Robbert Dijkgraaf muses on the barbarians at the gates of science at Nautilus:
What does the evolving frontier of knowledge mean for society’s relationship with science? Long borders are difficult to patrol. Professional gatekeepers of scientific knowledge can no longer control the flow of information as they used to. In an age of the “University of Google,” people no longer rely on established, peer-reviewed literature but rather seek out manifold sources on the Internet. Fragments of scientific knowledge get absorbed into society this way, as do some scientific values and thinking—which by itself is good. But many of these fragmented bits of knowledge are also invalidated, politicized, and of dubious quality.
Actually, a lot of what us rubes found has been dismaying.
This self-driven accumulation of “knowledge” has created a healthy dose of skepticism among the public toward facts and arguments, as well as a more intense public engagement. Some speak of the modern citizen as a “proto-scientist,” emulating, no doubt incompletely, some of the well-established practices of academia. It is no longer enough for experts to argue by means of what mathematicians fondly call “proof by intimidation.” The authority of science has been eroded by these public debates, a subject that deserves a separate discussion. One of the immediate consequences is that the scientific community will have to spend much more time engaging with policy makers and the public, not only communicating the products of research, but also the scientific method itself.More.
Consider, for example, nutrition science claims, the war on falsifiability, non-evidence-based science, and the criminalization of dissent.
Rubes did not create that. Science boffins did. Most cases of barbarians threatening the gates originate in corruption from within.
So don’t tell us about the scientific method. Practise it.
Often, the barbarian is just someone who realizes what the show is really all about.
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