Science's Image Problem: An Essay

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Jarrod Hart
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Science's Image Problem: An Essay

Postby Jarrod Hart » Sat Feb 04, 2006 6:06 pm

Science’s Image Problem
Jarrod R. Hart
January 2006

Science has developed an image problem.

To illustrate this trend lets pick a year some will remember well: 1969.

Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin have just walked on the moon, microwave ovens have started to appear in kitchens and nuclear power seems to hold the key to unlimited energy.

Communication has been revolutionised by the satellite, women’s lives have been revolutionised by the contraceptive pill and the quality of life is sky rocketing: labour saving devices such as automatic washing machines, food processors and lawn movers are finding their way into the homes of the masses. Confidence in science is at an all time high.

Now it is 2006. In the minds of many the term 'science' is associated with things like animal testing, genetic engineering, global warming and nuclear war. People are even starting pay a premium for food made in ways that avoid modern technology (so called 'organic' foods). So where did it go wrong?

There are many answers to this question and I am sure many readers will have powerful examples from their own fields of experience; I will however put forward a few theories that I feel hold water.

Events

When Harold Macmillan, the then Prime Minister of the UK was asked what could steer a government off course, he answered “Events, dear boy, events!” And, as I now suggest, a handful key events has been largely responsible for starting the rot.

Public opinion is a strange beast. It is wildly reactionary and often auto-catalyzes in a frenzy of irrationality. Although its true that amazing faith can develop with little or no evidence (the latest wonder-diet for example!), this is usually born from a strong desire to believe. Far more often, it is much easier to destroy public confidence than to build it.

Three Mile Island (1979), Bhopal (1984), Chernobyl (1986), and the Exxon Valdez oil spill (1989) all had profound effects on the public psyche. Not only did the dark side of industry rear its ugly head, but also, for the first time, the man on the street began to realise “hey, I have an opinion on this!” The general public did not immediately turn against technology, but rather, it started to ask questions.

The Media Machine

I would like to suggest that the real rot only started when the media sensed this insecurity. In a fair world, an honest, open, questioning attitude is a good thing. But this world is not fair.

Technology had, until the early 80’s, been presented in a very positive light in the media. Big business had for a long time used the public’s confidence in technology to ease in new products and services. All a marketing team needed to do was describe their product as “modern” – and this immediately implied an innate superiority. For some reason, old was bad and new was good.

In the 1980’s something changed. People’s level of exposure to the media hit a critical level – just enough to make people think they were ‘well informed’. This new level of exposure meant, for the first time, that people were having news of industrial disasters piped into their sitting rooms. And since the public knew about it, the public would have an opinion about it. But who would decide what that opinion would be? This leads us to the ultimate downfall in the public image of technology, for too often, it would be the media that would decide for us.

To illustrate, simply ask yourself what makes better reading – “Scientists develop drought resistant crops” or “FRANKENFOOD!”

In the simple battle for the public’s attention, scaremongering has prevailed and its not surprising at all – its so easy! Science has this nasty habit in dealing with unknowns: questions, hypotheses and statistics. It rarely (if ever) deals in cold hard facts. This makes it a sitting duck.

The nineties bear this trend out, and issues like the vanishing rain forests, global warming, cancer from cellular phones and genetic engineering all took their toll.

To most people, something is either good for you or bad for you. Radiation is bad, vitamins aregood; bacteria are bad and exercise is good. The media like this simple worldview – it makes for good sensational headlines and ensures that articles aren’t too full of ‘complicated science’.

The need for shock value naturally leads to half-truths. While any chemist knows “the poison is in the dose”, most people don't, and the media takes full advantage of this.

Radiation (sunshine!), just like vitamins, can be good (in moderate doses) and bad (in excessive amounts). Bacteria, exercise, alcohol and almost anything for that matter is usually good and bad depending on how much, when and for whom. As Oscar Wilde said, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple”.

To make matters worse, once a piece of misinformation is out there, it is hard to stop and even harder to bring anyone to account.

A good example was the hullabaloo surrounding research by Dr Andrew Wakefield of the Royal Free Hospital in London. In his 1998 paper Dr Wakefield highlighted a “possible” link between the MMR jab (the combined Mumps, Measles and Rubella vaccine given to many children routinely) and Autism. Although it was only suggested as a possibility, needless to say the media had a field day, cleverly leaving out the ifs and buts: for example: “Child Vaccine Linked to Autism” (BBC News, 27 Feb ’98). This simple irresponsible action lead to several years of reduced vaccine take-up, with possibly fatal consequences.


This type of misinformation is particularly dangerous because is parades as ‘proper science’. The media, by referencing a scientific paper in a reputable journal (The Lancet) are lending themselves credibility, but then the simple act of removing a single word (“possible” in the above case) they have degraded the science and greatly harmed its reputation.

Statistics: The Media’s WMD

Society used to simply trust the expertise of authority without question. People suffered from some sort of inferiority complex that made them think that ‘scientists’ would know best. As we have seen the media has eroded this with scaremongering, sensationalising and misreporting. However, they have one more killer tool in the toolbox: Statistics.

The world is a complicated place. There is far too much information to possibly report it all, so we need to distil all the facts into key elements, ‘salient points’ if you like, that give a fair representation of the whole. In order to do this correctly, science produced the statistical method, a rational system for describing sets of data. It provides ways of letting the human mind grasp the important information held in large lists of numbers. The ‘average’ is a good example a player's batting average is a faster and easier way to judge him then a long list of all the swings they ever took.

So, statistics are essential to the media, who routinely inform us, often well. However, few people out there realise how easily statistics can be coloured (or spun). This problem is compounded by the problem that most people have coping with very large numbers (the same trick the lottery uses to fool people into thinking a lottery ticket is a wise investment).

Rather than do a poor job of examining this, I refer you to a good analysis on the subject: “Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists” by Joel Best (2001, University of California Press)

Attacking Science

Another damaging phenomenon worth noting is the new tendency for the media to attack science directly. Recently, especially in the global warming debate, certain parties (with vested interests) have used the media to accuse science of dealing in uncertainty.

The very pillars that form the foundation of science, things like theories, scepticism and debate are being held up as evidence that scientists cannot agree on anything. Is the world heating up as the result of human activity? According to some, ‘possibly’ is the best answer that science can offer.

Scientists are rightly incensed by this slander, but what can they do? It is proving very hard to explain to the masses why this uncertainty is good and right.

It will be even harder to explain to the people that even when most scientists do agree, they are often later proved wrong, which many will cheerfully accept, changing their position in the light of the new evidence. But this great strength is seen as flip-flopping by the public, another sign of weakness.

The Future

In this short essay, I have tried to examine why the reputation of science has been taking a hit in the public’s eye. We have seen how certain terrible events like Chernobyl were associated with science and how the media has misreported on the debates of the day. We have also touched on the trouble statistics cause and the difficulty in selling uncertainty. So what does this all mean?

Is science doomed? I don’t think so. For even though the scientific community has lost ground in the struggle against the tides of ignorance, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Big business will continue to tell us whatever sells products, journalists will continue to write whatever sells papers, politicians will continue to say whatever wins votes; but these truths are not malicious forces bent on the destruction of science, they are simple evolutionary forces in the pool of life. And I think, that just like mankind, science will simply evolve and move on.




References:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/60510.stm (article at start of MMR scare)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2038135.stm (more recent article summing up MMR scare)
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0520219783/ref=pd_sim_b_3/103-2618564-5123866?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance&n=283155
(Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists)
Jarrod R. Hart

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Postby brainfart » Fri Apr 21, 2006 6:24 pm

How about the "using" of science and their techniques by industry ?
Take Monsanto. The GM products may "take over" crops for miles around, leaving farmers liable for infringing on Monsanto's product rights, by planting their own seeds which are now a cross.

This type of "using" of science also contributes to the appearance of public resentment of scientific work.

I think the resentment is not truly of science or scientists, it is against the "mad science" that the corporate world is unleashing sometimes.

What is your opinion on the refusal of the pharmaceutical companies to divulge the defect rate in vaccines. we are told about so-called "hot batches too". If the government decides they don't have to disclose anything on the subject, does the government take that responsibility to have the batches tested, and report on it?

Wouldn't confidence be promoted if there was some open-ness? It's not like all the corporate R&D secrets are out of the bag just by a bit of open-ness on these issues.

Now here is where I may have bought into a media lie : W5, a Canadian TV show, investigated the shipping of substandard lots of pharmaceuticals (loads of vaccines too ) by the huge corporations, to underdeveloped countries that can not test the drugs themselves. The batches were said to be blanks and substandard lots for the most part, paid for with funds to aid these nations.

Have I been duped, to think it may be true? I don't know. The program mentioned by name the companies involved.

No wonder people are getting wary though.
Last edited by brainfart on Fri Apr 28, 2006 1:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby d.e.hillshafer » Mon Apr 24, 2006 7:03 am

1.
Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin have just walked on the moon, microwave ovens have started to appear in kitchens and nuclear power seems to hold the key to unlimited energy.

Communication has been revolutionised by the satellite, women’s lives have been revolutionised by the contraceptive pill and the quality of life is sky rocketing: labour saving devices such as automatic washing machines, food processors and lawn movers are finding their way into the homes of the masses. Confidence in science is at an all time high.


1a. You change tense between present and past. I suggest using present only.

1b. I want a lawn "mover".

2.
Now it is 2006. In the minds of many the term 'science' is associated with things like animal testing, genetic engineering, global warming and nuclear war. People are even starting pay a premium for food made in ways that avoid modern technology (so called 'organic' foods). So where did it go wrong?


2a. You use a lot of passive voice.

2b. It is better to ask, "So, what changed?" than "So where did it go wrong?" Obviously, many people disagree that less science is bad. You just took a jab at the people you are trying to convince. Unless, of course, you are preaching to the choir.

3.
There are many answers to this question and I am sure many readers will have powerful examples from their own fields of experience; I will however put forward a few theories that I feel hold water.


3. This paragraph gives no new information and restates the obvious. The essay would be better without it.

4.
When Harold Macmillan, the then Prime Minister of the UK was asked what could steer a government off course, he answered “Events, dear boy, events!” And, as I now suggest, a handful key events has been largely responsible for starting the rot.

Public opinion is a strange beast. It is wildly reactionary and often auto-catalyzes in a frenzy of irrationality. Although its true that amazing faith can develop with little or no evidence (the latest wonder-diet for example!), this is usually born from a strong desire to believe. Far more often, it is much easier to destroy public confidence than to build it.


4a. Nice quote.

4b. From "And, as I now suggest" to the end of the quote doesn't contribute to the piece. Delete it.

5.
Three Mile Island (1979), Bhopal (1984), Chernobyl (1986), and the Exxon Valdez oil spill (1989) all had profound effects on the public psyche. Not only did the dark side of industry rear its ugly head, but also, for the first time, the man on the street began to realise “hey, I have an opinion on this!” The general public did not immediately turn against technology, but rather, it started to ask questions.


5a. The events you cite are all industrial problems, not scientific or even engineering problems. Your statement indicates, but doesn't explicitly state, that joe public cannot tell the difference between industry and science.

5b. You need to back up your statements about the general public with some kind of data. A poll would be nice.

6.
I would like to suggest that the real rot only started when the media sensed this insecurity. In a fair world, an honest, open, questioning attitude is a good thing. But this world is not fair.


6. Unnecessary and preachy.

7.
Technology had, until the early 80’s, been presented in a very positive light in the media. Big business had for a long time used the public’s confidence in technology to ease in new products and services. All a marketing team needed to do was describe their product as “modern” – and this immediately implied an innate superiority. For some reason, old was bad and new was good.

In the 1980’s something changed. People’s level of exposure to the media hit a critical level – just enough to make people think they were ‘well informed’. This new level of exposure meant, for the first time, that people were having news of industrial disasters piped into their sitting rooms. And since the public knew about it, the public would have an opinion about it. But who would decide what that opinion would be? This leads us to the ultimate downfall in the public image of technology, for too often, it would be the media that would decide for us.


7. You make several, strong claims. You need to back up each one with data.

8.
To illustrate, simply ask yourself what makes better reading – “Scientists develop drought resistant crops” or “FRANKENFOOD!”


8. This is purely hypothetical. Even if it were a real headline from a widely circulated newspaper or magazine, it would still be anecdotal evidence. You need data on media trends.

9.
In the simple battle for the public’s attention, scaremongering has prevailed and its not surprising at all – its so easy! Science has this nasty habit in dealing with unknowns: questions, hypotheses and statistics. It rarely (if ever) deals in cold hard facts. This makes it a sitting duck.


9. This statement is easily misinterpreted. You mean that if something is a fact, science has already proven it, and moved on to new unknowns. It sounds as if science doesn't like to deal with facts, only vague unknowns.

10.
The nineties bear this trend out, and issues like the vanishing rain forests, global warming, cancer from cellular phones and genetic engineering all took their toll.

To most people, something is either good for you or bad for you. Radiation is bad, vitamins aregood; bacteria are bad and exercise is good. The media like this simple worldview – it makes for good sensational headlines and ensures that articles aren’t too full of ‘complicated science’.


10. You need data.

11.
A good example was the hullabaloo surrounding research by Dr Andrew Wakefield of the Royal Free Hospital in London. In his 1998 paper Dr Wakefield highlighted a “possible” link between the MMR jab (the combined Mumps, Measles and Rubella vaccine given to many children routinely) and Autism. Although it was only suggested as a possibility, needless to say the media had a field day, cleverly leaving out the ifs and buts: for example: “Child Vaccine Linked to Autism” (BBC News, 27 Feb ’98). This simple irresponsible action lead to several years of reduced vaccine take-up, with possibly fatal consequences.


11. This is the most concrete thing you have said so far. Keep going. Give us a full understanding of the issue. What follow-up research exists? How is confirming research reported differently from disconfirming research? Also, what demographics are most interested in believing each side?

12.
Society used to simply trust the expertise of authority without question. People suffered from some sort of inferiority complex that made them think that ‘scientists’ would know best. As we have seen the media has eroded this with scaremongering, sensationalising and misreporting. However, they have one more killer tool in the toolbox: Statistics.


12a. This paragraph sends the message that scientists are high priests and their words are holy dogma. I sincerely hope you do not believe this.

12b. Again, you need data.

13.
In order to do this correctly, science produced the statistical method, a rational system for describing sets of data.


13. Science did not produce the statistical method, people did. Science is an abstract concept that people use to label ideas and the people behind those ideas. By the way, Gauss was the first significant contributor to statistics. His desire to better determine the orbital elements of a body in space motivated his discoveries.

14.
Rather than do a poor job of examining this, I refer you to a good analysis on the subject: “Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists” by Joel Best (2001, University of California Press)


14. Find meaningful quotes from the book for us. This book is a resource to help you make your point.

15. With regards to the entire section of "Attacking Science", this topic is widely discussed and reported on. Find books on both sides and quote them.

16.
It will be even harder to explain to the people that even when most scientists do agree, they are often later proved wrong, which many will cheerfully accept, changing their position in the light of the new evidence. But this great strength is seen as flip-flopping by the public, another sign of weakness.


16. I don't know about you, but I invest a lot in my ideas. When someone proves my ideas wrong, I start by fighting it, then I might come to accept it. However, I'm never cheery about being wrong. Furthermore, many scientists can never accept that they are wrong, and will hold onto a belief long after it is dead. Some scientists do indeed "cheerfully accept" being wrong. I think this has more to do with the personality of each scientist and does not reflect on science as a whole.

17. This essay is underdeveloped.

17a. You have a lot of simple grammar and style problems.

17b. There is nothing wrong with the jist of your arguments, but the arguments themselves are lacking.

17c. I think you should also consider the decline of people seeking a scientific education. This is a significant contributor to the decline of the image of science and an effect of said decline.

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Postby sparks » Wed Apr 26, 2006 4:15 am

Nicely done :D
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Author response to d.e.hillshafer

Postby Jarrod Hart » Tue May 23, 2006 8:33 am

Thanks for your comments d.e.h - your criticisms are valid and helpful, grammer and style included.

I will try to get the references I need and tighten up some of the arguments during the summer.

The only points I would defend are:

1.
The events you cite are all industrial problems, not scientific or even engineering problems. Your statement indicates, but doesn't explicitly state, that joe public cannot tell the difference between industry and science.


Precisely - this is part of the confusion I am asserting. Perhaps I should be writing about technology, rather than science.

2.
You mean that if something is a fact, science has already proven it, and moved on to new unknowns. It sounds as if science doesn't like to deal with facts, only vague unknowns.


No, I really do mean that science deals with unknowns - and is pretty much devoid of fact. This argument is a little philosophical I admit, but allows for a very pure system:

The version of science I subscribe to deals with fitting theory to observation - thus, what many call facts are simply highly cohesive theories - ones that have so much evidence in their favour we come to think of them as immovable fact. Not fact as 'proven' by a logician.

(P.S I would say that facts (like 1+1=2) exist only in the platonic world of ideas.)

3.
When someone proves my ideas wrong, I start by fighting it, then I might come to accept it. However, I'm never cheery about being wrong. Furthermore, many scientists can never accept that they are wrong, and will hold onto a belief long after it is dead. Some scientists do indeed "cheerfully accept" being wrong.


Here when I talk of "the many who will cheerfully accept" the end of their theory, I am being a bit tongue-in-cheek. British sense of humour perhaps?

4.
I think you should also consider the decline of people seeking a scientific education. This is a significant contributor to the decline of the image of science and an effect of said decline.


You are right, this is a serious outcome of the image problem which is becoming part of the problem and may make the effects snowball with each coming generation.

-------------
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Postby d.e.hillshafer » Wed May 24, 2006 5:41 pm

With regards to your second point, I find it an interesting opener to a debate on knowledge and reality. (In fact, I would be interested in discussing it in a different thread.) However, the statement is unqualified and doesn't necessarily add to your thesis. Your piece would be stronger without that paragraph.

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Postby KYSkeptic » Tue Oct 31, 2006 8:26 pm

I agree with a lot of what you have to say about science's image. I hope I’m not straying from the ground rules of the Essay Forum, but, I believe you have missed a whole initiative by the religious right to discredit science in the minds of the "faithful". I think that a large segment of the population will believe what an authority figure tells them to believe. I think it is easy to play on the fears of this group while offering only “golden days in the hereafter”, a completely unsubstantiated proposition. I think this initiative could be called the Rove Strategy (for the political strategist Karl Rove).

If I understand you correctly, you are British and writing from Britain. Your forefathers, as I understand it, deported most of their religious extremists hundreds of years ago and because of that, you may not have first-hand knowledge of the damage they are doing to the scientific education here in the United States. With 70% to 90% of our population lacking an understanding of evolution through natural selection as our past, it is easier to see why science (both the process and the subsequent technologies it produces) is viewed with suspicion by many in this country.
Ubi dubium ibi libertas
(There is freedom in doubt)

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Postby Jarrod Hart » Thu Nov 02, 2006 1:23 am

Thanks for your comments.

A have a few counter points:

Firstly I think you give too much credit to the religious right. While I'm sure they enjoy people's gullibility, I have not noticed a credible, concerted effort or capability to suppress science.

Secondly, while I am not a born and bred brit (I grew up in South Africa) I know Britian well, and would dispute that there was any deliberate "deportation" of religious extremists, it was rather a naturally attractive option for extemists to leave to find a place where they could be extreme unaccosted.

I would also suggest that we need to remember many European expatriates actually fled religious extremism (such as the huguenots who criticised the catholic dogmas - although we might find their calvinistic beliefs pretty extreme by modern standards, they were by all accounts the moderates of their time).

Furthermore, I would point out that many of the new world fore-fathers were rather surprisingly secular in their outlook. The much lauded documents that set up the American state certainly seem to promote the separation of church and state, despite the rhetoric from the far right who keep claiming America must return to its "christian roots".

I think that the issues faced in the US today just reflect the relative immaturity of the state. Most European countries have been through decades or centuries of religion inspired turmoil before slowly reaching the tolerant society that can allow secularity to prosper.

The great hope lies in the great accelleration of societal evolution that will surely come from the incredible connectivity we now enjoy. Surely with such good access to the scientific facts, it will be harder to suppress the obvious conclusion that science can explain away all the things we once needed a god to explain?

I am optimistic that despite 70-90% of US folks doubting evolution, religion will struggle to stop people from accessing the cold facts that they need to reach more sensible conclusions...

Am I being wishful?
Jarrod R. Hart

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Postby KYSkeptic » Thu Nov 02, 2006 7:01 pm

Mr. Hart,

Google: Billy Sunday
Jerry Falwell
Pat Robertson
Jim Jones
Young Earth Creationists (YEC)

Many of your counterpoints are well reasoned and it is true that many of the gentlemen that were instrumental in setting up the foundations to our country were more interested in freedom from religion than freedom of religion. But that was a long time ago.

Not twenty miles from where I live a creationists “museum”, Answers in Genesis is opening later this year. It is well funded ($30 million +) and the hype they are putting out says they are expecting 500,000 visitors per year.

A couple of years ago a school board in Kansas mandated that creationism be given the same validity as evolution. That school board was voted out at the next election, but it was a close election. A similar situation occurred last year in Pennsylvania, and was eventually thwarted by an enlightened Federal Judge.

On a much more personal front, one of my wife’s relatives, a devout YEC, refused to look at Saturn (the planet) through my telescope because it might make her question her beliefs! I remember a quote (I just can’t remember the speaker): “No one ever went broke by underestimating human intelligence.”

It scares me to think that we here in the USA may have to wait centuries for this problem to subside. I hope you analysis of the anti-science effort here in the States is accurate, but of course I’m skeptical.

R.C. Phelps, III
Ubi dubium ibi libertas

(There is freedom in doubt)

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Postby Bunk » Thu Nov 02, 2006 8:15 pm

Oh crap, I looked at Saturn through my telescope.
You think you have it bad? How'd you like to be Jesus' brother James? How many times do you think he heard his mother say "Why can't you be more like your brother?"

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Postby KYSkeptic » Fri Nov 03, 2006 12:17 pm

Mr. Hart,

You seem to share a point of view with another evolutionist:

"It appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men's minds which follow[s] from the advance of science." -- Charles Darwin, 1880

I bow to your (and his) logic.

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Ubi dubium ibi libertas

(There is freedom in doubt)

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Postby KYSkeptic » Fri Nov 03, 2006 3:34 pm

Mr. Hart,

Please check out Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy.com. There is an article about the USA's current administration's war on science. It is scary to think that those guiding the largest economy and war-making effort on the globe avoid critical thinking in favor of myth and magic.

R.C. Phelps, III
Ubi dubium ibi libertas

(There is freedom in doubt)

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Postby Jarrod Hart » Fri Nov 03, 2006 8:52 pm

Dear KYSkeptic,

Thanks for the tip. I am already a big Phil Plait fan, and agree there are big problems with the US administration - and the Democrat alternative is hardly much better.

Regarding the effort to downgrade the authority of science in the US, I certainly agree that there are many groups trying; and they have powerful strategic allies.

So the struggle will be a long one, and if we look in the history books we will see that the 'religious' side has often won these battles, so we cannot be too self-assured just because we are sure we are "right".

(I often wonder if the Greek philospohers ever worried that their hard-won enlightenment might be lost and the world regress. I also wonder how much longer it would have taken us to get where we are today if it had been.)

The problem with taking on theists head-on is that they are easier to rally (brainwash) and can be fooled into doing immoral things under the name of morality; on the other hand, atheists are (practically by definition) hard to galvanise (its like "herding cats").

So what to do?

I favour working to promote the flow of information; aiming to break barriers and make connections - because if people see both sides of the story they will be more inclined to doubt.

Religion is strong because it has been 'naturally selected' over many years - a system that self-replicates, if infectious - bad versions die out and effective ones thrive. Christianity, with its 'love thy neighbor', 'join the flock' and 'brotherhood' is very attractive and has survived and grows stronger the harsher the environment. (Weird how Darwinism even explains religion away).

Atheism is not suited to this infectious style of development. It does not need to be introduced - it can spring up from 'nothing' in the mind of a thinking person.

I would even say it usually *has to* spring up - you cannot be brainwashed to be open-minded (can you?)

Perhaps we can think of atheism as a cancer in the virus of theism (I like that!). The first skeptic thought is the random mutation that kills dogma.

So if we want to eliminate the virus we need to irradiate it (i.e. make the environment right for a mutation) - by promoting communications - the more information people absorb, the more contradictory stuff they will have to deal with and this will sometimes lead them to doubt...and the cancer is born.

Anyway, I had better not stretch the metaphor too far! Good night...
Jarrod R. Hart

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Postby KYSkeptic » Thu Nov 09, 2006 4:56 pm

Dear Mr. Hart,

I like the "Cancer in the virus of Theism" metaphor. Your point that promoting communications will lead to conflict between their "old" beliefs that fail to explain things they know are right, and those pesky "new" ideas that better explain the way the world seems work, is well taken. Perhaps you should work that into your essay. As you might imagine from my tag line, I'm a big believer in doubt (That sentence has an odd ring to it.)
Ubi dubium ibi libertas

(There is freedom in doubt)


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