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The "Scientific Impotence" Excuse

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the happens-more-often-as-you-get-older dept.

Education 892

chichilalescu writes "I've had the feeling for a long time that people refuse to listen to scientists. The following is from an article on Ars Technica: 'It's hardly a secret that large segments of the population choose not to accept scientific data because it conflicts with their predefined beliefs: economic, political, religious, or otherwise. But many studies have indicated that these same people aren't happy with viewing themselves as anti-science, which can create a state of cognitive dissonance. That has left psychologists pondering the methods that these people use to rationalize the conflict. A study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology [abstract here] takes a look at one of these methods, which the authors term "scientific impotence" — the decision that science can't actually address the issue at hand properly.' The study found that 'regardless of whether the information presented confirmed or contradicted [the subjects'] existing beliefs, all of them came away from the reading with their beliefs strengthened."

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I'm jacking off right now... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379060)

I'm jacking off right now.....

Oops I just shot my load on my own face.

VIAGRA POPPPER LOCKERROOM !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379106)

It's all the same !! Pumps you right up and for a long time !!

Religion (0, Flamebait)

Peach Rings (1782482) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379108)

I don't need a psychology degree to tell you right now what the problem is: religion. Faith makes a virtue out of not thinking. And if you accept rational science then you're doing something morally wrong.

Re:Religion (5, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379184)

I think it's more basic than that. Any ideology followed closely and long enough leads to unthinking behavior and beliefs. Ideology requires a lack of thought almost by definition. Whether that is unthinkingly following a religion, an economic system, a political party, or nationalistic rhetoric doesn't really matter, what matters is the fact that people turn off their brains and allow someone or something else make decisions for them. Once turned off a brain is a very difficult thing to get turned back on again.

Re:Religion (-1, Offtopic)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379284)

Once turned off a brain is a very difficult thing to get turned back on again.

They say the same thing about your sister.

Re:Religion (0, Offtopic)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379416)

That's not true. Everyone's had a turn at his sister.

Re:Religion (2, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379530)

What if that ideology is rationalism?

Re:Religion (3, Insightful)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379582)

Then you'll rationalize irrational behavior, including your own, and leave it at that.

Re:Religion (1)

claude64 (1807826) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379670)

Even then, of course.

Re:Religion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379572)

Ideology requires a lack of thought almost by definition.

I'm ideologically driven to a pragmatic lifestyle. What now, bitches?!

Re:Religion (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379694)

I think it's more basic than that. Any ideology followed closely and long enough leads to unthinking behavior and beliefs.

Including... science.

Re:Religion (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379216)

I don't need a psychology degree to tell you right now what the problem is: non-thinking. Non-thinking makes a virtue out of not thinking [tautological/reflexive]. And if you accept rational science then you're doing something morally wrong.

There, fixed that for you. People don't need religion to make them stupid. They're perfectly capable of being stupid all by themselves. Blaming religion is just taking the easy way out.

Re:Religion (0, Troll)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379306)

Another typical geek post: You're completely correct, yet you've managed to minimize the actual real-world, longstanding phenomenon of using a a very particular type of non-thinking and elevating it massively above other forms of non-thinking. You're all theory and no impact.

Kinda like what TFA talks about.

Re:Religion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379362)

What?

Someone was flagged down for trolling an AC?

Really /.?

Re:Religion (2, Insightful)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379676)

Er, I'm pretty sure religion is an effect rather than a cause here. If you manage to drive someone away from a religion without doing anything about the not-thinking, they'll just end up at some other religion or pseudo-religion.

Re:Religion (4, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379228)

Even people who don't describe themselves as being religious, or who are very conspicuously not part of any organized religion are like this. I think this is a general human trait that religion hijacks for its own purposes.

Blind Faith != Religion (5, Insightful)

butterflysrage (1066514) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379234)

Don't paint all religions with the same brush. I consider myself to be quite religious, but I am not a slave to blind faith. My religion says that the universe was created when a giant cow licked a huge block of salt... while that may be what my religion says, I have zero doubt in my mind that it did not happen that way.

People who fail to examine their religion in the context of which it was written are doomed to falling into the traps of blind faith. Those who can look at their religion for what it is, can rectify it with modern knowledge, and can take into account the effects of history (revisions, political influences, lost texts etc) are able to differentiate religion and faith and have no trouble at all accepting scientific knowledge.

Re:Blind Faith != Religion (4, Insightful)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379380)

My religion says that the universe was created when a giant cow licked a huge block of salt... while that may be what my religion says, I have zero doubt in my mind that it did not happen that way.

If you do not believe what that religion says, then how can you call it "my religion" in any meaningful sense?

Those who can look at their religion for what it is, can rectify it with modern knowledge, and can take into account the effects of history (revisions, political influences, lost texts etc) are able to differentiate religion and faith and have no trouble at all accepting scientific knowledge.

Those who modify "their religion" based on political influences truly have no religion, or at best, have a cult. They are chaff being blown about in the wind.

Re:Blind Faith != Religion (2, Interesting)

butterflysrage (1066514) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379564)

find me one that hasn't been modified to suit a political end? Christanity has had whole swaths of books removed from their bible because it didnt agree with the pope at the time, in fact, all of the big three have gone throug massive revisions over the centuries.

I am not aware of a single recognised religion that has not either been changed from within, or forced changes from outside to suit a political agenda. I would be more than interested if you could list some...

Re:Blind Faith != Religion (1)

masmullin (1479239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379726)

By big three you mean Ford, Chysler and GM right?

Re:Blind Faith != Religion (3, Insightful)

quercus.aeternam (1174283) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379584)

There exists a large space for personal interpretation in most religions.

Re:Blind Faith != Religion (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379610)

Haha, religious people are fools for believing ridiculous creation myths. And if they instead distill the key messages out of their religion while eliminating the mythology they are cultists. Look at it this way, I highly doubt there was ever a boy killed and eaten by a wolf because the townspeople had learned to ignore his wolf cries. But that doesn't equate to the story being meaningless drivel, the story can still have meaning.

Re:Blind Faith != Religion (3, Insightful)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379634)

Well, some people are indeed able to take their religion as a metaphor, as a story binding our conception of the universe together. Literalism in religion is mostly a problem of fundamentalist movements. I for one am an atheist, but I see no need to blindly bash everything religious or spiritual. The GP has a quite reasonable position in my opinion. The Norse creation myth is a beautiful story, beautifully put down in the Edda - I don't see why one should not be able to interpret it as a metaphor on some level, while still being rational and avoiding blind faith.

Re:Blind Faith != Religion (4, Insightful)

thepike (1781582) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379588)

Thank you. I'm also religious, and a scientist, and I get no end of crap because people assume that I rigorously follow everything that my religion says, or that is said in defense of my religion. You can have faith and still make your own decisions.

I also agree that people need to look at religion as more than just some statements. It's a whole cultural phenomenon, a way for people to pass knowledge about who they are and how they should act from one generation to the next. And many people who are not at all religious just as blindly follow other things. I'm not talking just about politics and such, but science too. Flat earth theory, geocentrism, etc. were all accepted (blindly) by people for a long time until new theories came up.

For my contribution, I do think there's something to the 'scientific impotence' idea. Some things are not (at least yet) addressable by science, and that's where faith can step in. It's kind of the point of religion to explain inexplicable things (or eff the ineffable). People (on both sides) need to accept that religion is not supposed to be scientific. Science needs to be falsifiable, replicable, etc and religion just isn't. Obviously religious people should stop trying to religion away science, but just as much scientists should stop trying to science away religion.

Re:Religion (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379246)

I'm not sure which is more entertaining, the fact that you're confusing cause and effect, or the fact that your statement directly supports the hypothesis presented by this study.

Re:Religion (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379322)

I wish I had said that instead of what I did say. *laugh*

Re:Religion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379256)

funny, you just proved the article correct.

Re:Religion (0, Troll)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379258)

"RTFA" means Read The Fucking Article, not Replicate
Ironically, you apparently DO need a psychology degree to understand that believing you DON'T need a psychology degree to discuss the psychology of beliefs is in itself an irrational (though not necessarily untrue) belief.

Re:Religion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379394)

Ironically, you apparently DO need a psychology degree to understand that believing you DON'T need a psychology degree to discuss the psychology of beliefs is in itself an irrational (though not necessarily untrue) belief.

Wouldn't a degree in philosophy be more suited to this end? Specifically studies in logic?

Re:Religion (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379586)

Isn't it a Tad ironic that a non-science which engages in that sort of confirmation bias "research" is responsible for an article telling us why people do that?

OTOH science isn't perfect due to the lack of granularity in studies not everything can be accounted for and as such it isn't always the best answer. The gambler's fallacy springs to my mind. Or really the unfounded assumption that factors outside the game have negligible impact and each possibility is equally likely. Neither of which are ever justified outside of theoretical scenarios.

Re:Religion (1, Interesting)

I_have_a_life (1582721) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379260)

Amen brother!
But seriously. You're absolutely right. I won't even make any arguments here I will simply refer everyone to Richard Dawkins wonderful book on the subject "The God Delusion". I especially like his Darwinian explanation of why religion is so successful within our species. The next step in human evolution is realizing that there is no god and being OK with that. Really, we don't need him/her.

Re:Religion (3, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379268)

I don't need a psychology degree to tell you right now what the problem is: religion.

A psychology degree may have helped you realize that non-religious people ignore science as well.

Re:Religion (1)

DutchUncle (826473) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379312)

I would narrow your statement a little to the problem being *faith*; that is, religion(s) based on belief in some core concept, often illogical, without proof. The general concept of "Religion" includes philosophical attitudes and historical groupings, some of which are perfectly happy to focus on logical (or at least rational) discussion of their core texts and history.

Re:Religion (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379360)

You're wrong. God told me so.

Science is a Religion (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379422)

The idea that science can answer questions about reality is itself a religion. For example, you cannot see atoms and you cannot see the big bang, evolution or even global warming and yet billions of people mindlessly believe these ythings without question simply on the authority of the left wing "science" touting powerful and wealthy elite.

Not All Science (3, Interesting)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379478)

I don't need a psychology degree to tell you right now what the problem is: religion.

I think religion is a factor, but there's something else going on because while most *Americans* identify with Christianity, actual Bible Thumpers and indeed regular church goers are a minority.

First, distrust of science is primarily in the softer sciences like psychology, environmental sciences, and such; no one really questions the atom smashers, the "high-tech" scientists. I think that many people believe that these "soft scientists" are not actually objective, and let "wishy-washy" environmentalism and other perceived leftyism influence their findings; that they set out with an subjective objective and mold their science to fit their personal views.

Clearly, in many cases, this is true, and it has tainted all "soft science".

Re:Religion (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379484)

it reminds me of single mothers. all the science says that children of single mothers are far more likely to drop out of school, wind up in prison, die violent deaths, have bastard children of their own, get knocked up at young ages, etc. but that does not stop them from getting knocked up despite the 14 or so forms of birth control available to women. single mothers are the most selfish beings on the face of the planet. they want babies and they have them despite any and all consequences to the child. the entire reason nature gives women a much lower libido is because the role of the female is mate selection, to reproduce with a mate who will help to raise the child and produce more fit offspring. instead the single mothers just care about their own gratification and are a bunch of selfish bitches because of it, or they are too stupid to know what the pill is for.

Re:Religion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379496)

Religion isn't the problem. Lack of knowledge is the problem. Those who choose to believe in their religion or faith over what "science" tells them do so because science has been proven wrong so many times, and not just on small issues either. Yes, we know a lot more about our world and the universe than we did even a hundred years ago, but what we know still is only a drop in the bucket compared to what we don't know. There is virtually a 100% probability that something we take for granted as "fact" because "science" told us it's true is actually false. Then take into consideration that huge portions of science are based on assumptions that have to be taken on faith just as much as any religion out there, and it's no surprise that people choose to belive in their religion, especially since their religion has never been proven wrong.

Posting Anon for obvious reasons.

Re:Religion (1)

ryan.onsrc (1321531) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379506)

No offense: but this is complete bullshit.

In order for one to appreciate the full beauty and realize the power of the Scientific Method, and its applications: one has to have *faith* in his/her own observations. I know people who will adamantly argue that everything we see isn't *actually* real, and is merely illusion and thus the tools of Science breaks down completely for these folks. Rationality is predicated on one's ability to make assumptions (which, when you think about it, are actually "leaps of faith" in disguise).

Some people choose to make these assumptions based on Religions others go by "gut feel", and others use some combination of the two. Either way, as far as *Science* is concerned: there is no difference.

Not religion; tribalism (3, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379510)

It's tribalism. Fundamentalist Islam? Tribalism. Fundamentalist Christianity? Tribalism. Hassidic Judaism? Tribalism. Tribalism tells you that you mustn't rock the boat but defer to the authority of the elders. Tribalism tells you the other side is bad because they are from the other side of the valley/from the other side of the lake/Communists/Socialists/Fascists/Catholics/Protestants/Different from us. Religion, like nationalism, or political party is usually just a big tribe.

Re:Religion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379522)

Yeah, and secular thought clouds judgment as well. Look at all the fallacy of evolutionary theory in regards to random mutation and its seemless blending with abiogenesis.

Re:Religion (1)

virtualXTC (609488) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379614)

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” - Buddha

... seems to me religion isn't the real cause.

Re:Religion (3, Insightful)

masmullin (1479239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379650)

I don't need a psychology degree to tell you right now what the problem is: stupid people

Don't blame religion for the negative impacts that stupid people have upon society.

Re:Religion (0, Offtopic)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379678)

I'm not religious, but Linux is better than Windows or Mac, Java is for suckers, and real programmers use C.

Re:Religion (1)

BunnyClaws (753889) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379686)

It is any ideology that one refuses to be critical of, regardless of existing information that might prove their view to be false; Avowed Communists, Die Hard Free-Market Anarcho-Capitalists, Partisan Democrats and Republicans, the Apple fanboi, fans of the television show Lost, and you!


Seriously, everyone thinks they are a person of reason and logic without seeing their own personal bias.

Re:Religion (2, Interesting)

g_adams27 (581237) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379688)

You seem to assume that "science" gives mankind an escape from presuppositions. But that's easily demonstrated not to be true. There are no such thing as "brute facts", whose Truth somehow transcends interpretation. There are only interpreted facts.

Everyone has faith. Even a non-religious person presupposes certain things. For instance:

  • That their mind is operating in a rational fashion
  • That what they perceive actually exists, and is not an invented artifact of their own mind
  • That nature is uniform, such that certain things which have always operated in a certain way (gravity, the speed of light, etc.) will continue to do so

etc. Such things are necessary in order to even begin thinking. Like the religious person who grounds their beliefs on the scientifically-unprovable faith in a deity, the non-religious scientist grounds his beliefs on his own scientifically-unprovable presuppositions.

Everyone does it. Your argument can't be "I have science while you have only faith." It has to be "My unprovable presuppositions are more valid than your unprovable presuppositions for the following reasons..."

Re:Religion (2, Interesting)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379724)

"[T]ake the universe and grind it down to the finest powder, and sieve it through the finest sieve, and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet, you try to act as if there is some ideal order in the world. As if there is some, some rightness in the universe, by which it may be judged." - Terry Pratchett, Death, The Hogfather

There is nothing stupid about believing in something larger than yourself. As Pratchett says, ideals like justice and mercy can not be detected scientifically, but even the staunchest atheist may believe in such things. It is not religion per se that is the problem. The problem is holding on to anachronistic ideologies because they are more comfortable than the truth. But even the non-religious have been known to do that from time to time.

Most people... (4, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379138)

... aren't intelligent enough to assess the quality of their own thinking. In fact most people aren't even able to think straight most of the time. The human mind is not built for the kind of obtuse rationality that scientists often communicate in.

Scientists really have to do a better job at communicating clearly with less jargon, I think part of the problem is not being able to demonstrate the effects in a tangible way that is undenibale. I think the use of metaphors and communicating complex things in terms of everyday things that people can understand would go a long ways to help people understanding the contradictions.

You really have to catch people in contradictions in a public venue with an argument that is simple to understand and you'd look like an idiot for not accepting.

Re:Most people... (1, Insightful)

logjon (1411219) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379194)

You really have to catch people in contradictions in a public venue with an argument that is simple to understand and you'd look like an idiot for not accepting.

As reasonable as this seems, a lot of people would stick their fingers in their ears and start going "la la la I can't hear you" at that point in the debate (metaphorically speaking.)

Re:Most people... (2, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379276)

You really have to catch people in contradictions in a public venue with an argument that is simple to understand and you'd look like an idiot for not accepting.

And even then people frequently get really defensive and look for ways to attack rather than listen and/or accept the facts.

Re:Most people... (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379448)

There is no polite way to tell someone that the science directly conflicts with the religious/political/social tenets that they've been taught were sacred since they were a child. It's not the understanding that's the problem. It's the *implications* that people have a hard time accepting. Some people just can't handle the idea that Pluto's original classification as a "planet" was a mistake, after having been taught that it was a planet for their entire lives. Uncertainty is scary. And the idea that new science can come along and just yank away your most basic beliefs at any time is just too much for most common folk to bear.

Re:Most people... (4, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379730)

"Scientists really have to do a better job at communicating clearly with less jargon,"

This is not as simple as you make it seem; many scientific results have subtle but important facets that require highly specific language (i.e. jargon) to properly clarify. It is the difference between humans being descendants of chimpanzees and humans sharing a common ancestor with chimpanzees -- a very common point of confusion that stems from attempts to describe the theory of evolution in overly simple terms. When scientific results are described in vague-but-easy-to-understand terms, it puts ammunition in the hands of people who, for whatever reason, wish to attack science.

"You really have to catch people in contradictions in a public venue with an argument that is simple to understand and you'd look like an idiot for not accepting."

What is needed is a more educated populace, that can better understand the precise language of scientific results and the implications of those results. Then people who did not accept scientific results really would look like idiots, and they would stand out as idiots.

Newflash (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379146)

Half of the population are dumber than the other half!

However I am not sure for which half the original article was intended for.

Re:Newflash (0)

starfliz (922954) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379224)

I always hated that kind of statement even as a joke. I think Intelligence follows a bell type curve of some sort I am sure with the bulk of the at the tip being the majority of the population. I just think its goofy to say it that way.
bleh: (thought terminating cliche)

Re:Newflash (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379316)

It's worse still; 99% of humanity is dumber than the top 1%. Guess who has the majority vote.

I've Worked with Some of the Top 1 %'ers (2, Insightful)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379430)

...and boy, am I glad the bottom 99% is making the important decisions.

Re:Newflash (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379466)

Oh, so cute, believing the vote matters when the real powers have set up two political parties, neither of which will mess with anything they care about.

Re:Newflash (1)

Third Position (1725934) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379602)

It's worse still; 99% of humanity is dumber than the top 1%. Guess who has the majority vote.

And a good thing, that! If in 1930, a constitutional amendment had been passed requiring a Ph.D to be eligible for voting, today Soviet America would be picking itself out of the same mess the countries that comprised the late Soviet Union are.

Highly intelligent does not necessarily correlate to political astuteness. In fact, the correlation would seem to be negative.

The most interesting part is (5, Funny)

logjon (1411219) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379152)

That the study was done entirely on slashdot posts.

Psychologists (2, Insightful)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379170)

Most of the people I know who fall under this description dislike psychologists the most of all scientists and/or academics. I doubt that this will help change anything; it'll probably just make it worse.

Hogwash (2, Funny)

fimion (890504) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379172)

This article is clearly wrong, and my beliefs have been strengthened.

What about Short People? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379174)

Short people got no reason
Short people got no reason
Short people got no reason
To live

They got little hands
Little eyes
They walk around
Tellin' great big lies
They got little noses
And tiny little teeth
They wear platform shoes
On their nasty little feet

Well, I don't want no short people
Don't want no short people
Don't want no short people
`Round here

Short people are just the same
As you and I
(A fool such as I)
All men are brothers
Until the day they die
(It's a wonderful world)

Short people got nobody
Short people got nobody
Short people got nobody
To love

They got little baby legs
That stand so low
You got to pick em up
Just to say hello
They got little cars
That go beep, beep, beep
They got little voices
Goin' peep, peep, peep
They got grubby little fingers
And dirty little minds
They're gonna get you every time
Well, I don't want no short people
Don't want no short people
Don't want no short people
'Round here

Re:What about Short People? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379516)

Sounds like my girlefriend. Note to self: Gotta get a new girlfriend.

The stupid! It burns! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379182)

That kind of crap only happens in the US. Other civilized countries actually embrace science, rather than shun it.

This supports my theory... (1)

Mabbo (1337229) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379192)

This supports my larger theory of "People are idiots". Look, lemme explain this one in great detail for you: We live in a culture that has become so self-absorbed, we are unable to consider the idea that we may actually be wrong. We are unwilling to consider that our own belief may be mistaken. And at the current rate we're going, that's not going to change any time soon.

Re:This supports my theory... (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379274)

But the article states that this is basic human nature. In other words, this isn't anything new or unique to our culture. There's probably been people like you looking around and thinking "No one thinks anymore and it's only getting worse" for the past 20,000 years. If you need evidence, look at all the people who have been persecuted over the years for telling others that they're wrong about something. Hell, even Jesus was killed basically for challenging people's beliefs.

Re:This supports my theory... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379468)

Yup, and all of those people have been looking at the people around them and seeing this belief reinforced. If they're surrounded by people who don't think, it reinforces this belief. If they see intelligent, thoughtful people, then they assume that they are exceptions and are in the minority.

The problem is politics (4, Insightful)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379200)

Activists on both sides of an issue do the same thing. Each side chooses the evidence that supports their predetermined belief.

The other side of "scientific impotence" is "appeal to authority".

Once issues become politicalized it becomes very difficult to make a scientific judgement one way or another because of all the competing agendas and misinformation on both sides.

Re:The problem is politics (2, Insightful)

logjon (1411219) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379242)

This is when a rational person would do some research into both sides and think about it for themselves. Unfortunately, people on either side rarely do this, preferring instead to repeating each other and spreading misinformation, often degrading into namecalling and the like.

Science moves, belief is static (4, Insightful)

Luyseyal (3154) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379202)

Part of the problem is that science is a moving target. Look at dietary and nutritional science. If you're a baby boomer, you've heard scientists say umpteen different things over the last 40 years. People don't mind some change, but they don't like their belief systems upturned regularly by a system that is founded on constant change, but says it speaks "the truth". The truth is very slippery. Look at Fred Hoyle. The guy just couldn't come to grips with the Big Bang. And yet, if you want to get technical about it, what we currently think is "the truth" about the origin of the universe is a collection of models that agree with the data to some extent. Some of these models are guaranteed to be overturned.

Is it any wonder that people are resistant to the pressure to change?
-l

Also a pretty well known fact... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379204)

...that challenging someone who has cognitive dissonance strengthens their will. We're stubborn people, our heads are full of tangled webs of experiences from childhood to the present that forges what we want to believe and what we'll accept and how we'll view it. Most people have their minds made up on a subject well before they see any actual data. It all explains why so many really stupid things happen.

Evolutionary biology (0, Troll)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379206)

This is one reason I'm so very suspicious of certain kinds of social science. It's so very easy to rationalize predetermined conclusions when it's not easy to run experiments after the theory has been created.

Evolutionary biology, for example, has a just so story for explaining why our society is the way it is as far as relations between men and women. But I think it's all quite suspiciously convenient.

It's not rocket science. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379244)

I think you'll find that most of the mistrust people harbour about scientists, and science in general, comes from the fact that the media tends to 'definitively' interpret the results of non-definitive studies. Or over-report studies that, when peer-reviewed, fall apart like a... well, like a poorly-built motorcycle.

But never underestimate the power of hucksters operating under the guise of 'chiropractor', 'naturopath', or 'one who speaks for the man/men in the sky'. They tell you with a straight face that these people who have nothing to gain by lying, and who have dedicated their lives to understanding how things work through empirical research, and who aren't trying to take your money, are not to be trusted. The last few decades have given rise to a real resurgence of anecdotal 'fact' over the scientific method, and it's kind of scary.

"Most people" (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379266)

Yeah, "most people" are too dumb to heed scientific finding unlike you obviously. Look at how science is reported, particularly medicine/health stories, and you're probably better of ignoring them.

Scientific 'Facts' Change more often than Religion (4, Insightful)

derrickh (157646) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379300)

I completely understand why many people aren't as quick to believe everything scientists say. Simply because scientific -fact- seems to change every few years. A few years ago scientists said there were 9 planets. Now there's 8. First there was no water on the moon, now there is. As far as science is concerned, theres no problem with updating facts and theories as new information is obtained. But most people don't work like that. As far as they're concerned, you're the same as the guy who keeps changing his story every time you ask a question.

The problem is that scientists will call you ignorant or stupid if you stop believing every word they say just because you know there's a good chance of them saying something different in a short while.

Religion on the other hand, rarely changes its story.

D

Re:Scientific 'Facts' Change more often than Relig (5, Insightful)

Luyseyal (3154) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379408)

Exzachary. Science is the pursuit of knowledge, not its permanent acquisition. Belief presents itself as acquisition with no need to go any further.

-l

Re:Scientific 'Facts' Change more often than Relig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379528)

A few years ago scientists said there were 9 planets. Now there's 8.

Why don't you bend over and show me Uranus?

Re:Scientific 'Facts' Change more often than Relig (1)

Inzite (472846) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379558)

Call me a heretic if you want, but...

Given two groups - one which changes its beliefs when confronted with contradictory evidence, and another which simply ignores the evidence - I'll put my faith in the first group.

Re:Scientific 'Facts' Change more often than Relig (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379600)

Which is why every so called 'fact' should be accompanied with a degree of probability, even if it's very rough. In my view, probabilities are underused massively in just about every area, just because publishers don't think the 'stupid public' could understand them. It's really sad.

Re:Scientific 'Facts' Change more often than Relig (5, Insightful)

Bellegante (1519683) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379680)

An important detail is missing here: Scientists don't say those things! The media does. Scientists say "Based on our recent observations/experiments, there may be a correlation with this reading and proof of x." The media follows with "Science proves x beyond a doubt! Panic!"

Not a conflict (2, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379302)

Even a murderer sees himself as a good person. Everyone is the hero of his own story (in his own mind). So why would it surprise you when a bigot doesn't see himself as a bigot, or when an anti-intellectual doesn't see himself as an anti-intellectual, or when a sexist doesn't see himself as a sexist for using "himself" and "his" exclusively in his writing?

Re: Not a conflict (2, Insightful)

XanC (644172) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379428)

You've just used "himself" exclusively, four times, as the generic pronoun referring to people of either sex.

Although this is correct, you have blasted anyone using it as sexist. What are we to conclude?

Re: Not a conflict (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379708)

What are we to conclude?

I suppose the only sensible conclusion is that the notion that saying "he" or "himself" rather than "he/she" and "himself/herself"[1]... oh, forgive me, "she/he" and "herself/himself", since not putting the female pronoun first is also sexism, of course... anyhow, the only sensible conclusion is that the notion that this is sexist is a load of bull.

That, and you can probably also conclude that if we, as society, have no bigger and more pressing issues to take care of as far as gender equality is concerned, then we should consider ourselves very lucky indeed.

My god... (1)

onza1 (1806210) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379304)

Jesus christ what a great new! :P

The mass psychology of Fascism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379338)

Read it [whale.to] !

Golden Girls! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379348)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you through a party
Invited everyone you ever knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say thank you for being a friend.

What if your beliefs are scientifically reaasoned? (2, Insightful)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379392)

...choose not to accept scientific data because it conflicts with their predefined beliefs...

In other words, people are prejudiced, whether one's bias is a matter of religion or a firm belief in the aether doesn't really matter. Certainly there are those that oppose anything a person in a lab coat (or a tweed jacket) might say but this is well known behaviour. If the purpose of the paper was just to give a name to this phenomena then personally I'd rather they came up with something more descriptive rather than pandering to the need for a snappy headline.

I don't see what this has to do with science specifically: I'd have just as much luck convincing a creationist that Buddha put the bones there as I would getting them to accept evolution through natural selection. If someone is set in their ways you'll be hard pressed to convince them no matter how you came to whatever it is you're arguing.

Not really 'impotence'... (3, Insightful)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379400)

... more like an entitlement mindset.

Religion, and the idea of God in general, springs from the basic notion that the universe owes you something. Eternal life, accountability, a reason to live, the "answers."

Science, on the other hand, starts from the premise that whatever secrets Mother Nature holds will have to be earned through hard work. There are no promises of results and no guarantees that understanding will ever be reached.

So is it any wonder that so many people take the easy way out and choose faith instead?

As for myself... (0, Troll)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379404)

As for myself, it's not that I believe that science cannot address the issue (though sometimes I do believe that is the case), but that I don't trust the experimentation method or the impetus behind the experiment. Far too often the "science" in question has an agenda behind it - political, business, social or whatever.

For example, one can find scientific studies which indicate that high fructose corn syrup is unhealthy. There are also studies which will indicate that there is nothing at all wrong with high fructose corn syrup. Both studies (supposedly) use scientific methods to arrive at their conclusions. Therefore, ultimately, a person is left to his own beliefs to decide which study (if any) is correct.

Jolt Cola (0, Offtopic)

punker (320575) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379424)

It's like Viagra for your brain!

not really new (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379442)

This is actually not new (although the name is new to me at least). Back in the 90s they did studies on various hot button political issues like the death penalty. They gave the same sheet of facts to death penalty supporters and opponents and told them to read them. When they came out, both sides claimed their views had been strengthened.

To be fair... (1, Insightful)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379444)

There was a study done some years ago where different groups were given tests to determine bias towards a given or accepted premise. Scientists where shown to be just as and in some cases more likely to fail a given puzzle due to reluctance to let go of a given premise and try another one. So we should be careful to equate "scientist" with "right." Facts are facts as we know them. That isn't to say they should be ignored either but skepticism is just as healthy where science is concerned as it is where religion, philosophy, politics, or anything else is. In fact, it's probably more important as science is the pursuit of the knowledge of what we see, hear, and smell.

We are conditioned to disagree with "science" (1, Interesting)

dmonney (1647327) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379454)

How many times have we heared that "clinical trials have proved that doing ... will increase cancer risk" only to have an oposite study published next week. Contrary to popular belief science doesn't always agrea with itself, so why fault people for not believing it at face value.

Re:We are conditioned to disagree with "science" (1)

drumcat (1659893) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379722)

Low fat diets would keep us skinny and healthy. Opposite happened. Why would we trust that kind of governmental science? We're looking for answers, not facts. Jesus will solve that, since the FDA didn't.

But...science is faith too! (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379508)

For me, without being able to replicate experimental results personally, perform higher math easily, or penetrate the often obtuse language of scientific publications means that while I can consider a hypothesis or theory, I'm basically doing what those who follow the teachings of a religion are doing...interpreting someone else's work by using my common experience.

The fact that I believe science is largely accurate and a better way to describe our surroundings than religion is as much faith as someone who believes in their religion. Scientific Impotence is another way of saying "I'd like to recognize that alternate faith, but I still think mine is more valid."

Cargo Cult Science (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32379524)

The problem is with everybody, including "scientists" themselves, as Richard Feynman pointed out,

... I never pay any attention to anything by "experts." I calculate everything myself... I'll never make that mistake again, reading the experts' opinions.

And he elaborates more in his lecture (and an adapted chapter in his book Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman [gorgorat.com] ):

During the Middle Ages there were all kinds of crazy ideas, such as
that a piece of rhinoceros horn would increase potency. Then a method was
discovered for separating the ideas -- which was to try one to see if it
worked, and if it didn't work, to eliminate it. This method became
organized, of course, into science. And it developed very well, so that we
are now in the scientific age. It is such a scientific age, in fact, that we
have difficulty in understanding how witch doctors could ever have existed,
when nothing that they proposed ever really worked -- or very little of it
did.
          But even today I meet lots of people who sooner or later get me into a
conversation about UFOs, or astrology, or some form of mysticism, expanded
consciousness, new types of awareness, ESP, and so forth. And I've concluded
that it's not a scientific world.
          Most people believe so many wonderful things that I decided to
investigate why they did. And what has been referred to as my curiosity for
investigation has landed me in a difficulty where I found so much junk that
I'm overwhelmed. First I started out by investigating various ideas of
mysticism, and mystic experiences. I went into isolation tanks and got many
hours of hallucinations, so I know something about that. Then I went to
Esalen, which is a hotbed of this kind of thought (it's a wonderful place;
you should go visit there). Then I became overwhelmed. I didn't realize how
much there was.
          At Esalen there are some large baths fed by hot springs situated on a
ledge about thirty feet above the ocean. One of my most pleasurable
experiences has been to sit in one of those baths and watch the waves
crashing onto the rocky shore below, to gaze into the clear blue sky above,
and to study a beautiful nude as she quietly appears and settles into the
bath with me.
          One time I sat down in a bath where there was a beautiful girl sitting
with a guy who didn't seem to know her. Right away I began thinking, "Gee!
How am I gonna get started talking to this beautiful nude babe?"
          I'm trying to figure out what to say, when the guy says to her, "I'm,
uh, studying massage. Could I practice on you?"
          "Sure," she says. They get out of the bath and she lies down on a
massage table nearby.
          I think to myself, "What a nifty line! I can never think of anything
like that!" He starts to rub her big toe. "I think I feel it," he says. "I
feel a kind of dent -- is that the pituitary?"
          I blurt out, "You're a helluva long way from the pituitary, man!"
          They looked at me, horrified -- I had blown my cover -- and said, "It's
reflexology!"
          I quickly closed my eyes and appeared to be meditating.
          That's just an example of the kind of things that overwhelm me. I also
looked into extrasensory perception and PSI phenomena, and the latest craze
there was Uri Geller, a man who is supposed to be able to bend keys by
rubbing them with his finger. So I went to his hotel room, on his
invitation, to see a demonstration of both mindreading and bending keys. He
didn't do any mindreading that succeeded; nobody can read my mind, I guess.
And my boy held a key and Geller rubbed it, and nothing happened. Then he
told us it works better under water, and so you can picture all of us
standing in the bathroom with the water turned on and the key under it, and
him rubbing the key with his finger. Nothing happened. So I was unable to
investigate that phenomenon.
          But then I began to think, what else is there that we believe? (And I
thought then about the witch doctors, and how easy it would have been to
check on them by noticing that nothing really worked.) So I found things
that even more people believe, such as that we have some knowledge of how to
educate. There are big schools of reading methods and mathematics methods,
and so forth, but if you notice, you'll see the reading scores keep going
down -- or hardly going up -- in spite of the fact that we continually use
these same people to improve the methods. There's a witch doctor remedy that
doesn't work. It ought to be looked into; how do they know that their method
should work? Another example is how to treat criminals. We obviously have
made no progress -- lots of theory, but no progress -- in decreasing the
amount of crime by the method that we use to handle criminals.
          Yet these things are said to be scientific. We study them. And I think
ordinary people with commonsense ideas are intimidated by this
pseudoscience. A teacher who has some good idea of how to teach her children
to read is forced by the school system to do it some other way -- or is even
fooled by the school system into thinking that her method is not necessarily
a good one. Or a parent of bad boys, after disciplining them in one way or
another, feels guilty for the rest of her life because she didn't do "the
right thing," according to the experts.
          So we really ought to look into theories that don't work, and science
that isn't science.
          I think the educational and psychological studies I mentioned are
examples of what I would like to call cargo cult science. In the South Seas
there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with
lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So
they've arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides
of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden
pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like
antennas -- he's the controller -- and they wait for the airplanes to land.
They're doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the
way it looked before. But it doesn't work. No airplanes land. So I call
these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the apparent
precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they're missing
something essential, because the planes don't land.
          Now it behooves me, of course, to tell you what they're missing. But it
would be just about as difficult to explain to the South Sea Islanders how
they have to arrange things so that they get some wealth in their system. It
is not something simple like telling them how to improve the shapes of the
earphones. But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in
cargo cult science. That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in
studying science in school -- we never explicitly say what this is, but just
hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It
is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly.
It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that
corresponds to a kind of utter honesty -- a kind of leaning over backwards.
For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything
that you think might make it invalid -- not only what you think is right
about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things
you thought of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they
worked -- to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.
          Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if
you know them. You must do the best you can -- if you know anything at all
wrong, or possibly wrong -- to explain it. If you make a theory, for
example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all
the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There
is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to
make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it
fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the
idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come
out right, in addition.
          In summary, the idea is to try to give all of the information to help
others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information
that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.
          The easiest way to explain this idea is to contrast it, for example,
with advertising. Last night I heard that Wesson oil doesn't soak through
food. Well, that's true. It's not dishonest; but the thing I'm talking about
is not just a matter of not being dishonest, it's a matter of scientific
integrity, which is another level. The fact that should be added to that
advertising statement is that no oils soak through food, if operated at a
certain temperature. If operated at another temperature, they all will --
including Wesson oil. So it's the implication which has been conveyed, not
the fact, which is true, and the difference is what we have to deal with.
          We've learned from experience that the truth will come out. Other
experimenters will repeat your experiment and find out whether you were
wrong or right. Nature's phenomena will agree or they'll disagree with your
theory. And, although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you
will not gain a good reputation as a scientist if you haven't tried to be
very careful in this kind of work. And it's this type of integrity, this
kind of care not to fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much
of the research in cargo cult science.
          A great deal of their difficulty is, of course, the difficulty of the
subject and the inapplicability of the scientific method to the subject.
Nevertheless, it should be remarked that this is not the only difficulty.
That's why the planes don't land -- but they don't land.
          We have learned a lot from experience about how to handle some of the
ways we fool ourselves. One example: Millikan measured the charge on an
electron by an experiment with falling oil drops, and got an answer which we
now know not to be quite right. It's a little bit off, because he had the
incorrect value for the viscosity of air. It's interesting to look at the
history of measurements of the charge of the electron, after Millikan. If
you plot them as a function of time, you find that one is a little bigger
than Millikan's, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, and the
next one's a little bit bigger than that, until finally they settle down to
a number which is higher.
          Why didn't they discover that the new number was higher right away?
It's a thing that scientists are ashamed of -- this history -- because it's
apparent that people did things like this: When they got a number that was
too high above Millikan's, they thought something must be wrong -- and they
would look for and find a reason why something might be wrong. When they got
a number closer to Millikan's value they didn't look so hard. And so they
eliminated the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like
that. We've learned those tricks nowadays, and now we don't have that kind
of a disease.
          But this long history of learning how to not fool ourselves -- of
having utter scientific integrity -- is, I'm sorry to say, something that we
haven't specifically included in any particular course that I know of. We
just hope you've caught on by osmosis.
          The first principle is that you must not fool yourself -- and you are
the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After
you've not fooled yourself, it's easy not to fool other scientists. You just
have to be honest in a conventional way after that.
          I would like to add something that's not essential to the science, but
something I kind of believe, which is that you should not fool the layman
when you're talking as a scientist. I am not trying to tell you what to do
about cheating on your wife, or fooling your girlfriend, or something like
that, when you're not trying to be a scientist, but just trying to be an
ordinary human being. We'll leave those problems up to you and your rabbi.
I'm talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but
bending over backwards to show how you're maybe wrong, that you ought to
have when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as
scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen.
          For example, I was a little surprised when I was talking to a friend
who was going to go on the radio. He does work on cosmology and astronomy,
and he wondered how he would explain what the applications of this work
were. "Well," I said, "there aren't any." He said, "Yes, but then we won't
get support for more research of this kind." I think that's kind of
dishonest. If you're representing yourself as a scientist, then you should
explain to the layman what you're doing -- and if they don't want to support
you under those circumstances, then that's their decision.
          One example of the principle is this: If you've made up your mind to
test a theory, or you want to explain some idea, you should always decide to
publish it whichever way it comes out. If we only publish results of a
certain kind, we can make the argument look good. We must publish both kinds
of results.
          I say that's also important in giving certain types of government
advice. Supposing a senator asked you for advice about whether drilling a
hole should be done in his state; and you decide it would be better in some
other state. If you don't publish such a result, it seems to me you're not
giving scientific advice. You're being used. If your answer happens to come
out in the direction the government or the politicians like, they can use it
as an argument in their favor; if it comes out the other way, they don't
publish it at all. That's not giving scientific advice.
          Other kinds of errors are more characteristic of poor science. When I
was at Cornell, I often talked to the people in the psychology department.
One of the students told me she wanted to do an experiment that went
something like this -- it had been found by others that under certain
circumstances, X, rats did something, A. She was curious as to whether, if
she changed the circumstances to Y, they would still do A. So her proposal
was to do the experiment under circumstances Y and see if they still did A.
          I explained to her that it was necessary first to repeat in her
laboratory the experiment of the other person -- to do it under condition X
to see if she could also get result A, and then change to Y and see if A
changed. Then she would know that the real difference was the thing she
thought she had under control.
          She was very delighted with this new idea, and went to her professor.
And his reply was, no, you cannot do that, because the experiment has
already been done and you would be wasting time. This was in about 1947 or
so, and it seems to have been the general policy then to not try to repeat
psychological experiments, but only to change the conditions and see what
happens.
          Nowadays there's a certain danger of the same thing happening, even in
the famous field of physics. I was shocked to hear of an experiment done at
the big accelerator at the National Accelerator Laboratory, where a person
used deuterium. In order to compare his heavy hydrogen results to what might
happen with light hydrogen, he had to use data from someone else's
experiment on light hydrogen, which was done on different apparatus. When
asked why, he said it was because he couldn't get time on the program
(because there's so little time and it's such expensive apparatus) to do the
experiment with light hydrogen on this apparatus because there wouldn't be
any new result. And so the men in charge of programs at NAL are so anxious
for new results, in order to get more money to keep the thing going for
public relations purposes, they are destroying -- possibly -- the value of
the experiments themselves, which is the whole purpose of the thing. It is
often hard for the experimenters there to complete their work as their
scientific integrity demands.
          All experiments in psychology are not of this type, however. For
example, there have been many experiments running rats through all kinds of
mazes, and so on -- with little clear result. But in 1937 a man named Young
did a very interesting one. He had a long corridor with doors all along one
side where the rats came in, and doors along the other side where the food
was. He wanted to see if he could train the rats to go in at the third door
down from wherever he started them off. No. The rats went immediately to the
door where the food had been the time before.
          The question was, how did the rats know, because the corridor was so
beautifully built and so uniform, that this was the same door as before?
Obviously there was something about the door that was different from the
other doors. So he painted the doors very carefully, arranging the textures
on the faces of the doors exactly the same. Still the rats could tell. Then
he thought maybe the rats were smelling the food, so he used chemicals to
change the smell after each run. Still the rats could tell. Then he realized
the rats might be able to tell by seeing the lights and the arrangement in
the laboratory like any commonsense person. So he covered the corridor, and
still the rats could tell.
          He finally found that they could tell by the way the floor sounded when
they ran over it. And he could only fix that by putting his corridor in
sand. So he covered one after another of all possible clues and finally was
able to fool the rats so that they had to learn to go in the third door. If
he relaxed any of his conditions, the rats could tell.
          Now, from a scientific standpoint, that is an A-number-one experiment.
That is the experiment that makes rat-running experiments sensible, because
it uncovers the clues that the rat is really using -- not what you think
it's using. And that is the experiment that tells exactly what conditions
you have to use in order to be careful and control everything in an
experiment with rat-running.
          I looked into the subsequent history of this research. The next
experiment, and the one after that, never referred to Mr. Young. They never
used any of his criteria of putting the corridor on sand, or being very
careful. They just went right on running rats in the same old way, and paid
no attention to the great discoveries of Mr. Young, and his papers are not
referred to, because he didn't discover anything about the rats. In fact, he
discovered all the things you have to do to discover something about rats.
But not paying attention to experiments like that is a characteristic of
cargo cult science.
          Another example is the ESP experiments of Mr. Rhine, and other people.
As various people have made criticisms -- and they themselves have made
criticisms of their own experiments -- they improve the techniques so that
the effects are smaller, and smaller, and smaller until they gradually
disappear. All the parapsychologists are looking for some experiment that
can be repeated -- that you can do again and get the same effect --
statistically, even. They run a million rats -- no, it's people this time --
they do a lot of things and get a certain statistical effect. Next time they
try it they don't get it any more. And now you find a man saying that it is
an irrelevant demand to expect a repeatable experiment. This is science?
          This man also speaks about a new institution, in a talk in which he was
resigning as Director of the Institute of Parapsychology. And, in telling
people what to do next, he says that one of the things they have to do is be
sure they only train students who have shown their ability to get PSI
results to an acceptable extent -- not to waste their time on those
ambitious and interested students who get only chance results. It is very
dangerous to have such a policy in teaching -- to teach students only how to
get certain results, rather than how to do an experiment with scientific
integrity.
          So I have just one wish for you -- the good luck to be somewhere where
you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where
you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the
organization or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you
have that freedom.

Define people (1, Insightful)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379574)

Scientists are people as well - "choose not to accept scientific data because it conflicts with their predefined beliefs". They can have the same problem, and I would bet it happens a lot once careers, huge grants and academic prestige and huge egos get into play. A white lab coat does not make you a super-people, a god, infallible, incapable of being wrong, or corrupt, or bribe-able, or blackmail-able, or otherwise influenced adversely.

The "scientific community" has been seriously wrong down through the ages on any number of subjects, the "consensus", the predetermined "beliefs" lead to rote conformity, a herd mentality, and the inability to admit facts and data that where staring them in the face.

It's time to stop worrying (3, Funny)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379578)

why people don't believe demonstrable facts, and instead concentrate on how we can exploit that. The churches figured this all out centuries ago, surely the scientific community can too.

The war between the tabula rasa and the soul (1)

Xaedalus (1192463) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379642)

To me this piece is rather interesting (and the commentary) because it offers a glimpse into two very distinct mindsets: the view that we are all programmable machines and if only we get the "right" information in and all the "wrong" information out then everything will be fine, and the view that somehow, someway we come preprogrammed and thus have a tendency to self-select data that supports our personal beliefs.

Why do we persist in continuing to believe that somehow we'll cure the problem of religious fundamentalism if only we pound enough data through everyone's skull? Because there is the pervasive belief that we're just programmable machines. Well if that's so, then why in this day and age do we STILL have people who believe in Creationism? Or ID? Or climate change being false? Wouldn't an overload of correct information purge those beliefs away?

Religion is unassailable (1)

drumcat (1659893) | more than 4 years ago | (#32379702)

Religion will always offer an answer that science must admit it does not know. Science, by not knowing, is beautiful to me. It is the search. The problem is when people don't have the simplistic car analogy or capacity/education to understand something, they'd rather compartmentalize their unknown to a rational, safe place. This is SOP for people because it is at the center of their coping mechanisms. At one time, it was a man-god with a flaming chariot crossing the sky of a flat earth. As Pumba reckoned, it's a nuclear fusion fireball... but he was an odd duck. Most people don't want to care because they have no control over it. If the Sun goes off with a harsh explosion, we all have 8 minutes. Do we sit and worry about the huge fusion nuke bomb going off all the time, or do we go get a tan? A tan is more rational. But once you decide the Sun is a good thing, you don't think about it all the time. 2000 years ago, it was better to let Apollo do his daily deal, and not worry about it. Not much has changed; just the rationalizations made by the people spewing the garbage to maintain ever more social control. The more things get complex, the more this phenomenon will permeate. We're peaking as a species with what we understand as individuals. We are too specialized. So instead of explaining the basics of new things, we do car analogies and football fields, and failing that, we say to the rest that it's God's Will, and Allah's Might. And 7,000,000,000 idiots all get along to a lesser degree.
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