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Why do people who haven’t earned trust think they are entitled to it?

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Related imageNow there’s a psych research question for you. From Mike Klymkowsky at PLOS, more public handwringing about popular distrust of science:

Is the popularization of science encouraging a growing disrespect for scientific expertise?

So why do a large percentage of the public ignore the conclusions of disciplinary experts? I would argue that an important driver is the way that science is taught and popularized [3]. Beyond the obvious fact that a range of politicians and capitalists (in both the West and the East) actively distain expertise that does not support their ideological or pecuniary positions [4], I would claim that the way we teach science, often focussing on facts rather than processes, largely ignoring the historical progression by which knowledge is established, and the various forms of critical analyses to which scientific conclusions are subjected to, combines with the way science is popularized, erodes respect for disciplinary expertise. Often our education systems fail to convey how difficult it is to attain real disciplinary expertise, in particular the ability to clearly articulate where ideas and conclusions come from and what they do and do not imply. Such expertise is more than a degree, it is a record of rigorous and productive study and useful contributions, and a critical and objective state of mind. Science standards are often heavy on facts, and weak on critical analyses of those ideas and observations that are relevant to a particular process. As Carl Sagan might say, we have failed to train students on how to critically evaluate claims, how to detect baloney (or BS in less polite terms)[5].More.

Sensationalism is a  perennial pop media issue. Better, in terms of possible reforms, is to admit public skepticism is often well-justified. The problems with peer review, the supposed gold standard of science, are becoming generally known, for example. Where those issues are not competently addressed in medical journals, for example, complaining that the public resorts to quacks is a waste of time.

See also: New AAAS prez wants honesty re skepticism about science?

and

Historic journal Nature is freaked out over American public school science classrooms – again.

One Reply to “Why do people who haven’t earned trust think they are entitled to it?

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    He’s right about the failure of education. Memorizing facts does nothing. Lots of direct experimentation and manipulation of reality is the only way to learn ANYTHING.

    But he’s wrong about the effects of this failure.

    In fact the real skeptics are people who have done a lot of actual manipulation and experimentation, and people who have worked in academic science. When you know how reality works, and when you know how academia works, you can INSTANTLY spot the falseness of the public experts.

    People who have memorized facts are far more gullible to the fake facts of the experts, because they only know how to hear and repeat sentences given BY AUTHORITIES.

    Nature never lies. Experts nearly always lie.

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