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Thread: How to deal with secular antiscientific people?

  1. #1 How to deal with secular antiscientific people? 
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    I know most of the criticism of science comes from religious people, but very often I meet secular individuals who are very suspicious of scientific endeavor and scientists in general.

    Once I had a teacher who constantly affirmed that science was responsible for the Nazi holocaust, and that it dehumanized people. I was so appalled that I couldn't even produce a reply to her.

    The stuff I normally hear:

    -- science is relative;
    -- science was created by a dominant class as means of coercing lower classes;
    -- truth is not discovered by science, it's created;
    -- science is imperfect because it depends on scientists, and scientists are imperfect tools to analyze the world;
    -- science alienates man;
    -- there are things science cannot and will never explain;

    How do you deal with this people? Most of the time I just shrug, sigh and display my disbelief, but I don't know if I should argue back.

    What other stuff do you hear and what's your opinion about it?


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    I thought about this the other day. How to deal with people who don't agree with science. It's actually pretty simple. Tell them to look around. Almost everything we use today, we have because of science.

    If they don't think science works or don't agree with science. Simply tell them to never go to a hospital if something happens. Tell them they shouldn't watch TV, or use computers or drive cars or wear synthetic fabric.

    You would be hard pressed to find any item an a house in today's world, that is being used practically, that hasn't been affected in some way by science.

    They want proof science works? The modern world is proof science works.


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    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    Yes, the classic post-modernist critique of science.

    To which I would suggest those secular people go read a philosopher of worth, like Martha Nussbaum, and realize that post-modernism is a load of bunk and intellectual masturbation that has rendered the humanities departments of universities even more arbitrary than they would be otherwise.
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    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    Yes, the classic post-modernist critique of science.

    To which I would suggest those secular people go read a philosopher of worth, like Martha Nussbaum, and realize that post-modernism is a load of bunk and intellectual masturbation that has rendered the humanities departments of universities even more arbitrary than they would be otherwise.
    Nearly all of Academia is bunk. I hate pseudo-intellectuals: people who use fancy, verbose phraseology to confound people and to spread propaganda or simply to make a quick buck. Stephen King, for example, is a best-selling author because he appeals to basic, visceral reactions of an audience which apparently reads at the 10th grade level and is dumb enough to think that a possessed car or a drooling, demon dog are more frightening than reality itself. Intelligent people know that non-fiction is the best (most important...most truthful..most unbiased...most accurate) material to read and discuss. If you are in college and not studying history or science you are most likely wasting your time with conjecture or, if you are an English, Spanish or German major, wasting your time studying mundane things like grammar.
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  6. #5 Re: How to deal with secular antiscientific people? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kadu
    How do you deal with this people? Most of the time I just shrug, sigh and display my disbelief, but I don't know if I should argue back.
    I don't know. Scientific illiteracy is strikingly high in the western world (consider some of the topics that are created here, for example), and I really don't think you can easily change someone's mind when they've formed an opinion on a foundation of ignorance.

    Personally, the only time my views have ever changed was when I opened myself to the possibility and did the reading myself, under my own initiative. For most anti-science types, that's not likely to happen.

    I'd find a round-about way to ask them if they vote. If they don't, then don't worry about it.
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  7. #6 Re: How to deal with secular antiscientific people? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by tenderheart bear
    I'd find a round-about way to ask them if they vote. If they don't, then don't worry about it.
    Brilliant!!
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  8. #7 Re: How to deal with secular antiscientific people? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kadu
    very often I meet secular individuals who are very suspicious of scientific endeavor and scientists in general.
    This is not something that I've come across at all. The secular (i.e. not overtly religious) individuals I know generally are very pro-science. Where do you meet these people?
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  9. #8 Re: How to deal with secular antiscientific people? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Quote Originally Posted by Kadu
    very often I meet secular individuals who are very suspicious of scientific endeavor and scientists in general.
    This is not something that I've come across at all. The secular (i.e. not overtly religious) individuals I know generally are very pro-science. Where do you meet these people?
    In the humanities departments of most universities over here. I believe it's the same thing in every university where continental philosophy was influential (namely Italy, France, German and its colonies). I think it was Foucault who said that science is a form of power used to oppress people.

    As I'm interested in neuroscience (applied to human beings), I usually cross paths with professors and students from the humanities, and it really is sad. Despite not having any deep knowledge of science, they do have a very elaborated pre-formated critical view of how science is evil. It's very ideological and borderline irrational.
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    University for me is a distant memory.

    So in what kind of jobs do these people end up? Do they have much influence? Should we really be concerned about a bunch of not-so-bright academics talking amongst themselves?
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  11. #10 Re: How to deal with secular antiscientific people? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kadu
    In the humanities departments of most universities over here. .
    That makes sense. My take on the humanities (perhaps as distorted as their take on the sciences) is that it is easier to be a complete tosser and get away with pure nonsense in the humanities because an argument only has to sound good. It doesn't have to stand up to repeatable experimental verification.
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    As the religious debates are senseless, such are the scientific. The contrast between religion and science is only a bit greater than contrast between humanity and natural sciences. You simply have to be the specific type of person for it, and I do strongly believe, that people with talents for natural sciences, will in the next few years be greatly valued.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    So in what kind of jobs do these people end up? Do they have much influence? Should we really be concerned about a bunch of not-so-bright academics talking amongst themselves?
    Their influence is mostly local these days, I believe. They won't change the world (in fact I think that in the future the humanities will rely more and more on science and the scientific method), but they can influence local social policy, for instance. They can also discourage young people from a career in science.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Quote Originally Posted by Kadu
    In the humanities departments of most universities over here. .
    That makes sense. My take on the humanities (perhaps as distorted as their take on the sciences) is that it is easier to be a complete tosser and get away with pure nonsense in the humanities because an argument only has to sound good. It doesn't have to stand up to repeatable experimental verification.
    Yes, I always thought the standard for theories was always very low in the humanities.
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    Haasum's reply is pretty good. The evidence that science rules is all around us.

    The thing is, though, that the ability to appreciate real world evidence is a characteristic of those who appreciate science. The people who deny science are intellectual onanists, and credible empirical evidence means nothing to them.

    The forces of evolution work against those who are complete idiots. Maybe all we need is time to get rid of these morons.
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  15. #14 Re: How to deal with secular antiscientific people? 
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    -- science is relative;

    Science is relative.


    -- science was created by a dominant class as means of coercing lower classes;
    Science was created by the upper class, but is currently a middle class practice, which consequently turned it into shit, like any middle class activity acts on any activity.

    -- truth is not discovered by science, it's created;
    True. See for instance: Latour and Woolgar. "Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts". Classic book.

    -- science is imperfect because it depends on scientists, and scientists are imperfect tools to analyze the world;
    Absolutely true, and even worse, we currently are selecting for CV scientists which makes the goal of finding the 'truth' even more unimportant.

    -- science alienates man;
    It does. I alienate people because I am a scientists and view problems from a scientific perspective.

    -- there are things science cannot and will never explain;
    Absolutely true. Science only deals with natural phenomena for instance.


    It seems that the list with criticisms weren't really bad at all. Most of them were well thought through arguments that scientists adhere to as well. Some of them were slightly on the edge. Some of them didn't go far enough.

    Maybe you have an idealistic view of science????
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    post-modernism is a load of bunk and intellectual masturbation
    This has, by the way, been scientifically proven by an experiment.
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    This has, by the way, been scientifically proven by an experiment.
    The Sokal Hoax isn't scientific proof that all post-modernism is rubbish anymore than the Bogdanov Affair is proof that all physics is rubbish. It's a gross overgeneralisation that whiffs of confirmation bias.

    However, i am wary of post-modernist thought, not least because ot pervades journalism and media outlets, who report science to the public, often being taken out of context to get headlines. I think the threat they pose to science is much greater than is given credit in this discussion.[/quote]
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    Lousy and sensation-seeking reporting cannot directly threat the way science is done by researchers, but it can, and does, get in the way of proper knowledge finding its way to the public, and may have a negative impact on the funding of research - both by the governments (at any level) and by charities or private sponsors.

    PS: I sometimes meet people who call themselves "humanists" (perhaps "a humanities person" would be a better translation of the term they use), which, in their opinion, justifies some or all of the following:

    - ignorance (which some are actually proud of) and contempt of mathematics (except counting money), computer science, physics, cosmology etc, regardless of the philosophical implications of those areas; at best, they will invoke Einstein when they proclaim that "everything is relative";
    - condescension towards the scientifically minded;
    - supporting the idea that most mathematics in the school curriculum should be optional.

    Before long, school children will be given a note from their doctors saying they are incurably "humanist" and should be exempted from learning the multiplications table.

    Somehow, while the scientists and engineers I know may or may not be knowledgeable in history, literature, music and art, at least they are never proud of their ignorance. And the greatest humanist (without inverted commas) of all times, Leonardo da Vinci, did know his maths.
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    I call bullshit here.

    Nobody has proven that any of the original statements were the product of a post-modernist mind.

    Yet, we already have arrived at the state of debunking post-modernism, and furthermore this done by using the straw man fallacy.

    I find this a thoroughly unscientific approach.

    I call your bluff and demand logical reasoning why the statements are post modern.

    I have seen no evidence for this hypothesis.
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    I call bullshit here.
    Fair enough.

    I can only talk about my field; health. This is an interesting article expounding a post-modernist agenda within health care:

    Deconstructing the evidence-based discourse in health sciences: truth, power and fascism. International Journal of Evidence-based Healthcare, Volume 4, Number 3, September 2006, pp. 180-186(7)

    Here's the abstract, but i'd recommend reading the full article, it is actually interesting.

    Background Drawing on the work of the late French philosophers Deleuze and Guattari, the objective of this paper is to demonstrate that the evidence-based movement in the health sciences is outrageously exclusionary and dangerously normative with regards to scientific knowledge. As such, we assert that the evidence-based movement in health sciences constitutes a good example of microfascism at play in the contemporary scientific arena.

    Objective The philosophical work of Deleuze and Guattari proves to be useful in showing how health sciences are colonised (territorialised) by an all-encompassing scientific research paradigm – that of post-positivism – but also and foremost in showing the process by which a dominant ideology comes to exclude alternative forms of knowledge, therefore acting as a fascist structure.

    Conclusion The Cochrane Group, among others, has created a hierarchy that has been endorsed by many academic institutions, and that serves to (re)produce the exclusion of certain forms of research. Because ‘regimes of truth’ such as the evidence-based movement currently enjoy a privileged status, scholars have not only a scientific duty, but also an ethical obligation to deconstruct these regimes of power.


    In particular it's critical of the Cochrane library, descibing it as a 'micro-fascist' institutuion. They make some good points, many of which demonstrate how post-modern thought is evident in the questions posed in the original post.

    Spuriousmonkey - this was your concern, that the questions on the original post were not necessarily post-modern? I know it's only one article (the only one i know of in my field to be honest), but does this satisfy your objection?

    To my mind there are two confounded issues. One is a philosophical question regarding the nature of 'truth' and 'reality'. The other is an institutional question whether, if truth is objective, scientists can find them without being biased by all those things humans are biased by. I for one think 'truth' is objective but that scientific institutions are far from (e.g. while big pharma has profit as it's primary outcome measure, things like the Avandia debacle will continue).
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    The ideas in the initial post are certainly based in post-modernist thought, drawing on Derridean deconstruction, Foucault's ideas of power determining knowledge, and some late Marxist thought from Gramsci and Althusser's critiques of elites influencing "truth."

    I certainly agree science is not perfect, and certainly not scientist. The problem I have with these post-modern critiques is that they are often being used to justify positions of absolute relativism and nihilism. They would like us to believe because science is not perfect, that it is equivalent to absolutely baseless sources of knowledge. They proceed from deconstructing the reliability of science as a means to understand reality to concluding that their pet subjective political ideology is an equally valid way to understand the world.
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  22. #21 Re: How to deal with secular antiscientific people? 
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    I'll give practical examples of how these statements can be translated. I can't agree with a single one:



    Quote Originally Posted by spuriousmonkey
    -- science is relative;

    Science is relative.
    "Saying that genetics and DNA play a role in the origin of human life and every other life is relative, it's not a fact. This is just a point of view. I say it's totally acceptable to say that DNA plays no role in the emergence of human beings"


    -- science was created by a dominant class as means of coercing lower classes;
    Science was created by the upper class, but is currently a middle class practice, which consequently turned it into shit, like any middle class activity acts on any activity.
    "Science primal goal is to be used by governments and the intellectual class to propagate their own political and social agenda. Science is not committed to truth or real knowledge"

    -- truth is not discovered by science, it's created;
    True. See for instance: Latour and Woolgar. "Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts". Classic book.
    "Affirmations like 'the planet Earth revolves around the sun', or 'matter is made of smaller particles' are inventions. We can't discover whether if they are true or not; they were invented by scientists, and then the flawed and biased scientific method was used to as means to pass it over as a genuine fact"


    -- science is imperfect because it depends on scientists, and scientists are imperfect tools to analyze the world;
    Absolutely true, and even worse, we currently are selecting for CV scientists which makes the goal of finding the 'truth' even more unimportant.
    "Safeguards like statistical analysis of data, double blind trials, control groups, replication, falsifiability and everything else that was created to prevent human flawed perception from contaminating data do not mitigate the fact that all results are phony, because they were obtained from flawed scientists."

    -- science alienates man;
    It does. I alienate people because I am a scientists and view problems from a scientific perspective.
    "Studies from neurobiology saying that there is no soul and that we are the product of neurons firing is dehumanizing. Science can't deeply comprehend humans. Science brings despair and niihilism"

    -- there are things science cannot and will never explain;
    Absolutely true. Science only deals with natural phenomena for instance.
    "Science can't, for instance, explain consciousness, therefore we have a soul.
    Science can't explain what happened before the big bang, therefore it was all created by a supernatural supreme being.
    Science can't explain a lot of things, so why should we trust it as the best epistemological method available anyway?"


    It seems that the list with criticisms weren't really bad at all. Most of them were well thought through arguments that scientists adhere to as well. Some of them were slightly on the edge. Some of them didn't go far enough.

    Maybe you have an idealistic view of science????
    I think the criticisms are very naive.

    And I don't think my view of science is idealistic. I believe science is the best method for explaining the world, bar none. I don't think it is perfect, though. But I do think it is has more authority to talk about the world than phenomenology, marxsist thought, magical thinking or religion.
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  23. #22  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard spuriousmonkey's Avatar
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    "Saying that genetics and DNA play a role in the origin of human life and every other life is relative, it's not a fact. This is just a point of view. I say it's totally acceptable to say that DNA plays no role in the emergence of human beings"

    I have no clue what you are trying to say here. Is this your own definition of 'relative'?

    If it is then it sucks. Science being relative isn't a radical statement. It is an absolutely normal dogma in the history of science. without it you couldn't do history of science.

    "Science primal goal is to be used by governments and the intellectual class to propagate their own political and social agenda. Science is not committed to truth or real knowledge"

    The transition of science to a middle-class activity from an upper-class activity is also a normal concept from the history of science.

    See Kohler RE. 2005. ISIS. 96:224-229. and Kohler RE. 2008. ISIS. 99:761-768.


    "Affirmations like 'the planet Earth revolves around the sun', or 'matter is made of smaller particles' are inventions. We can't discover whether if they are true or not; they were invented by scientists, and then the flawed and biased scientific method was used to as means to pass it over as a genuine fact"

    Once again you seem to prefer your own strange ideas on concepts than those actually published by real scientists. I gave you a classic reference. You ignored it.

    I am going to stop here, because you are clearly an anti-scientific person more interested in your own ideas than those going on in the scientific community. Pick one topic of interest and i will smack the your ears red with references of real scientists saying exactly what you think are anti-scientific statements.

    You know why this is possible? Because a superficial interest in science doesn't reveal the depth of scientific thought, the self doubt and criticism of scientists, or the richness of scientific thought.

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  24. #23  
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    You do understand that:

    1. these are not my statements, these are extreme examples of what some people think of science;
    2. I don't agree with them, I just posted them to illustrate the issue and how irrational I think the criticisms are.
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