Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
Science and Trust series - Part 2
"Science is heroic. It fuels the economy, it feeds the world, it fights disease" - Tom Siegfried
In the first part of this series I gave reasons that could mislead people, effect their understanding of science and make them distrust science, let me now deal with how to solve these contentious issues while giving reasons why people should trust science.
1. This universe is based on some basic, methodical rules (17) what we call scientific principles and things like gravity and other fundamental forces run this universe. Chemical interactions - including the biological processes - are responsible for origin of life and sustaining it. Therefore, this universe itself is scientific in nature! Not trusting them is not trusting the very principles this Universe, Nature and Life are based on!
Please do not equate scientific principles this universe is connected to irrevocably with scientists and the methods they use to study them. Scientists are the people who are trying to unravel the mysteries, the language this universe is working on through the medium of science. They didn't bring these principles from nowhere. They are finding things because they exist. Our understanding of these principles of science might be weak but these concepts are the strongest forces this universe relies on. Scientists sometimes might misunderstand the language, might not use the correct procedures to study it, might mismanage the processes while dealing with their applications, but these should not become excuses to completely dismiss science. Denying fundamental scientific principles is like dismissing your own very existence or the concepts it depends on and living in an illusionary pseudo-world! Intelligent human beings cannot afford to do this!
2. When we are in need of desperate help, only science can 'really' assist us and comfort us. Yes, Ebola? Malaria? Polio? TB? World trusts science to study the factors underlining them, understand them to find preventions and cures and to stop large scale tragedies that are brought by them. Even the most vocal critic of science, tries to go to a doctor when he gets a disease that can kill him if not treated! I smiled when I heard about some Taliban leaders who ordered killing of health care workers who were administering Polio vaccines, themselves went to medical doctors to get cured of kidney ailments they were suffering from.
Need more food for ever increasing population? What else can help you except science by increasing the food production using scientific methods?
Need the best infrastructure materials? Need the best transport? Need the best in everything? Can you imagine a better friend than the field of science that can help you?
3. Science and technology (based media like internet, TVand satellite communications) connects you to the world parts that are very far away and increases your understanding of it.
4. Science enhances knowledge about Nature and the Universe. Scientific thinking and reasoning and the social impact that often comes with it, help free us from darkness that is controlled by superstition, magical thinking and people who are power mongers who try to deceive public taking advantage of fear and innocence prevail in the societies we live in.
5. Science is the language of facts, data supporting them, near-truth and consists of highly qualified people and experts with several years of experience in the fields they work in.
6. Not all science has gone awry. Majority of the people in the field are honest. I think here some are using only a few problem areas as examples to malign science. There are special branches like Medicine and Agriculture and aren't most people who are into these disciplines helping people overcome diseases and population explosion-caused food problems?
Agreed there are grey areas in science - recently several of the scientific bodies have accepted this and decided to take corrective steps. That is the beauty of science. You accept your mistakes, agree to get corrected, and actually take steps to right the wrongs (32). Science and scientists are not rigid but are very open-minded. It is that modest, self-correcting principle which makes science worthy of our trust.
Don't you think *we should give our full support for this special character of science* while bringing to the notice of the world the dark side of it to make a course correction?
Just because people of science have the potential to be wrong sometimes, the uninformed opinions of people of anti-science need not be right. Decide this friends: Who are more trust worthy? Are people who accept their faults and try to get corrected or people who ridicule others by spreading false information, and refuse to get challenged?
7. Is science hard to accept? No, not at all!
"Just believing in any scientific theory is just a description about you. It’s not an account of how you reason."
Science doesn't ask anyone to believe it blindly. Scientists are not demanding people to trust them with closed eyes and ears. You can always verify what scientists say. You can use your brain and critically analyse things. But how you do this and challenge science needs some rule-following (7). Go after it strictly. Remember, everybody is entitled to have his or her own opinions but not to his or her own facts.
Studying, understanding the data, critically and neutrally thinking about what you come across, tallying it with natural laws, then accepting what makes sense is what makes you a real person of science.
If you follow these procedures of science, you don't find it difficult to accept it.
How do you trust something like science that changes continually?
You should trust science because 'change continually' in the field means 'improve continually'.
8. Conflicting reports need not confuse people if explained in their proper contexts: I have already explained this earlier (15). I want to do it again here in case any doubts are still remaining...
One major issue with scientific facts is that they are facts only until they are proven wrong. The system is intentionally "never set in stone". With the many advances that are being made in all areas of science, facts are changing readily. It does not help that the media pick up only the surprising and/or alarms bits of the advances and then explain them badly.
Conflicting reports are obtained in science when the researchers try to study individual characters of anything under different situations. In science usually what happens is you divide the problem, dissect things and study what role each part plays and again take everything into consideration and study it as a whole. You have to understand things individually taking things in isolation in certain conditions. Unless you choose and understand the role of each of the cell parts like nucleus, cytoplasm, mitochondria, cell membrane individually, you cannot come to a proper conclusion. Only after knowing the individual parts and their roles in cells and then connecting them with other parts and their roles, will you understand the whole process. Saying that you cannot choose like that, I think, is silly.
When you study anything as a whole entity you might get different results than the earlier ones where individual parts were taken to identify their functions because one factor influences the other in the whole entity. What you get in the lab, need not tally with what results you get in Nature. Researchers clearly tell this and the conditions in which they studied and obtained results. Individual research results make us understand about each characters' role in the whole process. The whole process study tells us how the role of each entity modifies itself to suit the whole. Only if you understand the scientific processes fully, you would realize this.
All scientists know that theirs’ is a work in progress! One of the virtues of science is that it is prepared to change its mind as and when the evidence warrants it. Science is not religion and therefore need not be afraid to say 'we do not know ... yet'. Scientists know that all scientific knowledge is conditional, dependent on repeated questioning, testing and confirmation. Change is inevitable in several cases.
We must explain this to people. How?
Let me give the example of research on fats...
Earlier people used to do physical work a lot. They used to walk several kilometers per day - my grandfather used to tell me. Then even when you consumed some margarine or Ghee (clarified butter used in this part of the world ) it would have been neutralized by the hard work people did then.
Then times have changed. We used vehicles even to go to a grocery store in the next lane to ours till recently. Where would all the fat go? Into your abdomen, blood vessels etc. making you fat and causing health problems. Naturally you have to decrease your fat intake or food intake when you are doing less work. This has been found when more and more people are falling prey to life style diseases.
Recently when science has found that not all people are vulnerable to these diseases. When your genes, environment, stress and several other factors influence the fat metabolism, different people will react differently to fat and food consumption. So people of science realized each individual case has to be treated differently and you cannot say the same thing is true for all individuals.
That is the progress of science. As and when data demands it, new facts come to light, we must change our assumptions and minds.
These changes need not confuse people when told why these corrections in course are necessary. But if science communicators write about only recent updates and don't tell people why these corrections are made, then the research confuses people.
Yes, it is the failure of science communication, not the fault of science.
I agree, when a problem is studied in labs, the conditions vary from the Natural ones. Nature is still the boss and several unknown factors effect the problem or causes and effects and ultimately the results. We learn by first studying in labs, then testing in Natural conditions and when the results don't tally, we go back and study again to rectify our mistakes. What is wrong with it?
No scientist can ever claim his results and conclusions are absolute and demand people to accept them unconditionally. A work in progress is an ever evolving one. We trust science, not because it represents authority and truth, but because in order to work, science must constantly doubt itself. We keep studying, try to understand things, learn from mistakes, do new experiments, draw inferences , test them again and again until you become convinced that they are relatively better than the previous ones and can be dependable.
Another aspect of the fact increasing knowledge leads to changes in what we accept is this: As we learn - at first we generalise, then we specialize, but then we must re-generalise. And this process continues integrating between levels, as we are able to build a more wholistic picture of what we know. But, a 'general understanding' is very different to a 'specific understanding', and, the difference is not just one between 'partial knowledge' vs 'wholisitc knowledge'. As each kind of understanding can lead to different conclusions about the same aspect, especially if we do not continually re-generalise to include the specifics. Knowing something scientific, and knowing it well, includes the ability to focus and refocus, and to keep on doing that while incorporating new data. Understanding is not a matter of simply scurrying off in one direction, becoming more and more narrowly focused on one train of inquiry, and hoping this will bring some form of absolute insight into the way things really are. Neither is understanding a matter of flitting across the surface of many matters and never delving in to the specifics (thanks JDL for this bit which agrees with my assessment). Therefore, scientists are both specialists and generalists and are not people who travel only in narrow alleys. They must come back to the broad arenas of their fields to see how their work fits into the big picture and helps in understanding it and integrating it with other areas to get the right applications. So, when making conclusions, it is very important to understand from what perspective your conclusion applies, and not get confused about the way information can have a different meaning dependent on the level at which you are understanding it. You cannot deal with quantum world in the same way as you deal with macro world? Can you?
Researchers will be asking and answering different questions on the same topic, and consequently gathering and analysing different bodies of evidence.
Sometimes poor quality chemicals and equipment used by researchers too undermine experiments in molecular biology and drug discovery (44) and show various and confusing results. And this problem is being looked after now (45).
Moreover, when results keep changing ... if you are reporting recently, you are reporting the most advanced version of research results which might be different from the ones that were reported earlier where all the factors were not considered.
Personal experiences don’t count for the purposes of scientific research. A single person’s testimony isn’t useful for scientific knowledge, which requires reproducibility. Nor a single group's half-baked and flawed one-time study, often reported with sensational headlines in the media, has any value. Authenticity in science takes a large number of years to build by several people of science and with repeated experiments.
Does this process of scientific research confuse you now? I don't think it does!
9. You trust science because you yourself can do the experiments using scientific methods and test your theories or trust the ones done by others using scientific methods and subjected to scrutiny. Peer-reviewing, testing others' experiments by repeating them, retractions of papers if the results are found not to be true - one cannot escape punishment and shame if fraud is involved. Nobody can break-free from these controls and hawk eyes and constant glare of the experts in his or her field. Only people who have undergone all this fire-walk to prove themselves know how difficult it is to stand as a genuine scientist - I have first hand experience in this field - where people try to rip you apart if you are not truthful and confident about your work. If something has passed all these filters, then you can be reasonably confident that it is true.
If you still doubt this procedure - you are not thinking in terms of science but in terms of art , religion or other subjects - where only opinion and belief count. The field of Science is trust-worthy because it has in-built corrective procedures.
More and more frauds are being reported in science because of the 'filters' working excellently and the transparent nature in which science is being done. It is like showing you how we are cleaning up the field. Take it in the right spirit, and you will like it!
10. 'Belief systems' have very little role to play in science. Only data-based evidence counts here.
Real science is apolitical and non-religious. Ideological beliefs and emotions are obstructions to rational thinking and factual evidence. Science can show you why you could trust it.
The ideologue is always ready to support scientific findings that are perceived to be compatible with their belief structure and to demonize those that don't, evidence is completely ignored in that process. As a result, the support of science by politicians, other people against science and religious believers is a highly selective process. A good example is the support for a world wide response to anthropogenic climate change. The reality of the phenomenon is irrelevant to the ideologue. From this it is clear that it is not science that is distrusted but the interpretation of real scientific findings by non scientists. The problem is that the public does not know the difference.
Those skeptical of mainstream science have embraced a kind of “fight the science” strategy, which involves second-guessing the conclusions of mainline experts, on climate and on much else. They don’t take the scientific community’s data for it on climate change — they find their own data and have their own way of looking at it, to undermine the consensus.
The groups - scientific and political - have different spheres. Scientists operate in the realm of knowledge creation and knowledge assessment — but they are not allowed to make explicit policy recommendations. Politicians operate in the realm of decision-making — and they can base their decisions on many factors beyond purely scientific ones, such as economics, vote-bank politics, or morality — but it’s not their job to make science based assessments (16).
When you reach a state where you can clearly understand the difference between authentic data and the pseudo one, games played by vested interests, by being in constant touch with high quality research, you will not find it difficult to trust real science.
11. Researchers are doing work that their fund providers want and in the way they want is another allegation made by people who mistrust science . True to some extent but not always. This happens in certain commercial company related work but usually not in the universities (in India they are autonomous bodies) where basic research takes place. People in the universities still choose their subjects of interest and the ones that can be beneficial to the world at large. That is why you still see most of the research occur in these universities attract awards and prizes and most of it is basic research (59). But it is also true that when a subject is controversial and several people disagree on the benefits of the work or skeptic about the outcome, such research work doesn't invite funds and pushed to the background.
12. The motivation for a person with no scientific training to reject what an army of trained scientists say they can prove can be explained with the help of human psychology.This is something that experts in the field call 'motivated cognition', where we don’t want to believe something that challenges our (pre-existing) beliefs in some way. A lot of the time, for any of us — not just those who believe conspiracy theories or those who are ideologues — we’re motivated to ignore evidence that goes against what we believe. And we’re motivated to seek out evidence that confirms what we believe (1).
This, I think, is the result of people trying to bring parameters of other fields into science replacing it's own ones. People of science must take steps to stop these unwanted consequences and educate the public about the difference between various fields and how to approach science in the right way.
We’re mostly like fans of opposing sports teams arguing over what the replay proves. Anyone who watches a contentious issue being debated will see this: Each side tends to dismiss the other’s expert studies as “junk science.” And it’s hard to persuade people once they form an opinion. Those types of belief tend to be very resistant to dis-conformation. The problem is much easier to define than the solution. Feed people good information and in a 'skillful way', and they’ll learn and accept. What is this process called? Undoubtedly this is “Science Communication”. But this field is being handled till now by untrained ( with regard to science) media and baffled writers that feed it ( 9). And the results are clearly evident now - misinformation fed public, confusion-marred ideas and thoughts and darkened skies over scientific arenas. We are stunned, startled, shocked and shaken-up.
Woken-up scientists are recognizing the importance of clear communication of their results. That is something that the scientists take much more seriously now than a few years ago to handle the right way of communicating science and to checkmate the misinformation. A more engaged discourse about science and values can yield good results. The course correction is taking place. While the scientific community is taking charge of the situation, pausing their all important work for brief periods, finding a way out of jargon and mazes, they are requesting the media to stay out of the field ' if they can't handle it properly' or 'don't try to learn the difference between science journalism and other forms of journalism' (18). A request is also going out to the general public to try to co-operate with the scientists for the general good of the societies we live in.
How to deal with the role of cultural conditioning of minds is what is bothering us too . Educating whole families, groups, educationists themselves (12) can get the desired results rather than targeting isolated individuals. This is because again psychologists found that simply preaching the message of evidence doesn’t persuade people. The strongest opposition to climate change theory comes from people who have a good general understanding of science, but also a cultural antipathy to modern climate theory. And that the issue wasn’t knowledge, but culture. If people belong to a group — such as a religious group whose members reject evolution — then members of the group will value that sense of belonging more highly than scientific evidence. The key to success is not to disentangle the science message from the cultural baggage, from their feeling of who and what they are as individuals. In other words, finding neutral language is a key, and so is a common context.
By affirming rather than denigrating countries' cultural identities, we can achieve more success. In this context I want to tell how I am dealing with this problem. Please look at my art work "Secred Life". I used both traditional art that denotes our culture and religious beliefs to spread the message of conservation. Everybody who saw my work here approved it whole-heartedly and embraced the idea. And not even one person criticized my work till now!
Scientific methods are tools, reliable ones for finding out information from and about the natural world, science gives us technologies which can make our lives easier, but can also make out lives more complex. Along with the difficulty people have in trusting science, is the fact that many people don't understand 'how' to trust the science. To trust the science you have to understand the limitations of science, the boundaries in which science operates. And to use science responsibly you have to understand the applications of science. Only that which is possible will happen, nothing more, nothing less. This message has to get through to the minds of human beings through better use of things they are familiar with.
I still think, as a person of science, not everything is dark in the areas people fear to tread in science. For instance, GM products.
If you are using insulin for diabetes, most likely you are using the substance produced by genetically modified bacteria. It is saving lives! Aren't people using it even if they have reservations about GM products? Failure of science communication to bring this to the notice of people and the bright side of GM products is the reason for people showing resistance to them.
Watch this video to know how genetically modified Microbes can be used to clean up oil spills and plastic wastes:
Fear factor is the most common thing why people don't accept science according to some psychologists. Genetic mutations are happening in nature since living organisms came into existence. Natural selection is responsible for deciding which ones are better to keep and which ones to neglect. This has been happening since ages. Selected genes by Nature are interbreeding with other organisms in their specific groups and propagating these new mutations.
Now what the scientists are doing with GM is trying to imitate the same procedure. Selecting the useful traits and genes that are responsible for these traits and incorporating into the new plants. Like genetically modifying bacteria to produce insulin. Selecting the disease resistant genes and incorporating into the plants that don't have them. So what if the wild species in Nature gets a disease resistant gene because of a genetically modified plant near it? It would be useful!
I don't see any problem with it. Problems come into existence only when commercial establishments come into picture highjacking the science and manipulating things to gain commercial profits.
The role of science communicators here is to tell the difference between the two and make people understand that science is not the culprit but commercialization of it by vested interests is.
But I can see science communicators failing to do this and leaving it to the marketing people who only try to push their profit agendas and not real science. And when politics get into the picture, we are confronted with chimeras.
Nuclear fuel: The population growth increases the demand for more power. Here we have 4-6 hours of power cuts daily. Our industrial out puts have decreased. Agricultural production has decreased because of lack of power to pump water. Prices of these products are increasing. There isn't adequate water supply or coal supply for thermal or hydro electricity production. Solar power generators are too costly to adopt for people in developing countries. More people die in coal mine disasters every year than in nuclear ones. Thermal power stations also cause lots of pollution - emissions causing thousands of premature deaths each year from heart attacks, respiratory illnesses and other pollution-related health problems - unlike nuclear ones. And the activists are not allowing nuclear plants to come up. If you operate them following all the precautions, nuclear plants are safe and clean. Can this message be propagated properly by science writers? No. Only negativity is being mentioned especially after the Fukushima disaster.
Let me also tell you this is not under estimating the nuclear disasters - especially when human element is involved in handling the plants and the governments' inability to take all precautions to tackle natural-disaster-related accidents because of lack of funds. My only question is when scientists take all the precautions while conducting experiments unlike earlier times where technology was not so evolved, why can't others too can be educated and trained to handle things in a safe manner?
One can do a thing because s/he thinks s/he can while another one cannot do it because s/he thinks s/he can't. Scientists can handle things with confidence because they think they can using their knowledge, while others complain because they lack this cool-headedness.
According to the scientific community – science is like a knife. A knife can be used to cut throats and spill blood. It can also be used for good purposes like cutting fruits and vegetables. It depends on the person who uses it. Likewise science can also be used for the benefit of living beings as well as for their destruction. Which way it goes is in the hands of the person who uses it. The choice is definitely peoples'. I created an art work on this very theme : The choice is yours ...
Scientists are very well aware of the problems their field poses when 'science and technology' is not used properly. That is why when they find something, they also give very clear instructions on how to follow the safe methods while using their work. If the world chooses to disregard them, you cannot blame the scientists for the mess the world creates with its ignorance or defiance.
Men on the street don't have full view of scientific facts and therefore they are fearful they won't be able to stop the tragedies from happening. Human mistakes, ignorance, political interference and financial constraints are responsible for not taking precautions and following the rules properly. Tragedies occur because of not pursuing the rules laid by scientists to avoid them. I am a microbiologist. I can evade diseases because I know the rules of the game and how to hoodwink the microbes (19). While handling the deadly microbes, I will be confident about the situation. Others cannot do this as well as I do because they don't have the whole picture of the microbial world before them like a specialist. Microbiologists give some instructions to follow and what to do to stay away from the risks. But still they know people with partial view cannot follow them to the last word and are prone to diseases despite their help. That doesn't mean microbiologists don't know the risk factors as well as the common people do. They do, that is why they told you to go after the instructions strictly. How can you put the blame on specialists when they did their duty well? Any person with reasonable amount of intelligence can see that it is the not the fault of scientists but the underestimation of the risk factors and not following the instructions of specialists properly that cause tragedies.
If some matter is lost in translation from scientific language to the language spoken by general public, it is not the fault of science and scientists. We are clear in our minds. And we know we are not very good communicators. It is difficult to come out of the jargon-filled world and years of specialist training. We will have to stop our work if each and every word we deal with will have to be explained in detail to each and every person on the street. We do some work but depend more on others. If they don't do the work to the extent needed, don't blame the scientists for this mess.
Moreover, we have noticed, people in general have more affinity towards easier things, and according to some scientists, they don't try to raise the bars of learning processes to understand things scientific. As I deal with several fields, I experiment with various subjects while writing. When I send links to my articles to social networks like Face-book, Twitter and G+ asking my friends to read them and send their comments, I have realized, most of them read easier art, general and literature articles and don't pay much attention to science based ones despite my best efforts to simplify things and write in a 'language not so scientific' ( After much persuasion, now there is some positive change). People who are trained in science, however, show interest in reading my write-ups on the subject. Why, may I ask? Can't people remove these mind blocks for science when scientists are genuinely trying to reach out to them? Most people like reading the easy fun facts online, but don’t want to stay around to hear all of the scientific evidence and like to see them from scientists' view points and hear their in-depth analyses. This is a group looking to consume the lighter side of science. Some people don’t want to go into information overload. Perhaps they are more interested in utilizing the fruits of science and technology rather than how they came into existence and want to leave the difficult part of it to people of science. But the latter are bothered because if people don't try to understand the full concepts behind science and tech based innovations they cannot use them to the full capacity and might even miss them or misuse them with their ignorance.
People of science also complain that when a movie, pop or a sports star visits a place, the place becomes over-crowded with thousands of gate-crashers, while when a scientist gives a lecture, you can see only people who are dealing with science. Have people become victims to the 'celebrity culture' the media is playing so dedicatedly and are subscribing to low standards unwittingly?
There is another issue bothering the scientists - Government proposals in some countries to develop a new "code of practice" for academics speaking publicly (20) or completely gagging the scientists on speaking on contentious issues (18,40,57).
With these numerous road blocks how can scientists defend science and put their views across convincingly even if they want to within the limited time frames they have? Media and public cooperation is extremely important in confronting these issues successfully.
13. Surprisingly, some science communicators I came across say... it is not their job to convince people of anything about science.
But I feel that convincing people about the benefits of following the principles, concepts and ideas of science is sometimes very important.
If you don't try to assure people that taking vaccines is good not only for them but for the whole societies they are associated with, they won't take them. In some circumstances, a few schools in the US have banned children from attending schools and when the parents of these children approached the courts, even courts have ordered these children to stay at home because their parents refused to get their children vaccinated for religious reasons! Again courts have intervened when children were dying to force their parents to vaccinate their children (21)!
Yes, persuading people about the good aspects of certain things in science is absolutely necessary for the good of societies we live in. In such cases, when you present the evidence, it should be done in such a way that people will accept it. That is the role of science communicators and writers.
When science communicators refuse to do this, people too decline to trust science. That is the reason why anti-science seems to be winning these days - because of people who are against the subject and their aggressive presentations of pseudo-scientific data. And lack of interest in opposing that with full force in case of untrained science writers (9). Although science is a very powerful force, it is being made to appear as a weak one. And when one bully starts the teasing, everybody around will have a go at the one being bullied. That is why you get to see more and more articles these days in the western media that portray science in a very bad light. And people are forgetting the real importance of science in all this drama and are underestimating its significance. Science is not weak, I repeat, not weak, but is made to appear weak. World, realize this illusion that is being created before your eyes.
If communicators fail to convince,
In order to solve the problems we face
There is no other go but to use force
The field that is getting maligned in this process is Science!
14. Some people complain about inadequacies in peer-reviewing process. Peers don't test the results themselves. They just depend on the data provided by the authors of a paper to judge it. Their judgement can go wrong sometimes if the data provided is not up to the mark. Therefore, it is important to hear from the people who repeat the work after the publication or from those who are doing the same experiments in other labs at the same time. This will provide 'true value' to the work. And there is a call for responding to well-founded concerns about papers after publication (60). All these challenges too will be tackled very soon (62).
15. People of science are very well aware of all the problems mentioned above and are trying to rectify them. They are having very detailed discussions on several of the pitfalls of not strictly following scientific methods and methodology recently. They are even conducting research on these issues and publishing papers to bring the mess to the direct notice of the scientific community (58). Don't think they are ignoring them. Very soon you will notice the new types of peer-reviewing, asking scientists to provide full data (35, 61, 62) of their work from day one of their research work to the day of coming to conclusions, open access of research results (36), post-publication peer review (37), independent verification of published work (53) to detect frauds, strict vigilance on new/student researchers, verification of the results over and over again and new retraction policies. Some of the prestigious scientific journals have already announced their new codes.
They are also trying to convince their peers to be honest and are taking steps to ensure this ... it is a difficult process but not unachievable. This self-criticism and efforts to clean the system are very important aspects of science that can rebuild the battered trust in science aspect.
16. The whole world of scientists and research organizations (companies, governments, universities, NGO-non-profits) are so not connected, disparate and with different motives, that their overwhelming "non-connected-ness" is a powerful check in the assertions others make. There is a healthy competition between these institutions to get to the summit first. Since there is no close "inter-connectedness" between all of these, their independence and motivation to review, deconstruct, reconstruct and recreate scientific studies/experiments to verify the assertions others make, allow us to have just a bit more assurance. Therefore, what the world of science says is worth considering for trustworthiness.
An individual scientist may make mistakes, but it is rare for the scientific consensus as a whole to be wrong. Scientists get rewarded in money and reputation for finding fault with statements about reality made by other scientists. Thus, for the large majority of them to agree on something—for there to be a scientific consensus—is a clear indicator that whatever they agree on reflects reality accurately.
17. Some fields like Particle Physics and Astro-physics are in an "infant" stage. You can hardly go beyond theoretical stages in most of these areas because of our inadequacy in terms of equipment, knowledge and understanding. If you take examples of some branches of Science which are still in an infant stage when compared to human existence, which are still taking baby steps and have to grow a lot and gather more knowledge to make them more 'truthful', to say all science is unintelligent and not trust worthy - it is like you see an infant and say all human beings are 'short, immature, can't walk without falling and unintelligent', well, it will be very very far away from truth (22)! If you can't even form proper theories, and don't even have the equipment to test them properly, the Q of validity in these areas doesn't even have an adequate meaning. If you equate these with more developed fields of science that becomes a Fallacy of Composition. Trust the adults to help you not the infants!
18. Science and technology's contribution to economies of the countries around the world runs into billions and trillions. Recently Australian Government's office of the Chief Scientist released an analysis (28) proving this.
Science provides a refuge for those of us who know that knowledge for its own sake can be intrinsically valuable. It supports we who appreciate that there can be immeasurable value in judging human endeavours using indicators that stretch far beyond the mundanities of improving wages or boosting trade. Yes there are benefits of science that can be measured by their contributions to the GDP (29), improving lives. If you distrust it and remove science from them (and see the proof for yourself), economies will be doomed!19. Science asks us to do unbiased reasoning (23) and try to be neutral while critically thinking. This is to arrive at truth by eliminating confirmation biases. It never asks anybody to be only on its side and take into view only its ideas. This shows science never fears about finding facts - because the very fundamentals of science are based on the facts found in an unprejudiced way. ''Consensus'' in science must be based on 'facts' not just on 'opinions'. Majority of the scientists agree with the climate scientists because they think AGW is happening based on the data delivered by them. Debate and dialog in the field are again based on the data provided. Scientists don't come to consensus just for the sake of supporting their peers. One more solid reason to trust science.
Without science this universe won’t exist in the first place. Because it is based on scientific principles. Science controls and runs this universe.
Without science - the study with which we understand the universe around us, half of the population would die of hunger (because there won't be benefits brought by agricultural revolution). Most of the rest who survive hunger would die of deadly diseases ( because there won't be drugs to cure them). Your average life span would be reduced to 30-40 years again ( because of poor nutritional statuses and diseases). Rest of the people would die of natural calamities like cyclones, hurricanes, earth-quakes, etc.
What would remain then? Empty Earth!
Humanity is surviving because of science now. If it survives in the future, it is because of science.23. The world of Science is not far away from spirituality, aesthetics and ethics. I wrote on all these things long back (23, 24, 25). People who don't have first hand experiences with the field of science might not realize how science is related to all these aspects enhancing their beauty and understanding. It would be better if they keep away from commenting on science's irrelevance with regard to these areas of human enlightenment, joy and peace if they don't know much about its relevance.
Scientists are human beings too. But they are trained to keep emotions at bay while they are in their work places. This is because emotions interfere with critical analysis of a problem. Just because you are emotionally involved with something, believe that something is true, it doesn't become truth and a fact of science. In fact I would argue that some of these unreasonable emotions are responsible for mistakes and frauds in science - the urge to succeed at any cost, to beat others and reach top positions, to get accolades from the world are driving some people now - instead of curiosity, desire to learn and understand things and helping the world. The "p-hacking" or 'inflation bias" or"selective reporting" is the misreporting of true effect sizes in published studies (27, 41) occurs - sometimes unconsciously, yet consciously at other times. It happens when researchers try out several statistical analyses and/or data eligibility specifications and then selectively report those that produce significant results. Sometimes you believe in some theory first then try to tweak data and results to suit your theory to get published (43). If you want fraud-free science, a tight leash on these emotions by scientists is a must. Now, take that!
Remember, science can do more things than this world can think of!
Science can do several things much better than this world can imagine!
Science can help you more and more in living a very fruitful life if you really trust it!
Trust science and see the difference.
Results of this debate:
In the end what happened? I discussed, debated, tried to understand things from the views of people who are anti-science ( yes, people of science are so open-minded that they even allow all the rubbish everybody tries to dump in the boxes above their bodies and prepared to consider it! Several people who are from various other fields like theology, art, law, and economics even tried to lecture me on how scientists should go about their work, what science 'really' is and what it is not! Hmmm.... ) , tried to answer their queries, remove misconceptions and fears.
But the conflict between people of science and those who are against it is the conflict between understanding and belief. There is a difficult-to-negotiate barrier between the way something really is and the thinking that the way something should/must be. While people of science try to see what the universe is actually made of, those who subscribe to anti-science will see what they want to see. Scientists use the word "believe" rarely and only with great care. "Believe" means to accept on faith and without evidence while "understand" means to have a model of something that bears a useful relationship to reality.
With closed minds, I have noticed, when facts become inconvenient and strong enough to dislodge their beliefs and pre-conceived notions, when people no longer can answer legitimate questions, either they run away from them out of fear, pretend they don't understand them, refuse to notice them or attack you more severely with irrelevant ideas because they cannot come to terms with their defeat. This has also been observed in various studies (26).
I think, in a way, it is 'success' too because I could stir their conscience so strongly that they don't try to argue with the same misconceptions again.
One anti-science person said in the end: You are brilliant doctor! You put things in such a way that I cannot rebut them. But I am not strong enough to come out of my group and join yours. Sorry!
I told him to keep thinking about what I said and that would definitely make a difference.
Another one said: I wish I was as optimistic about the field of science as you are, Krishna.
And I gave him this reply: Scientists are neither optimists ( who see only the half filled glass ), nor pessimists ( people who see only the half empty glass ), but are 'realists'. Because they can see the whole and real picture and a fully filled glass - half with water and half with air. I can see both the dark side as well as the bright side of science. I think the bright side of science is so brilliant that you can wipe out the darkness with its help.
Of course, jealousy never goes away for people who are not so confident about themselves and importance of their own fields. When science and technology seem to be at the peak of their power, when their influence has spread all over the world and when their triumph seems indisputable, a bunch of people are trying to disrupt this dominance of science by maligning it.
Some people will try to expose only what is wrong with science because they cannot stand what is right about it and cannot make sense of why the world depends and trusts it more than anything else. But truth is truth and strong enough to demolish even these unwanted emotions and make them accept it - reluctantly though.
Therefore, I am pretty sure all the open-minded people who follow me will definitely try to analyse my points, find them trust-worthy and keep their confidence in science intact.
"When controversy distorts science or robs society of very important benefits, then science should take action.”
1. Why don't people trust science? http://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/why-dont-people-trust-science
3. Why science is so hard to believe? http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-science-is-so-hard-to-be...
17. Mysterious radio waves from space follow mathematical pattern
My special thanks to all the people - especially JDL - who participated in my discussions/debates on various fora and provided invaluable insights into the issues.
© 2015 , Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa
This is an original article written by Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Only if one gives proper citations, giving credit to the author, a few lines of the write-up can be used.
35. http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g2227 36. http://www.vox.com/2015/1/10/7522713/open-access
The dodgy academic journals publishing anti-vaxxers and other 'crappy science'
**Science stands for allegiance to reason, logical rigor and the search for truth free from the dogmas of authority.
Science supposedly stands for allegiance to reason, logical rigor and the search for truth free from the dogmas of authority.
Growing up in India makes you assume trust automatically comes to your field. You take it for granted.
Never thought it would be so difficult to explain things to deniers. You took lots of trouble to do this. I don't think anybody can dispute your very well thought out reasons. Your love and dedication for science reflects in the article.
Angry Scientist Finds Uneducated Internet Comment And Delivers Badass Response… )
"When controversy distorts science or robs society of very important benefits, then science should take action.”
On March 23, 2016, a peer-reviewed article titled “Who Is Telling The Truth, Nature Or Man?” was published in the international science journal, News Of Biomedical Sciences.
Is the Replicability Crisis Overblown? Three Arguments Examined
SCIENTIFIC advances add $330 million to Australia’s economy every year, outgoing Chief Scientist Ian Chubb says. In his farewell speech in Canberra on Friday, Professor Chubb said new research had found more than a quarter of Australia’s economy existed because of scientific advances made over the past three decades. “That’s a $330 million dollar contribution every year,” he said. “Those same advances account for more than one million jobs, close to 1.2 million jobs, and about $84 billion in annual exports. “Advances in the biological sciences alone account for close to half a million jobs, 3.6 per cent of economic activity and health improvements worth up to $156 or so billion dollars a year.”
Prof Chubb said he expected there would be opposition to the findings of the research — released today — but he hoped it would stop Australians from “taking science for granted”.
“I expect people will quibble with the finer details of the numbers and people as I said have already started,” he said.
“(But) the point is that this, for the first time, gives us an analysis which is open to scrutiny, which is out there and will give us a number that enables us to talk about, with a fair degree of certainty, what the overall impact and contribution of science is.
“So that overwhelming message is very clear and I should add that it’s consistent with evidence gathered by many different investigators around the world.
“Without advances in science, technology, engineering, maths over recent decades our economy would be far smaller, our industries far less competitive, our jobs greatly depleted and our income less secure.
“We would suffer and some of us would die from conditions we can diagnosis and treat, because of those advances.”
Thank you. You seem to relish science as much as I do!