Saturday, May 8, 2010

Science, Denialism, and the Idea Fix

Science is one of those fields that many love to claim. Whether it is been homeopathy, eugenics or the many of the fringe movements, the claim to being a scientist or based on science. To say that is science proved this or that means in practice to stop debates or questions. Those that question the findings of science are the curse on humanity, the science deniers. Those whose home should be in the Middle Ages, funny how it is always the Middle Ages and not some other age. Now, do not misunderstand me, the endeavor that encompass the scientific quest has left humanity better off than our ancestors. My point is that it is still a human quest. A quest influenced by both the grace and bias of humanity. A quest that has to include humility less it becomes There have been those who use science to prove their biases. Eugenics, a science (?) claimed to prove racists theory with the evidence to prove it. The work of Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve shows such thinking is still with us.

Michael Specter newsy book takes on those dreaded science denialists in his newest book, Denialism, How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet and Threatens Our Lives. Below is his Ted talk which he outlines his complaints.

My criticism of his polemic is that though many of the examples from his book are cherry picked, and most claimed Science as their basis. He goes on a tirade against the don’t-vaccinate-because-it-causes-autism crowd. But, wasn’t started by a research Dr. Andrew Wakefield dubious scientific article. The whole Eugenics movement was comfortable with their science background. The real culprit in many of these cases is the idea fix that Stephen Jay Gould as brilliantly wrote about. We fall in love with a idea that we fight for it despite evidence against it. It is simply our arrogance. The problem seems to be human nature.

Listen to Michael Specter talk and tell me want you think.

1 comment:

Bruce said...

Human nature seems to gravitate towards ideologies as a way of promoting "our group" or "self" over the "others". These ideologies come in many forms: Christian Fundamentalism, Islamic Fundamentalism, Atheism, Science, Conservative, Liberal, etc. Perhaps the reason ideological rhetoric has grown is that any teaching on the denial of self has so much diminished. Monks once beat themselves and fasted for days in an effort to "deny themselves." Not that this was correct either, but it shows how much society has changed.

Matt 5:41, "If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." Can you see those of any ideologies going the extra mile with those whom they disagree?

And again, Matt 26:52, "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword."

Instead of fighting with the sword of ideology, we need people today with wisdom, or we will all perish by the sword.