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Oh dear: Defending against the enemies of science

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From Shawn Otto at Scientific American:

Four years ago in Scientific American, I warned readers of a growing problem in American democracy. The article, entitled “Antiscience Beliefs Jeopardize U.S. Democracy,” charted how it had not only become acceptable, but often required, for politicians to embrace antiscience positions, and how those positions flew in the face of the core principles that the U.S. was founded on: That if anyone could discover the truth of something for him or herself using the tools of science, then no king, no pope and no wealthy lord was more entitled to govern the people than they were themselves. It was self-evident.

In the years since, the situation has gotten worse. We’ve seen the emergence of a “post-fact” politics, which has normalized the denial of scientific evidence that conflicts with the political, religious or economic agendas of authority. Much of this denial centers, now somewhat predictably, around climate change—but not all. If there is a single factor to consider as a barometer that evokes all others in this election, it is the candidates’ attitudes toward science. More.

Do people really believe this stunned stuff? Today, science’s biggest enemy is itself. Look at the world around us.

Huge scandals around science in China and Iran, Retraction Watch here, the editor of Nature weighing in on peer review as “unscientific.”

And Otto thinks that the main problem is a disbelieving public? Amazing. But then again, maybe not. It’s called “avoidance.”

Thought experiment: What if the climate a-crock-a-lypse people are right? In the current environment, how would anyone know? Why on earth should scientists who doubt go to jail?

See also: Bunk science: The problem with peer review

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7 Replies to “Oh dear: Defending against the enemies of science

  1. 1
    alanbrad says:

    I am always disturbed by journalists who are deliberately misunderstanding the average “deniers” motivation. I am not a scientist (I am a programmer) but like someone buying a used car, I NEED to examine the car for myself because trusting the salesman and the mechanic that works for him is dangerous, and I could easliy end up with a lemon. When scientific theories are being presented to me as reasons to hurt our economy, it makes good sense to examine them critically. The promoters of “science” like the journalists at Scientific American seem to want us to accept what ever they say at face value, just like the used car salesman wants me to accept what ever he says at face value. I just think I am a fool if I do, and I wonder at the motives of people who want me to be a fool and be quiet about things like “climate change” when there is so much at stake.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    And just how has he, or anybody else, established the Global Warming scare as science?

    By Popper’s criteria of falsifiability, Global Warming does not qualify as science since it is not falsifiable:

    Climate Change is Unfalsifiable Woo-Woo Pseudoscience – video

    “In so far as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable; and in so far as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality.”
    Karl Popper – The Two Fundamental Problems of the Theory of Knowledge (2014 edition), Routledge

    Whereas Imre Lakatos held that a good scientific theory will be strong on novel predictions in science and a pseudoscientific theory will generate ‘epicycle theories’ to cover up embarrassing failed predictions. And on that criteria Global Warming qualifies as a pseudoscientific theory instead of as a scientific theory.

    The abject failure of official global-warming predictions – January 13, 2016

    The big list of failed climate predictions
    Anthony Watts / April 2, 2014

    List of excuses for ‘the pause’ in global warming is now up to 52 – Anthony Watts / September 11, 2014

    “In degenerating programmes, however, theories are fabricated only in order to accommodate known facts”
    – Imre Lakatos (November 9, 1922 – February 2, 1974) a philosopher of mathematics and science, , quote as stated in 1973 LSE Scientific Method Lecture

    If instead Otto tries to appeal to ‘consensus’ to try to establish that the Global Warming scare is a rigid science, well Michael Crichton has some fairly strong words for people who take the route of trying to define science as consensus:

    “I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.
    Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world.
    In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”
    Michael Crichton – Aliens Cause Global Warming: A Caltech Lecture

    Moreover, the consensus, even if consensus were a valid way to determine whether something was scientific of not, apparently does not exist:

    The myth of the 97% climate change consensus- May 2014
    Excerpt: the papers used to create and perpetuate the 97% claim are seriously and fundamentally flawed. The alleged consensus simply does not exist; much less does it represent anything remotely approaching 97%.

    One final note, it is funny how atheists are always trying to redefine science in such a way so as to only include beliefs that they themselves prefer to be true. In this case, if you disagree with the Global Warming scare you are anti-science.

    But this redefining of science by atheists goes well beyond Global warming.

    The artificial imposition of the philosophy of naturalism onto the entire enterprise of science prior to investigation, i.e. ‘methodological naturalism’, being the number one shining example of the Atheists unfairly trying to ‘rig the game’ beforehand so that only their preferred worldview is considered scientific.

    Yet, contrary to what atheists would prefer to be true beforehand, it would be hard to fathom a more unscientific worldview than naturalism has turned out to be,

    Darwinian evolution, and atheism/naturalism in general, are built entirely upon a foundation of illusions and fantasy
    Excerpt: Thus, basically, without God, everything within the atheistic/naturalistic worldview, (i.e. supposed evidence for Darwinian evolution, observations of reality, beliefs about reality, sense of self. free will, even reality itself), collapses into self refuting, unrestrained, flights of fantasy and imagination.
    It would be hard to fathom a more unscientific worldview than Darwinian evolution and Atheistic materialism/naturalism have turned out to be.
    Scientists should definitely stick with the worldview that brought them to the dance! i.e Christianity!

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    Pardon, As a balancing point, it is possible to either get into ill founded anti-science or to dress up questionable agendas in lab coats. Both objectors to dominant schools of thought and their advocates can go wrong. Let us hear two cheers for facts and logic, and a third for acknowledging the inherent provisionality of scientific thought of note. KF

  4. 4
    OldArmy94 says:

    1. Current global warming is far from a certainty.

    BUT, let’s assume global warming is occurring:

    2. The cause of current global warming is unknown, and there is no reason to indict human activity as its cause.

    BUT, let’s assume humans are causing global warming:

    3. Human-caused global warming may have more net positives than negatives, such as an increase in agricultural productivity.

    BUT, let’s assume that its effects are all negative:

    4. The solutions offered to stop human-caused global warming may not succeed in reversing the process.

    BUT, let’s assume that the solution is in our grasp:

    5. The solutions that can stop global warming may be more financially costly than is palatable to mankind and might leave humans in a much more precarious position by removing their means of production.

    And so on ad infinitum…

    This isn’t really only about global warming, of course, but it serves as an ideal example of why authors of this piece in Scientific American are either fools or dangerous ideologues.

  5. 5
    EvilSnack says:

    I’m not surprised that government officials are anti-science, because government officials are anti-evidence in general whenever the evidence argues against their desiderata. The evidence against central planning, welfare spending, the drug war, and so on, is conclusive, and these programs survive only because pushing them is an easy road to power and importance.

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:


    Derren Brown wants to see objective evidence for miracles? Challenge accepted – Oct. 10, 2016
    Excerpt: a listener challenged Christian physicians to come forward with miracle stories and objective evidence of them.
    Well, challenge accepted.
    I am a physician and have been treating patients for 23 years. Brown said he would want to verify a miracle healing with objective evidence such as vastly different x-rays. I have seen a number of cases that could be considered miraculous based on this criteria where patients have behaved in ways completely inexplicable with current medical knowledge. ,,,

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    With Ice Growing At Both Poles, Global Warming Theories Implode – October 1, 2016
    Excerpt: In the Southern Hemisphere, sea-ice levels just smashed through the previous record highs across Antarctica, where there is now more ice than at any point since records began. In the Arctic, where global-warming theorists preferred to keep the public focused due to some decreases in ice levels over recent years, scientists said sea-ice melt in 2014 fell below the long-term mean.,,,
    As The New American reported last month, virtually every falsifiable prediction made by climate theorists — both the global-cooling mongers of a few decades ago and the warming alarmists more recently — has proven to be spectacularly wrong. In many cases, the opposite of what they forecasted took place. But perhaps nowhere have the failed global-warming doom and gloom predictions been more pronounced than in the Antarctic, where sea-ice levels have continued smashing through previous records. For each of the last three years, ice cover has hit a new record high.

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