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Conformists: Why dissent is bad for science

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Pos-Darwinista writes to call our attention to several preprints on why dissent is bad in science. Okay, okay, there is good dissent, which is accepted by the Establishment, and then there is bad dissent, which is not accepted by the Establishment. Text Galileo.

1. Climate Skepticism and the Manufacture of Doubt: Can Dissent in Science be Epistemically Detrimental?: Biddle, Justin and Leuschner, Anna (2015) [Preprint]

Abstract: The aim of this paper is to address the neglected but important problem of differentiating between epistemically beneficial and epistemically detrimental dissent. By “dissent,” we refer to the act of objecting to a particular conclusion, especially one that is widely held. While dissent in science can clearly be beneficial, there might be some instances of dissent that not only fail to contribute to scientific progress, but actually impede it. Potential examples of this include the tobacco industry’s funding of studies that questioned the link between smoking and lung cancer, and the attempt by the petroleum industry and other groups to cast doubt upon the conclusion that human consumption of fossil fuels contributes to global climate change. The problem of distinguishing between good and bad dissent is important because of the growing tendency of some stakeholders to attempt to delay political action by ‘manufacturing doubt’ (Oreskes & Conway 2010). Our discussion in this paper focuses on climate science. This field, in our view, is rife with instances of bad dissent. On the basis of our discussion of climate science, we articulate a set of sufficient conditions for epistemically problematic dissent in general, which we call “the inductive risk account of epistemically detrimental dissent.”

2. Epistemic Corruption and Manufactured Doubt: The Case of Climate Science: Justin B. Biddle, Ian James Kidd, Anna Leuschner

Abstract: Criticism plays an essential role in the growth of scientific knowledge. In some cases, however, criticism can have detrimental effects; for example, it can be used to ‘manufacture doubt’ for the purpose of impeding public policy making on issues such as tobacco consumption and greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., Oreskes & Conway 2010). In this paper, we build on previous work by Biddle and Leuschner (2015) who argue that criticism that meets certain conditions can be epistemically detrimental. We extend and refine their account by arguing that such criticism can be epistemically corrupting—it can create social conditions that are conducive to the development of epistemic vice by agents operating within them.

3. On Epistemically Detrimental Dissent: Contingent Enabling Factors v. Stable Difference-Makers: Soazig Le Bihan and Iheanyi Amadi

Abstract: The aim of this paper is to critically build on Justin Biddle and Anna Leuschner’s characterization (2015) of epistemologically detrimental dissent (EDD) in the context of science. We argue that the presence of non-epistemic agendas and severe non-epistemic consequences are neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for EDD to obtain. We clarify their role by arguing that they are contingent enabling factors, not stable difference-makers, in the production of EDD. We maintain that two stable difference-makers are core to the production of EDD: production of skewed science and effective public dissemination.

Reality check: No one with a government or corporate job fronting Approved Science wants to hear from people who raise issues, especially if the issues those people raise actually matter.

People don’t believe that the planet is warming up if they don’t experience it for the same reasons that they wouldn’t believe that the planet was drying out if every local house’s  basement was flooded. Passing new laws won’t change that.

Tobacco is an interesting example for the authors at 1. to pick. People who smoke today, at least in the Western world, generally know that they are shortening their lives. They seem to prefer a shorter, hazier life.

If those people do not have the right to smoke anyway, we need a detailed explanation of why they do not, rather than the above blather about people not accepting science. Look, I’m listening, okay?

See also: Evergreen biology prof Bret Weinstein’s shocking testimony at You Tube: So where are the science organizations that should be supporting him? Communing with their shoes?

3 Replies to “Conformists: Why dissent is bad for science

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    It’s simple. Opponents are people who want less evil. They are bad dissidents and must be exterminated. Pluponents are people who want even more of the existing evil. They are good dissidents and must be encouraged.

    My vector diagrams:

  2. 2
  3. 3
    asauber says:

    “we articulate a set of sufficient conditions for epistemically problematic dissent in general, which we call “the inductive risk account of epistemically detrimental dissent.”

    Waiter, some extra dressing for this word salad, please.

    Andrew

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