in Philosophy

When Science Meets Anti-Science

As the war between PZ and the folks at the Intersection heats up again, I can’t help but throw my own voice into the cacophony.  The argument is age-old and tries to answer the question: “Why are people so gosh darn ignorant?”  On one side, the answer is because they cling to superstition and ritual.  On the other side, it’s because scientists aren’t good enough educators.  To be fair, the previous two sentences were gross over-simplifications of the respective positions.

To a certain extent, both sides are correct, but it’s not a debate I’m really interested in.  As an educator, the reach of my influence is greater than the common person, but not that great, and I’m personally satisfied with what I’m doing.  I can’t do anything about the rest.

The question I have seems to be the one that the accomodationalists (that is, the people who think scientists should focus only on the science) have yet to answer.  What should be done about those people who are not merely ignorant, but ignorant and proud of it, and actively work against known truth.

I don’t have a problem with people believing evolution is wrong and the earth is only 6000 years old, until those beliefs start influencing public policy.  How should those demonstrably harmful beliefs be handled then?

I don’t have a problem with people taking homeopathic medicine and other alternative medical treatments, but how should those beliefs be treated when they’re foisted upon children and others who are unable to protect themselves?

How should the psychic who preys on the weak and hurt be treated?

How should the faith healers who use honest belief as instrument for personal profit be treated?

The popularization of science is not going to make the young-earth creationist change their mind.  When they come to the schools and attempt to gut science curriculum, what should be done?

Education will work in the long term.  We see it working already.  But it will take decades before we get the kind of literacy society really needs.  What are we supposed to do in the meantime?  Sit silently and hope we don’t destroy ourselves out of ignorance?  What can we do right now beyond education?

These are the questions I’d like answered by the accomodationalists.

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  1. “The argument is age-old and tries to answer the question: “Why are people so gosh darn ignorant?””
    I don’t recall if I’ve posted the answer to this question here before, but I’ll do so now anyway:

    1) People are Lazy.
    2) Thinking is Work.

    The rest of the argument appears to be over whose job it is to convince the intellectually lazy to stop being intellectually lazy.

  2. Yeah, that’s an excellent point that I’ve definitely noticed in some people. I mean, I can kind of understand why someone wouldn’t want to spend as much time as I do reading and learning, but that’s not an excuse for rejecting things that disagree with your outlook.

  3. People in general don’t like physical labor, either, yet there are bodybuilders. Why not intellectbuilders?

    It’ll be interesting to watch if someone ever invents “brain steroids”…

  4. I think there already are intellect builders. College professors, scientists, writers, and reflective people everywhere.

    I’ve seen a few articles on “brain steroids.” I still have figured out my opinion on steroids, let alone brain steroids. We already take mind altering drugs to help us focus. Caffeine is a good example.

  5. Science has been corrupted by converting it into a form of politics, a form of religion, a form of ethics,and a source of power. Science is being used as a tool to support the goals of the group. Some religious groups now claim that their religious beliefs are as accurate as scientific measurements. Also, people are asked if they believe in global warming. Most of these people never took a science class and have no idea how to evaluate the scientific data. Science classes are avoided because they are difficult. These scientifically uneducated people are mislead to think that global warming can be voted in or voted out. They think that if most of them believe in global warming then it must be true. The Church originally made that same mistake concerning Galileo. The earth moved even though the Church believed it did not. Belief does not control the physical world.

  6. People in general don’t like physical labor, either, yet there are bodybuilders. Why not intellectbuilders?

    It’ll be interesting to watch if someone ever invents “brain steroids”…