luzribeiro (luzribeiro) wrote in talk_politics,

Interesting approach to science

Scientists, Stop Thinking Explaining Science Will Fix Things

Short version: Spend less time explaining how something works and more time explaining why people should care. (Or perhaps speak more simply so Trump Supporters can understand). ;-)

By the way, this comes timely, as NdGT had a short 4-minute video the other day, which he claims contains the "most important words he has ever said", and is about science in America:


As for the issue at hand, I'd say the problem is people think belief is a valid answer. If they don't believe something then it doesn't matter what evidence science presents, it won't change their mind. Scientists use the scientific method and if evidence is contrary to current understanding, and the evidence holds up then the current understanding must change to fit the new evidence. The problem with belief is that it doesn't change despite new evidence and in fact it may get more entrenched as we're seeing with denial of evolution and climate change.

Educating people about science is more about giving them the tools to change their beliefs and accept that their worldview could be wrong. That's why when Ken Ham was asked what it would take to change his belief and he said 'nothing would' whereas Bill Nye replied 'evidence' then you can see the difference in black and white. If you won't change your view in the face of evidence then you're a lost cause and I'm not going to try and educate you.

On the other hand, there is a moral imperative on us all to understand the consequences of our actions. There is therefore a moral imperative on those who understand more clearly what those consequences are to explain what they are and why. This includes scientists.

This doesn't give those who understand authority to change what others do. Furthermore if, as the article suggests, they state their case in emotional terms in the hope of becoming more persuasive, or if, further, they start to oversimplify, exaggerate, or outright lie, in order to state a stronger case than they can honestly justify, they will, in the long run, defeat their own case and be justly ignored. The current reputation of dietary advice is a pretty good example of this, with most people remembering receiving contradictory advice at different times.

Perhaps I am casting scientists in the role of perpetual Cassandra, but better that than self-elected dictator. I think there are very few cases when any one person, however expert, knows all of the consequences of a particular decision, economic and political as well as technical, and so could sensibly be given dictatorial authority over that decision by virtue of their expertise.

As for the "dumbing down", I'll just conclude by citing Sagan:

"I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time - when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance. As I write, the number one video cassette rental in America is the movie Dumb and Dumber. Beavis and Butthead remains popular (and influential) with young TV viewers. The plain lesson is that study and learning - not just of science, but of anything - are avoidable, even undesirable. We've arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements - transportation, communications, and all other industries; agriculture, medicine, education, entertainment, protecting the environment; and even the key democratic institution of voting - profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.

Avoidable human misery is more often caused not so much by stupidity as by ignorance, particularly our ignorance about ourselves. I worry that, especially as the millennium edges nearer, pseudoscience and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive.

Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us - then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls. The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers.
Tags: logic, science
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