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Living in Denial? (RJS)

posted by Jesus Creed Admin

Michael Kruse brought an article to my attention a few weeks ago by Debora MacKenzie in New Scientist entitled Living in Denial: Why sensible people reject the truth. This article is part of a series of articles discussing the issues regarding truth and perception of truth: Special report: Living in denial (you may need a subscription to read many of the articles). MacKenzie’s article is concerned primarily with issues of health, environment, and public policy, issues ranging from evolution to vaccines to H1N1 to global warming. The issues addressed range far and wide though. How we know, how we filter through information to reach decisions, who we trust and why, how information is spread, … this is a fascinating topic. An article by Jim Giles Unleashing the Lie addresses how ideas spread, in print, news, on the internet.

Small excerpt from MacKenzie’s article:

HEARD the latest? The swine flu pandemic was a hoax: scientists, governments and the World Health Organization cooked it up in a vast conspiracy so that vaccine companies could make money.

Never mind that the flu fulfilled every scientific condition for a pandemic, that thousands died, or that declaring a pandemic didn’t provide huge scope for profiteering. A group of obscure European politicians concocted this conspiracy theory, and it is now doing the rounds even in educated circles

….

Here’s a hypothesis: denial is largely a product of the way normal people think. Most denialists are simply ordinary people doing what they believe is right. If this seems discouraging, take heart. There are good reasons for thinking that denialism can be tackled by condemning it a little less and understanding it a little more. [emphasis added]

This last paragraph above hits a key point. It is common to bash deniers as ignorant, valuing ideology over truth – here is where the arrogance of science and scientists comes into play far too often. But ‘denial’ – how ever it comes – is not generally an underhanded attempt to twist truth to personal liking – rather it is an attempt to wrestle with a complex set of (occasionally conflicting) information to determine how to act and react.

How do you evaluate information on evolution, global warming, and other hot topics?

Do you ever analyze how you reach a decision?

One more article in the series, this one by Michael Fitzpatrick, Living in Denial: Questioning science isn’t blasphemy:

THE epithet “denier” is increasingly used to bash anyone who dares to question orthodoxy.

How ironic. The concept of denialism is itself inflexible, ideological and intrinsically anti-scientific. It is used to close down legitimate debate by insinuating moral deficiency in those expressing dissident views, or by drawing a parallel between popular pseudoscience movements and the racist extremists who dispute the Nazi genocide of Jews.

As philosopher Edward Skidelsky of the University of Exeter, UK, has argued, crying denialism is a form of ad hominem argument: “the aim is not so much to refute your opponent as to discredit his motives”.

Such attempts to combat pseudoscience by branding it a secular form of blasphemy are illiberal and intolerant. They are also ineffective, tending not only to reinforce cynicism about science but also to promote a distrust for scientific and medical authority that provides a rallying point for pseudoscience.

As Skidelsky says, “the extension of the ‘denier’ tag to group after group is a development that should alarm all liberal-minded people”. What we need is more debate, not less.

Oh the arrogance of it all – when power, prestige, and ego mix with truth and teaching. My suggestion in the post Myths We Believe that scientists could display a counterproductive arrogance in dealing with the general public provoked a rather long discussion … but this is a key issue. Truth, perception of truth, and communication are important issues.

Of course it isn’t limited to science and scientists. Using the H word (heresy) in discussions of the Christian faith turns off discussion and limits growth and understanding. This is, it seems, an issue of the power of the priesthood, whether clergy, theologian, or scientist, whether the orthodoxy is religious or scientific.

We must teach – not pronounce – and this covers all areas of thinking. Any attempt to simply pronounce truth and demand adherrance to a party line will fail to convince and will be self-defeating in the long run. This is true within the church – an authoritarian list of beliefs, quashing questions, will not spread the gospel or develop mature Christians. Likewise an attitude of arrogant pronouncement followed by ad hominem caricature will not convince many of the truth of evolution, global warming, or the efficacy of vaccination.

I’ve moved through a few different issues here – but the topic is fascinating.

How do we know what is true – how do we evaluate?

But more than this – once convinced of the truth …How do we teach or persuade, in areas of gospel, doctrine or science? What is the responsibility of the “expert”?

If you wish to contact me, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net



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JHM

posted June 10, 2010 at 7:38 am


I think it is quite interesting to me that science basically operates via a highly tuned sense of skepticism and yet when people are skeptical about things we hold as true or are skeptical based on criteria that we don’t like, suddenly they are “deniers”.
Though there is a lot of irrational premises, I think most people would say that when they look at a truth claim they try to rationally evaluate it based on what they already know to be true. I think this is why we have to look at the reasons why people believe what they do rather than just pronounce. Teaching is quite often the building and application of knowledge so that the student becomes quite confident with the “whole” of what is being taught, not just random factoids that are not connected with any other knowledge.
This also means that we should have much patience with people “on the other side” because we realize that the discussion is over much more than “common decent or common creator” or some such, it is about whole systems of knowledge that are weaved together in our hearer’s mind.



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Rick

posted June 10, 2010 at 7:50 am


JHM-
“I think it is quite interesting to me that science basically operates via a highly tuned sense of skepticism and yet when people are skeptical about things we hold as true or are skeptical based on criteria that we don’t like, suddenly they are “deniers”.”
Great point.
I think the “experts” need to be honest, not just making sure ALL the facts are put on the table (ie. data and emails in global warming-gate), but also in admitting their own presuppositions and interests. When they do not do that, people see it as a power-play that needs to be challenged.



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Danny

posted June 10, 2010 at 9:12 am


One of the problems we have with trusting “reputable” sources is when they are too cozy with political and/or financial groups. The falleness of human nature is deceitful, especially if the expert(s) stand to gain financially or in terms of influence.



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pds

posted June 10, 2010 at 10:07 am


The Design Spectrum
Great post.
Francisco Ayala, who has posted at Biologos, has repeatedly called intelligent design “blasphemy” and “heresy.” How ironic.
Calvin College prof. Steve Matheson is on a name-calling insult rampage in the name of theistic evolution, which I discuss here.
What do you think? Good civil discourse? Effective? Not for me.



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pds

posted June 10, 2010 at 10:18 am


The Design Spectrum
By the way, Romans 1 can be seen as a discussion by Paul of “denialism.” For Paul, it was the suppression of knowledge of God that is evident in the design of nature:

18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities?his eternal power and divine nature?have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted June 10, 2010 at 10:23 am


Most of us go about our daily lives making most of our decisions on what appears to be self-evident. That has worked pretty well for us as a race for most things throughout history. And yet, if we went purely by appearance we would presume the world is flat and make decisions accordingly. So which things in our lives our the flat earth illusion and which are not? Who should we believe? Those are the big questions.
There is a fascinating book called “The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World” that is a fascinating recounting of how physician John Snow carefully mapped the spread of a cholera epidemic and determined it was being spread by contaminated water, not vapors. (It reads like a novel.) Of particular interest is the end of the book where it is recounted how it took years before any authorities would give attention to his work and a shift in understanding reality occurred. (I would also add that there have been other episodes where scientists promoted a new understanding upon which social policy was developed that turned out to be wrong. If you get a chance to visit the traveling exhibit “Deadly Medicine” about eugenics be sure to do so.)
This goes to sociologist Peter Berger’s idea of plausibility structures. We are each embedded within social networks. These groups become reference points for reality. When we think and act according to what our group consider plausible we get affirming and confirming feedback from our network. But when we move outside what seems plausible, responses ranging from concern about mental/emotional state to anger will emerge. Our social network goes to work to bring us into conformity or to expel us. Change to plausibility structures doesn’t come easy. Plausibility structures are absolutely essential to human existence but they can also be a great hindrance to grasping what seems to contradict the self-evident.
And so the question becomes, how do we effectively transform plausibility structures. Stating your facts and demanding acquiescence to your authority, or someone elses you deem worthy, is generally ineffective. And, in fact, what I think frequently is the case is that the presenting issue (i.e., evolution, global warming, vaccinations, etc.) is not the issue it all. The issue is about folks operating from one plausibility structure attempting to make their reality prevail … and I don’t necessarily mean that in manipulative mean way. The presenting issue basically functions as a leverage point.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted June 10, 2010 at 10:32 am


One other thing by way of analogy. I live in the Midwest. I have a friend who grew up in South Carolina. He talks funny. He has an accent. Of course, if I go to visit where he grew up, guess who it is that now talks funny and has an accent.
The temptation with talk of plausibility structures is to only how others are “misled” by their plausibility structures … to perceive them as speaking with an accent while I talk “normal.” It is only normal as long as I’m with those who share my plausibility structures. :-)
Captcha: message examiner hmmm…



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Kenny Johnson

posted June 10, 2010 at 10:41 am


I’ve become a natural skeptic — and that makes even faith hard. I have issues with a completely naturalistic explanation for the origin of species. I find it hard to believe based on what I know. I’m not trying to hold on to a literal translation of Genesis 1. In fact, I don’t accept a literal translation… I’m neither and YEC or OEC (in the Hugh Ross sense), but neither do I fit in the TE camp, because I believe God had his hand in things and that it’s observable.
I’m neither a man-made Global warming acceptor or denier. Global Warming is true, it’s pretty impossible to deny, but I think there are enough alternative theories to man-induced carbon emissions being the predominant cause for me the remain a bit skeptical.
I don’t know, I feel like my views are pretty sensible. . . especially with the nature of science and scientific knowledge.



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pds

posted June 10, 2010 at 10:54 am


The Design Spectrum
Michael,
Thanks for the tip about the eugenics exhibit. I took a quick look at the online version:

Following Germany?s defeat in World War I and during the ensuing political and economic crises of the Weimar Republic, ideas known as racial hygiene or eugenics began to inform population policy, public health education, and government-funded research. By keeping the ?unfit? alive to reproduce and multiply, eugenics proponents argued, modern medicine and costly welfare programs interfered with natural selection ?the concept Charles Darwin applied to the ?survival of the fittest? in the animal and plant world. In addition, members of the ?fit,? educated classes were marrying later and using birth control methods to limit family size. The result, eugenics advocates believed, was an overall biological ?degeneration? of the population. As a solution, they proposed ?positive? government policies such as tax credits to foster large, ?valuable? families, and ?negative? measures, mainly the sterilization of genetic ?inferiors.?
…..
Nazism was ?applied biology,? stated Hitler deputy Rudolf Hess. During the Third Reich, a politically extreme, antisemitic variation of eugenics determined the course of state policy.

I may have missed it, but I don’t see that they discuss that eugenics was big in the US too. The 1933 Nazi sterilization law was based on a California statute.



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pds

posted June 10, 2010 at 10:57 am


Kenny #8,
I think your views are pretty sensible too.



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Jason Lee

posted June 10, 2010 at 12:08 pm


Another thing related to this that I’ve been thinking about lately is role of emotions and design features in our body. How much of our evaluation of truth or an argument is sub-rational or knee-jerk? In other words, how much is screened out by split-second reactions such that the information never makes it to the jury of rational analysis (think of the book “Blink”). I’m not proposing that this explains all or even most of how we evaluate information. But on some issues, it may explain a lot. If this is true, then is it even possible to evaluate certain things or ask others to more objectively evaluate certain things until we’ve reigned in our emotions more? Jonathan Haidt’s work explores some of this as it relates to morals and politics (see especially his paper “The Emotional Dog and its Rational Tail” on his website: http://people.virginia.edu/~jdh6n/ .



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Michael W. Kruse

posted June 10, 2010 at 1:10 pm


Jason #11
I’m currently reading “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives.” In the present chapter they are discussing how moods, emotions, attitudes spread not only to friends/family but also to their friends and friends of those friends. They point out that our ability to immediately pick up on the emotional/mental state of others … prior to verbalizations … is part of what helps as accurately assess whether we are in a safe environment or not. Fascinating stuff.
I think this can help in a couple of ways. First, we need to be attuned to our own emotions and responses as we encounter something challenging to us. We often need to be more attentive to why we are we become so agitated, fearful, angry or whatever when confronted with challenging perspectives.
Second, we should learn to empathize with the person who is challenged by something we hold as truth. Immediately ascribing sinister motives and responding with antagonism works against persuasion if our intent is indeed persuasion. I think persuasion takes place best in a non-anxious safe environment.
Inability to be conscious of my own emotional signals, thus provoking unhelpful responses in others, is frequently my biggest obstacle in talking about difficult issues.



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Peggy

posted June 10, 2010 at 1:31 pm


It is this the importance of this very topic that frequently keeps me from conversations, sadly. I have said it too many times to count: I am more than willing to listen so that I can understand where someone comes from … but a conversation requires that I am equally listened to so as to be understood as well. This is frequently what does NOT happen.
I join Kenny @ #8 in frequently being able to see merit on both sides of an argument. And this is exactly what keeps me from coming down firmly on either side.
Humanity does not have the capacity to take in the enormity of what we call Truth. Wayne Jacobsen humbly, but correctly, says “I am not smart enough to understand all the circumstances.” And this is where faith in God’s knowledge and understanding comes in.
Years ago in Philosophy 101 I studied Bishop George Berkeley and was profoundly changed by his statement: “To be is to be perceived. And the Ultimate Perceiver is God.” If perception is reality, the only Real, True perception is God’s.
We are able to perceive according to the light we have, as it were. It behooves us to be a whole lot more humble about what we perceive … and a lot more gracious when trying to understand how those around us perceive. Wisdom is often heard from the most unexpected source….
It is a problem when we have considerable expertise in one area and try to use that to influence in areas outside that field. Then, what comes into play all too often is this famous quote: better to be quiet and be thought an idiot than to open one’s mouth and prove it.
Groupthink does not equal Truth….



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Peggy

posted June 10, 2010 at 1:35 pm


…and Michael, all my favorite conversations here at Jesus Creed are ones in which you are involved.
Thanks, RJS, for another thoughtful post!



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DRT

posted June 10, 2010 at 1:41 pm


Michael, #6
I believe the idea you are talking about, plausibility structures, is similar to bounded rationality. A guy I work with did his PhD on the application of bounded rationality to engineering design and game theory.
http://does.eng.buffalo.edu/DOES_Publications/2008/Gurnani.JMD.130.2008.pdf
I think this is a rich area for research when it comes to how the public makes decisions. Game theory and bounded rationality both come into play.
The whole game theory idea has not been widely discussed here (that I have seen) but it is quite relevant. If people do not realize that there is the opportunity to have a win-win outcome (or lose-lose for that matter) then they sometimes define their success by someone else?s loss. I have seen this in play where someone choses a losing scenario for themselves because they think it must be the best outcome for them since it is the worst outcome for the other person. Bizarre to be sure, but people?s bounded rationality prohibits them from even seeing a win-win in some cases.
I think this is one of the most important topics for us (meaning people in general).
Dave



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Roland

posted June 10, 2010 at 2:13 pm


“How do you evaluate information on evolution, global warming, and other hot topics?”
I go with the scientific consensus. When National Geographic, Scientific American et al start running cover stories on global warming, I believe them.
I typically don’t listen to anyone who isn’t a scientist. I don’t care that the average American doesn’t believe in evolution. When they make science their life’s work, then they get cred in my book but not until.
The scientific consensus can be wrong but it always moves toward the truth and fact. The man-on-the-street consensus is driven by emotion and personal needs. It’s way easier to believe global warming doesn’t exist than it is to wean ourselves off oil.



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kevin s.

posted June 10, 2010 at 2:41 pm


I think Kenny’s approach is the only reasonable one. Consensus can be manufactured.
@Roland,
You are entitled to your approach, but it isn’t going to be very persuasive. You may not care about the opinions of anyone who isn’t a scientist. Conversely, don’t expect people to care what you think, either. That includes not caring about the people whose opinion you hold in high regard.
I fervently disagree with the assertion that scientific consensus always moves toward truth and fact. History is riddled with cases where this has not true, and if history is suggestive of future results, we can expect such cases in the future.
I think, as well, the nature of scientific consensus is too often bound up in political prescriptions. If we take the attitude that we don’t care what anyone things, outside of their area of expertise, we shoud certainly adopt skepticism when scientist advocate policies. I don’t see enough of that among those who “side with science”.



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RJS

posted June 10, 2010 at 2:50 pm


kevin s.
In the short term there is no doubt that scientific consensus can meander off target. This is a human enterprise after all. But in the long run doesn’t Roland’s observation prove true? Where do you see a long term deception rather than meander toward truth and accuracy?
But lets try another example – whose exegesis of a passage of scripture do you trust more – that of a scholar who has studied Hebrew and Greek, or that of a random Christian in the pew? Who will you trust for diagnosis of a lump – the grandmother’s intuition or the physician with training and expertise?
The idea that the opinion of the “man on the street” is of equal value is rather absurd.
My point in this post is that it is the responsibility of the expert to convince the man on the street – not to pronounce and dismiss.



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DRT

posted June 10, 2010 at 3:13 pm


RJS,
I want to pile on one of the things you said. You said it is the scientist’s responsibility to convince the man on the street. One aspect of the conflict is that there is confusion among some scientists as to who is the customer and who is the performer in the transaction of validating truth. The performer is the scientist. It is therefore their responsibility to satisfy the customer in their performance…..The customer is the one who can declare satisfaction or not, so they are right insofar as they get what the scientists are saying. It is then incumbant on the scientists (or their communications people) to communicate better.
Dave



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R Hampton

posted June 10, 2010 at 3:21 pm


pds,
Why do you continue to cast Eugenics as Evolutionary theory? Why, when you clearly know that: 1) ID is supposedly compatible with Evolution and thus must also be guilty by association; 2) Eugenics was a political policy, not a scientific theory; 3) you feel no need to constantly remind us of the atrocities committed in the name of religion, including Christianity.
You have no legitimate basis to complain about “name-calling” and the like when you repeatedly do the same. It’s disingenuous. But at least you have – unintentionally – demonstrated the concept of living in denial.



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pds

posted June 10, 2010 at 3:25 pm


The Design Spectrum
RJS #18,
“But lets try another example – whose exegesis of a passage of scripture do you trust more – that of a scholar who has studied Hebrew and Greek, or that of a random Christian in the pew?”
If it is a theologically radical professor at Harvard Divinity School, or a layperson who I knew to be wise and godly, I would trust the wise layperson, no question. But of course, in most situations we can weigh them both and make our own decision. And we know that for many complex questions, no one person has all the expertise necessary for the analysis.



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RJS

posted June 10, 2010 at 3:31 pm


pds,
Except – the wise and godly layperson is only making the call on the back of scholars who know and understand Hebrew and Greek – in scriptural translation and in commentary. Often the information is also coming second hand from commentary through preacher to wise layperson.
Isn’t expertise and trust of that expertise an essential part of the picture?



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pds

posted June 10, 2010 at 3:36 pm


RHampton #20,
“Eugenics was a political policy, not a scientific theory”
It was both. And it was accepted as good science by many mainstream scientists in the first half of the 20th Century. Deny that if you must, but it is the truth.
Are you saying the Holocaust Museum is wrong too?
http://www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/online/deadlymedicine/narrative/index.php?content=science
I encourage you to read Michael Crichton’s essay:
http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/2010/04/27/michael-crichton-on-politicized-science-and-the-eugenics-movement/
Generally speaking, your comment is factually inaccurate in several respects.



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pds

posted June 10, 2010 at 3:47 pm


The Design Spectrum
RJS #22,
I agree with you, and made that point in my comment. In real life you can consider all sources of wisdom and knowledge. Both the expert and the layperson have potentially valuable insights.
You said,
“The idea that the opinion of the “man on the street” is of equal value is rather absurd.”
I do not think that is absurd. There are some laypeople whose opinion I would value higher than some “experts.” It all depends on the question and the context and the specific people involved.
I will repeat what I said before: we know that for many complex questions, no one person has all the expertise necessary for the analysis.



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R Hampton

posted June 10, 2010 at 4:05 pm


pds,
You seem to be incapable of separating science from policy. Did the intelligence of the average person, or the gene pool, actually increase as a result of these policies? Did people become more “fit” in some deterministic way? More importantly, was there ever any scientific evidence that such policies would have their intended affect? No, no, and no. While it can be empirically proven that sterilization prevents reproduction, the rest of it was paranoid fantasy. Please do no confuse the personal opinions of Scientists and scientific theories.
Are you saying the Holocaust Museum is wrong too?
You need to reread the information the Holocaust Museum posted:
Following Germany?s defeat in World War I and during the ensuing political and economic crises of the Weimar Republic, ideas known as racial hygiene or eugenics began to inform population policy, public health education, and government-funded research. By keeping the ?unfit? alive to reproduce and multiply, eugenics proponents argued, modern medicine and costly welfare programs interfered with natural selection ? the concept Charles Darwin applied to the ?survival of the fittest? in the animal and plant world. In addition, members of the ?fit,? educated classes were marrying later and using birth control methods to limit family size. The result, eugenics advocates believed, was an overall biological ?degeneration? of the population. As a solution, they proposed ?positive? government policies such as tax credits to foster large, ?valuable? families, and ?negative? measures, mainly the sterilization of genetic ?inferiors.? Eugenics advocates in Germany included physicians, public health officials, and academics in the biomedical fields, on the political left and right. Serving on government committees and conducting research on heredity, experts warned that if the nation did not produce more fit children, it was headed for extinction.
Note this gross misunderstanding of “survival of the fittest” — it is natural selection, not intelligent selection, that drives Evolution. Not so ironic then that the very people deemed “unfit” by Eugenics were deemed fit by nature (evolution).
Note that researching non-scientific ideas continues to this day (e.g. Homeopathy, Creation Science, Intelligent Design, etc. ) – that does not make the initial premise a scientific theory.
Noite that fear expressed by the Eugenics was not grounded in Science — Germany was “headed to extincition”?!



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pds

posted June 10, 2010 at 4:31 pm


RHampton,
You seem to be missing the point. Read Michael’s comment #6:
“I would also add that there have been other episodes where scientists promoted a new understanding upon which social policy was developed that turned out to be wrong. If you get a chance to visit the traveling exhibit “Deadly Medicine” about eugenics be sure to do so.”



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katz

posted June 10, 2010 at 4:39 pm


Roland — you’ve got about 10 seconds before pds is going to bite your head off. You’re right, of course, and there should be nothing controversial about the statement “People who know more about a topic have more useful opinions about it than those who don’t,” but in practice, people don’t like being told that they should learn about a topic before talking about it.
Have a look at this Biologos thread and its repost here at Jesus Creed to see how this plays out: people will staunchly defend their right to have their opinion on a topic that they’ve chosen not to learn anything about be taken as seriously as someone who’s devoted his or her life to that field.



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katz

posted June 10, 2010 at 4:41 pm


By the way, it’s probably worth mentioning that New Scientist is the most worthless screed that has ever been passed off as a scientific publication.



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RJS

posted June 10, 2010 at 4:56 pm


katz,
Well, that last statement is certainly untrue. I don’t particularly stand or fall with New Scientist, it is not on my regular read list … but I have seen many more worthless screeds passed off as scientific publications. It ain’t the worst by a long shot.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted June 10, 2010 at 5:05 pm


# 25 R Hampton
The issue is not whether or not eugenics was based in science. The issue is whether scientists portrayed it as science to the public and sought public policy changes based on this “science.” They most assuredly did. And that is just the point.
We know there has been warming. We know that a disproportional number of people who study these topics have political views that are antagonistic to capitalism, markets, and economic freedom. So while we know the world is warming, and to us lay people some of the scientific information seems quite reasonable, how do we know the dire predictions and corresponding calls to radically curtail economic freedom and institute state control over economies isn’t people smuggling in political agendas under the rubric of science … just as with eugenics?
I was a teenager during the ’70s. My dad was a chemist focused on fuel research. My Mom and I ending up spending a week or two each summer at places like the University of Iowa or Oak Ridge, TN, nuclear facilities visiting my Dad who was studying at these places on summer break. In the summer of ’78 I helped my Dad build a passive solar house with everything set for the installation of solar panels when they became feasible. I’ve been recycling since I was a kid. I’ve been around the environmental debate from an early age.
It was also during this time that we got the apocalyptic Club of Rome Report and Carter’s Global 2000 Report, highlighting the collapse of civilization before century’s end. Prominent scientists were holding this stuff up as scientific evidence for the need to utterly reshape society and politicians were attempting policy based on these reports. I know. I was there and I heard it first hand. Had these reports been heeded we would have inflicted massive chaos on the world, severely curtailed the improvement in quality of life for billions, and almost certainly created totalitarian or quasi-totalitarian governments.
So I have no problem acknowledging the world has been getting warmer of late and that human activity likely has some role. But why should I trust this community in its predictions and prescriptions that was so astoundingly errant forty years ago? I simply will not give scientists unqualified deference in these matters. There is far too much at stake.



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katz

posted June 10, 2010 at 5:10 pm


Really? They once published some kind of idea for how space travel could work that violated the conservation of momentum. They had an issue that was entirely science fiction stories. And most of the rest of the time it’s just pop evolutionary psychology.
I’ll grand that it’s possible that a more worthless scientific publication might exist, but it would be difficult.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted June 10, 2010 at 5:12 pm


#27 Katz
So your point would be that authority should never be questioned. Once someone who is deemed an expert has spoken everyone else must sit in compliant silence?



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RJS

posted June 10, 2010 at 5:23 pm


Michael,
But … one of the things you have done on many occasions here is take the time to explain why the knee jerk reaction against capitalism (to take one example) is wrong-headed. This is exactly what we need careful, reasoned discussions that teach – rather than pontification.
You know though – many of the environmentalist threats of my youth have not panned out, on the other hand we have relatively clean water, pressure for more clean up and relatively clean air … all you have to do is travel somewhere like, say, China to see what can happen if there is not environmentalist pressure.
This isn’t capitalism vs communism or socialism … it is simply that clean up and control must be a social effort – it cannot rest on individual willingness. The stakes are too high.



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katz

posted June 10, 2010 at 5:30 pm


So your point would be that authority should never be questioned. Once someone who is deemed an expert has spoken everyone else must sit in compliant silence?

My point, as I clearly stated, was that Roland was going to get his head bitten off. However, your failure to understand what I was saying (or even what Roland was saying) illustrates the danger of giving all opinions equal weight.



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DRT

posted June 10, 2010 at 5:44 pm


I too walked up hill, both ways to school….
I grew up in Pittsburgh Pa and was told stories from the time I was young about the street lights turning on during the day due to the pollution. My father took me to a place where there was a steel mill on an island in the Ohio river, and showed me the hillside downwind that was barren of all life.
Agreed, scientists can be alarmist, but that is a good thing. That’s generally why they don’t make the best leaders who have to weigh everything (generally, I said generally, not all, generally).
Dave
captcha: survive doormats?



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R Hampton

posted June 10, 2010 at 6:05 pm


The issue is whether scientists portrayed it as science to the public and sought public policy changes based on this “science.”
I disagree, but to address your point: some scientists may have presented Eugenics as Science, but nothing approaching a consensus. Furthermore, you will find that many more non-scientist than scientists present ideas, policies, etc, as Science (that includes Eugenics). It’s very unfortunate that the public is largely Science illiterate, but mostly that is a condition of their own making. Even in the best educational situations, the majority of Americans never develop an interest in Science (or government) beyond superficial headlines and blockbuster plotlines. Is it any wonder that they can be easily mislead a.k.a. Living in Denial?
For example, Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau wrote a very influential piece “An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races” several years before Darwin’s book. He used Biblical evidence “Adam is the originator of our white species” to justify his view for Eugenics; the mixing of races led to fall of historical civilzations;
“Recapitulation; respective characters of the three great races; social effects of [racial] mixtures; superiority of the white type and, within that type, of the Aryan family
Can you guess which important 20th Century figure was greatly influenced by this? Hitler! Even before de Gobineau Americans used the Bible to justify eugenic policies. From Answers in Genesis
The challenge is that historically the Bible has been used by many to justify the slavery of African Americans! From the time this country was being established, this is what some of their arguments have sounded like:
* Abraham, the ?father of faith,? and all the patriarchs held slaves without God?s disapproval (Genesis 21:9?10).
* Canaan, Ham?s son, was made a slave to his brothers (Genesis 9:24?27).
* The Ten Commandments mention slavery twice, showing God?s implicit acceptance of it (Exodus 20:10, 17).
Such thinking became the foundation for ?white superiority? and segregation of the so-called ?races.? But while the Bible acknowledged and regulated slavery, there were some striking differences between ?race?-based slavery and biblical instructions for believers. Neither the Old nor New Testaments attaches racial stigma to slaves. (For example, the Egyptian bondage of the children of Israel resulted from their number, not because of skin color.) Slavery in the Bible was very different from slavery in America. Still, slaveholders argued that the principle of slavery was justified for three basic reasons:
1. The Africans are a distinct race of people, they cannot mix with whites and must exist as a separate class.
2. The Africans are, as a class, inferior to the whites in intellectual and moral development, they are incompetent to self-government.
3. The Israelites subdued heathen people groups; it is appropriate to make domestic slaves of inferior people.
The debate within the Christian community over slavery led to splits within major denominations. Many of the splits left the more fundamental/evangelical groups supporting race-based slavery, while more liberal groups were abolitionists. For example, the issue of slavery divided the Baptists into two groups in 1845?the Southern Baptists (who were pro-slavery) and the American Baptists (who were abolitionists).
So, have Church officials, politicians, philosophers, scientists, etc. presented racist and eugenic policies as Biblical theology? Yes. Did a sizable portion of the public thus believe these figures? Yes. So, do you blame the Bible, Christianity, and/or religion in general? No. Do you continuously present this a justification to distrust the Bible, Christianity, and/or religion in general? No. In fact when atheists like P.Z, Meyers make this very argument, you are compelled to refute it.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted June 10, 2010 at 6:22 pm


#33 RJS
Yes, I think the improvements we have made to the environment, and much of the government action to make the improvements has be warranted. Alarm had to be sounded to motivate action. Had we listened to the naysayers we would be in a much worse place. However, had we listened to the most extreme environmentalists it would have been even worse. I think this the messy chaotic way that most change happens in free societies. And it proves to be much more prudent and effective than in less free societies.
I agree that this is not a capitalism vs socialism issue. Yet many hold capitalism as the primary cause of greenhouse gasses and see it as the thing that must be thwarted.
Here is one analogy. If I have hundreds of acres of land all to myself and I drive my pollution creating pickup around my land. That doesn’t really create much of a pollution problem. If we split the land into four equal parcels, each with one person and a pickup like mine, there likely is still not a problem. But at some point, when we get a high enough concentration of enough people with polluting pickup trucks we are going to have a problem. Now the next person we add after this tipping point is not operating out of any more sinister motives than I was at the beginning of this story. The problem has not occurred because of some embedded evil in the community. It came from individuals making reasonable and morally acceptable choices in their contexts.
So the problem now exists. So our challenge then becomes how to address the problem from within an economic system of economic freedom and dynamism that has prospered so many. In my analogy there was not so much an evil done as there was the creation of unanticipated by-product. But note how so many championing the GW scenarios identify this not as a challenge to overcome but as evidence of a capitalist suicide machine (Brian McLaren). This all happened because of people with dualistic worldviews that don’t care about the earth and motivated by capitalist greed, willfully and intentionally destroyed the planet. The aim is not to figure out how to adjust so as to protect freedom and dynamism but to take aim squarely at freedom and dynamism as the problem. It is not a movement to correct an imbalance within something that is fundamentally good. It is a moral crusade against the forces of evil.
So while the science of how gasses work, and forests process CO2, and on and on … has nothing to with capitalism vs socialism, the narrative into which scientists and others wish to plug this information certainly does.



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pds

posted June 10, 2010 at 6:31 pm


Katz,
I don’t bite people’s heads off, and I don’t plan to bite Roland’s head off. I hope you and Roland have a wonderful evening.
It is fascinating to see how much people seem to want me to do that. Why is that?



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pds

posted June 10, 2010 at 6:45 pm


The Design Spectrum
One more thought on the reliability of experts.
Who are the best experts on medical malpractice? Doctors, right? Then why don’t we have juries in medical malpractice cases comprised entirely of doctors? Because every group of experts has a tendency to be tribal in protecting their interests. This applies to scientists and even Greek and Hebrew scholars.
How does society evaluate and judge possible instances of scientific malpractice? How do we avoid another eugenics movement?
All this goes into my calculation of whom to trust and how much and for what kinds of questions.



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danderson

posted June 10, 2010 at 6:47 pm


I remember growing up in the 60s-70s hearing about the Malthusian Theorem — the theory that human population grows exponentially while food production increases are more like the 1-2-3 effect. Malthus was a pessimist who believed that humans were doomed for extinction. Many environmentalists and population control advocates hooked on to that belief; and then along came Norman Borlaug and the Green Revolution. Perhaps Global Warming is a whole other level of potential worldwide destruction, or perhaps Lars Limborg (sp?), the Danish economist, is correct saying that the urgency to solve the problems of poverty, famine and disease right now takes precedent over what might happen in the future.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted June 10, 2010 at 6:49 pm


R Hampton #36
“some scientists may have presented Eugenics as Science, but nothing approaching a consensus.”
From a review of The Horrifying American Roots of Nazi Eugenics:
“Eugenics would have been so much bizarre parlor talk had it not been for extensive financing by corporate philanthropies, specifically the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Harriman railroad fortune. They were all in league with some of America’s most respected scientists hailing from such prestigious universities as Stamford, Yale, Harvard, and Princeton. These academicians espoused race theory and race science, and then faked and twisted data to serve eugenics’ racist aims.”
This was more than just a few crackpots. The leading scientists with highest credentials were touting eugenics I expect had you asked leading scientists if there was a consensus they would have said yes.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted June 10, 2010 at 6:54 pm


#40 Dan
Malthus was writing at the end of the 17th Century. I don’t think he was being pessimistic. I think he was likely quite accurate in his analysis of the human past. What he could not foresee was the incredible revolution that was just beginning to be unleashed with specialized labor, expansion of trade, and technological innovation.
Bjorn Lomborg of the Copenhagen Consensus is who you are thinking of. I resonate with much of his perspective.



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Roland72135

posted June 10, 2010 at 7:05 pm


You shouldn’t value my opinion on, say, global warming. I’m not a climatologist. Just an engineer who spent 10 years in environmental work for a Fortune 100 firm. And I will say I’m not qualified to give you my opinion.
I find it ironic that the march of science toward truth is used as the primary justification for disregarding science. Of course it has been wrong! Why do we know that? Because we’ve learned more. We are always learning more.
Just think of all the money we’d save if we eliminated experts and the education that creates them. No more universities sucking up my redistributed wealth, taking my hard-earned income at the point of a gun in order to create radical leftist educated people who perpetuate conspiracies designed to take away our Hummers and guns.
Instead, we could just poll the population to decide the facts of any given issue.
For example, if 51% of the people think that the world is flat, then it’s flat and that’s all there is to it. We might term this the “Texas textbook” approach.



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R Hampton

posted June 10, 2010 at 7:30 pm


Michael W. Kruse,
It was not a consensus. Read the scientific journals of the era; it’s where theories, experiments, and research were (are) published. In any event, you ignore the plain fact that you do not hold in contempt or distrust the Bible, Christianity, and or/religion in general for the same crimes as your supposed scientific “consensus”? Because you do not apply the principle consistently as reason dictates, I can conclude that – for you and PDS – it never was a principle but an excuse, a justification, to unfairly discredit Evolution.
Meanwhile the Catholic Church, who accepts the theory of Evolution (or neo-Darwinism as some call it) celebrated the 200th anniversary year of Charles Darwin’s birth and held an international conference on “Scientific Insights into the Evolution of the Universe and of Life” (Note: Intelligent Design was rejected for being unscientific).
Pope Benedict XVI, October 31, 2008
…My predecessors Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II noted that there is no opposition between faith?s understanding of creation and the evidence of the empirical sciences … To ?evolve? literally means ?to unroll a scroll?, that is, to read a book. The imagery of nature as a book has its roots in Christianity and has been held dear by many scientists. Galileo saw nature as a book whose author is God in the same way that Scripture has God as its author. It is a book whose history, whose evolution, whose ?writing? and meaning, we ?read? according to the different approaches of the sciences, while all the time presupposing the foundational presence of the author who has wished to reveal himself therein. This image also helps us to understand that the world, far from originating out of chaos, resembles an ordered book; it is a cosmos … Experimental and philosophical inquiry gradually discovers these orders; it perceives them working to maintain themselves in being, defending themselves against imbalances, and overcoming obstacles. And thanks to the natural sciences we have greatly increased our understanding of the uniqueness of humanity?s place in the cosmos.



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RJS

posted June 10, 2010 at 8:03 pm


R Hampton,
Michael has never tried to discredit evolution. He has commented on extremes of global warming. These are quite different issues.



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R Hampton

posted June 10, 2010 at 8:30 pm


RJS,
Perhaps, but implicit in Michael’s argument is a double standard: Science must accept responsibility for Eugenics but Religion is excused. So in practice, the negative credit attributed to Evolutionary theory amounts to discredit:
1: to refuse to accept as true or accurate : disbelieve
2: to cause disbelief in the accuracy or authority of
3: to deprive of good repute : disgrace



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Michael W. Kruse

posted June 10, 2010 at 9:34 pm


#46 R Hampton
I am indeed a full blown theistic evolutionist. I love science. As I noted above, my dad is a scientist and I have many scientist friends. I don’t think you are fully grasping my point.
I’d venture to say that most of what gets studied and reported on in the vast array of scientific journals has little application to the daily lives of most people. Most of us don’t give a thought to those issues and don’t need to. Frankly, I’d put evolution in that category. Where it becomes problematic is where evolution is invoked as a justification for this or that public policy, as it has been at times by a variety of factions. The Climate change issues have profound societal implications.
I have not sought to deprive science of good repute in anything I have stated here. You said in #44 I have contempt for science. That is simply false. That is your projection on to me. I sought to deprive science of status that demands our unquestioning submission.
Science is not conducted by objective observers who have escaped their humanity. Science is very much a human endeavor. Even with its emphasis on empirical data it can be diverted by group-think. Exactly what gets studied, and what does not, can be influenced by any number of things that have little to do with objective scientific considerations. Scientists are human beings with egos and longings for meaning in their work (and when you’ve devoted 30 years of your life to a paradigm that has given you prestige and a new one is coming along to challenge it, it is entirely human for a scientist to resist the challenge for other than scientific grounds.) When we now add competition for millions of dollars of government money to the mix, that is going to add whole new levels of human motivations effecting science that have nothing to do with the science itself.
As to the Bible I believe that it is God’s inspired infallible word in matters relating to revelation of himself and his mission. What I’m not so confident of is the ability of any of us to always understand and apply it. Yet God calls us to action. I subscribe to what Kenneth Bailey calls acting with tentative finality. I must make some judgments in order to act but I always hold them with some degree of tentativeness believing I can be shown to be in error.
I will say this about science, the degree to which a field of scientific study has an impact on societal life is directly related to the degree of scrutiny, transparency, and rigorous examination that field should be given by the public. Science is incredibly important, but it is also human and fallible. And, as we saw with eugenics, it is corruptible. Science demands our respect, not our unquestioning acquiescence.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted June 10, 2010 at 9:39 pm


And might I add here, that it is because of my conversations with RJS and exposure to some other voices here (like Sparks, Enns and Walton) that I have moved away from a position that was dabbling with soft-concordist scenarios of Genesis (I have never been a YEC by any stretch) to something that I think is probably more in keeping with the social context of Genesis. I am capable of being persuaded.



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AHH

posted June 10, 2010 at 10:13 pm


Since yet another thread has devolved into arguments about eugenics, I might as well use that example to illustrate a point relevant to the original post, about public understanding of science.
Here’s my point: It is vital that, in communicating with the public, scientists make clear the distinction between the actual science and other things (like social policy) that may claim support in science.
Sometimes you see eugenics described as “discredited science.” But in large part (not wholly) the actual science that eugenicists drew on was valid. From a scientific standpoint, it is true that characteristics of future generations can be influenced by controlling breeding, weeding out those with undesirable characteristics, etc. It works for both dogs and humans.
But science can’t tell you what to do with that information. Science can’t tell you what characteristics (say, Jewishness or blond hair) are “good” or “bad”. Science can’t tell you whether making such controlled breeding efforts at all is morally right. The problem with eugenics was not primarily one of science, but one of social policies that were extrapolated from the science, often promoted (by some scientists among many others) as being scientific when they were far outside the realm of science.
To bring it back to a topic in the post, scientists need to help the public better understand the well-established science of global warming and keep that as distinct as possible from non-scientific policy prescriptions. Of course science should inform policies (including economics and social sciences), but the policies can’t be presented as “scientists say” in the same way as “scientists say” smoking causes cancer or our emissions are warming the globe. When a climatologist tells me what the global temperature rise will be 50 years from now under various emission scenarios, I should listen. But if the same climatologist tells me that “science” dictates we should have a carbon tax or build nuclear plants or whatever, he is inappropriately using science to sell something that is outside his realm.



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Darren King

posted June 11, 2010 at 2:44 am


I’m coming in late to the discussion here, but I wanted to quote something that Dallas Willard makes mention of. This is a direct quote from a professor of biological sciences:
“Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear… There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind, There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.”
What is so striking about these statements, above all else – because there is much to be struck by here – is how decidedly *unscientific* they are! These statements have NOT been shown to be the case through any kind of scientific process. And yet the person who uttered these words claims to be leaning on the knowledge that evolutionary biology has “(told) us” about.
And this does say something. Human beings make leaps. Its in our nature. And those who practice science are certainly not immune to this tendency.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted June 11, 2010 at 6:43 am


#49 AHH
I think your last paragraph is key. But I would add that it is likely impossible to keep the science and public policy stuff entirely separate. Funding for science research has to come from somewhere. The values of the funding institutions can have an enormous impact on science. Not in the sense that scientists are necessarily going to do dishonest work but in the sense of deciding what avenues of research to pursue or not pursue. I can’t count the number parents I’ve heard tell me their child is going to study biology, or environmental science, or some such, because they want to save the planet. So now that climate change is a public policy concern, that directs career choices of people who might otherwise of have gone on to study other issues. A mutually reinforcing interconnection of human interests can give greater merit to a paradigm than is warranted.
I don’t want to overstate my case, but particularly as I look at environmental science questions, having had first hand experience with this scientific culture growing up, and knowing the deep philosophical … even religious … convictions of many who are around these environmental issues, I’m very sensitive that something far more than science is going on here, even if I can’t effectively connect all the dots in some ironclad manner.



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pds

posted June 11, 2010 at 9:47 am


The Design Spectrum
AHH #49,
“Since yet another thread has devolved into arguments about eugenics . . .”
I am glad it was not me that brought it up this time.
But isn’t it interesting what we have been arguing about? Michael and I have had to argue with R Hampton about the basic fact that a large number of leading scientists and scientific organizations supported it as good science and supported the public policy of forced sterilization of certain people based on mental abilities. This is well established history. There is widespread ignorance of that important chapter of American and world history. Why? We say “Never again” about the Holocaust, but we have permitted widespread ignorance of one of the scientific and philosophical underpinnings of it.



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RJS

posted June 11, 2010 at 10:08 am


PDS,
This discussion leads into the topic of my post. It is true that science was used, as good science, to support eugenics. If is also true that theology, as good orthodox theology, was used to support antisemitism, racism, war, and “civilian” death. We need to evaluate and think – not simply accept.
When power, prestige, self interest enter the picture as powerful forces we have problems. This isn’t a science problem. It is a human nature problem.



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AHH

posted June 11, 2010 at 11:25 am


Michael K. (#51 commenting on my #49):
I agree that a clean separation between objective science and social factors is an ideal that real science and scientists will always fall short of. All we can do is be “critical realists” and try to keep our science objective and try to let our science inform the social policy we support while minimizing influence in the other direction.
Even recognizing the impossibility of perfection, we can still recognize and reject many cases where social policies or philosophical conclusions extrapolated from science are misrepresented as conclusions of science itself. In addition to the example of policy prescriptions for global warming being presented as if they were on the same level as the underlying science, the quote from a biologist mentioned by Darren King #50 provides an egregious example of philosophical conclusions being passed off as science.
Of course another problem is that many Christians make exactly the same mistake as this biologist in failing to separate the well-established science of evolution from the atheist philosophy that some scientists (and others) inappropriately graft onto it.



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pds

posted June 11, 2010 at 12:08 pm


The Design Spectrum
RJS,
You said,
“If is also true that theology, as good orthodox theology, was used to support antisemitism, racism, war, and “civilian” death. We need to evaluate and think – not simply accept.”
I agree, and I did not contest those aspects of what R Hampton said.
“This isn’t a science problem. It is a human nature problem.”
Why the false dichotomy? I think it is both.
The other reason why eugenics is an important lesson is that many in the church (especially the liberal wing like HE Fosdick) embraced it. (See the book “Preaching Eugenics.”) Others like GK Chesterton opposed it. It was a Catholic group (not the ACLU) that took up Carrie Buck’s cause when she resisted forced sterilization. (It is likely that they were attacked as “anti-science.”)
This was a case where the “warfare” model of science and religion was completely wrong. Many in the church establishment embraced eugenics science and policy when they should have stood for the rights of the weak and helpless. Shall we call it the “Lovefest Model” of science and religion?
Are there parallels today?



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pds

posted June 11, 2010 at 12:21 pm


The Design Spectrum
AHH #54,
Darren’s quote is from Will Provine. He is absolutely correct if you accept the definition of “evolution” that is widely held by many leading scientists. 38 Nobel Laureates signed on to this definition:
“Logically derived from confirmable evidence, evolution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection.”



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RJS

posted June 11, 2010 at 1:26 pm


pds,
I don’t think that it is a false dichotomy when I say that it (eugenics, racism, genocide, antisemitism) isn’t a science problem but a human nature problem. In fact it is misleading to cast any of these kinds of issues as a science problem. We can take “science” out of the picture and see the same depravity. Different justification – same end.
Science can be used as a tool … religion can be used as a tool … The human nature problem is the overriding theme; this can distort science, religion, philosophy, psychology, anything toward a desired nefarious end.
If we misidentify the problem, we will misidentify the solution. If the problem is science – the solution is to crusade against science.
If the problem is human nature – the solution is to preach the gospel.



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AHH

posted June 11, 2010 at 2:15 pm


PDS #56,
I’m imagining a mother’s voice: If 38 scientists jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?
Evolution as science is no more atheistic than gravity or thermodynamics. Just because some scientists extrapolate to philosophical conclusions doesn’t make them right about the philosophy part (back to the point about domains of expertise).
One of the most damaging things to the church in this area is that so many Christians fall hook, line, and sinker for the atheists’ view of the metaphysical meaning of evolution, rather than adopting a Biblical view that recognizes that God is sovereign over nature and that therefore “natural” explanations are not in competition with God. This fundamental mistake of adopting the atheist view of what evolution means drives a lot of Christian anti-evolutionism, and the consequences for Christian witness among the scientifically literate are tragic.



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pds

posted June 11, 2010 at 2:44 pm


AHH #58,
The 38 laureates were defining evolution as science, and wrote that definition in a letter to the Kansas Board of Education to influence public policy:
media.ljworld.com/pdf/2005/09/15/nobel_letter.pdf
Why should I take your definition of “evolution” and not theirs?
The reality is that there are lots of meanings of the English word “evolution.” The meaning of words is based on usage.



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pds

posted June 11, 2010 at 2:48 pm


The Design Spectrum
RJS,
“If the problem is science – the solution is to crusade against science.”
I did not say that the problem is science. I said it is a science problem and a human nature problem.
For me, “it’s a science problem” means that science makes mistakes and needs to be corrected. Science needs to learn from its mistakes. Every human institution and field is fallible and needs watchdogs to keep it from error.
Many scientists don’t have any use for watchdogs who are not scientists.



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pds

posted June 11, 2010 at 2:51 pm


AHH,
When do I trust the 38 laureates as “experts” and when should I not?



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AHH

posted June 11, 2010 at 3:31 pm


pds #61 asks:
When do I trust the 38 laureates as “experts” and when should I not?
This is not always a trivial question, but as a good approximation you should trust these top scientists as experts on matters of science (like whether common descent via natural selection is true), and not on philosophical matters like the metaphysical meaning of the science.
I think as Christians our assessment of metaphysical meaning should spring from Christian theology rather than from the philosophical extrapolations of atheists.
Seems obvious to me, but Christian anti-evolution crusaders don’t seem to grasp the concept of distinguishing the science from the philosophical baggage some have attached to it.



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pds

posted June 11, 2010 at 4:34 pm


AHH,
“trust these top scientists as experts on matters of science . . ., and not on philosophical matters like the metaphysical meaning of the science.”
I largely agree, but the distinction is not at all obvious.
The 38 claim that their definition of evolution is “science.”
There are many questions that raise demarcation issues.



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RJS

posted June 11, 2010 at 7:00 pm


pds,
In your view then are things like the inquisition and the abuse scandals a Christian problem and a human nature problem – so we need non-christian watchdogs?



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pds

posted June 13, 2010 at 9:44 am


The Design Spectrum
RJS #64,
“In your view then are things like the inquisition and the abuse scandals a Christian problem and a human nature problem – so we need non-christian watchdogs?”
Yes, they are “a Christian problem and a human nature problem.” Don’t you agree?
Do we need non-Christian watchdogs? That is not the right analogy. The right analogy: Do we need layperson watchdogs for Christian church leaders and other Christian “experts.” Yes. That is what the Reformation was. Also, boards of elders are watchdogs on professional clergy.



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RJS

posted June 13, 2010 at 10:43 am


pds,
I don’t think the problem is Christian knowledge or scientific knowledge, but is a human nature problem charictaristic of all human groups. We do need oversight and accountability. But just as we will not find accountability in a church setting from those who deny the reality of or have little knowledge and understanding of the faith we will not find useful accountability in science from those who have little understanding or knowledge of science.
On both counts we will find lay populations capable of moral and ethical oversight of course – this is a different issue.
Captcha: idiocies consensus



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Daniel Mann

posted June 14, 2010 at 9:26 am


RJS,
This form of reasoning can easily be turned into, “How is that the multitudes are so ready to follow the gurus of the latest consensus and submit to the latest fads of science whether that entailed lobotomy, ice therapy, leeches, alchemy, or the steady state theory — all relegated to the dump heap of ‘scientific’ discards?
Might skepticism be a more rational refuge? Yes, it might be the consensus opinion that life just happened, DNA just happened, and consciousness just made an improbable appearance. But some skepticism about these “proven” conclusions might prove prudent.



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RJS

posted June 14, 2010 at 9:50 am


Daniel Mann,
Skepticism about the opinion that life “just happened,” DNA “just happened,” and consciousness “just happened” – that the world we know is an improbable accident is eminently reasonable. The “just happenedness” and the improbable accident part are metaphysical statements not scientific statements.
But I also suggest that the scientific data and conclusions are separate from these metaphysical statements and conclusions.
I will accept all of the evidence for old earth, interrelatedness of species, and so forth (because the data is rock solid) – without accepting the metaphysical consensus extrapolated from that data.
The clash is not scientific, it is philosophical and metaphysical.



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Dusk Summers

posted June 28, 2010 at 7:17 am


RJS, its important to remember your audience. As an indiviual who holds strongly to scientific, tangible evidence, I find that I expect everyone believes like I do, and I find it incredible when I encounter an individual like Daniel Mann who has no problem with the idea that “nothing happens naturally”. The reality is, science and religion are no position to be combined together. Scientists are no more closer to proving that God doesn’t exist, and Christians are no more closer to proving that he does. It is for this reason that scientific conversations with individuals like Daniel Mann, who think that evolution and naturalism contradict thermodynamics, is just a waste of time. Science and religion have no place next to each other at this moment.



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posted 12:01:53am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Let's Get Neanderthal!
The Cave Man Diet, or Paleo Diet, is getting attention. (Nothing is said about Culver's at all.) The big omission, I have to admit, is that those folks were hunters -- using spears or smacking some rabbit upside the conk or grabbing a fish or two with their hands ... but that's what makes this diet

posted 2:05:48pm Aug. 30, 2010 | read full post »




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