it's about pushing a completely different agenda to non-scientific folks with no basis in science or those with agendas themselves(politicians). Intelligent design is not even a theory, it's like someone claiming that we're living under the Matrix, there's really no way to find out if we are. Science does not even come into the picture, and even theories from scientists like the 'String theory' have been called out for making wild claims with no evidence.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Artraze (600366)

        > Have you read the article? It clearly states that the vast majority of Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates
        > are against global warming. So, yes, this is clearly, first and foremost, a "Republican" problems -- though I'll be the
        > first to admit Democratic politicians also trade in "woo".

        I suppose that depends if "against global warming" is the problem here. Or, perhaps I should say openly against the unscientific plans the Democrats make to "deal" with global warming? But that sound

    • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Monday March 07, 2011 @11:11AM (#35405514)

      I don't claim to know much about ... reproductive biology.

      Don't worry, this is Slashdot. You're among friends.

  • by thinktech (1278026) on Monday March 07, 2011 @10:41AM (#35405156)
    When I think about about fact free science...
    • by Brad1138 (590148)
      Yes, but at least it is called "String theory". The name itself tells you it is a theory. I would be more acceptable of religion if it called itself "God Theory".
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2011 @12:35PM (#35406766)

        Actually, String Theory isn't a theory - it is a hypothesis. It becomes theory once we have evidence for it.

        theory: [princeton.edu] (a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena) "theories can incorporate facts and laws and tested hypotheses"; "true in fact and theory"

        Unfortunately, in common use a theory is something not yet proven. But in science, a hypothesis is something that has not been proven while a theory is something that has been proven (or at least, has significant evidence in favor of it.)

        (posted AC since I moderated this thread)

  • by 0123456 (636235) on Monday March 07, 2011 @10:43AM (#35405180)

    Peer review seemed like a good idea at the time, but these days it increasingly seems to be a way for the most powerful clique to ensure their papers get published and no-one else does.

    Ultimately consensus is worthless in science because it's so often been wrong.

    • by magsol (1406749) on Monday March 07, 2011 @11:00AM (#35405408) Journal
      That's the whole idea of the scientific process, though, in that being wrong drives change. The fact that we've "so often been wrong" I think proves the process works: someone publishes a paper, others peer review it and find it ok but with a few nagging yellow flags, other independent labs perform the same experiment and publish different results, consensus breaks down and alternate, more feasible theories are produced instead. Wash, rinse, repeat.

      Also, as a student in research who only just had his first-ever paper accepted and published, I'd have to say your blanket statement about the "most powerful clique" ensuring their papers get published and "no one else"s is patently false. There are always going to be bad apples in research, just like any other field, but that doesn't make the whole process broken.
    • by jcupitt65 (68879)

      Peer review is not perfect of course, but it does work reasonably well. The overwhelming success of science. which rests in part on peer-review, is evidence of this.

      I'm not sure you put enough emphasis on the competitiveness of research. Competition between scientists for grants is intense and getting grants depends on getting good papers out and (optionally) taking apart the work of your rivals. It just isn't possible for a good idea to be suppressed for very long or for a false idea to gain wide accepta

    • by Tom (822) on Monday March 07, 2011 @11:55AM (#35406110) Homepage Journal

      Of course it is wrong - science is always wrong. It is simply a process of iteratively reducing the amount of error by which you are wrong. And, quite frankly, the current scientific margin of error in most fields is far beyond comprehension. How far is it from LA to NY? How precisely do you want the answer? We have scientific theories in many fields that can give you answers in their respective fields that are equal to giving you the LA-NY distance in millimeters, with the margin of error meaning they're not quite sure about the numbers after the decimal point.

      Science is not a status quo. Science is a method by which to improve the status quo. We had times when the ether was a scientific theory, then it was replaced by a better theory. Any and all current theories are up for grabs - if you can come up with a better one.

      That includes peer review. If you have a method that can be proven to provide better results, show it.

  • by BCoates (512464) on Monday March 07, 2011 @10:45AM (#35405198)

    I love how the article is equally fact-free, but makes sure to include several opinion polls.

  • No link (Score:5, Insightful)

    by edremy (36408) on Monday March 07, 2011 @10:48AM (#35405238) Journal
    Warner seems to be arguing two points

    A) There are lots of climate change deniers out there
    B) Postmodernism has caused lots of people to think that science is all relative, and the folks in A) have adopted that banner.

    I'll really argue the link here- I doubt that *anyone* in A has really, seriously read the literature from B. A is comprised primarily of folks who are either highly religious and refuse to adopt a scientific worldview at all (and would be totally horrified by the philosophy of B if they actually read it) or people who have massive financial incentives to believe that climate change isn't true. The fact that A people argue against science has far more to do with those two factors than anything a bunch of academic nutcases wrote about.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Monday March 07, 2011 @10:53AM (#35405298) Homepage

    Call it what it is: religion. And no, that does not exclude the "Left".

    • by Shadowmist (57488) on Monday March 07, 2011 @12:02PM (#35406208)

      Call it what it is: religion. And no, that does not exclude the "Left".

      If you see this as only religous blowback, you're having a serious underestimation as to what's at stake for the climate deniers. To accept idea of human-influenced climate change threathens the economic foundations of powerful economic interests who would have thier applecarts severely upset by the changes we'd have to make if we started taking our carbon footprint more seriously as a civilisation. Humans have a profound capability for self-denial that is hardly limited to matters of religion.

  • by orphiuchus (1146483) on Monday March 07, 2011 @10:54AM (#35405320)

    Why the hell does this article quote a literature professor on the topic of the quality of scientific research? How the fuck would he know?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2011 @10:58AM (#35405380)

    Professor David Nutt uses science in a paper against prohibition of drugs, and is fired the next day. Article from 2009 [guardian.co.uk]
     
    Popular opinion and straw men are the new trusted sources of facts, guys! Science and statistical analysis are for fringe nutjobs and quacks!

  • Climate change (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday March 07, 2011 @11:11AM (#35405516)
    I don't deny that climate change exists; the climate on Earth has been changing since the Earth began and continues to do so. What wasn't been definitively established is to what extent this change is due to the activities of man versus to what extent it is due to the Earth's natural cycles and was going to happen anyway. Although it stands to reason that reducing the albedo of the Earth and dumping all that crap into the atmosphere should have some effect on global temperature, there is no proof that ceasing this activity would reverse the warming trend. We are experiencing basically the same climate now that existed 5000 years ago... what do you blame the climate change of 5000 years ago on?
    • by qmaqdk (522323)

      What wasn't been definitively established is to what extent this change is due to the activities of man versus to what extent it is due to the Earth's natural cycles and was going to happen anyway.

      Nonsense. See section "The role of human activity" here [nasa.gov]:

      "90 percent probability that human-produced greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have caused much of the observed increase in Earth's temperatures over the past 50 years."

  • by dyshexic (1535987) on Monday March 07, 2011 @11:20AM (#35405608)
    popper's analysis of science is weak. It's based in the idea that their are 'facts' and that these facts are truths. If we accept certain axioms such as that we are not living in 'the matrix' etc then we can all agree that yes the sun is 'above' the earth, that planes fly, that this conversation is happening on server somewhere. Anybody who understands anything about the philosophy of science will understand and accept these things. The issue with popper is that he fails to recognise that the creation of scientific truth is a human endeavour and thus subject to human flaws, a far better analysis of the production of science is produced by Bruno Latour in Science in action - see Google books http://is.gd/07KejQ [is.gd] Perhaps the OP should widen their circle of scholarship before making such muddle-headed comments PS Sokal may have got a paper published in social text, but various scientific journals have accepted papers from people that show they are equally as gullible to accepting papers devoid of logic or proof. The problem with peer review is that it is peer review: ideas that are only acceptable to ones peers will be published. Challenges to the current orthodoxy typically have to be publicised through journals outside the mainstream view
  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Monday March 07, 2011 @11:20AM (#35405618)

    Yes there are bozos out there who push their illogical political. views. There always have been. And some people want to deny science and/or critical thinking, to push a political agenda.

    But I do not see where this is impacting actual scientific research.

    This article is a liberal democrat biased "news" source, trying to smear the republicans. I am not repub myself, and I am not trying to defend the repubs. But, to say this article is shallow, and biased, would be understatements.

  • by spiffmastercow (1001386) on Monday March 07, 2011 @11:28AM (#35405754)
    Can someone tell me how the same people who believe that pumping tons of smoke into the air and pouring millions of gallons of oil into the ocean has no effect on the environment and that the Earth is 6000 years old, are willing to buy off on at least basic atomic theory? Is it because the atomic theory gives them weapons?
    • Tons of smoke into the entire atmosphere probably wouldn't be that big a deal, and the ocean is about 1.37
      billion km^3, so millions of gallons probably isn't going to do much either.

      But as a reply to your question, they believe it because its not a political tool of their opposing political party. Republicans pretty much latched on to religion in this country right? Well, democrats just so happen to have latched onto the issue of global warming. As a result many of the global warming people hate religion, a

      • The Catholic church doesn't have a policy on the age of the earth AFAIK, but that has little to do with Republicans, since most Republicans are Protestants. And yes, you're right that politics has shaped society in the US.. And certainly not for the better. As far as the smoke and oil goes... Oil pollution is going to really hurt our food supply in the Gulf of Mexico. And that smoke is enough to create a giant haze over major cities. In southern California, you sometimes can't even see the mountains f
  • by rennerik (1256370) on Monday March 07, 2011 @11:33AM (#35405830)

    Have they been successful in transforming the world?

    Anti-intellectualism, anti-science, or anti-whatever-else has been prevalent in at least the United States for a very, very long time. And it starts when you're very young.

    I remember being in school, in first grade. I was smarter than a lot of other kids in my class, and because of that I was ostracized. I wasn't allowed to be an intellectual; stupidity was celebrated. Acts of buffoonery were promoted and lauded.

    Is it any coincidence why the most socially-outgoing people, in the history of K-12, are typically *not* the intellectuals? The "nerds" and "geeks" are always kept from ever rising above the "jocks" on the social ladder.

    When you make it to college/university, it doesn't change very much. The nerds are at least not the brunt of jokes, and they're allowed to sit in the science and engineering buildings well into the night, silently doing their nerdy sciency and engineery things.

    But the loud ones -- in sports, and poli-sci -- are still the non-intellectuals of the high school years. And these are the ones who grow up to be politicians.

    So when articles like this act surprised that the majority of the government is filled with anti-elitist and anti-intellectuals, I have to wonder – were they paying attention any, growing up? This sort of conditioning –letting people know that being smart is NOT COOL – starts from a very young age.

    But these people became successful? So they must be smart, right? Oh, if only. It's not about what you know, but rather about who you know. Nerds don't really socialize; we focus on our work, because that makes us happy. The others schmooze and network like crazy, with like-minded anti-science colleagues, who later become leaders, while we're the ones left wondering where the world is heading.

    They become rich and powerful, and spread their ideas to the next generation. Of course, not all of them are successful. Many of them are not. Many of them remained dumb because they didn't realize the importance of knowledge, since it was ingrained to them from a very early age to think that knowledge and intellect are ELITIST and UNCOOL. And so they raise their kids that same way.

    And we're back to square one.

    I've experienced this first hand, and I am sure many have here as well.

    It sucks; it's terrible. It shouldn't be like this. But it is. And I really have no idea what to do to stop it, but the article is right about one thing – it's terribly dangerous.

  • by Viol8 (599362) on Monday March 07, 2011 @11:57AM (#35406150)

    The West is already on its way out as a manufacturing and innovation base , most of which has headed east. Soon the chinese will be doing most of the science too and the west will be free to degenerate back into superstition and ignorance once more.

  • by goodmanj (234846) on Monday March 07, 2011 @12:03PM (#35406224)

    The summary is talking about the evils of postmodernism, cultural relativism, and deconstructivism.

    The New York Times article linked is about head-in-the-sand data denial.

    These two things have nothing to do with each other. The Republican congressmen in question don't give a damn about postmodernistm or cultural relativism. They don't believe that the truth depends on your perspective, or that morals and ethics are culturally informed. They believe that their ideal of the traditional American way of life is the only truth, and that anything that contradicts that must not be true.

    TFS author is trying to shove a square peg down his favorite round hole.

  • by Moof123 (1292134) on Monday March 07, 2011 @12:21PM (#35406524)

    However, as a wise man once said:
    "Don't call a man a fool, borrow money from him."

  • by dogmatixpsych (786818) on Monday March 07, 2011 @12:31PM (#35406700) Homepage Journal
    The thing we have to remember is that "anti-intellectual, anti-establishment, anti-elite"-ism is != anti-science. There might be a correlation between those who are anti-science and those who are anti-intellectualism and the rest but I know a number of very good scientists who could be considered anti-intellectualism. Intellectualism generally (not always but generally) includes a disdain for less intellectual methods of knowledge. It places the intellect (rationalism, if you will) as the best (and maybe even only) way to discover knowledge. I could go on but you can be a scientist and not hold to all the other scientific elitism stuff.

    The NYT article does a good job of displaying some of this elitism. For example, "Opposing the belief that global warming is human-caused has become systematic, like opposition to abortion,' [Weiss] says. 'It’s seen as another way for government to control people’s lives. It’s become a cultural issue." Sure, this quote is out of context but many of the AGW critics (deniers exist but they are a vocal minority) simply state that not all global warming (is it global warming or climate change?) is caused by humans. Isn't this a rational questioning of the science? This should drive (and has driven) scientists to demonstrate the reliability of their findings. The problem is that people who question AGW are called "deniers" without much thought taken for their arguments or lack thereof. A lot of people have very serious questions about global warming science, as they should - it's the kind of science that has huge political, social, and economic consequences. Many are simply opposed to governments imposing penalties and would rather the free(ish) market to decide. If enough people value green technologies then the markets will go that way eventually. I'm not arguing either way with my post, I'm merely pointing out that many of the oppositions to AGW are in fact opposition to political policy and not the science per se. Further, including abortion in with AGW is a cheap shot because being opposed to or in favor of abortion is about moral values, not science.

    Anyway, the NYT article's author makes a number of good points (particularly that conservatives and liberals both have issues with science) but she doesn't even begin to get at the root of why so many people on all sides of the political spectrum might have issues with science: most people don't understand science. What's even ironic is that a lot of scientists do not understand science. They might understand how to do science but they do not understand science. Science is, after all, one way to discover facts. Facts are discovered (actually they are made - mauFACTured; fact comes from the Latin facio, facere, and factum {essentially the same word, just different forms}). However, facts are discovered through the biases of the methods (study epistemology and the philosophy of science for more on this) and the biases of the scientists. Facts also are != truth. Facts might be true but truth is independent from facts. People's biases strongly affect the research being conducted (by affecting what people choose to study or by affecting the funding or not funding of specific studies) as well as that being published (file drawer effect of research - in short, journals don't like publishing studies that fail to show anything seemingly meaningful but maybe the lack of a finding is what is meaningful). We were recently able to get an article published in which we had a null result only because it contradicted common beliefs in the medical field. Otherwise, our lack of results would not have been published.

    I know how scientific journals work. The peer review process is sometimes a joke. People accept or don't accept work based on what they know. Sometimes what they know is wrong so articles can get rejected or accepted based on bad knowledge or assumptions of a reviewer. My research interests go against some of the conventional wisdom in my field precisely because I think most previous researchers have foc

One man's constant is another man's variable. -- A.J. Perlis

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