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Science writer boilerplate


Further to Barry Arrington’s UD’s Helpful List of Materialist Dodges, I’ve been know to accuse science writers of waving pom poms and loudhailers. Two types of expressions come to mind that generally fit the description of boilerplate.

1. Claims that science is described as uniquely self-correcting. Rubbish. Business is self-correcting too (market discipline). So is religion (reformations and revivals, for example). In fact, all human endeavours that succeed for any length of time must be self-correcting.

2. Claims that science is about evidence, not belief or superstition Well, goodness, we would hope so. The trouble is, the current mess that peer review is in shows that science is about a bunch of other things as well. The idea that basing decisions on evidence is unique to science is also bunk. Businesses do it all the time. For that matter, most Christians, if you asked them why they describe themselves as such, would say that it is the evidence for what Jesus has done for them and others.

And they wouldn’t be necessarily wrong: Religious people tend to be happier and healthier. Also:

Similarly, sociologist John H. Evans found conservative Protestants “equally likely to understand scientific methods, to know scientific facts and to claim knowledge of science. They are as likely as the nonreligious to have majored in science or to have a scientific occupation.”

In any event, religious affiliation tends to grow, not shrink, with education level. Joel Slotkin notes, “A new University of Nebraska study finds that with each additional year of education, the odds of attending religious services increased by 15%.” This finding accords with Charles Murray’s review of research in Coming Apart (2012).1 Despite well-publicized claims, there is no significant relationship between religion and the likelihood of ignorance of or indifference to science. More.

The boilerplate likely derives from a need to imagine a much greater level of certainty for science than its methods can provide.

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The trouble is, the current mess that peer review is in shows that science is about a bunch of other things as well.
Google up the following: peer review gibberish and you will find stories of computer generated gibberish research papers actually being published after "peer review." I can believe that happens. It doesn't always occur to people that what they are reading might be incomprehensible precisely because it has no meaning to comprehend.harry
April 20, 2015
06:34 AM

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