Gee, it’s like what, Religion and Science.?
I’d trust Science more than any Religion.
Religion scares me, after all, we are constantly killing one another over a Religious beliefs, in the name of a God..
Commercialization of science is a factor in loss of credibility. If some finding helps sell a product, it’s promoted; if not it’s junk science. Very little science today is as definitive as Newtonian physics; findings are tentative. More research should be performed is a pretty standard phrase in conclusions. But maybe the public is still in the Newtonian mindset — that to be believed at all, science should provide “the answer,” and if it doesn’t, then my concept is as good as theirs.
Yes, we need dialog between scientists and “the public.” If such an ideal can be imagined, how can we form public learning group, where the learning is not confined to the technology investigated by specialists?
If you adopt a religious worldview then it becomes clear how scientists and those who crusade for their findings actually make sure that ordinary people will not listen. Assumptions of authority and the moral high ground have lead ordinary people to be suspicious and eventually to reject purely on principle.
Secular society was formed by rejecting control by an oligarchy. There has been over a century of secular development; the right to vote, to have an opinion, and to question authority.
Much resistance to science arises from the elite science bureaucracy acting very much like the old priestly bureaucracy and refusing to respect the ordinary person
Not all scientific facts exist in the same social context. I believe most well researched and replicated findings, but I do not always use those findings to decide how to behave. In particular I’m thinking about GMOs and their use in large scale industrial farming. I accept that they probably pose a small risk to me individually, but I choose not to take that risk and avoid GMO foods as much as is possible. These techniques are controlled and used by powerful economic interests. Many scientists are socially linked to these interests through grants and employment. Why do scientists get so upset when people choose to avoid GMO foods and lobby Congress to insure proper labeling? What interests do they serve?
Scientists like to say that “the plural of anecdote is not data” but for us laypeople, first- or second-hand anecdotal evidence overwhelmingly trumps scientific or statistical evidence. Serious adverse events from vaccination are rare, but if one of my kids had a seizure following vaccination, I would probably not vaccinate any of my kids after that. I would choose the free-rider path, knowing that my kids probably won’t get measles as long as YOUR kids are vaccinated. I’m not sure this is an irrational position.
It occurs to me that some, maybe many, people have a different concept of truth that is anchored to the “feeling” of truth…the kind generated through an honestly held belief in a deity or some cosmic based intelligent power. The truth science defines is limited to what our perceptions and our inventions can verify, a very different foundation. Perhaps these people find it threatening for Science to have earned so much credit through the ever building collection of provable facts. However vague their own consciousness of this might be, it might be functioning as tacit resistance to what they choose to describe as “to scientific”.
This is all very nice, but like dozens or scores of similar pieces, there is a word missing: “honesty.” Why do I never see that word, or its antonym “dishonesty,” used in this discussion? I agree that the knowledge deficit model is not working. But why should the honest scientific community be afraid of standing proudly on the moral ground of fact and calling out as immoral the dishonest denial of reality?
I would never label as dishonest a spiritual or philosophical belief. However, when discussing physical realities, I frequently denounce what I call “The Dishonesty of Belief.”
This is a moral issue because one cannot claim to be a moral person if one is dishonest about overwhelming evidence.
And I offer the reminder for these discussions that “belief” is a contronym which must be used with care. “Belief” is appropriately used to mean “faith,” which requires no evidence, but it can also be used to denote acceptance of something as fact because of valid evidence. Failure to recognize that dual meaning of “belief” often results in people talking past each other when discussing this issue.
I have a lot of experience engaging with science-denying creationists. Attitude is important; I can hardly expect them to be willing to learn from me unless I make it clear that I am ready to learn from *them*. And learn from them I have, being forced to sharpen my own logic and, on occasion, being told about relevant facts, which must be incorporated into a deeper understanding.
But one thing I have also learnt; to be very suspicious when anyone claims that “plenty of scientists” support this or that view; I have heard this said too often in support of creationism, as well as, repeatedly, climate change denial, and always ask who, and on what grounds.
I am a firm believer in not generating waste if I can’t somehow recycle it.
Thank you for this important article. As a scientist, I regularly struggle to communicate the importance of my work with animal rights activists. Your article, highlighting Slovic’s work, underscores the need for more storytelling — a la StoryCollider (https://www.storycollider.org/) –by scientists, in exactly the kinds of settings that you describe at the end of your article. This kind of work by scientists will in fact “bring scientists and the public together in an uncomfortable space, where they are forced to try to understand each other.” It also speaks to Lisa Blair’s comment above that the conversations are too scientific.
Nuclear power is not equivalent to vaccinations. Chernobyl, Three Mile Islabd, Fukuyama. Plenty of scientists are opposed to it because if the massive downside
Interesting. I’ve long felt that the general public is not interested in science because the conversations are often too scientific if you will. Our society operates under social norms, e.g. how does that impact me personally, my community, my state, my nation, and the world-at-large, though there is less concern about the world-at-large.
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