To Thinkers Doubting the Doubters of Science:
One of the most troubling things that we see in our modern world, particularly in the United States, is efforts to diminish the power of scientific discovery in our culture. Why is this the case and why is it more of an issue in the US where less than half of the people claim to ‘believe’ in evolution and the Big Bang Theory, these ideas coming from the ‘pits of hell’ as a few of our elected officials claim?
For our thinkers meeting in December I would like discuss why we have landed here in a place where so many are so openly questioning stuff coming from science and that information coming from these sources may not be as true as stuff from other sources. I would like to take this on by considering some of the bases that scientific skeptics use to discount opinions based on science.
We have pop cultural arguments against science all over the place where if you introduce a moment of quack science you can counter things that science in general implies. Like the ‘four out of five doctors’ problem where you get the one doctor who disagrees with arguments against cholesterol medications and the good versus bad cholesterols, where the fifth doctor says palm oil is good for you. Some of these situations are then used to throw cold water on all scientific discoveries. The most obvious of these in our ugly news cycles of today are the battles over climate change where the three percent of climatologists disagreeing over this stuff are used to crash the opinions of the 97 percent.
But look at that little cartoon which is so telling because it presents in concrete form the two different paradigms clashing with each other. When science counters preferred conclusions, efforts are made to dispute scientific conclusions and push towards the preferred beliefs.
So here are some of the points of concern that science skeptics use to argue against something that has been discovered through scientific inquiry.
We live in a world where everything is relative to something else and there are assumed equivalencies between any opinion and something that comes from science. To counter a proposed truth from science one just has to counter it and then demand verification that the counterpoint is not true as well.
The trend for this is getting much more common. More things generally accepted in the recent past are less so because counterpoints are far more common and nearly trivial to find.
The most obvious place where relativism resides most strongly is on the Internet because as it gets larger and larger, it is becoming more trivial to find counterpoints. In this world the entire concept of considering the veracity of the source is losing its meaning.
This is happening despite the general fact that scientists get higher rankings when looking at all professions though that level of respect has been falling particularly since the 1970s. There a three general sources for this minimization:
First, while the stature of scientists has been falling, the stature of the religious class has been rising. Part of this may come from the far stronger participation by religious interests in the popular discourse of our day, providing simpler answers to the things science makes more complex. Included in this is the trend away from traditional religious sects to non-denominational evangelical sects who provide even simpler answers to the complex.
Second, many of the conclusions offered by independent scientific inquiries are problematic for very well healed corporate interests who obfuscate points from science with talking point gobbledygook. Just look at the constant flow of TV ads that drill baby drill through fracking creates so many jobs and the oil companies really want great teachers while trying so hard to pay no taxes at all.
Third is the fact that the notion of reasoned debate has been replaced by loud arguments mostly disconnected from actual points that might be part of a legitimate debate.
And all of these conjectures are far more common in America and far less so in the rest of the civilized world. Why that is the case is certainly worth discussing as well.
The only real arguments against science from those who want to reduce its power in our body politic are that it cannot explain everything and sometimes its explanations are complex and confusing. But is that just because we are living in a time and place where we can’t explain everything at the moment within degrees of certainty? Consider how much more we know about everything at the moment mostly because of science compared with any time in our past. The fantastical is getting somewhat smaller every day and the number of new things we are learning each day is getting larger. The limit of these sequences is that somewhere in the future, not so many generations from now, many more of the big questions we have that are among those things that are fantastical will have explanations understandable to most of us.
And is the negative reaction to science in some circles just fear that magical unknowns holding people’s lives together in faith might disappear and that this is very fearful.
Oh, we are back to that topic of fear, but doesn’t it have a place in this discussion?
So many things to consider at our December Thinkers get together. Please consider coming.