• WISDOMfromPO-MO
    753
    I do not know if I have seen anybody more vilified than the minorities who dare question the orthodoxy and authority of the science establishment.

    I have seen it here at THE Philosophy Forum. Those who question the dominant narrative with respect to climate change, the safety of vaccines, the safety and food security of GMOs, etc. are regularly portrayed as intellectually incompetent, sociopathic nutcases who are a grave threat to all of humanity.

    But there's a thing called intuition. It tells me--and surely not just me--that nothing is never that simple, cut-and-dried, black and white, etc.

    What seems to always be lacking is empathy. You know, feeling what another person is feeling. Putting yourself in another person's shoes. Seeing the way things look from another person's vantage point. Etc.

    Therefore, I am glad that chance led me last night to the following. Somebody recognizing that supposedly "anti-science" people have genuine concerns. Finally.

    Here's the link: There is No Anti-Scientism Movement, and It’s a Shame Too.
  • andrewk
    1.6k
    I am strongly anti-scientism and I am also totally in favour of the destruction of claims of climate denial and anti-vax nonsense, whether that be by public ridicule or any other means. Too many people will suffer and die if we wait to consider the feelings of the poor, gullible people that have been sucked in by such nonsense.

    Scientism is about claiming that science is the answer to all our questions, a proposition that is palpable nonsense. The use of science should be restricted to scientific topics - LIKE climate change and the risks and benefits of vaccination.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    I have seen it here at THE Philosophy Forum. Those who question the dominant narrative with respect to climate change, the safety of vaccines, the safety and food security of GMOs, etc. are regularly portrayed as intellectually incompetent, sociopathic nutcases who are a grave threat to all of humanity.WISDOMfromPO-MO

    I don’t see it.

    The scientific facts behind climate change, and the effectiveness of vaccination for preventing illness, are established beyond reasonable doubt.

    In respect to the former - there has been considerable fear, uncertainty and doubt cast on the science by lobbyists associated with fossi fuel companies, and by industrialists with vested interests. It’s very unfortunate that the facts of climate change have now been dragged into lunatic debates about green politics and conspiracy theory. It is a clear and present danger to the lives of billions of people and needs to be dealt with accordingly - soberly, effectively, and guided by the science.

    As for anti-vaccination theories, they are either misguided idealists or simply misinformed. In any case, their misinformation is pernicious and again can lead to many preventable deaths and illnesses.

    As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, ‘everyone has a right to their own opinions, but nobody has a right to their own facts’.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.8k
    For a few years I worked in an AIDS-service agency that had attracted quite a few unconventional types who believed in crystals as healing devices, practiced some fairly far-fetched alternative cures, and some were anti-vaxers. Global warming didn't happen to come up often at the time, so... don't know about that one.

    This would have been the kind of place where you once would have found HIV deniers also -- "Oh no, AIDS isn't caused by a virus; it is caused by yada yada yada." They would have denounced the first AIDS drugs as poisons -- which, of course, they were -- many chemotherapies are basically poisons.

    There were HIV negative people who wanted to get infected because they were attracted to the intense brotherhood and camaraderie of the diseased pariahs (back in the 1980s). All of this stuff is not just anti-science; some of it is anti-rational, as well, and moving on from there, downright harmful, or dangerous for one's personal survival. There were other screwy ideas -- like going to Taos, New Mexico to immerse one's self in an energy vortex (don't ask, I don't know).

    There ideas have causes. The anti-vaxination plague wasn't caused by a fraudulent article in a medical journal, but the article pumped gasoline into the fire. The idea that HIV doesn't cause AIDS began at the same time as AIDS did -- before a solid theory was worked out--and the first wrong guesses never went away. People have been spinning out alternative cures for ... decades? Centuries? A long time, anyway. I don't know why people find these far fetched ideas better than what they consider "crazy scientific ideas", but some do.

    Lack of intelligence doesn't correlate well with holding these highly unscientific ideas. Some of the idea holders I've known are really quite intelligent. Maybe slightly crazy, but definitely not stupid. Many of them were also quite pleasant people who, for the most part, led more or less normal lives doing productive work.
  • Harry Hindu
    1.5k
    Scientism is about claiming that science is the answer to all our questions, a proposition that is palpable nonsense. The use of science should be restricted to scientific topics - LIKE climate change and the risks and benefits of vaccination.andrewk
    If you plan on actually answering all questions, each method of answering cannot contradict another. All knowledge must be integrated into a consistent whole. That whole would be science.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    I find it absolutely bizarre that people are advocating drawing a distinction between some realms of science (like vaccinations) and some metaphysical claims (like the existence of an Abrahamic God, or dualism).

    I'm genuinely struggling to understand this. The pharmaceutical companies are one of the largest and most profitable sectors in the world. They have an absolutely proven record of hiding poor results, misinformation and bad research. Medicines once thought safe have actually, in the real world, turned out later to be dangerous. Only recently, roacutane (used for years for skin conditions) has been shown to cause Crohns disease in the long-term. So what I'm struggling with is why the idea that information from (or funded by) the pharmaceutical companies about the short to medium term safety of their own highly profitable product might not be entirely accurate is considered insane, but the idea that some supernatural being might be pulling all the strings, or that we have free-will derived from some magic realm no one can see, are considered legitimate topics for intelligent discussion.
  • WISDOMfromPO-MO
    753
    Too many people will suffer and die if we wait to consider the feelings of the poor, gullible people that have been sucked in by such nonsense.andrewk

    I think that Election Day 2016 in the U.S. is a good example of what happens when "the feelings of the poor, gullible people that have been sucked in by such nonsense" are not considered.

    I do not think that historians and social scientists hundreds of years from now will say that lives were saved.

    The use of science should be restricted to scientific topics - LIKE climate change and the risks and benefits of vaccination.andrewk

    The genie is already out of the bottle.

    Science is used in service to everything now.

    It would not surprise me if public relations firms advise clients that in order to defeat the competition they are going to have to outflank them with scientific credentials, references, language, etc., no matter how much it corresponds with "the facts".

    It does not help when intellectuals/scholars cannot demarcate science and non-science.

    Speaking of "facts", I have seen enough evidence from social commentators--many of them trained and employed in the natural sciences--of the dishonesty with the general public, lack of respect for the intelligence of members of the general public, politics, and other wrongs done by the science establishment to say that it is as culpable in the confusion over policy as any of the supposedly "anti-science" elements.
  • WISDOMfromPO-MO
    753
    Lack of intelligence doesn't correlate well with holding these highly unscientific ideas. Some of the idea holders I've known are really quite intelligent. Maybe slightly crazy, but definitely not stupid. Many of them were also quite pleasant people who, for the most part, led more or less normal lives doing productive work.Bitter Crank

    Yet, apparently their supposedly highly intelligent, highly rational opponents easily fall for the narrative that says that there is a significant anti-science movement made up of nutcases.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    Yet, apparently their supposedly highly intelligent, highly rational opponents easily fall for the narrative that says that there is a significant anti-science movement made up of nutcases.WISDOMfromPO-MO

    It is true, as some have mentioned already, that the AGW-skeptical movement (that is, people skeptical of the anthropogenic contribution to recent and foreseen global warming) has been fueled by fossil fuel interests, and also by economic libertarian ideology. However, it seems also to be a drawback from the crude scientism that has been for a long time pushed by the scientific community. From my experience debating climate science in internet fora, most AGW-skeptics view themselves as advocates and defenders of sound science. The same is true, by the way, of anti-vaxers, in general. Just like the mainstream advocates of "official" scienfic positions, they tend to have a fetish for an idealized version of the scientific method that is broadly Popperian and falsificationist. The problem that skeptics face in grasping the rationale behind some mainstream scientific conclusions isn't methodological. It is rather, to put it crudely, that they don't have a clue what it is they are talking about. That's simply because they lack a sufficient formal training in the relavant fields.

    The main thing that prevents mainstream scientists who advocates the crude "scientific method" to go off the rails and fall into pseudoscience, as the skeptics often do, is their actual expertise and active participation in a well developed scientific research tradition. It isn't reliance on any kind of mythical universal method that accounts for the success of science. Hence, when the skeptics charge the mainstream scientists with failures to actually be practicing science in the only way their own endorsed method advocates that they should do, they are correct. In order to correctly assuage the worries of the skeptics, the mainstream scientists would need to highlight the substantial flaws in their arguments, and also criticize the ideologies that bias the skeptics' evaluations of the practical aims and other social aspects of the research, rather than advocate for them to accept mythical methodological principles that nobody actually obeys.
  • unenlightened
    2.9k
    Let's have a chat about Milankovitch cycles. Be aware that we are not dealing in mere centuries here, so they won't explain anything sudden, like.


  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    ...so they won't explain anything sudden, like.unenlightened

    Indeed, the variable Milankovitch forcing explains the slow and regular Holocene cooling trend that has occurred since the Holocene Climatic Optimum, roughly 7,000 years ago. It doesn't explain why this cooling trend suddenly reversed a little more than a century ago, and why the climate has warmed as much, over the last few decades, as it had previously cooled, over seven millennia. The human caused increase of atmospheric CO2 (and also methane,CFCs, N2O, etc.) concentration explains this unnatural warming.

    shakun_marcott_hadcrut4_a1b_eng.png

    Source: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/09/paleoclimate-the-end-of-the-holocene/
  • WISDOMfromPO-MO
    753
    In respect to the former - there has been considerable fear, uncertainty and doubt cast on the science by lobbyists associated with fossi fuel companies, and by industrialists with vested interests.Wayfarer

    How did they get the resources to do that?

    It’s very unfortunate that the facts of climate change have now been dragged into lunatic debates about green politics and conspiracy theory.Wayfarer

    You mean there was a time when industrialization and climate change were seen together completely through an objective lense?

    It is a clear and present danger to the lives of billions of people and needs to be dealt with accordingly - soberly, effectively, and guided by the science.Wayfarer

    Use what put people in danger to get them out of danger?

    As for anti-vaccination theories, they are either misguided idealists or simply misinformed. In any case, their misinformation is pernicious and again can lead to many preventable deaths and illnesses.Wayfarer

    What breeds and fuels that misinformation?

    As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, ‘everyone has a right to their own opinions, but nobody has a right to their own facts’.Wayfarer

    Interpretation needed.
  • NKBJ
    316
    Claiming that science and empathy are somehow at odds is a false dichotomy.
    Empathy is precisely what drives me to vaccinate my children. If I am fortunate enough to be healthy and have healthy offspring, I have an obligation towards those less fortunate to help establish herd immunity so that they do not die of the whooping cough, rubella, polio, etcetcetc.

    Intuition is great, but it can lead you astray. That's where pretty much all logical fallacies come from: our intuitions being imperfect. The gambler's fallacy, for example, feels so right, but is oh so wrong!
  • Ciceronianus the White
    781
    Like General Ripper, I oppose all efforts to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids. But to be serious:

    From the link in the OP: "[T]here is always some room for both doubt and confirmation bias in nearly all scientific findings." So what?

    There's always some room to doubt, period. Hasn't philosophy thrived on doubt? Sometimes to the point of absurdity, I would say (e.g., Descartes).

    But it's foolish to require absolute certainty, and so foolish to rely on the lack of absolute certainty as a guide to policy, or practical decisions of any kind. Probability is all we can reasonably require; the higher the better, of course. "There's always some reason to doubt" is no basis for decision-making.
  • WISDOMfromPO-MO
    753
    Claiming that science and empathy are somehow at odds is a false dichotomy.NKBJ

    Straw man.

    I said that empathy is lacking. I did not say anything about things being "at odds".

    Empathy is precisely what drives me to vaccinate my children. If I am fortunate enough to be healthy and have healthy offspring, I have an obligation towards those less fortunate to help establish herd immunity so that they do not die of the whooping cough, rubella, polio, etcetcetc.NKBJ

    None of this answers the question. Is there, or is there not, an anti-science movement made up of intellectually incompetent, sociopathic nutcases who are a grave threat to all of humanity?

    Intuition is great, but it can lead you astray. That's where pretty much all logical fallacies come from: our intuitions being imperfect. The gambler's fallacy, for example, feels so right, but is oh so wrong!NKBJ

    So it is as simple as there is an anti-science movement made up of intellectually incompetent, sociopathic nutcases who are a grave threat to all of humanity?
  • WISDOMfromPO-MO
    753
    But it's foolish to require absolute certainty,Ciceronianus the White

    Where has anybody said that it is a requirement?

    and so foolish to rely on the lack of absolute certainty as a guide to policy, or practical decisions of any kind. Probability is all we can reasonably require; the higher the better, of course. "There's always some reason to doubt" is no basis for decision-making.Ciceronianus the White

    Again, what does that have to do with anything anybody has said?

    The only thing I see being said is:

    1.) There is not an anti-science movement.

    2.) The disagreements over climate change, GMOs, the safety of vaccines, etc. are about values, not about science. Critics of the prevailing science have genuine concerns, such as their concern about losing more and more control over what is in the food that they eat.

    3.) More science sometimes make such disagreements intractable.

    4.) The misunderstanding about 1.)-3.) is due to scientism.

    5.) "Far too many citizens talk as if they believe science can do their politics for them. It is about time we put that belief to rest."
  • WISDOMfromPO-MO
    753
    The problem that skeptics face in grasping the rationale behind some mainstream scientific conclusions isn't methodological. It is rather, to put it crudely, that they don't have a clue what it is they are talking about. That's simply because they lack a sufficient formal training in the relavant fields.Pierre-Normand

    And all of the ideologues who use science to attack religion, attack social conservative opponents in debates over sex education, transgenderism, homosexuality, etc. do know what they are talking about and do have sufficient training in relevant fields?

    In order to correctly assuage the worries of the skeptics, the mainstream scientists would need to highlight the substantial flaws in their arguments, and also criticize the ideologies that bias the skeptics' evaluations of the practical aims and other social aspects of the research, rather than advocate for them to accept mythical methodological principles that nobody actually obeys.Pierre-Normand

    But the ideologies of "pro-science" laypeople do not need to be criticized the same way?
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    And all of the ideologues who use science to attack religion, attack social conservative opponents in debates over sex education, transgenderism, homosexuality, etc. do know what they are talking about and do have sufficient training in relevant fields?WISDOMfromPO-MO

    No, the exact opposite, actually. When natural scientists talk about the climate, they have a tendency to be informed about this particular topic (although there are exceptions). When they venture into social and political science, and into philosophy, they tend to speak like ignoramuses.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    But the ideologies of "pro-science" laypeople do not need to be criticized the same way?WISDOMfromPO-MO

    Yes, they need to be criticized in the same way. Scientists are just as likely to be ideologically biased as any other kinds of intellectuals.
  • NKBJ
    316

    Straw man.

    I said that empathy is lacking. I did not say anything about things being "at odds".
    WISDOMfromPO-MO

    I don't think my argument constitutes a strawperson, even if I'll admit to needing to rephrase that sentence--the rest of my argument still stands: scientists and those who give them credence do not lack empathy; their motivations are very often driven precisely by empathy.

    Is there, or is there not, an anti-science movement made up of intellectually incompetent, sociopathic nutcases who are a grave threat to all of humanity?WISDOMfromPO-MO

    THAT sounds more like a strawperson to me--so, because I disagree with anti-vaxxers I am necessarily villainizing them? I think they need to check their facts, and I think laws need to prohibit them from exposing the vulnerable to fatal diseases, but I still am able to empathize with their reasoning.

    I will admit that I think the owners of corporations like Exxon mobile are (or at least promote) anti-science and are villainous--but I do not think that they are the same, or have the same motivations as the average person who is anti-science.

    Perhaps you could clarify who exactly makes all anti-science people out to be villains? When do they do this? How does it manifest itself? Are you perhaps mistaking vehemently disagreeing with someone with not being able to understand/empathize with their view?
  • WISDOMfromPO-MO
    753
    the rest of my argument still stands: scientists and those who give them credence do not lack empathy; their motivations are very often driven precisely by empathy.NKBJ

    That is a red herring.

    I did not say that any particular individual or group lacks empathy.

    I said that a particular group is always vilified and is never responded to with empathy.

    THAT sounds more like a strawperson to meNKBJ

    No.

    Any disagreement is always framed as intelligent, rational, mostly secular, pro-science people who have purely altruistic intentions and are our only hope versus stupid, delusional, often religious fundamentalist, people who are against science and who are a grave threat to humanity.

    but I do not think that they are the same, or have the same motivations as the average person who is anti-science.NKBJ

    I do not think that these "anti-science" people exist.

    Are you perhaps mistaking vehemently disagreeing with someone with not being able to understand/empathize with their view?NKBJ

    It is not about "able".

    It is about actual practice.

    In actual practice, yes, it is extremely rare to see anybody who is critical of the minority in debates over GMOs, climate change, mandatory vaccinations, etc show any empathy or compassion for members of that minority. Instead you often get responses like this:

    Too many people will suffer and die if we wait to consider the feelings of the poor, gullible people that have been sucked in by such nonsense.andrewk
  • andrewk
    1.6k
    Instead you often get responses like thisWISDOMfromPO-MO
    Thank the Good Lord for that!
  • WISDOMfromPO-MO
    753
    Thank the Good Lord for that!andrewk

    In other words, "Thank the Good Lord that some of his children are treated by their brothers and sisters as less than human".
  • Ciceronianus the White
    781
    It's hardly surprising those involved in these disputes differ regarding values. I doubt there is anyone who would contend otherwise. Why is that significant, or even interesting?

    Interesting to me is the place and uses of science, of critical reasoning and intelligence generally, in these disputes. My earlier post addressed what I think is a similarly insignificant and uninteresting claim made in the article you applaud, which I quoted. That claim is that there is always some room for doubt as to almost all scientific findings. This assertion, together with the fact that opponents of, e.g., evolution, vaccination and climate charge refer to science or at least scientists in doing so, is used to indicate that those opponents are not anti-science.

    That there may be room for doubt as to scientific findings does nothing in itself to explain or justify this opposition. My point is that what should be considered in determining whether and to what extent scientific findings should be relied on i n making decisions on these issues should be what we lawyers like to call the weight of the evidence. In the case of evolution, for instance, we compare the scientific evidence supporting it and the scientific
    evidence supporting intelligent design.

    If the scientific evidence supporting the theory of evolution is of far greater quality and more reliable than the scientific evidence supporting the theory of intelligent design, then the fact that there may be "room for doubt" the evidence supporting evolution, and the fact that there may be some scientists who are critical of the theory of evolution and believe in intelligent design doesn't establish that those who criticize the theory of evolution and believe in intelligent design are not anti-science. It establishes instead that they refuse to accept that there is overwhelming evidence indicating that the theory of evolution is correct, regardless of the fact that there may be "room for doubt."

    That refusal may very well be the result of the fact that they think the weight of the scientific evidence is of far less worth and value than something else. But, it also results from the fact that they maintain that the scientific evidence--science--should not be considered. That seems pretty anti-science to me.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    Being patronising will not help your (ahem!) "argument"charleton

    Your own argument is that CO2 is a trace gas and that, as such, it can't contribute much to the enhanced greenhouse effect. It is true that CO2 is a minor component of the atmosphere, which is mainly composed of oxygen and nitrogen. However, both oxygen and nitrogen are gases that are fully transparent to infrared radiation, and so their relatively much higher concentration is quite irrelevant to the CO2 contribution to the greenhouse effect. The CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is high enough that, at sea level pressure and dry conditions, almost all of the upwelling infrared radiation has already been scattered by CO2 molecules on the first ten meters on their way up.

    Interestingly enough, skeptics have harped on this fact to argue that the atmosphere already has achieved CO2 saturation and hence increases in CO2 levels can't have any additional effect. This premise runs exactly opposite to your own. What those skeptics neglect, however, is that while the atmosphere is radiatively opaque to infrared radiation in most of the troposphere, in the higher reaches of the atmosphere it is much thinner and there is a level where it is tenuous enough for most of the infrared radiation to escape to space. This highest level of opacity (which varies as a function of wavelength) rises when the concentration of CO2 increases, and, owing to the convective lapse rate, comes to have a lower temperature and hence a lower power of emission. This is the reason why increasing the concentration of atmospheric CO2 reduces the ability of the atmosphere to radiate back to space the power received from the Sun.

    Another interesting and relevant fact is that collisions between CO2 molecules and other molecules (such as oxygen and nitrogen) produce what is called pressure broadening of the CO2 spectral lines. It makes CO2 molecules more efficient in scattering infrared radiation. So, the fact that there is such a high concentration of nitrogen and oxygen, compared with CO2, in the atmosphere, actually makes the CO2 molecules more efficient rather than less as a greenhouse gas, which also runs exactly counter to your argument that since CO2 is such a minor relative constituent of the total atmosphere it can't be relevant.
  • charleton
    1.2k
    The CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is high enough that, at sea level pressure and dry conditions, almost all of the upwelling infrared radiation has already been scattered by CO2 molecules on the first ten meters on their way upPierre-Normand

    No water vapour is the most potent greenhouse chemical and well as methane.
  • charleton
    1.2k
    Another interesting and relevant fact is that collisions between CO2 molecules and other molecules (such as oxygen and nitrogen) produce what is called pressure broadening of the CO2 spectral lines.Pierre-Normand

    Interesting but speculative.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.5k
    No water vapour is the most potent greenhouse chemical and well as methane.charleton

    Methane is indeed a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 is, on a per-molecule basis, but it also is over 200 times less concentrated (1800 parts per billion compared to over 400 parts per million for CO2). As a result, the radiative forcing from the anthropogenic increased in methane concentration is about one third that of the increased CO2 concentration. Obviously, it's part of the problem too, but methane also is less long lived in the atmosphere.

    As for water vapor, its contribution to the greenhouse effect is indeed larger than that of non-condensable greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane. However, its average concentration in the troposphere is being controlled by temperature rather than the other way around. Average water vapor concentration in the troposphere thus functions as a feedback that increases the enhanced greenhouse effect consequent on an increase in the concentration of non-condensable greenhouse gases. It's because of water vapor that the equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) to a doubling of CO2 (or equivalent forcing) is something around 3K/(W/m^2) rather than something around 1K/(W/m^2).

    (ECS could actually be anywhere between 2K/(W/m^2) and 4.5K(W/m^2) but the main source of the uncertainty isn't the water vapor feedback, which is very well understood, but rather the cloud feedback.)

    Interesting but speculative.charleton

    Hardly. It has been a basic principle spectroscopy almost since its inception although the precise quantum mechanical explanation followed the observation.
  • CuddlyHedgehog
    459
    are regularly portrayed as intellectually incompetent, sociopathic nutcases who are a grave threat to all of humanityWISDOMfromPO-MO
    It’s a pretty accurate description actually :smile:
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