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The Encroachment of Fact-Free Science

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the truth-is-out-there dept.

Science 962

G3ckoG33k writes "Fact-free science is not a joke; it is very much on the move, and it is quite possibly the most dangerous movement in centuries, for the entirety of mankind. One can say it began as counter-movement to Karl Popper's ground-breaking proposals in the early 20th century, which insisted that statements purporting to describe the reality should be made falsifiable. A few decades later, some critics of Popper said that statements need peer acceptance, which then makes also natural science a social phenomenon. Even later, in 1996, professor Alan Sokal submitted a famous article ridiculing the entire anti-science movement. Now New York Times has an article describing the latest chilling acts of the socially relativistic, postmodern loons. It is a chilling read, and they may be swinging both the political left and right. Have they been successful in transforming the world yet? How would we know?"

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Before we start the flame wars (4, Insightful)

Intron (870560) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405064)

Let's agree not to call this a "Republican" or "Democratic" position. The problem is that there are adherents to scientific claims who don't know the truth on both sides. I don't claim to know much about climate science, evolution, natural history or reproductive biology. So me claiming a "scientific" position on global warming, creationism, evolution or abortion is to some extent who I want to have faith in. Generally I choose respected scientists, but its still faith on my part because I haven't done the research myself.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (5, Insightful)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405132)

The problem is not that someone is ignorant, it's that people who are ignorant and unqualified to make any decisions, make those decisions based entirely on ideology, and present their ideologically-inspired beliefs as "truth".

What, I guess, is a step up from doing the same with religion instead of political ideology (hi, "pro-lifers" and evolution deniers), but not by much.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (0, Offtopic)

bondsbw (888959) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405272)

See my reply to the GP below. Then please tell me, why do you believe in evolution?

It's just a question... not expressing my opinion one way or another, but you are calling out evolution-deniers, so I'm calling you out.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (5, Insightful)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405350)

Because there is a huge amount of evidence available to even a casual observer, and the opposition has no answer that is even remotely convincing. This is not a statement of faith, this is a statement of reason. To deny that this position is the correct one is to deny that there is any such thing as truth or reason and that we might as well give up trying.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (0, Flamebait)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405518)

>>>there is a huge amount of evidence available to even a casual observer

Well my "casual" observation shows there was another global warming period during the time of Ancient Egypt (circa 3500 BC) and again in the Roman Empire (circa 300-1300).

Clearly those global warming periods were not caused by cars, so there's no reason to think the present period is either. We need to find the REAL cause for these three Warming periods, which are not man-made.

IMHO

Re:Before we start the flame wars (5, Interesting)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405622)

but we can attribute those periods to natural phenomenon not as influential during out current warming trend, while we can also show evidence that man made phenomenon are most likely the cause of the current trend which is rising MUCH faster than the ones you cited.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (2)

bberens (965711) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405528)

I agree. I'm hesitant to say that our current interpretation of evolution is 100% fact. It is, however, the most reasonable explanation I've heard based on the evidence available. Just as new discoveries in particle physics may change our understanding of "real world" physics we may discover new evidence in the future to change our understanding of how human beings came into existence. I wouldn't even discount the possibility of finding evidence to support super-human (divine) intervention. The current evidence doesn't seem to point that way though.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (5, Insightful)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405372)

See my reply to the GP below. Then please tell me, why do you believe in evolution?

Because of the only two available explanation -- evolutions and divine intervention -- one is presented as plausible explanation with evidence, and another is "believe in what I said, or my imaginary friend will tell my imaginary enemy to burn you in hell after you die!".

If I was a biologist, I would be qualified to analyze the evidence deeper and in more details, however being merely an educated person capable of thinking, I have to do with this.

Just like so-called "Intelligent Design" (4, Interesting)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405634)

This whole topic pisses me off. The non-science idiots who try to pervert science with their armchair observations polluted with religion are ruining this country.

We need science policy based on fact - not fantasy. This creationist crap is what leads to bad policies for the country as a whole too and impacts global warming and energy policy just as much as science funding.

Keep the nut jobs out of science.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405486)

While you were asking somebody else, I can answer your question from my perspective:

I believe in Evolution because it's an attempt to provide a logical explanation for how and why things are the way they are today. When we look at the archaeological record, we know that many species have risen to dominance in the past, and are now no longer dominant. We also know that some species have changed over the years from their original form. Evolution is the first plausible explanation for why this is happening that I've seen... I discount the "intelligent design" explanation not because I think it isn't plausible, but because I think it's a non-explanation. It could very well turn out to be the way that things actually happened (not that I think it's particularly likely), but it discourages questioning and investigation. The most vehement and vocal "ID" proponents flatly refuse to consider the possibilty that they could be wrong. In a very direct way, ID stifles learning and progress in society, and I have serious problems with that. Evolution, on the other hand, actively encourages people to investigate, to look deeper, and to try to find a new explanation and answer for what they are seeing. Evolutionary science has led to new advances in biology, chemistry, and physics, and there are some technologies we take for granted today that would not have been possible without the investigations of others in the field of Evolution. (modern Genetics, for example). Even if Evolution ultimately proves to be incorrect, it has made a great contribution to the life we enjoy today, and because of that alone, I think it's more worthy of study and investigation than some of the more popular alternatives.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (2)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405536)

People don't need to "believe" in evolution. It is an observable and testable phenomenon.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (5, Insightful)

nharmon (97591) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405368)

There is a problem with ideology being thrust into issues that are not ideological. Which is why I found it a bit strange you lump "pro-lifers" in with people who deny evolution. Doctors and other qualified medical people are not entirely on one side of the abortion debate. And it is often the case where two people can be well-informed on reproductive biology and still arrive at different positions on the issue.

This is because abortion is fundamentally an ideological issue, incorporating morality, reproductive freedom, and value of life. Which is wholly different from taking an ideological stance on an issue that is not at all ideological, like evolution. In contrast to abortion, with evolution it is very rare for two people who are well-informed of the facts to arrive at different positions on the issue.

So while I agree with you that ideology does get thrust into situations where it should not be, the reverse of that; taking an ideological issue and demanding that it be evaluated purely on scientific grounds, is equally problematic.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (1)

danbert8 (1024253) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405502)

I agree with you. The definition of life is not very good. Especially in a human context. The real crux of the abortion issue is when does a mother separate from it's child into two lives? Is it at conception, birth, somewhere in between? That is not a scientific issue. Most people agree at what point the entity has for example: A complete set of unique DNA, a beating heart, the ability to feel pain, the ability to breathe on its own... Those items are scientific consensus. The part that isn't scientific at all, "when is it killing a baby?" is left for the philosophers.

My personal view is that life begins at conception, and as such, abortion is wrong. However, I am a libertarian, and I have a hard time saying abortion should be illegal. My real question is, what is the fundamental difference between abortion and murder?

Re:Before we start the flame wars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405632)

Probably the same difference between forcing a women to be pregnant and giving her a mulligan for the greatest of life changers.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (2)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405578)

Seconded. It is absurd to lump anti-abortion in with Creationism. I am strongly anti-abortion. I also find the theory of evolution eminently believable. Making divisive issues like abortion a part of political factionalism is just a means of keeping opposition from organizing.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (5, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405602)

It's really not strange to lump pro-lifers in with those anti-science nutters. They frequently take the position that a fetus is a person complete with all that entails and that a fetus exists from conception. Such a clumping of cells isn't any more a person than that wart I had removed was.

A person is entitled to have an opinion on that issue, but rewriting our knowledge to suit somebody that's probably too stupid to recognize that IVF results in far more embryos being disposed of than abortion on a per instance basis.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (2)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405434)

>>>Let's agree not to call this a "Republican" or "Democratic" position

Right.

It's those nutty thieving Libertarians. (I joke.)

Re:Before we start the flame wars (1)

Frans Faase (648933) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405458)

I agree with you, except for the signature you are using. You cannot claim that there is no God, because to do so, you would need to be omniscient. And that would make you God-like. Stating with absolute certainty that there is no God is also an ideology and not based on scientific truth. And that gives me the impression that you are rather ignorant about the nature of scientific truth.

--
Contrary to the popular belief, it is probably impossible to know if there is a God or not.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405146)

Let's agree not to call this a "Republican" or "Democratic" position.

Bullshit. We can agree on that the day that Democrats start running candidates for President that OPENLY DENY accepted scientific fact. Otherwise, fuck off.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405202)

Provide an example.

AGW and evolution don't count, they are theories, not facts.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (2)

Maritz (1829006) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405388)

Evolution is a theory and a fact.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (1)

Drethon (1445051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405628)

Natural selection is a fact. Can you point to an observation of one species evolving something that never existed in its genes previously other than the interpretation of fossil records?

I don't believe or disbelieve either side, I just take pieces of truth from all sides and compare and contrast...

Re:Before we start the flame wars (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405436)

Gravity is also a theory...

Re:Before we start the flame wars (0, Troll)

orphiuchus (1146483) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405250)

Every single Democrat and some of the garbage science behind Global Warming. Every single Democrat and every single fact that they deem offensive(Any race/gender based statistic that doesn't show complete equality or blame white people for the problems). Almost every single Democrat and any garbage Science which at the moment is popular (eugenics before WW2, vaccines and autism today).

I'm not saying the republicans are doing the exact same thing, but to pretend that the democrats don't is just silly.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405312)

Just because Republicans think we are some blessed species that should be able to soil this planet any way they see fit thus dooming our species to extension (oh, sorry, "bringing on the second coming of jesus") doesn't make global warming junk science.

Also, Republicans believe in the biggest junk "science" ever. It's called religion.

Check and mate.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405566)

Oh, please. My friend's mum is an Anglican minister. Her and all her congregation are the most far Left people I have ever met. This "If Religious therefore Republican/RightWing" meme is a pack of crap. I meet more liberal religious people than I can ever hope to count.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (1)

danbert8 (1024253) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405532)

I'm not going to get into the politics or science, but just felt the need to comment that a post from an AC saying "Democrats never deny scientific fact" gets modded informative, while a post from someone who is logged in saying "both sides are full of shit" gets modded troll. Why can't I selectively metamod?

Re:Before we start the flame wars (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405562)

Every single Democrat and some of the garbage science behind Global Warming.

"Some of" the garbage science -- I suppose this is in contravention to the "good" AGW science that everyone accepts for the purpose of your argument. Nice way of embedding the walk-back into the assertion, there.

Give it a break, the Republicans are the same people that have now re-established styrofoam in the congress cafeteria [msn.com] because that's just how passionate they are about denying that anything is wrong with the environment. Biodegradable containers and utensils were just too hippie-dippie. The article's exactly right, the science is irrelevant, it's become a cultural issue. Libertarians decided that the government taxing your carbon was an encroachment on their freedom, and social conservatives hate how the french fry boxes aren't as stiff as the old ones, therefore pollution doesn't exist. QED.

Every single Democrat and every single fact that they deem offensive(Any race/gender based statistic that doesn't show complete equality or blame white people for the problems).

That's not really a scientific position, it's a social one, even if your characterization were fair. Neither blaming white people nor blaming black people is a testable hypothesis, both embed a belief in certain kinds of social justice.

Almost every single Democrat and any garbage Science which at the moment is popular (eugenics before WW2, vaccines and autism today).

I could probably find a list of Republicans a mile long that drank Thorium water for their health, practiced Fletcherism, and murdered indians. I could probably also generate a long list of Democrats that were neither eugenicist, nor today accept the Jim Carrey line on vaccines. You really can't hold people responsible for things their great-grandparent's generation believed, and even if you examine them at the time, there's very little ideologically that binds people back then -- usually they believed in whatever (1) allowed them to make the most money, and (2) allowed their town to stay the same. Same applies now; the ideology and rationale are just a tool used to produce outcomes (1) and (2), by both sides.

But Republicans more :) .

Re:Before we start the flame wars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405160)

Let's agree not to call this a "Republican" or "Democratic" position.

You Liberals always wanting "fair and balanced" - sheesh!

Re:Before we start the flame wars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405220)

Short version of TFA: "Republicans are anti-science because many of them don't buy into man-made global warming. That's one data point, so it must be true." I hate to burst your bubble, but it was written solely to get people on the left and right bandwagons shaking their fists at one another.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405384)

Yea, I was really looking forward to an interesting article based on TFS, instead we got a bunch of horseshit about global warming, and how anyone who ever questions anything about global warming is a moron and a luddite.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (3, Insightful)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405604)

Actually, wouldn't a real Luddite glom on to AGW as proof that technology is going to destroy us?

Re:Before we start the flame wars (0)

bondsbw (888959) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405226)

Just my opinion, the problem is that no single person can juggle all the facts in the world in his or her head. So, everybody to some extent takes the word of others as truth. It's a fact of human nature, and I don't think it could be another way.

So, how many times have you or I just accepted something that has less credibility than Wikipedia, simply because the tests and research aren't worth the answer? And then, later on having forgotten the credibility of that fact, bundled it together with other facts or fictions and come to a conclusion that may be well reasoned, but nonetheless incorrect?

That's why it is unwise to simply accept big subjects with many parts, like evolution, as true and inerrant. You wind up believing work from a scientist who may or may not have exhaustively researched the work, combined with many others, and accepting it all without question since it sounds reasonable and either agrees with your assumptions, or disagrees with a belief you dislike.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405334)

That's why it is unwise to simply accept big subjects with many parts, like evolution, as true and inerrant.

WTF are you talking about?! Go back to high school biology class and see a demonstration of evolution in twenty petri dishes before your very eyes. Unless your wacko religion told you not to believe them either.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (0)

bondsbw (888959) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405506)

Obviously, I meant evolution as an explanation of prehistory. Few people deny the small steps that can be shown in a lab, but every few months we see research come out that challenges natural-selection evolution as we understand it as the sole explanation of our existence.

That's what I mean... it's like believing that the earth is flat, which was widely held by even scientists centuries ago. How fervent did some of those people defend that belief, based on assumed "facts"? Did people get killed over disagreement? What if historical evolution is incorrect, yet today's scientists have decided it is true and nothing will change their minds?

If this were you, then you would be just as bad as the people whose ideas you stand against.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (5, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405498)

That's why it is unwise to simply accept big subjects with many parts, like evolution, as true and inerrant. You wind up believing work from a scientist who may or may not have exhaustively researched the work, combined with many others, and accepting it all without question since it sounds reasonable and either agrees with your assumptions, or disagrees with a belief you dislike.

I'll take the word of a scientist who may or may not have exhaustively researched the work above that of a random guy who most certainly has not done any research at all.
The reason science requires theories to be falsifiable is exactly because scientists know they will never ever get to 100% truth. By making sure everything is falsifiable, atleast they can be certain that they get closer to the truth every time a theory is disproven.
"The whole truth" is a holy grail that'll never be attained, but a good model that can predict reality closely is a pretty good substitute.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (5, Insightful)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405240)

Let's agree not to call this a "Republican" or "Democratic" position. The problem is that there are adherents to scientific claims who don't know the truth on both sides. I don't claim to know much about climate science, evolution, natural history or reproductive biology. So me claiming a "scientific" position on global warming, creationism, evolution or abortion is to some extent who I want to have faith in. Generally I choose respected scientists, but its still faith on my part because I haven't done the research myself.

It most certainly is a Republican/Democrat position. The difference is that Republicans who don't understand something dismiss is altogether, while OTOH as the Sokal incident pointed out, some Democrats held too much faith in scientists. I would hope that, in matters of science, politicians have more faith in scientists and in, say, religion. I mean, this is pretty chilling.

As John Shimkus of Illinois, who also sits on the [House Energy and Commerce Committee]— as well as on the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment — has said that the government doesn’t need to make a priority of regulating greenhouse-gas emissions, because as he put it late last year, “God said the earth would not be destroyed by a flood.”

This kind of ignorance is dangerous and baffling. It's not as if he's arguing against anthropogenic global warming using science. Hell, maybe he believes in global warming and that it really is man-made. But he refuses to accept what will happen because the Bible says otherwise. What. The. Fuck.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (1, Insightful)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405260)

Let me guess, you're a Republican Right? And you're too embarrassed to admit that by and large your party has become the anti-science party (unless it fits your religious world view).

I'd prefer to call a spade a spade and IF THE FACTS SAY (as is appears to be the case) that Republicans have become the party of ignorance then that's what they say. I had no trouble railing against the radical left's relativism so why should I give the conservatives a pass?

As much as I'd hate to live under an authoritarian police state with few individual rights maybe the Chinese DESERVE to win. They certainly don't have a problem with pushing science and technology as the keys to a powerful and wealthy nation.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (4, Insightful)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405444)

Even if it is a viewpoint typical of Republicans, not all of the social, political, and economic conservatives who align themselves with the Republican party are antiscientific. It's true that many of them have jumped ship at this point, but not all of them have. We shouldn't generalize. Also: spewing bile like that is bad for your credibility, even when your opponent is clearly equally or more aggressive.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (2)

danbert8 (1024253) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405584)

Hey, Keynesian economics has plenty of evidence and economists suggesting it's wrong, but that doesn't stop both parties from pushing further away from free-market ideals...

Or if that is still too debatable. I don't think anyone with any math skills at all would disagree that spending more than you bring in is a bad long-term policy, yet Democrats and Republicans alike don't seem to agree with that.

I guess the real point is, Democrats and Republicans will say ANYTHING REGARDLESS OF FACTS if it will get them votes.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (5, Insightful)

Noryungi (70322) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405338)

Let's agree not to call this a "Republican" or "Democratic" position.

Have you read the article? It clearly states that the vast majority of Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates are against global warming. So, yes, this is clearly, first and foremost, a "Republican" problems -- though I'll be the first to admit Democratic politicians also trade in "woo".

So me claiming a "scientific" position on global warming, creationism, evolution or abortion is to some extent who I want to have faith in.

First of all, how can you have a scientific position on abortion? It's a moral issue, not a scientific one.

Second, Abortion is pretty much a clear-cut case: the vast majority of abortions take place while the foetus is several millimeters long. They are not human beings, don't even have a brain let alone pain centers, and don't even remotely look like a child. You may still be against abortion -- and I am even willing to admit there is a moral component to this -- but it definitely require a bit more than the fuzzy statement given above.

Third, evolution is also pretty much a clear-cut case: we have evidence of evolution happening right now, under our very noses. Evolution has been proven true, again and again, since Darmin formulated it in the 19th century, and only the brainwashed religious masses still contest it. There are even 'sophisticated' theologians who are perfectly willing to admit that evolution and the existence of God are perfectly compatible, for Pete sake!

Fourth, pretty much everything I said about evolution is also true about global warming: this is not a scientific problem: it is a political problem and a problem of corporate propaganda (meaning: there are some very very rich, powerful and influential people who still want to pollute unhindered by rules and regulations). Period.

Generally I choose respected scientists, but its still faith on my part because I haven't done the research myself.

No, you are just propagating Republican talking points. if you have nothing to offer to this discussion, please, by all means remain silent and let other debate with more ideas and facts on both sides.

There, i have finished my rant, feel free to mod me down to the center of the Earth...

Re:Before we start the flame wars (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405600)

The problem with your reply is that global warming is one of the biggest fact-free science areas around.

I won't stick up for creationism for the same reason, but let's call a spade a spade, shall we?

Re:Before we start the flame wars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405346)

How about choosing the side with the greatest amount of evidence going against the greatest incentives to disprove that evidence? Lets be honest you don't get to be a scientific rock star by confirming the conclusions of others, you get there by overturning long-held conceptions with methodologically sound experiments which reject the null hypothesis.

Therefore, I trust science which has stood the test of time without being disproven (altering what I believe to be true when a better, more complete explanation comes along). This doesn't require becoming an expert in every field, simply a little bit of brainpower to recognize scientific conclusions which stand despite incredible incentives to disprove them.

For example, gravity. If a scientist could describe a theory which explained gravitation better than Einstein, he'd be the next Einstein. An incredible incentive to do research in this area. Problem is, nobody has done any better despite this incentive, so I'll trust ol' Albert for the time being.

It's why I support policy decisions based on the scientific conclusion of global warming. The first scientist (or group) that can provide sound scientific evidence that (1) explains all the old evidence of warming and (2) provides an alternative model which shows the earth isn't actually warming will become a rock star. Not to mention make $$ as a speaker and conservative celeb. There are people out there *right now* trying to do this. So far they've failed.* Until they do better, I'm going to support emissions regulations.

*There have been a few interesting alternative models, but none that are able to explain the results of OTHER models in a way that conclusively shows the Earth isn't warming.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405378)

Let's agree not to call this a "Republican" or "Democratic" position.

Absolutely! I'm simply going to label Fact-Free Science as an all-American phenomenon, to be set alongside fast-food, television, and free-marketism as yet another civilisation eroding development from those peculiar fellows from the USA. What will those colonials think of next?

Re:Before we start the flame wars (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405512)

"Before we start the flame wars" too late. The original article is already highly partisan. Instead of trying to grasp the whole trend of anti-Popper, anti-fact attitude in modern science which is much larger than human influence denial, it focuses only on one partisan issue.

Re:Before we start the flame wars (5, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405514)

I don't claim to know much about ... reproductive biology.

Don't worry, this is Slashdot. You're among friends.

People don't seem to think science is important (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405090)

Not related to the article that much, but I do admit I see a lot of people frown upon any career science related lately, and anything new that researchers come up with, people take with a grain of salt. String theory? "We're not made of strings, we're made of dirt!"

Re:People don't seem to think science is important (3, Insightful)

14erCleaner (745600) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405186)

Most people aren't really suited to a career in science. However, you don't have to be a physicist to "believe" in science (if that's the right word). It's the denial of reality that's the problem, not a lack of scientists.

Oh, well, even if we cause an ecological holocaust, wiping out all animals on earth larger than a mouse, the biosphere will adapt in the long run. I, for one, welcome our new cockroach overlords!

Re:People don't seem to think science is important (3, Informative)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405212)

For what it's worth, string theory is firmly in "hypothesis" range, and even string theorists acknowledge that. The question, if it is a complete mental masturbation or not, is kind of undecided, but judging by the number of people involved and effect on anything practical, it's not important at this point.

So much fail in this article. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405094)

It's just a long diatribe attacking those who oppose AGW, which is kind of the wrong side to be arguing against "fact free science"

Not only that, it appears to be nothing but ad hominem and argument from consensus.

Re:So much fail in this article. (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405172)

"This is stupid, and you are stupid" is not an ad hominem attack.

Re:So much fail in this article. (2)

Maritz (1829006) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405480)

Tentatively taking up the position of the scientific consensus is the most reasonable thing to do as a non-expert. No body of a similar standing to the IPCC has contradicted AGW as far as I'm aware. Maybe you know better. I don't.

Re:So much fail in this article. (3, Interesting)

orphiuchus (1146483) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405538)

Excellent point. Its funny how anyone who goes against Global Warming is instantly labeled as a perpetrator of "Bad Science", yet a lot of the initial politically funded and motivated research has turned out to be complete garbage.

I tend to believe that if the early research and consensus had been left to the scientists, and politicians like Al Gore had stayed out of it, it wouldn't be a political issue at all by this point.

When politics gets involved in science it ruins both.

Its just like rock music and religion.

postmodernism (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405100)

Everything you know about postmodernism is true. OR IS IT

Re:postmodernism (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405274)

At university, when studying about postmodernism (for some reason in a course titled International Political Theory), I felt like the professor was describing quantum mechanics: everything is based on your perceptions.

Unfortunately, I couldn't train myself to perceive those 80 minutes/week away, or perceive a top mark on my final exam... :(

Re:postmodernism (2)

Maritz (1829006) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405520)

If you show people two scientific models/theories of the same thing, (that they aren't familiar with already obviously) one older than the other, people generally can tell which is older and which is newer. This is all you have to do to invalidate postmodernism. It has been thoroughly discredited. Science works, and gets better/more accurate over time. A glance at the last hundred years can tell anyone that.

Systematic bias and groupthink (0)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405110)

It seems that science has been more and more biased by groupthink. As things get further specialized, you have many fields with a small handful of experts doing nearly all the research.

With the Internet and instant communication, these experts can constantly stay in touch, and influence each other's research and results. Often these same people are doing the peer reviews as well.

When this situation occurs in fields with highly political implications among researchers with known political affiliations, the situation is even worse. No longer do we have truly independent discovery and corroboration, we are left with discovery followed by sycophantic nodding.

Re:Systematic bias and groupthink (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405314)

Obviously you have no actual experience of science as practised, small fields of science are usually more contentious and with stronger rivalries. Like the difference between a house with many cats and a sack of "only" a few angry cats. Scientists do not get funding by agreeing with each other they get funding by proving each other wrong, or discovering something before another group and making them look stupid. Definitely not anything like the sort of happy families you are suggesting. Anyone who was caught adjusting data to match political ends would not just loose any prospect of a career but also any shred of respect from their peers, and replication of your experiments and demonstration of your falsehoods will be particularly swift in any field with strong polarisation as each side will try to take the others work apart(even more so than usual).

Re:Systematic bias and groupthink (1)

magsol (1406749) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405348)

I have to ask: do you have any evidence to support your theory? I'm not questioning your position, simply inquiring on what basis you make your claims. As a fledgling scientist in the ivory tower of academia, I have an insider's perspective on the peer review process, but I admit it's very easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and for that reason welcome any feedback on the process itself.

Ultimately NATURE has the final say (1)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405500)

The reason why Science (yes with a capital "S") always eventually finds the (objective because I'm not a hare-brained relativist) Truth (yes with a capital "T") is because NATURE (all caps) has the final say. Don't agree with my theory of nuclear physics? We'll see who's nuclear bomb works! Think I'm barking up the wrong tree in my semi-conductor theory? Well my new chip should work (or not). Don't agree on Global Warming? Well we'll know (unfortunately) well within most of our lifetimes.

Science, like any human endeavor has always had it's share of conspiracies, rivalries, petty feuds and whatnot. Just look at the bitterness between Newton and Liebnitz or the amount of skepticism (and personal attacks) the first people who proposed continental drift or black holes went through. Yet now they are very well accepted foundations of their disciplines because ultimately overwhelming amounts of colloborating observations proved them correct. The same thing will happen with global warming because (again) it will happen quickly enough for us to see. (Evolution is harder because speciation typically happens over many generations, however it has been widely observed (and repeated in labs) on a "small" scale which is why evolution denialists have given up on denying "micro"-evolution).

I wish that every critic of Global Warming would be forced to clearly state their true identity in a public manner for a permanent record. That way, in just 20-50 years, as the shit really hits the fan (and we lose Florida) their grandchildren can look at them and hold them up to contempt.

Scientists have to be above personal bias... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405124)

It's also hard, since personal bias on the part of researchers can guide studies astray. Often times, hard data is ignored if it doesn't fit the desired outcome. Now, granted, this doesn't happen all the time, but when one study becomes high profile and this is found out about it, it taints the reputation of science in general.

Religious people.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405150)

Fact-free science for me is most built up around religious thoughts and/or humans. Those which beliefs doesn't have scientific boundaries like the most other people (in my location at least). There is of course other beings which believe in fact-free science but they use to be, in my opinion, easier convince that they don't have reliable sources for their "facts".

Re:Religious people.. (2, Insightful)

orphiuchus (1146483) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405490)

I've seen this from both the religious and the ardently atheist. I used to work for a guy who was positive the world was 4000 years old. I explained to him several times how things like superposition work but he just never listened. I also have known several people over the years who were ardently atheist, and would gladly tell religious people how stupid they were, but at the same time believed just pharmaceutical companies are trying to trick them into giving their kids autism through poison vaccines.

It seems to me that the problem is humans are inclined to accept some form of religion, so when most people make the leap to agnostic or atheist they have to find something new, and its usually something moronic like joining PETA.

String theory comes to mind (5, Funny)

thinktech (1278026) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405156)

When I think about about fact free science...

Re:String theory comes to mind (2)

Lanczos (1786578) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405462)

Out of mod points but this is exactly what I thought too. Every time I hear Brian Greene talk about the multiverse as if it were something other than an unobservable mathematical construct I want to jump out the window. By definition science can't make any claims to what happens outside the observable universe since those claims are unobservable. This is so tautological I always think it should go without saying but alas...

Re:String theory comes to mind (2)

Brad1138 (590148) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405612)

Yes, but at least it is called "String theory". The name itself tells you it is a theory. I would be more acceptable of religion if it called itself "God Theory".

Another drive by hit piece (2, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405176)

Really, how does this story rate posting here?

This is not even a thinly disguised attack piece. Yet another "if you don't subscribe to the current global warming facts you are an idiot" . As in, there is no room for debate, it has been decided, any contrary view is automatically wrong. Any discussion which does not state full agreement is wrong. Any facts not in the approved list are wrong.

So the entire basis to attack the other side simply is over the one issue Global Warming which is not even completely decided science. We get new information daily, we get contrary information daily, we get supportive information daily, yet the one thing we can guarantee is that the NYT will voice the opinions of the Democratic party as indisputable fact at all times.

Re:Another drive by hit piece (2)

digsbo (1292334) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405244)

Thank you. I was so confused I was checking to see whether this summary was about the article linked to, or something else completely.

Re:Another drive by hit piece (5, Insightful)

bunratty (545641) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405450)

If your idea of a "not completely decided science" is one in which we "get new information daily" then there is no completely decided science. I haven't seen any information contrary to the hypothesis of AGW. I see lots of claims of this evidence, just like I see lots of claims that evolution is not how the variety of species came to be [intelligentdesign.org] , or claims that the theory of relativity is all wrong [conservapedia.com] . These are all examples of "fact-free science", in that they do not involve scientific evidence. What scientific evidence contrary to AGW do you think you've seen?

Peer review is broken (2, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405180)

Peer review seemed like a good idea at the time, but these days it increasingly seems to be a way for the most powerful clique to ensure their papers get published and no-one else does.

Ultimately consensus is worthless in science because it's so often been wrong.

Re:Peer review is broken (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405402)

Exactly

One day, a paper published that says X, next day, another one says Not X

Things are getting more difficult to prove.

Not to mention that in physics for example, you have a much higher degree of confidence than in medicine. (If only by the sheer repeatability of experiments)

Re:Peer review is broken (3, Insightful)

gehrehmee (16338) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405586)

Things are getting more difficult to prove.

Depending on what you mean by "prove". It's all too easy to present an argument and have it taken seriously, because the rigor in filtering out bad science is lacking, so it's easy to get something published that "proves" a position. Of course, when the proof/review system starts allowing proofs of all sorts of contradictory things, people's faith in the inscrutability of the proof system goes out the window.

Now, when you have several thousand people doing scientific research into one subject, you're going to get some dissenting results, either as a result of the "law of averages"-kind of thinking, or because sloppy methodology will creep in. It doesn't matter how rigorous the review system is, this is going to happen occasionally. So we need to figure out how to prevent people from latching onto the one result that shows what they want it to show, as opposed to the thousands that show the opposite.

Re:Peer review is broken (5, Interesting)

magsol (1406749) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405408)

That's the whole idea of the scientific process, though, in that being wrong drives change. The fact that we've "so often been wrong" I think proves the process works: someone publishes a paper, others peer review it and find it ok but with a few nagging yellow flags, other independent labs perform the same experiment and publish different results, consensus breaks down and alternate, more feasible theories are produced instead. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Also, as a student in research who only just had his first-ever paper accepted and published, I'd have to say your blanket statement about the "most powerful clique" ensuring their papers get published and "no one else"s is patently false. There are always going to be bad apples in research, just like any other field, but that doesn't make the whole process broken.

Re:Peer review is broken (1, Flamebait)

drolli (522659) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405466)

Your comment is not even worth negative mod points.

a) define broken. Especially define then "not broken" and tell me about which review system you would not say that it is broken.

b) The "powerful cliques" are quite large for the more important Journals. PRL has 1000s of possible referees. I dont think they are good buddies with each other and converse about each paper.

c) As a scientist is don't know what consensus is. I just know how knowledge make the path from a freshly published article to small reviews to reviews of modern physics and then sometimes it was important enough and still not falsified after 50 years enters the textbooks. It would be very interesting to hear from you where a peer-reviewed topic "was wrong" on a significant scale.

And i would like to know when

Re:Peer review is broken (2)

jcupitt65 (68879) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405574)

Peer review is not perfect of course, but it does work reasonably well. The overwhelming success of science. which rests in part on peer-review, is evidence of this.

I'm not sure you put enough emphasis on the competitiveness of research. Competition between scientists for grants is intense and getting grants depends on getting good papers out and (optionally) taking apart the work of your rivals. It just isn't possible for a good idea to be suppressed for very long or for a false idea to gain wide acceptance without being tested.

(disclosure: I'm a working scientist)

Science (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405190)

Just another victim of the love of money. This is the only direction politics can evolve into. Then there's a revolt, and the cycle starts again. Turtles all the way down

I love how the article is equally fact-free (5, Interesting)

BCoates (512464) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405198)

I love how the article is equally fact-free, but makes sure to include several opinion polls.

Re:I love how the article is equally fact-free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405354)

I love how the article is equally fact-free, but makes sure to include several opinion polls.

Um, it's an article. It's not science. It doesn't claim to be science. It only claims to be, well, an article.

Re:I love how the article is equally fact-free (1)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405614)

Fact free?

Is there a specific claim in the article that you think is unsubstantiated by fact? The opinion polls aren't being used to make a point about the physical sciences: I would hope that the large body of scientific literature on global climate change stands on its own. The polls in the story are used to illustrate a difference between conventional Republican party attitudes about the environment and popular opinion. How would you prefer the author go about that task?

Anti-Fact "Science" (0, Troll)

jkeelsnc (1102563) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405224)

I put science in quotes because the people that oppose fact based science simply invent science from their own religious or spiritual or anecdotal point of view. I mean I have other beliefs myself. But when it comes to Science for the purpose of implementation we need to base it on science fact. It is scary and disturbing that this movement against real science is taking hold. Especially, it is scary coming from the religious right and the teabagger/republicon crowd. These loons in the right wing will set us back centuries in science if they get their way. A bunch of nutcases. Thanks again (NOT) for voting republicon. You get what you vote for and so this is what we get from the right wing freaks. As for left wing, I honestly don't see this as much. Most "liberal nuts", as they are named by ring wingnuts, are usually attached to at least some basis of science fact when talking about the environment, technology, or even policies for energy, etc from the Government. The one exception that IS notable has to do with Nuclear energy. They are usually not educated on the new generation of nuclear technology that is much cleaner and safer than older reactor designs (IE newer Molten Salt, Breeder Reactors, etc). Anyway, there is at least some consideration among them for science fact. Where as the "intelligent design" and other delusional nutcases don't base anything in collected scientific discoveries.

No link (4, Insightful)

edremy (36408) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405238)

Warner seems to be arguing two points

A) There are lots of climate change deniers out there
B) Postmodernism has caused lots of people to think that science is all relative, and the folks in A) have adopted that banner.

I'll really argue the link here- I doubt that *anyone* in A has really, seriously read the literature from B. A is comprised primarily of folks who are either highly religious and refuse to adopt a scientific worldview at all (and would be totally horrified by the philosophy of B if they actually read it) or people who have massive financial incentives to believe that climate change isn't true. The fact that A people argue against science has far more to do with those two factors than anything a bunch of academic nutcases wrote about.

Let the trolling begin (1)

Whatsmynickname (557867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405266)

Science is when you make a model prediction ten years ago, found false today, and then adjust the model to fit reality. Confirmation bias is when you make a model fit whatever happens after the fact by explaining it away with some bullsh*t excuse. Discuss!

Sokal (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405268)

No, Sokal was specifically going after `post-modernist loons`, not anti-science as a whole.

Gullible people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405288)

More people are susceptible to manipulation than you think. Just look at the diehard Apple fans here on /. and their claims and justifications for their superior hardware and software. There are very good reasons to pick one product over and each has real merits (I own many Apple and non Apple products and have and will continue to for years as long as they meet my needs) but when you start making claims that can't be proven even remotely through science and common sense and you move the goal posts around when you attempt to justify it, or you believe that what is good for the company and not for you is an "advantage" you are effectively using junk science to prove your point.

The same people that hold those strong beliefs will also discount science, accountability, and provability for other things as well.

There is no such thing as fact-free science. (3, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405298)

Call it what it is: religion. And no, that does not exclude the "Left".

i can hardly be bothered with this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405308)

but i will say to soulskil that in your effort to impress us all with just how scientific you are, you have let the side down really badly.

relativism has nothing to do with refuting creationism and everything to do with being modest and skeptical.

the last thing that science needs is people like you - who frankly just don't have the foggiest what they're talking about.

as for Popper, he was mostly full of shit; take it from someone who studied the philosophy of science a great deal

for starters, if your big idea [falsification] doesn't stand up to itself (it isn't falsifiable) then you know you're in trouble right from the off!

lawsuit generator science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405310)

its a way of coping with the insane scientists you have to work with while at the same time keeping the nosy public out of tech... And coincidentally generating project funding through libel and slander cases

Another obligitory 1984 "Big brother" joke... (1)

Kc_spot (1677970) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405316)

yeah....


Also I am of the opinion that 2 + 2 = fishsticks. and if I have enough people agreeing with me it's true.

A literature professor? (3, Interesting)

orphiuchus (1146483) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405320)

Why the hell does this article quote a literature professor on the topic of the quality of scientific research? How the fuck would he know?

Obligatory reference to Feynman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405330)

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled. -- R. Feynman

What else is progress without success? Sure good Mr Edison found many ways how not to make a light bulb, but he only made progress when he found the one way to make the bulb. Similarly peer review has little value unless there is progress; crack pot publishing does nothing but tarnish the reputation of the researcher when (and it is always when) the science is shown to be flawed.

--Mike.

World != US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405340)

This is chiefly a US problem. Not many climate deniers in the rest of the world.

Happens in the UK too (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405380)

Professor David Nutt uses science in a paper against prohibition of drugs, and is fired the next day. Article from 2009 [guardian.co.uk]
 
Popular opinion and straw men are the new trusted sources of facts, guys! Science and statistical analysis are for fringe nutjobs and quacks!

Slashdot is increasingly irrelevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35405382)

And articles like this one are a good example why this is the case.

I don't like to waste my time.

Articles like this are a waste of time, and are pointless rabble-rousing
BULLSHIT.

Listen up Slashdot : you are fucking up. Work harder, and quit posting crap
articles like this.

Not quite so simple (1)

Empiric (675968) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405478)

Falsifiability is highly valuable, but does not delineate "science". Not even Popper himself claimed this.

It's useful to take a look at Thomas Kuhn on this...

But during this time, a new "paradigm" is created, and after a protracted period of "paradigm shift," the new paradigm is accepted as the norm by the scientific community and integrated into their previous work, and the old paradigm is banished to the history books. The classic example of this is the shift from Maxwellian/Newtonian physics to Einsteinian/Quantum physics in the early 20th century. If the acceptance or failure of scientific theories relied only on simple falsification, according to Kuhn, then no theory would ever survive long enough to be fruitful, as all theories contain anomalies.

link [wikipedia.org]

Though it makes controversial (i.e. "profitable") press to render the question into a sharp division of "science versus religion" or "science versus pseudoscience" or "science versus the Right", the reality is that falsifiability isn't a practicable criterion in 80% of what is uncontroversially understood to be "science", either. Have a hypothesis about how those arrowheads got there at your archaeological dig site? Let's see your falsifiable test. In reality, the scope of "science" is as much systematic inference as falsifiability.

Sokal is the new McDonalds (1)

cnoocy (452211) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405482)

Citing Sokal's hoax in an argument against peer review is odd since Social Text was not at the time a peer-reviewed journal.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair [wikipedia.org]

Climate change (2, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405516)

I don't deny that climate change exists; the climate on Earth has been changing since the Earth began and continues to do so. What wasn't been definitively established is to what extent this change is due to the activities of man versus to what extent it is due to the Earth's natural cycles and was going to happen anyway. Although it stands to reason that reducing the albedo of the Earth and dumping all that crap into the atmosphere should have some effect on global temperature, there is no proof that ceasing this activity would reverse the warming trend. We are experiencing basically the same climate now that existed 5000 years ago... what do you blame the climate change of 5000 years ago on?

Could've been more interesting (1)

RoccamOccam (953524) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405540)

Rather stupid article. I was hoping for something more interesting, along the lines of a set of articles from Science Daily, which I found humorous (when taken together):

2010-Oct-15: What Did Tyrannosaurus Rex Eat? Each Other [sciencedaily.com] — It turns out that the undisputed king of the dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex, didn't just eat other dinosaurs but also each other.

2011-Jan-26: No Leftovers for Tyrannosaurus Rex: New Evidence That T. Rex Was Hunter, Not Scavenger [sciencedaily.com] (Jan. 26, 2011) — Tyrannosaurus rex hunted like a lion, rather than regularly scavenging like a hyena, new research reveals. The findings end a long-running debate about the hunting behavior of this awesome ...

2011-Feb-22: T. Rex More Hyena Than Lion: Tyrannosaurus Rex Was Opportunistic Feeder, Not Top Predator, Paleontologists Say [sciencedaily.com] Was T. rex really the king of the forest? A new census of dinosaurs in Montana's Hell Creek Formation shows that T. rex was far too abundant to be a top predator. ...

challenging scientific assumptions =/= fact free (3, Informative)

dyshexic (1535987) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405608)

popper's analysis of science is weak. It's based in the idea that their are 'facts' and that these facts are truths. If we accept certain axioms such as that we are not living in 'the matrix' etc then we can all agree that yes the sun is 'above' the earth, that planes fly, that this conversation is happening on server somewhere. Anybody who understands anything about the philosophy of science will understand and accept these things. The issue with popper is that he fails to recognise that the creation of scientific truth is a human endeavour and thus subject to human flaws, a far better analysis of the production of science is produced by Bruno Latour in Science in action - see Google books http://is.gd/07KejQ [is.gd] Perhaps the OP should widen their circle of scholarship before making such muddle-headed comments PS Sokal may have got a paper published in social text, but various scientific journals have accepted papers from people that show they are equally as gullible to accepting papers devoid of logic or proof. The problem with peer review is that it is peer review: ideas that are only acceptable to ones peers will be published. Challenges to the current orthodoxy typically have to be publicised through journals outside the mainstream view

Fact free article? (5, Insightful)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 3 years ago | (#35405618)

Yes there are bozos out there who push their illogical political. views. There always have been. And some people want to deny science and/or critical thinking, to push a political agenda.

But I do not see where this is impacting actual scientific research.

This article is a liberal democrat biased "news" source, trying to smear the republicans. I am not repub myself, and I am not trying to defend the repubs. But, to say this article is shallow, and biased, would be understatements.

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