September 14, 2010

Science considered

Caught some articles today about declining faith in science and how different individuals are more prone to reject or accept certain scientific discoveries:
  • Plenty of today’s scientific theories will one day be discredited. So should we be sceptical of science itself?: "There is no full-blown logical paradox here. If a claim is ambitious, people should indeed tread warily around it, even if it comes from scientists; it does not follow that they should be sceptical of the scientific method itself. But there is an awkward public-relations challenge for any champion of hard-nosed science. When scientists confront the deniers of evolution, or the devotees of homeopathic medicine, or people who believe that childhood vaccinations cause autism—all of whom are as demonstrably mistaken as anyone can be—they understandably fight shy of revealing just how riddled with error and misleading information the everyday business of science actually is. When you paint yourself as a defender of the truth, it helps to keep quiet about how often you are wrong." - Anthony Gottlieb, The Limits of Science.
  • Individuals with competing cultural values disagree about what most scientists believe: "We know from previous research that people with individualistic values, who have a strong attachment to commerce and industry, tend to be skeptical of claimed environmental risks, while people with egalitarian values, who resent economic inequality, tend to believe that commerce and industry harms the environment." - Dan Kahan, Why 'scientific consensus' fails to persuade.
  • In addition to this, it's turning out that more women than men accept climate change.


Ken said...

Good questions.

People who aren't skeptical of scientific claims, aren't scientists no matter what their credentials.

I find it ironic that so many of the lefty crowd, who grew up in the 60's and indulge themselves in the notion of their "open mindedness" and "independence" are some of the most closed minded and prison minded people around.

These are the people who mindlessly pule for bigger and more intrusive government. They take for granted that government is their friend, and they deride and skepticism of government as "conspiracy theories" ( in spite of the fact that the government has ADMITTED to criminal conspiracies in the past).

And of course, these same people mindlessly believe that government workers (scientists) are automatically right and true, just because they represent some sort of authority.

I think the real problem here is that there are some people who have an unhealthy regard for authority, and others of us who are sane enough to realize that NO one, especially those in positions of power, should ever be free of skepticism.


Unknown said...

"Thought and feelings are not opponents, any more than size and shape. They are complementary aspects which appear on both sides of any argument"..Mary Midgley

Faith in science requires being subjective about the objective. It just has to feel right.

Unknown said...

In order to have faith in science I need to examine the motivation behind each new break through. Way too much science is purely market driven. When new technologies are rushed to market without due consideration to possible or even probable ramifications I lose faith. Two examples of this are nuclear power and genetic modification of our food sources. George Bush’s answer to today’s technology causing environmental degradation was that tomorrow’s science would repair everything. That is what I call blind faith in science.

As for the science of evolution, as soon as someone discovers how to profit from marketing it, I predict a new Christian reformation