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Old 05-20-2020, 08:52 AM
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Is there a paradigm shift happening about science/scientists perceived role in society ?


About 20 or 30 years back science and scientists were perceived as the champions of humankind. It was also perceived that science would take us to the new frontiers of human accomplishments and wellbeing.

Nowadays it seems like Science and the Scientific community at large has lost its respect in human society. Whether it be climate science, medicine or food science, science or scientists are perceived to have their own agenda or commercial interest and are not perceived to be working for the common man.

So, do you think first of all if the above observations hold some ground ? And if so, what’s the prognosis for science’s place in society?
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Old 05-20-2020, 08:56 AM
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...
Nowadays it seems like Science and the Scientific community at large has lost its respect in human society. ...
No, that hasn't happened. Not in educated, well-read, rational, literate circles anyway. Just in conspiracy-theory circles. Since you didn't cite, I won't either when I say I claim that most people still believe in and trust science and scientists.
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Old 05-20-2020, 09:02 AM
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I don't know, a lot of folks nowadays who think of themselves as educated, well-read, rational, and literate have been pretty busily ignoring scientists, and then congratulating themselves on how scientific they're being.
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Old 05-20-2020, 09:03 AM
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No, that hasn't happened. Not in educated, well-read, rational, literate circles anyway......
I see people from these educated circles shopping at Whole Foods all the time when science says Organic food is no better Go figure

Or at farmers markets when science says local grown food is not the best for environment

Or buying organic cotton when science shows it is worse for the environment

Or breastfeeding babies as a lifestyle choice ....

Last edited by am77494; 05-20-2020 at 09:06 AM.
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Old 05-20-2020, 09:14 AM
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I see people from these educated circles shopping at Whole Foods all the time when science says Organic food is no better Go figure

Or at farmers markets when science says local grown food is not the best for environment

Or buying organic cotton when science shows it is worse for the environment

Or breastfeeding babies as a lifestyle choice ....
I see that "anecdotes are not data" is a reality that is denied constantly...
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Old 05-20-2020, 09:18 AM
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No, that hasn't happened. Not in educated, well-read, rational, literate circles anyway.
I agree. There has always been suspicion and even anti-science feelings out there. It's just that, with modern technology, those people can be a lot louder and reach a lot more people with their rants.
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Old 05-20-2020, 09:31 AM
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I see that "anecdotes are not data" is a reality that is denied constantly...

Instead of that snark, you could have easily asked me for data. Here is the data anyways :

The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class
Book by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett

Quote:
In today’s world, the leisure class has been replaced by a new elite. Highly educated and defined by cultural capital rather than income bracket, these individuals earnestly buy organic, carry canvas tote bags, and breast-feed their babies....

Bolding mine.

Last edited by am77494; 05-20-2020 at 09:33 AM.
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Old 05-20-2020, 09:38 AM
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What a coincidence. I, too, judge the education and intelligence of people based on the material their tote bags are made of.
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Old 05-20-2020, 09:42 AM
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Well, this discussion is going nowhere fast. To the OP: no one is taking your question seriously. Oops.
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Old 05-20-2020, 09:46 AM
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Books are not data either am77494. What I usually see are would be researchers that do realize that instead of doing science and confronting peer review, they would rather write a book to distribute their opinions.

As for paradigm shifts, following the same behavior like Marat before the French revolution did not do wonders to France, if it takes place in America all the people will be affected (that also includes the ones that do think that disparaging science or the scientists is a good thing to do)

In reality the bit of 'having their own agenda or commercial interests and are not perceived to be working for the common man.' is/was a propaganda point from people like Marat who did succeed into needlessly discrediting real scientists like Lavoisier. It did not end good.

https://uh.edu/engines/epi728.htm
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He belonged to the Academy of Science. When Jean-Paul Marat tried to become a member, Lavoisier pointed out that his writings were empty. Marat was furious. As the Reign of Terror heated up, he used the Revolution to attack Lavoisier.

Marat had done his damage before Charlotte Corday stabbed him to death in his bath. The Revolution finally arrested Lavoisier and sent him to the guillotine.

Before the arrest, Lavoisier wrote to his friend Ben Franklin. He wished Franklin's level head were around to cool things down. From prison he wrote to his cousin. These events would at least save him the troubles of old age.

The mathematician LaGrange lamented the beheading. He said,

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It took them only an instant to cut off that head,but France may not produce another like it in a century.

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Old 05-20-2020, 09:48 AM
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Some people like to conflate different disciplines together as science. Some disciplines like physics are well understood and rigorous outside the bleeding edge, other disciplines like social psychology are full of charlatans, and unfounded claims. Lumping them together as science does a disservice to the actual sciences. Some times this is done for political reasons, acting like not believing a particular climate model is akin to disbelieving gravity.
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Old 05-20-2020, 09:52 AM
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Well, this discussion is going nowhere fast. To the OP: no one is taking your question seriously. Oops.
This is borderline threadcrapping and personal insult rolled into one. Respectfully Mam, may I know the reason for this hostility ?
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Old 05-20-2020, 09:53 AM
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Well, this discussion is going nowhere fast. To the OP: no one is taking your question seriously. Oops.
I'll give it a shot.

Carl Sagan spoke about the topic of science becoming less and less understood, even scorned by the general population and government. He wrote about it in the Demon Hunted World and this is his last interview with Charlie Rose (May, 1996) where he speaks about this topic very eloquently.
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Old 05-20-2020, 09:54 AM
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Well, this discussion is going nowhere fast. To the OP: no one is taking your question seriously. Oops.
I am surprised to hear that. Today we have the "University of Google" so people can believe they "know more" than scientists. There's also "WhatsApp University" (my mother is a graduate), "Facebook U", "Twitter College", and the like.

A vaccine and autism "expert" (and porn star) said she relied on the University of Google rather than scientific reports to support her beliefs.

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In a 2016 survey by the National Science Foundation, more respondents expressed “a great deal” of confidence in science leaders than in leaders of any other institution except the military. On public policy issues, Americans believe that science leaders are more knowledgeable and impartial than leaders in other sectors of society, such as business or government. Why do people say that they trust scientists in general but part company with them on specific issues?
Link: https://www.scientificamerican.com/a...m-a-scientist/

In Canada, a sizeable minority (44%) consider scientists to be "elites", which is a social dynamic.

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The Canadian figures are from a global survey of more than 14,000 people between July and September 2018. It's the second year 3M has done the research.

At a time when accelerating climate change and wildlife loss are placing science at the top of the public agenda, the survey found 32 per cent of respondents were skeptical about it. That was up from 25 per cent the previous year.

"It moved from one person out of four to one person out of three," Chartrand said. "It's difficult for us to understand why."
It's getting worse.

Link: https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/s...rvey-1.5291291
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Old 05-20-2020, 09:54 AM
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Some people like to conflate different disciplines together as science. Some disciplines like physics are well understood and rigorous outside the bleeding edge, other disciplines like social psychology are full of charlatans, and unfounded claims. Lumping them together as science does a disservice to the actual sciences. Some times this is done for political reasons, acting like not believing a particular climate model is akin to disbelieving gravity.
Well since climate science as been going on for more that 100 years, it is clear that they do not look at one model only. In fact, as the whole lame discussion about the medieval warming period showed, it has been climate change deniers the ones who still insist to this day that an early (and very limited) model based on a local British recreation of past climate was the beesnees and it should be used as gospel. Real scientists are not doing that.

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Old 05-20-2020, 10:07 AM
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Follow the money, guys. Bad science is a hugely profitable business.

Do you need a study that says your product doesn’t cause cancer? That the cleaning solution your company makes doesn’t linger in the environment? Are you a politician that wants to repeal some environmental legislation but you a study to back up your position?
You can buy that. There’s a company called Exponent that specializes in product defense and they’ll find a “scientist” to promote pretty much any point of view that you want.

Our maybe you need some doctors to say that abortions cause cancer or to claim that Hydroxychloroquine cures COVID. Look no further than the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, a group of professionals whose mission is to co-opt medicine to the service of political conservatism.

It’s a deliberate tactic intended to manufacture doubt and controversy where it’s shouldn’t exist. The average citizen doesn’t understand that in this climate the opinion of one doctor or scientist or even a group of doctors and scientists is meaningless. The only thing that should count is broad and widespread consensus.

But that goes against our love for innovation and thinking outside the box as well as our desire to have our biases confirmed. So we will continue to be subjected to “science” that is little more than propaganda.

It’s a pervasive problem that’s getting worse and it’s compounded by a general lack of understanding about scientific methodology.

I’ve been watching it play out for weeks now. I’ve been watching a mostly useless drug gain traction with the public as a miracle cure. And it’s not harmless. The real harm doesn’t lie in the possible side effects of the drug (although those exist). The harm - and the ulterior motive behind the promotion IMHO- is that it is an effort to convince people that they are immune from a dangerous disease, for reasons that are largely political.

It’s not just “stupid people ignoring science”. It’s way worse than that.

Last edited by Ann Hedonia; 05-20-2020 at 10:08 AM.
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Old 05-20-2020, 10:30 AM
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About 20 or 30 years back science and scientists were perceived as the champions of humankind. It was also perceived that science would take us to the new frontiers of human accomplishments and wellbeing.
I'm old enough to remember attitudes from 20-30 years ago, and there were as many anti-science people then as now. And at that time people imagined a mythical type 20-30 years prior to that (that I am not old enough to remember) when science and scientists were well-respected.

Society has always treated science like Mr. Spock. They want him there, but they definitely want Captain Kirk to be the one in charge. Balls and glory on top, with science and reason clearly subordinate.
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Old 05-20-2020, 10:31 AM
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It’s not just “stupid people ignoring science”. It’s way worse than that.
Very true, I'm afraid. Conservative politicians have noticed that actual science and facts are getting in the way of their political goals.

There is a very deliberate and organized plan to discredit science underway. Muzzling science is a thing that is happening. And it's being done in order to stop reality from getting in the way of a political agenda.

Don't like statistics about how your hobby or business kills people? Forbid any research into it. Simple.

Want to promote a miracle cure so you can sell snake oil? Fire any researchers whose data shows it to be ineffective. I mean, they were standing in the way of profit, which is un-American.
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Old 05-20-2020, 10:34 AM
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Follow the money, guys. Bad science is a hugely profitable business.
While I do agree, the issue here is about science/scientists being not trusted or doing no good things for society.

You are correct about the abuses of people in power finding "McExperts" to support dubious claims, but that actually shows that most people are not following a shift, as in 'we are not trusting right away what any guy in a lab coat on TV or the internet is telling us". People on the whole do still perceive science as a good thing to have (even if it can be twisted from time to time by economic interests).

BTW, to the OP: this is what data looks like:

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tan...le-in-society/
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Most in the U.S. see net benefits from science for society, and they expect more ahead. About three-quarters of Americans (73%) say science has, on balance, had a mostly positive effect on society. And 82% expect future scientific developments to yield benefits for society in years to come.

The overall portrait is one of strong public support for the benefits of science to society, though the degree to which Americans embrace this idea differs sizably by race and ethnicity as well as by levels of science knowledge.

Such findings are in line with those of the General Social Survey on the effects of scientific research. In 2018, about three-quarters of Americans (74%) said the benefits of scientific research outweigh any harmful results. Support for scientific research by this measure has been roughly stable since the 1980s
And that is even when most of the same surveyed people reported to be skeptical when it is shown that a researcher has conflicts of interest on a subject.
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Old 05-20-2020, 10:44 AM
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Conservative politicians have noticed that actual science and facts are getting in the way of their political goals.

There is a very deliberate and organized plan to discredit science underway.
Yup. Facilitated by the universal and natural human desire to be able to feel smart without working for it.

If some scientist is spouting off equations and graphs about some complicated technical stuff that you don't understand, and you happen to "know" that the scientist is "just trying to promote some political agenda", then voila, you "know" all you need to know about that complicated technical stuff without having to do the work of actually learning anything about it. Very gratifying.
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Old 05-20-2020, 10:49 AM
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You are correct about the abuses of people in power finding "McExperts" to support dubious claims
This is the subject of an excellent book from nearly twenty years ago by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, called Trust Us, We're Experts! How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future.
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Old 05-20-2020, 11:04 AM
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This is the subject of an excellent book from nearly twenty years ago by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, called Trust Us, We're Experts! How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future.
Thanks!

I wanted to do some reading on the subject and I just started with The Triumph of Doubt by David Michaels. So far I’m not incredibly impressed with his writing and I’m glad for another book recommend.
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Old 05-20-2020, 11:12 AM
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It is the nature of our “civilized” culture. Our economy is fundamentally based on deceit. If that one guy fucked you over, it is your fault because you were not paying attention or were just not smart enough to see it coming, and that one guy may well have had article IV § 15 clause 4 (the law) backing his (possibly unethical) play.

The smart guys are always looking for an angle, a way to properly take more of your stuff that they are reasonably entitled to. Hence, we have developed a natural tendency to distrust the smart guys, because so many of them are leveraging their wit and cunning toward the overfucking.

Scientists are the really smart guys. Hence, they must be looking for ways to fuck us over, because that is what smart guys do. Why should we trust them over those other guys who tell us what we want to hear and make us feel smarter than the smart guys?
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Old 05-20-2020, 11:12 AM
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I don't see a ''paradigm shift'' in which science is derided now.

The rise of Internet "research" and intense social media sharing among the doggedly ignorant has had a negative effect on perceptions of science/scientists, along with credulously poor reporting by major media which trumpets new research without providing context, leading to disillusionment when conflicting views and evidence emerge (that's always been part of science which many don't realize).

Then there are revelations of hanky-panky in research. We hear a lot more now about manipulated and made-up evidence leading to scandals and retractions. Part of the reason is that there are many more professional and amateur sleuths examining published papers and detecting fraudulent activity, so one could get the impression there's been an explosion of sleaze when better detection plays a large part.

Sorry to keep harping on this, but understanding of science's role depends heavily on our teaching critical thinking skills to schoolchildren, so they'll be less susceptible to the siren song of quacks and conspiracy theorists.
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Old 05-20-2020, 11:16 AM
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....Some times this is done for political reasons, acting like not believing a particular climate model is akin to disbelieving gravity.
Hey, OP, it's happening in this very thread!

OP, I don't understand your local food thing -- people I know don't eat local food because it's better for the environment. They do it to support their local economy and because the food will be fresher and often tastier.
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Old 05-20-2020, 11:31 AM
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https://www.sciencedaily.com/release...1114161912.htm
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A new report analyzing decades of public opinion surveys reveals that the public's trust in scientists has remained stable and high over decades.

By various measures, Americans reported that they trusted scientists more than they trusted many other institutions and professions, including journalists, judges and Congress. That trust can affect how people interpret scientific information related to human health or government policies.

In the 2018 General Social Survey (GSS), about 40 percent of respondents reported a great deal of confidence in the leaders of scientific institutions, a number that has changed little since surveying began in 1973. A majority expressed either a "great deal" or "some" confidence in the scientific community throughout the survey period.
Over the last 50 years science skepticism has probably increased in the Republican party particularly on the issue of climate change but it doesn't seem to have broadly affected public opinion.
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Old 05-20-2020, 11:36 AM
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It is the nature of our “civilized” culture. Our economy is fundamentally based on deceit. If that one guy fucked you over, it is your fault because you were not paying attention or were just not smart enough to see it coming, and that one guy may well have had article IV § 15 clause 4 (the law) backing his (possibly unethical) play.

The smart guys are always looking for an angle, a way to properly take more of your stuff that they are reasonably entitled to. Hence, we have developed a natural tendency to distrust the smart guys, because so many of them are leveraging their wit and cunning toward the overfucking.

Scientists are the really smart guys. Hence, they must be looking for ways to fuck us over, because that is what smart guys do. Why should we trust them over those other guys who tell us what we want to hear and make us feel smarter than the smart guys?
I know this is playing the devil's advocate, but there is a very good reason to trust science, it allowed us to really f*** over other nations that wanted to f*** us over. Hence the point made early that even the ones that think that they are doing good by disparaging science are in reality shooting themselves in their feet.

It is really almost obligatory to point here at deGrasse Tysen and Bill Moyers when they made the point that even republicans will have to eventually realize that defending science leads to American prosperity, supporting ignorance does lead to eventual ruin, and this is about economics so they need to listen. So when will that happen? I'm afraid it will take place by having most Americans voting the Republicans out of power so then they will get the message.
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Old 05-20-2020, 11:36 AM
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About 20 or 30 years back science and scientists were perceived as the champions of humankind. It was also perceived that science would take us to the new frontiers of human accomplishments and wellbeing.

Nowadays it seems like Science and the Scientific community at large has lost its respect in human society. Whether it be climate science, medicine or food science, science or scientists are perceived to have their own agenda or commercial interest and are not perceived to be working for the common man.

So, do you think first of all if the above observations hold some ground ? And if so, what’s the prognosis for science’s place in society?
No, this is not a change in the last 20 or 30 years. Anti-intellectualism goes way back in American culture and the status of science, experts, intellectuals, and learning in general goes in cycles.

A long cycle lasted though the 1950s and the rise of the Space Age. The conquering of polio was probably its apex. But that overlapped with fear of what science had wrought because of the Atomic Age. Richard Hofstadter's classic Anti-Intellectualism in American Life appeared in 1963, influenced by the intense antagonism generated by "egghead" Adlai Stevenson's two failed presidential runs.By the end of the 1960s, the counterculture was profoundly anti-science because science was being misused by the military (think napalm and Agent Orange). "Plastics" in The Graduate represented everything about a phony consumer culture pushed by science perverted by capitalism. Computers created the next age, and big computers always were portrayed in popular culture as evil, which blended seamlessly into today's surveillance fears as computers shrunk.

We're still seeing the effect of that cycle, with the internet, as always, magnifying the voices of the antis. Unlike Thelma Lou, I believe we're at the bottom of a very real and dangerous cycle. Books like Susan Jacobs' The Rise of American Unreason (2008) chart the fall, although she talks about anti-intellectualism more generally than pure anti-science.

The news, as always, focuses on the loud yahoos protesting reasonable pandemic measures. But two-thirds or more of the population quietly agrees with the measures in every survey. That may forecast a change in attitude, especially when a workable vaccine is widely distributed. If not, we're in for a very bumpy ride.
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Old 05-20-2020, 11:48 AM
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Sales of "organic" food may be up, but to extrapolate from that to a conclusion that scientists are no longer respected strikes me as an extrapolation too far.

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Or breastfeeding babies as a lifestyle choice ....
This caught my eye — I thought breastfeeding was widely advocated — so I Googled. If a quick glance at Google's results is indicative, breastfeeding is still widely advocated but there was one controversial study a few years ago.

If "embracing science" means latching on to a single controversial 2017 paper and rejecting dozens of papers from the 1990's and 2000's, then count me out.
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Old 05-20-2020, 11:55 AM
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We're still seeing the effect of that cycle, with the internet, as always, magnifying the voices of the antis. Unlike Thelma Lou, I believe we're at the bottom of a very real and dangerous cycle. Books like Susan Jacobs' The Rise of American Unreason (2008) chart the fall, although she talks about anti-intellectualism more generally than pure anti-science.
Unfortunately I don't think we are at the bottom yet. People don't recognize the price of ignoring science, especially when it is wrapped in the ugly cloth of politics.

Last edited by TriPolar; 05-20-2020 at 11:59 AM.
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Old 05-20-2020, 12:19 PM
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Unfortunately I don't think we are at the bottom yet. People don't recognize the price of ignoring science, especially when it is wrapped in the ugly cloth of politics.
It's certainly true that we've abandoned the work against the real "invisible enemy" - climate change - for the pandemic. I saw an op-ed piece from a right-winger saying that since Los Angeles is faring better than New York, we need to rethink all the emphasis about going back to dense urban districts and mass transportation and go with sprawl and cars.

It's never safe to predict a bottom of any cycle, but I think it's true that we are at a lower point in the cycle than at any earlier time. We're near enough to zero that I think an upswing is coming. The upswing always comes at the lowest point when people are most concerned that the cycle will never end, so it's sometimes good to be a contrarian.
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Old 05-20-2020, 12:29 PM
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am77494, let's look at the things you claim show that science is distrusted:

1. People shop at Whole Foods when science says organic food isn't better.

2. They shop at farmers markets when science says local grown food isn't better either.

3. They buy organic cotton when science says it isn't better either.

4. They breastfeed babies as a lifestyle choice.

O.K., let's start with number 1. Whole Foods doesn't just sell organic food. It does a mixture of organic and non-organic food. Other places do the same. I think you're claiming that the sort of people who shop at Whole Foods are deliberately ignoring scientific claims. I'm not even sure that there is a Whole-Foods-type shopper. Where I live it's just one of a number of different supermarkets near me. It appears to me that people shop there because it's closer to them or has particular items that they need. It is more expensive, but that fact is usually exaggerated. It's true that many people who shop there think that the food is better for the environment. It's also true that it's not clear that it is. This isn't being anti-science; it's having no time to sort through all the claims of what is best for the environment. My guess is that people who are concerned about the environment are on average more pro-science that other people. That doesn't mean that they are always more clear or up-to-date about the current scientific evidence about the environment.

The same is true of number 2. It's not clear that farmers markets are better for the environment than shopping at supermarkets. Is it even true that people who shop at farmers markets even care about the environment more than other people? I sometimes shop at a market run by Amish or Mennonites or something. In any case, they are dressed as if they are. This is not because I am about to convert. It's because there are some items that I can get there most easily.

And the same is true about organic cotton in number 3. It's not clear if it's actually better for the environment. We should be sorting through all the scientific evidence better. So what? Are you seriously claiming that everyone at Whole Foods and farmers markets and other supposedly rabidly pro-environment places is deeply anti-science? What do you think happens there? Do your fellow shoppers come up to you, grab you by the lapels, shake you, and say, "Hey, you look like a scientist to me. I can tell by your wire-rimmed glasses and your pocket protector that you are. We don't need your type here."

I'm not sure what breast-feeding has to do with environmentalism.

Also, saying that about "20 or 30 years back science and scientists were perceived as the champions of humankind" is weird. That wasn't even that long ago. I don't see any clear shift since then. If I go strictly be my own memories (with no attempt to actually do any research on this), the most pro-scientific time in my very limited perspective was in the late 1960's. Hey, we were going to the moon. Soon we'd be going to other planets and other stars and other galaxies. That was naive, of course. Being too optimistic about how science is progressing is bad too.
  #33  
Old 05-20-2020, 12:39 PM
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If "embracing science" means latching on to a single controversial 2017 paper and rejecting dozens of papers from the 1990's and 2000's, then count me out.
Well, you know, it is exactly like “All the scientists in the '70s were predicting a coming ice age and now they are whinging on about global warming, wtf” because one published treatise got a lot more press than it deserved. The media is kind of problematic in its uneven handling of the release of research.
  #34  
Old 05-20-2020, 12:47 PM
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I see people from these educated circles shopping at Whole Foods all the time when science says Organic food is no better Go figure

Or at farmers markets when science says local grown food is not the best for environment

Or buying organic cotton when science shows it is worse for the environment

Or breastfeeding babies as a lifestyle choice ....
People have already spoken to locally grown food and breastfeeding. I'll take the only remaining one, organic cotton, and ask for some cites. I'm aware of the increased water usage, but there are a lot more factors at play when it comes to the environmental effects.

Sooo, would you like to actually tackle the three "Or"s that you have listed above and tell us the actual problem with them, scientifically speaking?
  #35  
Old 05-20-2020, 12:54 PM
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The same is true of number 2. It's not clear that farmers markets are better for the environment than shopping at supermarkets. Is it even true that people who shop at farmers markets even care about the environment more than other people? I sometimes shop at a market run by Amish or Mennonites or something. In any case, they are dressed as if they are. This is not because I am about to convert. It's because there are some items that I can get there most easily.
You left off the most obvious reason for buying at farmers markets. The produce is fresher, and fresher produce tends to taste better. The produce at the mass grocery stores is harvested while still immature so that it does not spoil during transportation. Produce at a farmers market is usually harvested within a few days, letting it ripen properly.

Actually, I think the whole "breast feeding" thing is a great discussion on science. A long, long time ago (50s? 60s?) the prevailing thought from the scientific community was that formula was far superior to breast milk. As further insights emerged about nutrition and immunity passed on through breast milk, the general scientific consensus flipped to breast milk being preferred, with formula used as a supplement. Breast feeding isn't a "lifestyle choice"; it's the preferred method.
  #36  
Old 05-20-2020, 12:59 PM
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The last time there was a full-on enthusiastic optimistic trust in science and technology here in the United States was the early 1960s. My parents very much came of age with that mindset. Rationality, not superstition. Doctors and scientists were heroes. Even inside churches, the emphasis was on exposing racism for the baseless crap that it was, and focusing on what the modern conscientious Christian can do now in this world to make things better for us all.

There was a backlash, partly embedded in the counterculture and partly in the evangelical Christian movement, embracing mystical insights and claiming legitimacy for processes of knowing that didn't boil down to rational deductive reasoning. The hard science people had brought us the bomb and had DDT'd our environment into Silent Springhood. And given us plastic. They weren't so great after all.

It's been like that ever since, with oscillations in different social quarters. The left does eyerolls at the right for disbelieving in evolution but is open to alternatives to western medicine. The right makes fun of stuff like pyramid power and chakras but embraces the power of prayer. And all of us crave informed consent and getting second opinions, not simply trusting that our busy doctors will tell us what we really need to know, or that the health insurance nannies will allow them to.
  #37  
Old 05-20-2020, 01:24 PM
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I think the ideas that "science (and technology) will save us" and "science/technology can't be trusted" have both been around for a long time in popular opinion and pop culture.

In looking for examples of both, I stumbled upon this interesting statement in the TVTropes page on Science Herp:
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The Science Hero has become something of a Forgotten Trope with the onset of Postmodernism. Post-modernism rejected progress for progress's sake, which is a favorite motivation for a Science Hero, and allowed a resurgence of Science Is Bad, Nature Hero, and Rock Beats Laser.
  #38  
Old 05-20-2020, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Respected Members above
on Whole Foods, Breastfeeding, Organic Cotton, etc .
My response was in reply to the assertion that Educated, well read people are more rational / scientific.

Look there is nothing wrong with Whole Foods or Organic Food or Local Food or Breastfeeding or Organic Cotton.

The problem in my opinion (and in the opinion of the author quoted above) is all these things/values have become new Status symbols. They are sought after by the educated rich not because they are vastly superior (scientifically ) to traditional options but because they are unattainable by the median income American.

Which mother wouldn't like to breastfeed her baby if she can? But the median income American mom cannot because her work will not allow her the time off or breaks.

Who wouldn't like to eat Organic foods or Local market food - even though science has shown that they are marginally better than traditional food? Or the fuss about Quinoa ? Or free range eggs ? Or grass fed beef ? Or a multitude of supplements? Again this has become a class symbol and splits Americans into haves and have nots. The poor Americans have to be content with buying bananas at the local gas station (something I admire Michelle Obama for doing) because they cannot even drive to a supermarket.

Sending kids to private schools and saving for college is another Status symbol with the educated rich. Or investing in health. Something the median Income American can only dream of.


So, the assertion that the Educated elite, care more about other Americans or use Science to benefit the world at large, needs to be weighed against their petty action of creating a new Class of Elites.
  #39  
Old 05-20-2020, 01:56 PM
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My response was in reply to the assertion that Educated, well read people are more rational / scientific.

Look there is nothing wrong with Whole Foods or Organic Food or Local Food or Breastfeeding or Organic Cotton.

The problem in my opinion (and in the opinion of the author quoted above) is all these things/values have become new Status symbols. They are sought after by the educated rich not because they are vastly superior (scientifically ) to traditional options but because they are unattainable by the median income American.

Which mother wouldn't like to breastfeed her baby if she can? But the median income American mom cannot because her work will not allow her the time off or breaks.

Who wouldn't like to eat Organic foods or Local market food - even though science has shown that they are marginally better than traditional food? Or the fuss about Quinoa ? Or free range eggs ? Or grass fed beef ? Or a multitude of supplements? Again this has become a class symbol and splits Americans into haves and have nots. The poor Americans have to be content with buying bananas at the local gas station (something I admire Michelle Obama for doing) because they cannot even drive to a supermarket.

Sending kids to private schools and saving for college is another Status symbol with the educated rich. Or investing in health. Something the median Income American can only dream of.


So, the assertion that the Educated elite, care more about other Americans or use Science to benefit the world at large, needs to be weighed against their petty action of creating a new Class of Elites.
This post seems completely irrelevant to your own thread, unless I'm missing some subtext in OP.

There really are big moneyed interests trying to sow doubt about Climate Change for example, and some of those scientists are shills for big oil, etc., just like there were scientists who will shills for big tobacco. Most educated people know that climate change is a real and possibly existential threat, but some have been misled by propaganda by moneyed interests.

I don't know who is making money off the anti-vaccine craziness, but there's certainly some anti-science bullshit there. However, that's always been around -- have you seen Dr. Strangelove? Remember the anti-fluoride guy?

I don't see how breastfeeding or buying local is similar at all to those, though.
  #40  
Old 05-20-2020, 01:59 PM
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So the problem is not that educated, well-read people are anti-science. It's not that they are anti-rational. If anything, they are more pro-science and pro-rationality than others. The problem is that like everyone else, they often don't have the time to carefully examine the arguments for everything they do. They barely have time to examine all the arguments for and against all the candidates in the elections in which they are voting. They certainly don't have the time to compare the environmental qualities in the food they can buy in a variety of places. They have more money on average. Like most people, they assume that classier places have better quality items. That's a hasty and often incorrect assumption, but they don't have the time to think carefully about it. So what they are doing comes across as being class-conscious. The bad things you're complaining about are not primarily the fault of the average educated, well-read person, who is not likely to be one of the rich. Yes, the rich benefit from the inequality in our society. The problem is reducing inequality, not just promoting science and rationality.
  #41  
Old 05-20-2020, 02:41 PM
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Farmer's markets, organic foods, but no mention of anti-vax or 'intelligent design' memes? Is there a pattern here? Is allegedly anti-science behavior of special interest when it's done by groups that are stereotyped as 'liberal'?

Has OP left us a subtle clue?
Quote:
Originally Posted by am77494 View Post
Which mother wouldn't like to breastfeed her baby if she can? But the median income American mom cannot because her work will not allow her the time off or breaks.
This leaves me even more confused about the 'breastfeeding' example as a 'paradigm shift about science's role.' Could it be that your list of examples was borrowed from an essay on a different topic and you were too hasty in your editing? What could that other topic be? If I guessed 'liberal hypocrisy' would I be getting warm?

I recall a news item about a female legislator being asked to leave her legislative body when she was nursing her baby. I don't remember the parties involved but would offer to bet money — were it allowed here at SDMB — that it was a D mother asked to leave by Rs.
  #42  
Old 05-20-2020, 02:47 PM
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This leaves me even more confused about the 'breastfeeding' example as a 'paradigm shift about science's role.' Could it be that your list of examples was borrowed from an essay on a different topic and you were too hasty in your editing? What could that other topic be? If I guessed 'liberal hypocrisy' would I be getting warm?
It's also a ridiculous example in this context because pro-breastfeeding liberal middle-class moms in general are not opposed to workplaces accommodating the breastfeeding needs of working-class moms.

No liberal mom is out there saying "It's fine for someone of my social position to breastfeed, but those peasant kids need to get on the bottle ASAP so their mothers can get back to work on my manicure."
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Old 05-20-2020, 02:57 PM
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I assume that the OP is mostly thinking of the US; where Anti-intellectualism has been growing a lot in recent years.
ISTM that scientists, particularly those still in academia, remain very highly respected across much of Europe, Asia and non-Europe western countries like Canada and Australia.

ETA: I think all the talk of farmer's markets and breastfeeding and whatnot is polluting the thread a bit. There are many factors that influence such personal decisions, but the OP was about respect for science and scientists, and I think we're losing focus.

Last edited by Mijin; 05-20-2020 at 03:01 PM.
  #44  
Old 05-20-2020, 03:13 PM
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ETA: I think all the talk of farmer's markets and breastfeeding and whatnot is polluting the thread a bit. There are many factors that influence such personal decisions, but the OP was about respect for science and scientists, and I think we're losing focus.
Fair enuf, but it was the OP himself who brought up those topics in post #4 and continued talking about them in posts #7 and #38, so presumably the focus of those posts is where he wanted it.
  #45  
Old 05-20-2020, 03:27 PM
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This post seems completely irrelevant to your own thread, unless I'm missing some subtext in OP.

There really are big moneyed interests trying to sow doubt about Climate Change for example, and some of those scientists are shills for big oil, etc., just like there were scientists who will shills for big tobacco. Most educated people know that climate change is a real and possibly existential threat, but some have been misled by propaganda by moneyed interests.

I don't know who is making money off the anti-vaccine craziness, but there's certainly some anti-science bullshit there. However, that's always been around -- have you seen Dr. Strangelove? Remember the anti-fluoride guy?

I don't see how breastfeeding or buying local is similar at all to those, though.
Yeah, that post from the OP looks like tossing stuff to the wall to see if anything will stick.

But your post reminded me where I think the disconnect of the OP comes from, a lot of people from the right or even centrists are falling for conspiracy theories that disparage science, theories that many times are followed and distributed by moneyed interests or right wing media.

There are historical reports and studies that show how on many occasions the same “experts” that shilled for big tobacco shilled also for climate change denial. IMHO what is going on is the wilful transformation of science contrarianism into politically pure positions, so as to prevent reforms from taking place.

Besides the harm coming from not doing anything about tobacco or global warming, there are other problems added that come from politicizing contrarianism; like when eating Lays potato chips, you bet the transforming propaganda machine can not eat just one conspiracy, the crowd that was attracted to the ignorance and political partisanship is not as controllable as their makers think.

When you mentioned anti-vaccine craziness you pointed at yet another item that should not had been a political issue, just recently one could see left leaning and right leaning anti vaxxers almost in equal numbers, but thanks to the funded machinery of ignorance, many leaders among the republicans are falling for the anti vaxxine shrills and they are politicizing the issue, and we are seeing a transformation of yet another scientific subject that was not supposed to be politically divisive in real time.

Last edited by GIGObuster; 05-20-2020 at 03:28 PM.
  #46  
Old 05-20-2020, 04:19 PM
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Mijin writes:

> I assume that the OP is mostly thinking of the US; where Anti-intellectualism has been
> growing a lot in recent years.

I'm not convinced that anti-intellectualism has been growing in the U.S. I suspect that thinking this comes from watching news about certain political groups and not from actually surveying Americans. I'd be interested in better evidence of this.
  #47  
Old 05-20-2020, 05:36 PM
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I'm not convinced that anti-intellectualism has been growing in the U.S. I suspect that thinking this comes from watching news about certain political groups and not from actually surveying Americans. I'd be interested in better evidence of this.
Well, here's an overview of recent research on it:
Quote:
The distrust and dislike of scientists, academics, and experts more broadly was a widely noted theme in the 2016 presidential election (e.g., Editorial Board, 2016). Often, this affective aversion to experts is conceptualized as a form of anti-intellectualism (Hofstadter, 1963; Rigney, 1991). [...]

Yet, while anti-intellectualism may seem like it has been a unique feature of Donald Trump’s rhetoric in the 2016 campaign, recent research (e.g., Gauchat, 2012) suggests that anti-intellectual attitude endorsement has been growing in the mass public for decades, especially on the ideological right. Less well understood, however, are the political implications of growing anti-intellectualism. Does voters’ distrust and dislike of experts fuel skepticism about scientific consensus relevant to public policy matters? And might it increase support for politicians and political movements who share their anti-intellectual views? [...]

In this article, I advance two theories about the political relevance of mass anti-intellectualism in American political life. First, while the causes of anti-intellectualism have received some recently scholarly attention, few have asked how negative affect toward scientists and experts might shape public opinion and political behavior. The spillover effects thesis contends that negative affect toward experts makes citizens more likely to deny matters of scientific consensus, and to lend support for campaigns and political movements that are skeptical of experts and the research they produce.

Second, I suggest that it may be possible to discourage citizens from holding anti-intellectual attitudes. This possibility has received some scholarly attention in recent years, with mixed empirical results. [...]

Making use of data from the General Social Survey (GSS; 1972-2014), and a four-wave panel from the Center for the Study of Political Pyschology (CSPP) at The University of Minnesota I find empirical support for both theories. In both 2016 and in years prior, anti-intellectualism is associated with decreased acceptance of anthropogenic (i.e., human-caused) climate change, as well as the safety of nuclear power (both of which are matters of broad scientific agreement). I also find that anti-intellectualism is strongly associated with support for politicians and political movements who made the distrust of experts prominent components of their campaigns [...]

Last edited by Kimstu; 05-20-2020 at 05:36 PM.
  #48  
Old 05-20-2020, 06:38 PM
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I recall a news item about a female legislator being asked to leave her legislative body when she was nursing her baby. I don't remember the parties involved but would offer to bet money — were it allowed here at SDMB — that it was a D mother asked to leave by Rs.
I don't know if this is the incident you were thinking of, but I remember reading about Trump being deposed when he was being sued, and one of the lawyers deposing him had to leave to express breast milk. Just seeing her breast pump (or maybe just hearing it mentioned?) caused him to freak out, because it was so icky to him.
  #49  
Old 05-20-2020, 07:30 PM
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Thanks, Kimstu. Note that what Mijin claimed was that anti-intellectualism was more common in the U.S. It would be nice to see some statistics that compare the U.S. and other countries in this respect. What I wonder about is if there is always a certain amount of anti-intellectualism around, but the way it's expressed is different depending on the time and place. The book Anti-intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter is frequently mentioned in this regard, including in the link you give. Note that it was published in 1963. I said in one post that I thought that the height of pro-science feeling was in the late 1960's, while AHunter3 said that it was in the early 1960's. I now wonder if we all just remember that at some particular point in our life we respected science more and assumed that nearly everyone else did too.
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Old 05-20-2020, 07:45 PM
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I said in one post that I thought that the height of pro-science feeling was in the late 1960's, while AHunter3 said that it was in the early 1960's. I now wonder if we all just remember that at some particular point in our life we respected science more and assumed that nearly everyone else did too.
I do not believe that anyone can assign a particular year to such highs and lows. It's reasonable in hindsight to speak of a period, maybe a decade, in which culture changes, but that's a mere generality. It's clear that the 1920s saw a huge shift in dress and attitudes and the place of women in society, but it's also true that many millions of Americans hated those changes and refused to accept them for themselves.

I assume you remember when being a science fiction fan put one outside of the mainstream and almost outside of society, even at the height of space age fever. Today, "nerd culture" is celebrated and is the source of the largest movie grosses, even though we're in the midst of an anti-science period.
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