How Does the Public’s View of Science Go So Wrong?

Mar 3, 2017

By Tom Nichols

Do Americans hate science? They certainly seem to hate it more than they used to, as they rage against experts in every field. This is more than a traditional American distaste for eggheads and intellectuals. Americans, increasingly, are acting (and voting) on myths and misinformation about science, and placing themselves at significant risk. In Texas, for example, “personal-belief exemptions” among parents refusing to vaccinate their children increased from 2,314 in the 2003-2004 school year to 44,716 in 2015-2016. Although these parents were, they say, galvanized by the election of Donald Trump—America’s most prominent vaccine skeptic—this reflexive dismissal of science long predates the 2016 election, even if it has intensified in the last few years.

Of course, Americans don’t really hate science: they rely on it every day in ways they don’t even notice. From tens of thousands of safe and effective over-the-counter drugs to the directions on a car’s GPS system, Americans trust the work of experts on a daily basis. Rather, it is more accurate to say that the American public distrusts scientists, rather than science itself. Scientists, however, should be consoled by the fact that they are disdained not for their work, but for being part of an undifferentiated mass of “experts” whom a fair number of Americans now view as, at best, a suspect political class, and, at worst, as an enemy.

In one sense, this attack on the defenders of established knowledge was inevitable. It is not only fueled by an obvious culprit—the internet—but also by the unintended side effects of otherwise positive social changes. Universal education and increased social mobility, among other changes, have thrown America’s experts and citizens into direct contact after nearly two centuries in which they lived segregated lives and rarely interacted with each other. And yet the result has not been a greater respect for knowledge, but the growth of an irrational conviction among Americans that everyone is as smart as everyone else. To understand this, and to think about solutions, requires a deeper look at causes. Both the professional community and the public it serves bear some responsibility for our parlous condition.

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31 comments on “How Does the Public’s View of Science Go So Wrong?

  • One of the things defenders of expertise need to do is to actually seek out expertise and understand the subtleties of the political and social consequences of expert’s studies.

    … this attack on the defenders of established knowledge was inevitable. It is … fueled by an obvious culprit – the Internet …

    What a pity that Mr. Nichols did not consult an expert on the Net.



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  • Universal education and increased social mobility, among other changes, have thrown America’s experts and citizens into direct contact after nearly two centuries in which they lived segregated lives …

    Americans built their country in a period of rapid and widespread discovery. This led to an unusually high regard (in the geopolitical context) for education, including science education. This is clearly evidenced in the Texas Constitutions of 1866 and 1875 were public school education systems are mandated and in the latter the funding secured – and Texas is not peculiar, there is no shortage of evidence across the United States.

    Moving our history forwards, the United States won the race to the Moon and such a feat was only possible by acting on the advice of experts who interacted with politicians and public at all levels of society. Granted, the actual rocket scientists were German, but achieving this “hard thing” would not have been possible without simultaneously reaping the rewards of centuries of universal school education across the country.

    From where, then, does Mr. Nichols get his “segregation”?

    … the result has not been a greater respect for knowledge, but the growth of an irrational conviction among Americans that everyone is as smart as everyone else

    While Mr. Nichols has singularly failed to identify the reasons, this conclusion is inescapable. It’s roots go back a long way, and are found in politics. It became politically expedient in the ’70s – and no politician or other party can escape censure on this point – to promote subjective decision making. The acme of this movement was the changes wrought through turn of the 21C.

    To cut a long story short: Egalitarianism was misused as an excuse for false balance. This thread was picked up by the media and “balanced” reporting replaced robust reporting and fact-based reporting. In their turn the politicians found that their false equivalence was now passed through the media to the public – often even without comment – and in time this evolved into a full blown support for relativism, where all views, all cultures, all announcements of ‘fact’ are equally valid.

    The problem is us.

    We allow the politicians to play games like false equivalence, false equivocation and today even just plain falsehood-to-our-faces.

    The Net is the one place, incidentally, where fact checking and language checking is now the norm. But the new Administration have a plan for this and it begins with the striking down, or undermining, of Net Neutrality. I sincerely hope the RDFRS readers and members, and all their many friends, in the US are alert to this clear and present danger. But I digress.

    We also allow the media to conglomerate and to sit only in private hands, and to play the same political games.

    To understand this, and to think about solutions, requires a deeper look at causes

    You don’t say …

    Both the professional community and the public it serves bear some responsibility for our parlous condition

    I can’t argue with that. But, given Mr. Nichols lack of penetration of history, politics and media I’ll pass on his next instalment, thanks anyway.



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  • 3
    Garrick says:

    Article:
    . . . Experts must continue, as citizens, to advocate for those things they believe to be in the public interest, but the most important role they can play is defend a stark but empathetic insistence on science and reason as the foundation for public policy.

    I just felt a need, perhaps because I do not live in the USA, to put this last sentence, and in particular its last clause, up front here for all to see, for it states the most basic concern regarding problems in relations between scientists and the public. In the modern world, where (as is noted in the article) people readily rely on the technological products of scientific discoveries, reason and empirical sciences provide the only basis on which sound public policy can be made, for only the sciences give us access to the facts needed for that purpose.



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  • Stephen of Wimbledon #1
    Mar 4, 2017 at 2:35 am

    What a pity that Mr. Nichols did not consult an expert on the Net.

    Very much so – a clear case of “blame the messenger”!

    While the internet has enabled the educated to exchange, distribute and join up their knowledge, it has also enabled the bigoted ignorant, deluded, and conspiracy theorists to form much larger cliques.

    The real culprits are of course the propagandists, defensive dogmatists, and politicians selling the pseudo-democracy claim that manipulated cheerleaders from “rent a crowd”, trump scientific evidence or expert advice!
    In the words of Michael (Blockhead) Gove; “We have had enough of all these experts”!

    It is the very nature of specialist expert knowledge which requires years of study and experience, that the majority of the population do not understand this, and hence are vulnerable to pseudo-think-tank-propagandist posers and advertisers, selling fake knowledge and manipulative lies, to suit their own objectives.

    These are often disguised by giving fancy titles to propagandist “think-tanks”, which make them difficult to distinguish from genuine expert professional bodies and give fake “authority” to their pronouncements in the eyes of the uninformed.

    The other main culprit is indoctrinated religious thinking which requires regular indoctrination in fallacious thought processes, to prop up its claims and beliefs.

    Science challenges flawed processes and flawed conclusions, so it comes under attack by those defending their dishonest manipulative politics and their building of religious empires.



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  • @OP – And yet the result has not been a greater respect for knowledge, but the growth of an irrational conviction among Americans that everyone is as smart as everyone else.

    This insidious view has been propagated by those trying to build up the confidence of the below average minds – in well-meaning cases – to try to encourage them to improve themselves, despite them being out-competed in a range of skills, by the more able sections of the populations.

    It does no one a favour, if the Olympic athletics team train with Weight-Watchers, in a restrained manner which does not discourage the Weight-Watchers!
    Some academic education service band-wagons, have promoted this “politically correct” nonsense, that “all opinions and individuals are equal” as a priority not to discourage the low performers!

    The media, devious politicians, and preachers, also like to flatter the manipulated ignorant, who are told that having accepted their simplistic gap-filler propaganda, the gullibles with no real understanding of issues, now can be confident that they have “superior knowledge”!
    Those with little in the way of brain-power, are very much members of the spoon-fed herd!



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  • SofW and A4D

    I agree with the view that the internet is a primary culprit. Not only has it allowed the wackos to spread their theories to the ends of the earth, it has given vindication to the followers who regularly contribute their thoughts, and have found like-minded followers. This bubble of ignorance becomes their reality.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/features/truth-and-lies-conspiracy-theories-are-running-rampant-thanks-to-modern-technology-6260128.html



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  • The net does indeed permit isolated echo chambers, but the problem starts earlier for me.

    I think the problem interestingly more acute in the US. I believe the American cultural tenet of a prioritised individualism and an unreasonable belief in strength of will and personal feelings as a driver of outcomes as evidenced in its film and TV narratives and this PEW research

    http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/04/19/5-ways-americans-and-europeans-are-different/

    leads to a reversal of what should have been the ideal flow chart, becoming instead…

    My feelings-> my opinions-> my facts-> my science.

    or Ass Backward Thinking.

    The UK is not so far away in ABT risk factors, but we have Lord Reith and the BBC in mitigation.



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  • Long before the internet, there was the popularised and widely disseminated comic-book image of the “mad scientist”, concocted by “mad artists” who had no understanding of science.
    This was followed up by various sensationalised thriller and horror films from Hollywood writers, who also had a minimal understanding of science!
    (an ignorance illustrated by such films as “The Core”, “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”, and “Raising the Titanic”!)



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  • On the net issue and more this latest from Dennett is very good I think.

    He gets to collar transparency as a major and unexpected problem here (though I’m not sure I whole-heartedly agree yet. I don’t think agency is defeated by it. True intentions are not so transparent and that surely is the problem??)

    http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2017/02/books-podcast-daniel-dennett-evolution-minds/

    Lots in here and a good chunk on memes, Dawkins and post Darwin.



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  • Vicki’s linked article is excellent.

    I’ll just pick this out for myself.

    Studies have identified a core set of psychological variables which correlate to belief in conspiracy theories. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, these include low levels of trust – not just in authority but in individuals – and high levels of anomie, the feeling that things are getting worse, alienation and powerlessness.

    I would like to suggest this is another possible signal of a new cohort of the dispossessed, people who newly identify as those stolen from “by the system”. Relatively it is getting worse for them. This I have claimed is no “conspiracy theory” but a simple matter of verifiable economic fact involving the hyper rich and possibly, purchased politicians.



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  • Yes, I think the problem of the dispossessed has always existed. But the internet connects these people and in so doing, the numbers of like-minded makes them feel like it somehow validates their suspicions.



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  • “Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends on what we look for. What we look for depends on what we think. What we think depends on what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.” -David Bohm



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  • The internet has both very good stuff and masses of nonsense. You tend to sort out the chaff from the corn soon enough if you approach with a sceptical attitude. But the US mainstream media is half in love with religion and fantasy. The stereotypical ‘mad scientist’ in Jurassic Park e.g. The inconclusive endings of the X Files, always suggesting aliens, another. The US media seems to adore mysticism. Escapism for the workers young and old.

    I suppose Americans could always switch off their TVs, radios and stop watching movies ? A few evening science classes wouldn’t hurt either !



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  • zbob #12
    Mar 4, 2017 at 10:40 am

    “Reality is what we take to be true.
    What we take to be true is what we believe.
    What we believe is based upon our perceptions.
    What we perceive depends on what we look for.
    What we look for depends on what we think.
    What we think depends on what we perceive.
    What we perceive determines what we believe.
    What we believe determines what we take to be true.
    What we take to be true is our reality.” –David Bohm

    Reality of the Universe, is what tests our perceptions, beliefs, and notions of truth, – and then kicks the behinds of those whose perceptions get it wrong according to the laws of physics – whether they are looking for it, and perceive it or not! – (Alan)

    (It makes absolutely no difference to the ground we are standing on, whether we believe in earth-quakes or not! – although a change to researched evidenced belief, could lead to a move to change of location!)



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  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mst3fOl5vH0

    From this we can see that Bohm really has no traction on the independent concepts of understanding and mastery. He muddles the process of modeling which has a true potential for objectivity with a facile need to perceive.

    Gardner said that Bohm’s view of the interconnectedness of mind and matter (on one occasion summarized as “Even the electron is informed with a certain level of mind”[33]) “flirted with panpsychism”.[34]

    A mysterian.



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  • For the first time in history, the intelligent can interact with the ignorant in a massive way. All intelligent people should get tax relief for spending, say, five hours a week on social media working with the ‘underpreviledged’.



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  • Olgun #17
    Mar 4, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    All intelligent people should get tax relief for spending, say, five hours a week on social media working with the ‘underpreviledged’.

    Unfortunately, many of the ‘underprivileged’ will choose instead to watch ‘reality’ TV, televangelists, chat-shows, sports commentary and twitter-tripe!



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  • In one sense, this attack on the defenders of established knowledge
    was inevitable. It is not only fueled by an obvious culprit—the
    internet—but also by the unintended side effects of otherwise positive
    social changes. Universal education and increased social mobility,
    among other changes, have thrown America’s experts and citizens into
    direct contact after nearly two centuries in which they lived
    segregated lives and rarely interacted with each other. And yet the
    result has not been a greater respect for knowledge, but the growth of
    an irrational conviction among Americans that everyone is as smart as
    everyone else.

    If this is taliking about internet and social networks, than in my opinion there is a mistake in thinking that there is some “direct contact” or real communication or interaction. As far as I am concerned comunication over internet is superficial and it alienates people more than it unites them. I think that social networks give only an illusion of sharing and communicating, and not real sharing and communicating. Real interactions are far more human, they engage all our senses (smell, touch, flavour,look,…). As far as I have seen, internet serves to unload excess emotions and to demonstrate ones superiority (to show someone:look how clever I am, cleverer than you; which is form of violence). People are more engaged in what clever remark are going to say today (and established their authority) rather than really share (actually, I think that real sharing is imposible through this false media). It seems to me that people are not so much interested what others have to say, but what they have to say. I mean, people are more interested in unloading their excess emotions into space because of inability of acting real in their life… so internet community serves them as an exhaust valve. Not a real communication channel. This alienation of people, and rejection of responsibility (provided by anonymity) is dangerous in my opinion and leads to easier annulment of others.

    And yet the result has not been a greater respect for knowledge, but
    the growth of an irrational conviction among Americans that everyone
    is as smart as everyone else.

    Of course. 😉 How can there be “greater respect for knowledge” when knowledge is not being spread. Unrequited emotions are. They are far more interesting (they are the basis of all our activities. This is so obvious in actions of politicians. First they are motivated by their emotions about something, than they are only interested in how to put it in practice regardless of morality, or science, or knowledge). As a small headline below source article say: “It happens because some people reject expert information when it goes against their personal values”. Yes. Values are based upon personal emotions and feelings. I think that it is hardly that internet social networks or forums, or whatewer, is going to give greater respect for knowledge when those are not tools for that. Those are tools for the release of suppressed energy (emotions and feelings in form of showing oneself as being cleverer than others, more emotive, or in any way above someone else. This tools perhaps gives people feeling of being competent, but another very similar word is revealing their true colours. That word is compete. And it is horrible.). 🙁



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  • Hi Vicki [#6], Phil [#7],

    Perhaps there is something I’m not understanding here?

    The Independent article is interesting but it does not appear to me to support Nichols’ assertion that the Net – a set of standardized technologies that form a communication infrastructure – is obviously culpable for the phenomenon of people believing idiotic nonsense.

    The Net doesn’t spread falsehood, people spread falsehood. The Net doesn’t interpret information and form preferences for sources, or decide for fiction over fact – these are mental processes we apply to the communications that the Net carries. If the Net copies a story it’s because someone like Vicki sharing a link to an on-line newspaper – the Independent – has used the Net to extend her mental model of the World to other minds.

    If Nichols had said that the Net is misunderstood, or that it is misused, I would have had scruples enough to prevent me from responding. He said:

    … this attack on the defenders of established knowledge was inevitable. It is not only fueled by an obvious culprit – the internet …

    This is arrant nonsense, and the Independent article does not support his case.

    Dr Karen Douglas’ exploration of conspiracy theories included use of stories about Princess Diana, who died in 1997 – before more than half the population of the West had even heard the word Internet. Can you say ‘Tabloid Newspapers’?

    I see people picking up newspapers on their way to work and I see mental toddlers picking up large boxes of matches. Granted, the Net is far more powerful and people log in (to extend the above analogy) to play with matches and large bottles of benzine with about as much skill and understanding.

    The Net, without (Anti)Social Media, provides many excellent ways to fact check and get to the heart of issues. Kids checking Snopes on their way home from Sunday School. Here we are, having a discussion, and thrashing out the sense from the nonsense.

    This is why Nichols’ language is important, and wrong. The Net provides the tools, and it exists to serve us.

    To be clear, it seems to me that you are both focussing on this part of the Independent article (and if he were with us, I assume Nichols would share this view):

    … increasingly, people are basing important decisions about issues ranging from voting to vaccinations on conspiracy theory-derived information they read on the internet

    Whereas I am concentrating on this part of the Independent article:

    This is a big issue with a lot of serious implications … people are making life-changing decisions without employing any critical thinking skills

    My concern here is that simply blaming the Net is to undermine an outstanding toolset for democracy and progress, while simultaneously ignoring the real issue: us.

    We are the ones that allowed the publishers of nonsense, falsehood and braggadocio to get away with it long before the Net arrived. We are the ones who failed to hold politicians feet to the fire when the age of spin and relativism dawned. We are the ones, right now, standing-by (RDFRS and others in a minority aside – join today!) while politicians slash and burn the education systems that the Independent article so clearly signals need to be improved in terms of investment and quality.

    Where the Net fails, it merely reflects our own weaknesses, blaming it is counter-productive and worst of all it does not merely ignore the real issues, it hides them. I suspect that we may be talking at cross-purposes at this point, as I am excluding (Anti)Social Media when I say “Net”. It seems to me that S&M have never been as comfortable together as many people claim though, of course, that depends a lot on meaning and interpretation.

    There is no doubt that S&M on-line, as you both discussed in later posts, does allow birds of a feather to flock together, and this is not automatically healthy for them, or society at large (in the case of the anti-vaccination crowd decidedly not). But this is a separate issue to the Net as a whole and Nichols makes no distinction between good and bad sides to the technologies.

    When I defend the Net I do not make Nichols’ mistake; this is a management issue that requires us to understand the nuances underneath outlandish over-simplifications like ‘Internet bad, Old Media good’.

    The problem with hiding the real issues is that nature abhors a vacuum. Also from the Independent column:

    In the information age, creation and sharing of content is more unmediated than ever before and there are no useful signs to differentiate between what is good and what is bad

    Did you get that? “Unmediated”.

    I’m not normally impressed by slippery slope arguments but we do live in an age of increasing authoritarianism-leaning-to-totalitarianism, publishers have a centuries-long charge sheet and the universal urges to censor, and for taboo, are not about to disappear.

    Free speech is not a free lunch. Dealing with nonsense is par for the course. Come to think of it, how do you know 9/11 wasn’t an inside job? Those ‘theorists’ have the same rights as you. Suck it up.

    Peace.



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  • SofW

    For the most part, I agree with everything you’ve written. The net isn’t the culprit so much as those using it to reinforce their preconceived notions. And the conspiracy theorists have existed long before our current technology and I don’t think they’ll ever go away. Where I find culpability is the internet’s ability to reach countless masses of like-minded conspiracy theorists and ultra-nationalists, thereby giving them the feeling that not only are they not alone, they are much more significant–even dominant–than they thought. And with Trump in the White House, with Bannon at his side, maybe they are. In that respect, I do not think it is “a separate issue to the Net as a whole…” It is a dangerous and frightening stew. The internet is a double-edged sword, but if I had the opportunity to eliminate it to ensure peace I would shun the idea. Because I know its value far outweighs its downside.

    There is one point you made with which I take issue, though:

    The Net doesn’t spread falsehood, people spread falsehood.

    That’s the same argument gun owners use. 😉

    And peace to you, sir.



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  • SoW

    The Net doesn’t spread falsehood, people spread falsehood.

    Entirely agreed. Vicki’s article is almost entirely about further issues facilitated by the net. My exchange with Vicki on the conspiracy theorists and the dispossessed was that the net helped “uncontentiously” confirm the likely cause of their economic plight (the rich converted their repossessed homes into Porsches and their exported jobs into Yuan in their off-shore piggy banks.) This collective realisation wouldn’t have happened before with this kind of drama. The net contributes democratic access to facts and a speed and therefore an non-dissipated emotional heat into the hysteretic flip of opinion. (This latter, though, is indeed a problem of the net. Opinions so rapidly reinforced become settled opinion with startling alacrity, well before those less loved and countervailing facts have got their boots on.)

    My son informs me that an accepted term for the cohort of the dispossessed is The Precariat.

    Vicki. Yep. So thats a double defence. I was being a bit judo….



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  • Hi Vicki and Phil,

    While we’re all on the same page: I do think that many blanket statements applied to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on are called for and supportable. They’re just nasty.

    The NRA have had a lot of practice at PR, if they hadn’t got something right by now – even by accident – we would be fully justified in calling them stupid.

    My problem is that I’m so fired-up by (Anti)Social Media I want an answer today. In reality I would be far better off planning for a long campaign, just like the NRA. About 30 years ought to do it.

    The Precariat, like it. I learned the other day that the World economy has grown in every year of my life except 2008. What I’d like to know is: What happened to my share?

    Peace.



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  • Alan #18

    But when they post it on their FB you are there to say, ” no buddy. Prickly pears do not cure cancer and the twin Towers fell like they did because of the construction method used.

    A lot of this misinformation is because people earn money for the hits they get. The most successful are the ones that ask people to pray and share for someone (who they don’t know) and the hits go into the millions. This man was used for this reason with comments telling him he is a beautiful man and ” love the tea shirt buddy”. I posted who he really was and people began deleting it.

    It is one thing to moan about its effects but the power is in the hands of all intelligent people to help put things right. To spread the right memes. To use people’s need of oneupmanship. Little seeds of truth can grow just as well as gobbledegook.



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  • SoW

    What happened to my share?

    It was in that Holland and Holland Range Rover that cut you up on the M4….

    Ollie. I upticked it too! They’ll get it back. I notice about half of my upticks fail to stick. When I notice I put them back. I had to do it four times on someone’s post…



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  • Excellent comments from all,

    I think post modernism has to take a part of the blame here as well and all the bunk philosophy that spread from this seed such as transactional analysis. The scene that comes to mind is from the Cohen Bros. Raising Arizona in which Nicholas Cages character is justifying to his wife why he robbed a convenience store “You know honey I’m okay, you’re okay too” I think his wifes response is about right too she punches him in the face. This idea that it doesn’t matter what you believe is utter nonsense, that the inability to separate your right to be an idiot should equate to the rest of society thinking your ideas are valid because you had them is inconceivably vain and ridiculous.

    You can not isolate beliefs from their effects in the world. People can not seem to grasp that it is possible to fairly treated in this society and still be considered an idiot. I know a lot of poorly educated people, and many of the older generation carry significant shame about that fact. I don’t want them to feel ashamed that they haven’t finished high school or attended university, many are very, very smart. But their shame signals an understanding that they are missing some vital information, that education is desirable, that they hoped their hard work may have enabled their children to be better educated than they where.

    Now what we see is an attitude that the educated experts are corrupt or somehow morons. That a climate scientist who entire working carrier has been spend studying one subject, braving Antarctic seas to deliver buoys and take measurements of ice cores or drilling cores from coral reefs, setting up experiments, reading every paper by other experts in their field somehow know nothing or are corrupted by the imagined copious tonnes of cash that get poured into research science is ludicrous. We see an attitude where what? They don’t want their children educated, they want to make their children’s education system conform to their prejudices? I think we may need a little of that shame back. I for one feel a bit of that shame when I read the excellent comments by posters on this site who clearly have a better education than myself and are better informed and have a greater understanding of the sciences, but I also believe that shame does me some good. Embrace it, respect it I say.



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  • @OP – Do Americans hate science? They certainly seem to hate it more than they used to, as they rage against experts in every field.

    Jehova’s Witnesses certainly hate science!

    Interestingly the Russians are considering banning their anti-science missionary literature as “extremist”!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-39304984

    Russia’s justice ministry has called for a ban on the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian movement that zealously seeks converts and rejects military service.

    The ministry has asked Russia’s supreme court to close the group’s headquarters and stop its 175,000 Russian members sharing “extremist” literature.

    A spokesman for the group called the proposed ban “persecuting worshippers just for manifesting their faith”.

    Some Russian regions have already shut down branches of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    According to the justice ministry, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ activities “violate Russia’s law on combating extremism”.

    The authorities object to pamphlets deemed to incite hatred against other religious groups, mainly for proclaiming Jehovah’s Witnesses as followers of the only “true” faith.

    One quotes the novelist Leo Tolstoy, describing the doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church as superstition and sorcery, the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford reports from Moscow.

    However, this seems to be more in defence of the Russian Orthodox Church, rather than a defence of scientific integrity or rationality!



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  • @OP Universal education and increased social mobility, among other changes, have thrown America’s experts and citizens into direct contact after nearly two centuries in which they lived segregated lives and rarely interacted with each other.
    And yet the result has not been a greater respect for knowledge, but the growth of an irrational conviction among Americans that everyone is as smart as everyone else.

    It is not only in some states of America where religious dogmas trump reductions of human suffering based on medical and scientific predictions.
    In fact some US states are ahead some European ones on the issue of assisted dying!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-39341410

    A man with terminal motor neurone disease has told the High Court he faces an “unbearable death” because of the law on assisted dying.

    Noel Conway, 67, who was diagnosed in November 2014 and is not expected to live beyond 12 months, said he should be free to determine his own death.

    Mr Conway, from Shrewsbury, attended court in a wheelchair and on a ventilator.

    The case is the first heard since the law was challenged in 2014 and 2015.

    Right-to-die campaigners lost an appeal to the Supreme Court in 2014 and this was followed by a debate in Parliament which concluded with MPs rejecting an attempt to introduce assisted dying in 2015.

    The campaign group Dignity in Dying is supporting the legal bid.

    Mr Conway wants permission to bring a judicial review which could result in terminally ill adults who meet strict criteria making their own decisions about ending their lives.

    Richard Gordon QC, who is representing Mr Conway, said: “He wishes to die in the country in which he was born and has lived for his whole adult life.

    “The choices facing him therefore are stark: to seek to bring about his own death now whilst he is physically able to do but before he is ready; or await death with no control over when and how it comes.”

    He said that Mr Conway contended that these choices, forced upon him by the provisions of the criminal law, violated his human rights.

    He wants a declaration that the Suicide Act 1961 is incompatible with Article 8, which relates to respect for private and family life, and Article 14, which protects from discrimination.

    If the judges rule that Mr Conway has an arguable case, they will be asked to direct that it is heard as quickly as possible.

    Lord Justice Burnett, sitting in London with Mr Justice Charles and Mr Justice Jay, said at the start of the hearing, which is due to last half a day, that they were minded to reserve their decision “only for a relatively short time”.

    Before his illness, Mr Conway, who is married, with a son, daughter, stepson and grandchild, was fit and active, enjoying hiking, cycling and travelling.

    His condition means that whilst he retains full mental capacity, his ability to move, dress, eat and deal with personal care independently has diminished considerably.

    At present there is a blanket prohibition on providing a person with assistance to die.

    Mr Conway has said: “I feel very strongly that it is a dying person’s right to determine how they die and when they die. The current law denies me this right.

    “Instead, I am being condemned to unbearable suffering in my final months. I may die by suffocation or choking, or I could become completely unable to move or communicate.

    “The only way for me to have some control is to refuse use of my ventilator, but there is no telling how long it would take for me to die, or whether my suffering could be managed.

    “I’m going to die anyway. It’s a question of whether I die with or without suffering and on my own terms or not.

    “I’m bringing this case not just for me, but for all others facing terminal illness who want and deserve to have the option of a safe, dignified assisted death.”

    A case brought by Tony Nicklinson – who suffered from paralysis after a stroke – was ultimately dismissed in 2014 by the Supreme Court, which stated it was important that Parliament debated the issues before any decision was made by the courts.



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