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    • The point of this conversation is not anti-science but rather an understanding of the difference between real science and an ignorant adoration of a concept of science.

      The vaccination issue is not driven by that which is objective but rather subjective.

      Anecdotal accounts are given without a realization that correlation does not establish causation.

      These anecdotes produce fear in the minds of the uninformed.

      These fears become exacerbated by discussions with other fearful people producing an echo chamber effect.

      This is different from what occurs when there is a conflict between fundamental worldview differences which are based on an objective standard.

      Institutions which shift and change their positions based on changes within society are not objective standards but rather subjective based on the individual's who set the policies of the institution.

    • I studied science history and social influence on technology and science in university (starting about 18 years ago) and I've never heard of the majory rules science idea you're talking about. I'd like to know who postulated and promotes that view. Karl Popper's (then Kuhn's) paradigm shift idea has been around for a long time now and he rightly pointed out how mainstream science theories or understandings are often overturned by the minority or non mainstream scientist or small group of their supporters. This is not new news to me and those who study science history and science epistimology.

    • This usually occurs frequently among non-Scientists who love Science but don't really understand it, but both Chris and I have already cited a few examples of it occurring in science research. Chris cited 20 years of resistance to plate tectonics. The original article upon which this conversation began was about Scientists rejecting the idea of Cancer Immunology as bogus science, and yet now a nobel prize has been given for it. The question of whether Climate Change is primarily driven by human activity is another case where polls of Scientists and funding for science projects is majority opinion driven. In the case of Goodenough's new battery project, there are those who are speaking against his efforts without having access to the research. In other words, prejudice based on what has previously been accepted by the majority.

      We are taught that Science is objective but in the world of Science research, prejudice is a real problem.

    • Foucault's writing is attrocious (I had to read it for an MA level women's studies course) and postmodernism doesn't have must to contribute to the modern conversation and development of knowledge. I agree with what you've said.

    • It's common in Canadian schools to teach about the challenges Alfred Wegener experienced when arguing for continental drift. I certainly teach it but it's also in our text books.

    • Okay that helped clear up your arguments a bit more. What is taught in the sociology of science or the history of science supports the idea that there is a resistance to changing the paradigm of the day among scientists. It's my feeling that this is not in and of itself a bad thing. What these scientists are saying often goes against a very very large amount of scientific study and findings. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. In other words if you want to overcome the main theory of the day then you better have all of your ducks in a row and a heck of a lot of evidence to back your claim. (and that was one of the problems with Wegener's claim - he didn't have a mechanism to support his idea that the continents drifted. Yes I know he was also an outsider...) We can't have any old researcher who has a counter view simply overriding the mainstream because they are the minority and their ideas sound cool. We also have a lot of cranks out there who have seemingly 'radical' scientific theories who are not really scientists but scam artists who work on the fringes of science merely to take advantage of the ignorant. It can be hard to distinguish between a crank and a revolutionary thinker but it's usually the evidence they present (or fail to have) that decides. Even a bit of evidence to support their view is not enough, nor should it be. Yes I'm well aware of the reality that it sometimes requires the death of a big mainstream scientist or generation of scientists to allow the growth of a new paradigm but again that's not the death nell for science but rather a part of the human mind and it's inherent biases. Finally I'll say that most of science and technology makes progress as small incrimental steps forward and not nearly as many revolutionary leaps. The examples such as that of Wegener are fairly minimal and I would know because I spent a few years studying just that. (I did my masters thesis on a very closely related topic.) It could be possible that what is understood or accepted in academia (by me) is different from the prevailing lay person's view.

    • As scientific fields of research mature, it is often the case that theories that replace the established mainstream do not necessarily totally displace the theory that came before it. Consider Einstein's work. It didn't stop Newtonian physics from being useful. Likewise a future replacement for Einstein's findings won't make his theories useless.

    • Part of the problem is that there is a cultivated representation of "the scientist" in modern media which explicitly defines them out of behaving "like human beings." They are a cut above, unconcerned with such petty concerns as our day-to-day lives, their own existence is purely an abstraction and absorb wholly with their field of study.

      Or, more shortly, absolute crap.

      Anyone who has ever actually associated with scientists, doctors, or other members of what we are presented as the intellectual elite, knows that they are just as human with vulnerability to human foible and failure as anyone else.

      That's a problem if you imagine the world can and should and possibly is run by an elite technocracy who are manifestly superior to everyone else at every turn.

      Science, as a philosophy and as a process, is intended to be driven by human beings – flawed, individual human beings who can fail in a multitude of ways. The process is supposed to account for that by replication, by the demand for documentation, by an unflinching view of recognizing that error bars exist, and by making careful claims based only on the available evidence.

      Of course, it is enacted and viewed by mere human beings, which represents not a failure with the process but a failure in existence.

    • Thanks, lextenebris, and welcome to Cake. 😁

      I was once listening to NPR as they interviewed some apparently famous scientist, I wasn't sure who because I tuned in part way, and Terry Gross asked what he thought the greatest advance in science was. He answered, "the double-blind test." It speaks to the biases we all have, even trained scientists.

      I've never been able to find that quote. 😢