Science denialism

Discussions on the philosophical foundations, assumptions, and implications of science, including the natural sciences.

Re: Science denialism

Postby Forest_Dump on May 27th, 2020, 7:50 am 

Truth be told, IMHO, Reg is correct on a few things. Objectivity is very difficult to achieve. "Facts" are often selected or preferred based on where they are believed to lead. Some branches, disciplines, lines of thought and investigation, etc., are selectively funded based on ideological tropes of the day. Peer reviewers are selected by editors in a manner that is not open for scrutiny and, thus, often for unknown reasons (they are anonymous) that are likely to include at least some measure of politics. Even the most prestigious academic positions are filled based on political and ideological criteria. We can't even agree on a definition of what science is. Science is actually a crummy way to generate any kind of knowledge - except in comparison with all the alternatives.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Reg_Prescott on May 27th, 2020, 10:16 am 

I'd call that an extremely clever post, Forest.

I think it's a lot healthier that we do recognize, as you do, and as do very insightful men such as Gould and Lewontin, that science cannot escape the cultural and social context in which it is embedded. Er, just like all the rest of us.

And be VERY careful about labeling people "imbeciles" and severing their fallopian tubes. After all "three generations of imbeciles are enough". Sigh!

What's my point, Charon asks?

Well, more of an instrumental stance towards scientific theories.

Do they produce the goods, like vaccines and rockets, as Mr Vat with his nonpareil brilliance suggests? Of course they do. Well, sometimes. I suppose we all have physics and chemistry and biology in mind now. Seems to me you might as well toss a coin than believe the prognostications of economists, say.

Should we believe scientific theories are literally true? I think not, Charon.

History strongly suggests that would be a bad idea.


P.S. Edit -- in my humble opinion. I could of course be hopelessly wrong. Happens a lot. But when it comes to severing fallopian tubes, I'd suggest erring on the side of caution. Who knows, given a new theory, we might turn out to be the imbeciles.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Reg_Prescott on May 27th, 2020, 10:29 am 

Just to add a little more, if you don't mind.

These days, of course, it is no longer PC to label the Eskimos, the Hottentots, the women, and the blacks mentally inferior. You just can't get away with that kind of thing anymore.

So, we're better now?

I don't think so. The blacks and the Hottentots might be off the hook, but nowadays scientists (well, a lot of them) have convinced themselves that the problem is now not the Hottentots and the Eskimos, but the religious folks.

Just try reading Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Harris. Their books might as well be entitled "What dafuq is wrong with Religious Idiots?". But of course, you have to be scientific about it.

And of course. you need proof, too. Same as the finest minds of the 19th century proved blacks were on an intellectual par with gorillas.

I'm not religious, by da way.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby TheVat on May 27th, 2020, 11:03 am 

Forest_Dump » May 27th, 2020, 4:50 am wrote:Truth be told, IMHO, Reg is correct on a few things. Objectivity is very difficult to achieve. "Facts" are often selected or preferred based on where they are believed to lead. Some branches, disciplines, lines of thought and investigation, etc., are selectively funded based on ideological tropes of the day. Peer reviewers are selected by editors in a manner that is not open for scrutiny and, thus, often for unknown reasons (they are anonymous) that are likely to include at least some measure of politics. Even the most prestigious academic positions are filled based on political and ideological criteria. We can't even agree on a definition of what science is. Science is actually a crummy way to generate any kind of knowledge - except in comparison with all the alternatives.


I like the Churchillian paraphrase at the end there. As I posted elsewhere, I'm besieged with work today, but will respond to posts in a day or so.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Forest_Dump on May 27th, 2020, 7:53 pm 

I have to admit that that bit of plagarism (?) was where I started.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Forest_Dump on May 27th, 2020, 11:13 pm 

As it happens I am slowly going through a book that some might find interesting here. "This Idea Must Die: Scientific Theories that are Blocking Progress" (2015) edited by John Brockman, includes short papers written by 175 people ranging from physicists to economists and including names like Pinker, Dennett, Dawkins, Jared Diamond and even Alan Alda and from topics like standard deviation to string theory, IQ, the theory of everything, Peer review, etc. Lots in there and some is contradictory. Even reg should find some things to agree with.
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Re: Science denialism

Postby TheVat on May 28th, 2020, 11:07 am 

Reg_Prescott » May 27th, 2020, 7:29 am wrote:
And of course. you need proof, too. Same as the finest minds of the 19th century proved blacks were on an intellectual par with gorillas.

I'm not religious, by da way.


I'm not sure Charles Davenport was of the finest minds, but he did seem able to convince politicians that he was, no doubt because his ideas fit with their anti-immigrant and/or segregationist policies.

His proofs didn't come up to even 19th century standards of proof, but they do demonstrate what you and Forest are pointing to about how science gets muddied with political currents.

It does speak well for science being able to occasionally take out its trash that we all remember Darwin but few remember his cousin Francis Galton, a eugenicist and proto-"Social Darwinist." (that latter term I dislike, since "Social Spencerian" would be more accurate)
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Re: Science denialism

Postby Reg_Prescott on May 28th, 2020, 11:46 am 

TheVat » May 29th, 2020, 12:07 am wrote:
I'm not sure Charles Davenport was of the finest minds, but he did seem able to convince politicians that he was, no doubt because his ideas fit with their anti-immigrant and/or segregationist policies.

His proofs didn't come up to even 19th century standards of proof, but they do demonstrate what you and Forest are pointing to about how science gets muddied with political currents.




Again, with all due respect, good sir, sounds a bit like a convenient rewriting of history.

Gould is nothing if not honest about these things. It is simply not the case -- if Gould is to be believed at least -- that only a few fringe elements and quacks decided the intellectual pecking order.

The finest minds of the day did determine that white males were top of the pecking order Then all these trailer trash races and genders in the middle -- Hottentots, Eskimos, Papuans Scots, women, and blacks at the bottom of the compost heap, of course.

Now, this might not be so bad if it were only an exercise in theoretical speculation. The practical consequences, alas, were somewhat dire.

Paul Broca, for example, is hardly what can be described as a nutjob. Sitll highly respected today.

But yes, perhaps a lesson can be learned. No one in these days, with precious few exceptions, had any doubt whatsoever that that these blacks were subhuman. Why, they don't even feel pain, no matter how hard you whip them. Everyone knew this.

Perhaps the wisest words I ever heard are from a wonderfully clever American philosopher-psychologist-polymath named Daniel N. Robinson (and I paraphrase).

"Whenever you think you have a handle on the truth. Whenever you think you've figured out what makes Jones tick. Look in the mirror and say 'I may be wrong'. I may be terribly and irretrievably wrong'. And in that you'll almost certainly be right."
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Re: Science denialism

Postby TheVat on May 28th, 2020, 4:33 pm 

Wasn't arguing that scientific racism wasn't popular. Even Darwin, an ardent abolitionist, took twenty years before he felt moved to condemn. I was just pointing out that the leading exponents, like Davenport or Havelock Ellis, were more driven by ideologies than by any genuine scientific impulse (like open-minded curiosity). Whereas men noted for their passion for research and empirical approaches like Alfred Russell Wallace were quite opposed to SR. But please don't misunderstand me, I am not in any way excusing that century's scientific establishment. I used to live in what was the 19th century's hotbed of Abolitionism, so I guess I like to acknowledge the many fine minds who rose in opposition to SR and were not part of the "everyone knew this" mob.

I sometimes wonder if you are so used to taking flack here that you have trouble recognizing a position that's not polarized with your own. Maybe not. Anyway, thanks for the inspiration of Mr Robinson.
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