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A pharma science prof explains how to “confront anti-science”

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For dim, self-satisfied self-righteousness, this item at The Scientist is definitely in the running:

The knee-jerk response to people who doubt established science or medicine is to dismiss their concerns as absurd: trusting in expertise is common sense. If your computer isn’t booting up, you don’t call the fire department. If your house is on fire, you don’t call a computer technician. Logic dictates that matters of science and health are best addressed by scientists and physicians.

But as Voltaire observed, “Common sense is not so common.” The abundance of quackery and pseudoscience currently succeeding in the marketplace of ideas demonstrates the human proclivity to reject the scientific method in favor of unestablished, or even disreputable, goods and services. The widespread resistance to vaccination against COVID-19 or other infectious diseases, in some cases resulting in threats and attacks on doctors, is testament to this flagrant rejection of expertise. It also underscores the urgency of addressing rather than ignoring this problem.

The solution lies in recognizing that people do not develop suspicions about scientists and medical experts in a vacuum. Some may have had horrible experiences with the healthcare system. Perhaps their health concerns were rudely scoffed at by contemptuous doctors. Some people reject what today’s experts say because yesterday’s experts said the opposite—a normal occurrence in the process of science but one that nonetheless can come across as inconsistent to people unfamiliar with such dynamics. And then there are issues concerning pharmaceutical companies and governments the world over that have made serious blunders in the past, from scandalously precipitating the opioid epidemic to sending confusing messages about the COVID-19 pandemic. While these reasons do not justify dismissal of entire professions or of the biomedical enterprise, acknowledging them should engender the empathy you need to have a constructive dialogue with skeptics.

Bill Sullivan, “Opinion: How to Confront Anti-Science Sentiment” at The Scientist (March 1, 2022)

No. Let’s go back to the beginning.

The ruinous COVID Crazy is the backdrop for this screed in defense of the medical/science establishment.

Two years of very costly hell, largely manufactured by corrupt “science” entities and enforced — as so famously in Canada — by authoritarian/totalitarian crackdowns, have caused many people to quite justifiably lose faith in Trust the Science!

The question isn’t whether science is a good thing but whether the current establishment is in fact focused on science or on maintaining/regaining control through pronouncements about “science” and edicts stemming from those pronouncements. One needn’t look far to see examples of the latter.

And what to do about that is the discussion we need to have.

You may also wish to read: Royal Society: Don’t censor misinformation; it makes things worse. While others demand crackdowns on “fake news,” the Society reminds us that the history of science is one of error correction. It’s a fact that much COVID news later thought to need correction was in fact purveyed by official sources, not blogs or Facebook or Twitter accounts.

3 Replies to “A pharma science prof explains how to “confront anti-science”

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    This asshole intentionally misses the point.

    “…a normal occurrence in the process of science but one that nonetheless can come across as inconsistent…”

    Inconsistency is no big deal when scientific OPINIONS are just WRITTEN in scientific journals. Inconsistency is tyranny when the daily changing opinions are COMMANDS ENFORCED BY JACKBOOTED THUGS IN ROOM 101.

  2. 2
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Scientists and doctors should treat science skepticism as a mystery that needs solving. Someone who is skeptical of science isn’t going to be swayed by more science, so switch from preaching to sleuthing. Why did this individual depart from the mainstream? What life experience led them to their unorthodox belief?

    He’s presenting it like it’s a new concept – clearly, something they never thought of or acted on before. “Why would a scientist depart from our mainstream narrative”? He’s pointing out the reactionary knee-jerk persecution the science elite gives to non-mainstream science, exactly as IDists (and others) have said for decades.
    So now a new twist. “We’ll treat them as a mystery to be solved. We’ll try to understand.”
    This comes across as if skeptics are mentally ill and need the elite’s best therapy to be cured.
    What they still won’t do is ask: “is it possible we got it wrong and maybe the skeptics have a good point?”
    Instead, as always, the mainstream protects itself and declares itself “the experts” who cannot possibly be wrong or subject to debate (as normal science always should be).

  3. 3
    polistra says:

    Instead of advising others to be nice and empathetic, he should put his mouth where his mouth is. He should offer to do a live debate with one of the hard-nosed skeptics, and then keep the promise.

    Stopping the crime is the first step toward regaining trust. Abject apology is the second step. Keeping a promise is the third step. First stop all the torture in all the countries and states. Then make an apology tour, personally visiting the houses and apartments of all 7 billion victims of the Nazi crimes and kneeling in abject submission.

    After that, the niceness and empathy might be worth hearing, though I doubt it.

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