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Why “Trusting the Science” Is Complicated (lareviewofbooks.org)
177 points by robtherobber 6 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 414 comments





Skepticism is the driving engine behind science. It works well so long as people keep asking questions until they get satisfactory answers. Science is anti-fragile. The harder you attack it, the sturdier it becomes. So this is fine.

The only time it really stops working is if people start treating it as doctrine, and demanding that you accept it on faith, and take any questions as evidence that you are an enemy of science. If anything destroys science, it is this line of reasoning.

Skepticism does not require a degree or a license from the government. The only intellectually honest thing is to admit to yourself that you do not know until you are convinced otherwise. Whether other people say they are convinced is honestly quite irrelevant.


> The only time it really stops working is if people start treating it as doctrine, and demanding that you accept it on faith, and take any questions as evidence that you are an enemy of science. If anything destroys science, it is this line of reasoning.

I wonder where we'd be today in science/physics if the Catholic Church (the authority of the day) was successful in stopping Galileo Galilei, in 1615, from "spreading misinformation/disinformation" that the Earth circled the sun, and pushing back against the prevailing "science" of the day.

If he were alive in 2021 and pushing something that went against "current wisdom," of that magnitude, he would be banned from media, ridiculed, and cancelled.

It was a lesson I had thought the West had learned. It appears not. Censor and treat science as a religion at your (our) own peril.


We would be exactly where we are since Galileo didn't do that much to prove the heliocentric model.

Galileo also wasn't jailed for the heliocentric model, Galileo was jailed for writing a book, where The Pope was the stand in character for an idiot, overtly. And while we are more liberal, at the time insulting the pope in published material, in Italy, was a rather poor choice.


Yep. Galileo got himself into trouble not for his work on heliocentricity, but for publicly attacking an authority figure in the church.

It's interesting to see how we today project our science/fundamentalism schism onto culture of the past, when in reality, there wasn't that much of a dichotomy before the Scopes trial in the 1930s.


You are making a pedantic argument to a philosophical point. Extrapolate the concepts.

Just to point that the prevailing science of the day was completely divided between Earth and Heliocentrism, and the Church supported research of both sides.

The Galileo story is a very nice tale of what happens when you mix science and politics.


Not being snarky, but it started with Aristarchus (his parallax work) and Ptolemy (the other one), so I'm pretty sure it would have continued in countries that weren't under Catholic oppression of science. Persia was pretty much the engine of science while Europe languished.

To say this would not have progressed is to ignore the important work of non-European scientists.


Science actually progressed in Europe as well during the supposed dark ages. The whole notion that science just laid dormant between the fall of Rome and the renaissance is enlightenment-era propaganda that unfortunately has become part of the western cultural narrative.

Ironically the notion of a Muslim golden age of free thought and science followed by a long dark age of no progress and oppression is also largely imagined.


Correct. Which is why I said "languished", in comparison to what immediately followed with the Age of Enlightment, and what came before it, in Greece and the early Roman empire.

It also is a bit of a misnomer to blame it all on religion, it was mostly just an assload of war.


> If he were alive in 2021 and pushing something that went against "current wisdom," of that magnitude, he would be banned from media, ridiculed, and cancelled.

The problem is, for every Galileo who is thinking against the mainstream understanding and right, there are millions of others who are outside the mainstream and wrong.

I don’t see how any society could function if it didn’t have a strict anti-bullshit filter, even if it may accidentally filter out geniuses who are ahead of their time.


> I don’t see how any society could function if it didn’t have a strict anti-bullshit filter

I don't see how science can ultimately function if you aren't allowed to push back and legitimately question things. All things. How many times have we, years or hundreds or thousands of years later, come back and disproved something that was a "scientifically proven" thing in the past? How would you accomplish that if you aren't allowed to talk about it? Relatively few things in science are actually indisputable, and I question even that. Some things that we think are indisputable today we might laugh at a thousand years from now, just like we laugh at some of the primitive thoughts our ancestors had, but were cutting edge for the day. Science is the pursuit of truth through rigorous testing and pushback. Eventually, if proven enough times, we call it a law. You have to be open to being completely wrong to actually obtain that level. Free speech is paramount to science, as well as society.

Society, as a whole, has worked fairly well without "bullshit filters." It's when you start putting them on that you start having issues, and often in areas that you didn't anticipate, because at that point you're acting on a belief and not a fact.

I highly recommend reading Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Here's an interview to give a preview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JpQFVXGzUI


> Society, as a whole, has worked fairly well without "bullshit filters." It's when you start putting them on that you start having issues

When has society ever not had bullshit filters? Intellectual debate goes both ways. The more your ideas go outside of the mainstream understanding of your peers, the more push back, ridiculing, and “cancelation” you will likely be subjected to by the scientific community

Very few geniuses are appreciated until after their death. scientific consensus takes time


> When has society ever not had bullshit filters?

I absolutely accept "I don't have to listen to you" as a bs filter. "That guy's nuts, I don't believe a thing he's saying." I don't accept "we won't allow others to listen to you question things" as a filter.


What about "we don't think we will publish that"?

Sounds good on face. Do Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and other platforms that dominate the planet in information/thought exchange, consider themselves publishers?

"I don't see how science can ultimately function if you aren't allowed to push back and legitimately question things."

Can you demonstrate an understanding of the things you are questioning? Do you have reasonable arguments to support your questions? And most importantly, are you doing your questioning in good faith?


> And most importantly, are you doing your questioning in good faith?

Worrying about "good faith" is a pointless waste of time. You don't know, and can't know with certainty, whether a question is in good faith. Your assessment of good faith is based on feelings and those don't have a scientific basis. If you reject or criticize a question on the basis of an actor's "good faith", then that actually makes you the one who is unscientific.

But the great thing about this is that this doesn't even matter. Bullshit questions will be easily refutable. And if they're not, it's because those doing the science haven't done a thorough enough job yet.


"[Tobacco smoking] has been a major health problem for many decades. For the entire 20th century it is estimated that around 100 million people died prematurely because of smoking, most of them in rich countries." (https://ourworldindata.org/smoking)

It's not a problem at all. For example, people do mistakes in calculations all the time but since Math is not faith and/or consensus based nobody flies off the handle and runs a public ostracism campaign on them. You think Bloomberg spent 500M on his campaign so he spent more than if he had given 1M to every citizen of the US? You just look like a fool but there are not going to be 1000 Math professors signing letters to excommunicate you and your bank accounts are not going to be shut down and you still keep your job in New York Times.

If you feel that your science won't stand without harassing heretics, perhaps it is the problem with the soundness of your science and not the folly of the heretics?


What happens when there are 10 million citizens demanding their million dollars, who won't take "but that's not how math works" for an answer?

They don't get their million dollars.

And then we call out the National Guard to put an exclamation point at the end of that sentence.

I am a bit late to your train of thought so it seems to have left the station without me. Are you saying we solve mathematical problems with the National Guard? Correct grammar with it? I honestly cannot understand what are you trying to say here.

I think he's saying that if there are 10 million citizens demanding something, and they're certain that they're correct, then it might require the National Guard to prevent them from taking what they believe to be theirs. In a society where those 10 million people accept the authority of the world's greatest experts in arithmetic, there presumably wouldn't be 10 million people making unreasonable demands because their thinking would have been set right by experts. I'm not 100% sure if this is a water-tight argument, but I think it's what the parent comment was getting at.

I see. This seem to be a narrowing of the more general idea that suppressing wrongthink will get rid of wrongdoers but applied to science specifically. If history to be believed the general idea had failed in its numerous implementations.

I think the problem was that it takes much more resources to react to the wrongthinkers while simultaneously selecting the most capable wrongdoers to the point that the wrongdoers are able to overthrow the government.


What's wrong with being wrong? If we are to be honest with ourselves, we must admit that we are wrong about things, each and every one of us. We may be right about some things, but even those are for the most part incomplete truths.

It’s ok to be wrong. But you should also expect that you may be ridiculed or ignored sometimes if your theories aren't conventional

Basically, I don’t think the BBC refusing to give time to flat earth era is cancel culture. Even if there’s a non-zero chance they were right all along


Are the content teams at FAANG ridiculing and ignoring the people they consider to be wrong? Or are they going out of their way to censor perfectly legal and possibly correct things they just don’t like using an ever changing and intentionally ambiguous terms of service to do so?

> Basically, I don’t think the BBC refusing to give time to flat earth era is cancel culture

No one is making that argument. Talk about a Wuhan lab leak and see if it doesn’t get a lot harder to speak from your position.


Do you have specific knowledge of a Wuhan lab leak? Are your arguments regarding a lab leak reasonable? Will you cease making your argument if it is not supported?

>> Even if there’s a non-zero chance they were right all along

What does a non-zero chance that the Earth is flat look like? That we live in a simulation fooling us into thinking the empirical evidence is spherical? The evidence is overwhelming. There's not really any chance for it being correct, short of some odd metaphysics being the case.

Scientifically speaking, it's 100% wrong. Some beliefs are simply at odds with the vast empirical data, and can only be right if something else is producing false empirical results.


The world is a constant battle of rights and wrongs. Getting something wrong, is a major part in arriving to something right. Now society wants to shun, filter, and cancel all the "wrongs", which removes skepticism of the popular "rights".

What is the scientific process if not an attempt to filter and “cancel” wrong ideas, and propagate the right ones?

Ideas will be attacked relentlessly by society until proven useful. That’s how it all works


> Science is anti-fragile. The harder you attack it, the sturdier it becomes.

This is true for the subset of "scientific professionals, devoting significant amounts of time to their field". That's not all of the public. That's not even all of most scientific disciplines.

The scientific method is perfect.

The scientific method as practiced by fallible and irrational humans is subject to starts and stops, groupthink and cargo culting, and politics ad nauseam.

The even more common case of "laypeople, with limited technical background knowledge, devoting limited amounts of time to understanding issues, who want to appear informed and intelligent about issues" is significantly more fraught with danger. And the source of most ineffective outcomes.


>The scientific method is perfect.

>The scientific method as practiced by fallible and irrational humans

This is giving me flashbacks to Catholic school :)

'Christ is perfect, his earthly church is not. Because the church consists of fallible human clergy and laity it is vulnerable to corruption, ambition, lust, and politics, oh the politics'

It's interesting to know that secular students get the same arguments just in defense of scientism instead of Christianity. All apologists sound alike.

Not a criticism, just interesting


The main difference being that scientists (are encouraged to) update their model of the world as they gain new information.

Your use of the word encouraged is doing a lot of heavy lifting. In the abstract, sure, scientists are "encouraged" by some platonic ideal. In reality, scientists are not encouraged by other scientists to update their model based on new information and there is a great deal of resistance in many scientific fields to gain such information or even what constitutes new information.

That's pretty much why I added it! I've known a lot of scientists who fall in love with their research a bit too much, and some of our most important scientists have been pious Christian monks and Muslim scholars.

My point is that the central dogma of science is to be skeptical of existing thought and to update the model. The central dogma of most religions is to preserve tradition and be skeptical of challenges to existing thought.


One of the most important things Einstein did was to not immediately update his model based on the new quantum mechanics and to attack it as strongly as he could.

An inherent conservatism avoids a lot of weird, faddish behavior.


I'm not religious, but isn't that what priests are for? Like to update the church's model of what's right/wrong based on new information... just from god

No, priest are for keeping the doctrine and serving as bridges between the faithful and their god(s). Theologians are the ones who update (or uphold) the church system of belief.

Right, I guess the overall point being that religion has a mechanism for change as well.

Only in the same sense that clothing has a mechanism for change because fashion exists. Theologians have no way of contacting their gods(s) or even knowing whether they exist. Their opinions are not based on evidence.

Sure they are, but in an evolutionary sense not in a scientific sense. Countless theologians have said countless things and most have gone in to the dustbin of history. But the things that resonated or were useful have remained.

Religion is the result of evolutionary processes and like all evolutionary processes it changes slowly and is not perfect. D.S. Wilson's Darwin's Cathedral is the go-to book for this argument and contains a beautiful section that goes like this:

We look at a bird's wing and marvel that it is so wonderfully adapted for flying. But we do not scorn birds for not being able to fly faster than the speed of sound. Their wings never required that to be successful in their evolutionary niches. Why do we look at religion which is also a marvel of adaptation for helping humans live together and get mad at it that it has not brought about world peace? World peace or perfection were never required for them to be successful in their evolutionary niches.


The issue with trying to make an argument that religion has no mechanism for change is that religions have and continue to change. So whether the mechanism is a priest, a turtle's dream, or if it's because of evidence is largely irrelevant. Religion does change.

If you think of them as roughly interchangeable apparatuses then it starts to make a whole lot of sense in my opinion.

One is empirically based and the other is faith based, so no, they aren't he same. The faith is based on beliefs in something metaphysical like a supernatural realm, and on value judgements (morality).

Well, bewaring human institutions is a universal lesson that more institutions should teach. That you got that lesson there only means that you got at least one good teacher.

That said, religion is based on the idea of worshiping a core idea, that shouldn't be contested, while science is based on the idea of contesting your core ideas, and never accepting pure belief. They are similar on the way that opposite things always have some similarity.

(Anyway, "the scientific method is perfect" is a very bad misquote of the OP. Believing your method is perfect is anti-scientific, you should be always on the hunt for a better method.)


>"the scientific method is perfect" is a very bad misquote of the OP

:o

It's not a misquote, the comment I replied to really said that!


It's not your misquote.

But the original is "the scientific method is anti-fragile, The harder you attack it, the sturdier it becomes." The comment you replied to threw a lot of nuance away when it was replaced by "perfect", and you threw the context that kept it reasonable away when you decided to compare with a similar phrase from anpother context. So, you both together made a misquote.


All organizations are superficially similar in the sense that they are all organizations.

Is Christ perfect though? Didn’t he fuck up a fig tree just for not having figs at that very moment? Mark 11, starting at verse 12:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%2011-12&ve...


I'm not Catholic, but I think a better question to get from that analogy would be

>Is the scientific method perfect though? Isn't it the result of the same fallible human minds that make it's implementation inherently flawed as well?

Maybe the scientific method is not perfect, but itself is still open to improvement in fundamental ways. This is more interesting to me than debates about ancient Judaean fig tree parables.

But in case you're curious! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cursing_the_fig_tree


Everything in the Bible points to something else. The fig tree mainly points to Revelation, wherein all people not bearing “fruit” in the “season” of the apocalypse, when He is “hungry” only for the righteous, will be judged to “wither away”.

We build stuff out of trees, so I think he straight-up killed that tree to build a parable out of doing it. It was in his sovereignty to uproot what isn’t Good. In the very next paragraph, he does the same by throwing the merchants out of the temple.

His response to his apostles after they mention the dead tree is interesting. It seems like he ignores them to explain that if they pray about anything, it will happen if they believe it. I think this has something to do with 1) the role of faith in avoiding the tree’s fate so that they may be bear the fruit no matter how impossible it seems since it was “not the season for bearing fruit”, or 2) a picture of the reality of the Kingdom after the harvest, where the Good will have reign to move mountains.

Proofs blossom like trees from epistemic axioms. It’s confounding to believe “Christ is perfect”, but it does bear fruit, however confounding it is. Theology isn’t popularly known, but it’s there if you’re curious.


I remember going to a talk once by the Bishop of Columbus about the Gospels. Someone asked him what he thought the hardest passage of the Bible to interpret was and he responded with this one.

No surprise... I can’t think of a more profoundly un-chill reaction to a fig tree not being in season. Wonder why anyone trying to make Jesus look good would even write it down.

This is related to the "Principle of Embarrassment" in hermeneutics. The idea is that "embarrassing" or inconvenient stories are more likely to have been true because there is no reason for someone to have made them up since they seem to conflict with the broader narrative, or at least complicate it.

Another example is the discovery of the empty tomb by Mary Magdalene and possibly some other women. At the time women were considered to be more untrustworthy, so the argument was that if the story was fabricated, surely the author would have decided to make the empty tomb discovered by a group of men since it would have been viewed by contemporary readers that this (already implausible) story was coming from a more trustworthy source.

Of course, the most prominent example is the crucifixion itself, since crucifixion was reserved for traitors and the lowest criminals. If you're trying to argue that this man was the Son of God, why write a story in which at the climax he is executed as a despised criminal?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criterion_of_embarrassment


So Jesus fucking over a fig tree is more likely to be true than positive things like turning water into wine?

Two things:

(1) Fig trees bear a type of pre-fruit. If that pre-fruit isn't there in the earlier season, then you know it won't bear any fruit in the final season.

(2) It's super obvious from the context that the fig is a metaphor for Israel. The temple system hasn't been bearing fruit because the Pharisees/scribes running it have so misinterpreted God that they will end up killing his Son. This is a foreshadowing of the destruction of the temple sacrificial system (begun in ~32 AD when Jesus died, finalized with the temple's destruction around 70 AD, never to be rebuilt again because the Muslims have built dome of the rock there now).


Commentary by the church - the Eastern Orthodox Church, which canonized the bible - is the only coherent ideology which hasn't innovated in dogmas and reconciles all the 'hard' scriptures Old and New.

Individual interpretations outside of a conciliar approach to Christianity (which started in the Book of Acts with the Counsel of Jerusalem, and continued into the Ecumenical Councils) has never resulted in anything but sectarianism and confusion.

At least from a perspective of consistency, readers may be interested in the perspective of conciliar, dogmatic foundations which cannot be changed in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

As regards for Mark 11: https://catenabible.com/mk/11 This website provides a range of commentaries which one can choose the earliest Church Fathers. However, blessed Theophylact is the most accessible commentary, largely based on St John Chrysostom, which is a harder read due to depth and language.

Cyril of Jerusalem AD 386 Remember at the time of the sin of Adam and Eve they clothed themselves—with what? Fig leaves. That was their first act after the fall. So now Jesus is making the same figure of the fig tree the very last of his wondrous signs. Just as he was headed toward the cross, he cursed the fig tree—not every fig tree, but that one alone for its symbolic significance—saying: “May no one ever eat fruit of you again.” In this way the curse laid upon Adam and Eve was being reversed. For they had clothed themselves with fig leaves.

St John Chrysostom: https://catenabible.com/com/5735de63ec4bd7c9723b9c17

Eastern Orthodox history of the canonization of scripture: http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/ntcanon_emergence.aspx


Generally the fig tree in the Bible represents Israel. Jesus cursing the fig tree falls in line with Israel’s long history of apostasy.

What it probably was is a representation of one of Jesus’ goals for his time here. The Israelites were being their usual disobedient selves as they always have been. Instead, the job of spreading the gospel has been relegated to the gentiles, since the Israelites were not producing fruit…ie spreading the gospel, following the law, etc.

At the present time, AD, we are in the age of the church…where the gentiles are the ones working. Israel won’t be back to being the focus until sometime in the future. Thus that situation could be an allegory for what was going to happen.


That would be the Christian interpretation. I'm guessing the Jewish one is a little different. What Jesus actually believed on the matter (or whether it was relevant to him) is unknown. Paul thought this way. Whether Peter and James thought the same way back in Jerusalem is also unknown. It is known that the second century Jewish Christians called the Ebionities did not view Paul favorably. But the proto-orthodox believed Paul was legitimate, and they won out, in part because converting gentiles meant a lot more followers.

Right. Paul was the one who wrote about how gentiles were grafted into the family with the Jews. The Jews don’t believe that Jesus is the messiah, and I don’t even think they consider Him a prophet either. So they probably don’t have an opinion on it, not to mention they don’t follow the New Testament

It's pretty obvious from the context and you don't need Paul to get there. I am going to quote from the paper (which I wrote and linked in another comment) on this subject.

The story of the fig tree takes place within a Markan intercalation. Jesus’s entrance into and cleansing of the temple is sandwiched between the cursing of the fig tree and the observation that the fig tree has withered. Edwards’ central thesis is that “the middle story nearly always provides the key to the theological purpose of the sandwich.” The fig tree is best interpreted through the lens of the temple.

In the middle of the cleansing of the temple, Jesus declares “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers” (Mark 11:17, NRSV). The quotation is from Isa 56:7, which takes place amidst an eschatological vision of the covenant being extended to Gentiles. The failure of the second temple to adequately address Isaiah’s vision suggests that it is not the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise. The phrase “den of robbers” comes from Jer 7:11. Kirk comments that word den is “aptly chosen to represent the practice of a people who see the temple as a place of safety to which they can flee after committing various forms of injustice in other spheres.” Thus, the leaders who are in the temple are not merely condemned for their practices in the temple, but for the way in which they assume participation in the temple system guarantees their forgiveness and safety regardless of their unjust actions elsewhere. They are not the sort of people Isaiah commended, who “maintain justice, and do what is right” (Isa 56:1) but rather seek their own profit and work to kill the Messiah (Mark 11:18).

This is why Jesus’ teaching in response to Peter’s comment in Mark 11:19 focuses on the destruction and replacement of the temple. His explanation in 11:20-25 focuses on prayer and how “this mountain” (i.e. the temple mount toward which they were heading) may be thrown into the sea. The use of the demonstrative pronoun τούτῳ in reference to the mountain indicates that Jesus was referring to this specific mountain, not offering a discourse on the general power of prayer. The mountain serves as a metonymy representing the entire temple system, which is to be overthrown; the fig tree serves as an additional symbol of how this temple system will be cursed. To further clarify, Jesus proposes an alternative pathway to fulfill the function that the temple performs. Rather than perform sacrifices in the temple to receive forgiveness from God, the disciples need only pray and forgive others. This alternative route to forgiveness indicates the temple system is no longer necessary.

Shortly following this sandwich is a story with parallel language that also illuminates the meaning of the passage: the parable of the tenants (Mark 12:1-11). The two words καιρὸς and καρπῶν are found in both passages. Few commentaries have focused on the use of the word καιρὸς, likely because it is such a common word. However, a closer look indicates that it is used in the gospels primarily in two ways: either as a common phrase (e.g. Ἐν ἐκείνῳ τῷ καιρῷ in Matt 12:1) or with an eschatological reference point (e.g. ἄχρι οὗ πληρωθῶσιν καιροὶ ἐθνῶν in Luke 21:24). Unlike the other synoptics, Mark never uses καιρὸς as a common phrase, which suggests that there may be greater linkages between passages where he uses the term. The placement of these words so closely to one another would likely raise more commentary if the fig tree was not already part of a Markan sandwich. Specifically, the themes raised in Mark 11:12-25 continue to be raised in the subsequent chapters in complex ways, such that the fig tree may be part of a “double intercalation” or triple decker sandwich.

Needless to say, I was very hungry after writing this paper...


My husband shared this with me because he knew I wrote a paper on this subject.

If you can make it through the paper, I'm happy to answer any further questions more specifically: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FLh6voQlieHMfUMckU83C2gNKjF...


Metaphors/analogies aren't an argument, and if you find them persuasive that's your problem

This isn't really a metaphor or an analogy. Modern scientific leaders and religious leaders both act as liaisons between the public and knowledge. Scientists tend to produce a lot more useful knowledge, but the issues faced by both are the same. It's obvious they both end up developing similar patterns for resolving communication issues.

The parent noticed this similarity because both are in the same business.


I said 'Not a criticism, just interesting' in the hopes of emphasizing that I was making an observation, not an argument.

Sorry I failed to communicate that more clearly!

That said, there is something to be said for https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_analogy


I view your observation as interesting and worth making, and I also believe there's an implicit argument there against that line of thinking.

The word "perfect" is problematic to me. It's ascribed to God to contrast with man, as most of us would agree that nothing we do is perfect. Using it implies the same religious status of being above man's foibles.

I like the word "useful" here, or "anti-fragile" in the original comment.

Further, I like defining context. Useful in what class of problems? For I don't think the scientific method is regarded as particularly useful in all domains. Consciousness and the subjective are valid realms of human experience worth dedicated inquiry, for which the scientific method seems woefully lacking.


The scientific method cannot be separated from the humans that practice it. It doesn't have some separate existence as a platonic ideal.

Ideas like these must be judged based on their actual real world performance, and not on the lofty promises of the ideologues that promote the ideas.

Luckily science doesn't require perfectly rational practitioners. It still works even if practiced human beings.


>The scientific method is perfect.

Nonsense. Nothing is perfect, especially nothing ever created by a human. The scientific method is the best we have developed, in my opinion, but it's not perfect. The scientific method itself was developed by "fallible and irrational humans". Even with the best of intentions and the utmost in effort, all humans are susceptible to fallibility and irrationality. You are, I am, everyone is.


The word/concept "perfect" was "developed" by "fallible and irrational humans" as well, so we do have the authority to apply it.

The 3/4/5 right triangle is perfect. The perfect fifth in music is (tautologically) perfect. "p or not p" is perfect. Perhaps none of these things can be reproduced in the physical world in a perfect manner, but the concepts really are perfect. Anything in idea-space can in fact be perfect, and the scientific method lives in idea-space.

In the realm of perfection, there isn't really any difference between "developing" something and "discovering" it. Did we "develop" the scientific method or "discover" it? I think that's a meaningless distinction. It's the loop that describes how inductive reasoning is applied by limited observers to a structured universe. People were doing it before it was "developed".


This is confusing models with reality. It is the application of any specific model to reality that is not perfect.

Yes, one might say:

> Perhaps none of these things can be reproduced in the physical world in a perfect manner, but the concepts really are perfect.


Yep, and you can add in a worse case still which is "people with enough background knowledge to sound like they know something, who have a particular motivation for wanting a particular scientific theory to be incorrect, who will never, ever admit to error" taking up the mantle of scepticism about current scientific theory.

In the "marketplace of ideas" practising the scientific method isn't antifragile in the face of such reckless certainty, it's downright fragile, because it's requires being the only side of the argument which will admit that its hypotheses aren't proven and some of its previous theories were wrong. Worse still, when the motivated sceptic has their "stopped clock" moment, practising the scientific method requires conceding they are right. The more science you practice, the more the opponent gets to point to the stuff you've conceded wasn't quite as expected.

Science might become sturdier in terms of better theory in response to attacks (where said attacks are accompanied by experimentation) but it's more vulnerable to losing trust


The scientific method really isn't perfect, unfortunately. It's a collection of heuristics, traditions and methods that's been assembled over time and which is still being assembled. That's why there's such tremendous uncertainty about what the scientific method precisely consists of and requires, and why nobody anywhere in the scientific system is responsible for ensuring scientists actually use the scientific method.

Here are just a few questions that expose the imperfection of the scientific method:

1. Does it require you to do experiments?

2. What P value threshold does the scientific method require?

3. What can it be applied to? Just the natural world? People? Economies? Artificial machines? Is AI research using the scientific method, or is it just engineering?

4. How should uncertainty be treated? Does the scientific method require the use of subjective or objective Bayesian theory, or does it not matter at all?

5. If you build a statistical model, are you allowed to use assumptions? If yes, how many and of what type? If there are no restrictions on it, what stops astrology being scientific?

6. Does the scientific method require pre-registration of studies? If it does, then does it mean every study before this became a common approach were unscientific? If not, then why are scientists encouraged to do it?

Etc.


If the scientific method is so perfect why does it fail when used by imperfect operators

Does it? You are making an assertion without any facts.

The method itself is simple. It is agnostic to bad faith implementations, to bad measurements, to completely fallacious conclusions, etc. It is intended to be iterative; individual errors wash out in time with enough new experiments.

What non-scientists learn from secondary or tertiary sources is irrelevant — those misunderstandings do not mean the Method “failed”.


Meh, the scientific method is akin to "agile" in software development.

It's good principles but really is less a method and more guiding principles.

That is the good and the bad of the scientific method. Implementing any one of the steps poorly and you've got crap studies which technically followed the scientific method but are ultimately "unscientific".

You get into the same sorts of arguments as a result. "Agile is pefect, but scrum sucks" "The scientific method is perfect, but nutrition survey studies suck".

The part that the scientific method lacks is determining what a good implementation looks like.


> The part that the scientific method lacks is determining what a good implementation looks like.

That seems like a feature, not a bug, to me. Descriptions of good implementations are likely subjective and vary based on what is being tested. It may even change over time as human knowledge improves.


Context man, I'm referring the the parents comment that the scientific method is perfect and operated by infallible humans leads to bad results and I would contend that if process is truly perfect it can't be corrupted. The scientific method is useful not perfect. Nothing is perfect.

Agree. Context is important.

> Nothing is perfect.

Meh. You are being unnecessarily pedantic here. If nothing is perfect then we wouldn’t have a word for it. It is so close to perfect for anything that humans have made that it is almost indistinguishable. In fact, language evolves with how people use it. The word perfect has another definition which very well applies here.

Fact is that The Method is resilient to the infallibility or maliciousness of scientists or charlatans. It has survived hundreds of years of charlatans running bad experiments, faked data, lots of oversimplified press coverage, etc and The Method itself is every bit as accurate and useful as it was when first formulated.


That's like saying cthulu is real because we have a word for him.

Your picking precise word definitions and expecting me to guess which ones your using and yet calling me pedantic. The irony.


> If the scientific method is so perfect why does it fail when used by imperfect operators

The scientific method is not perfect, but the best method that we currently have.


I agree.

The scientific method is a human invention. It is not 'perfect'. This is ridiculous religious dogmatism.

How should we counter coordinated unauthentic or disingenuous skepticism? I think everyone welcomes authentic concern, but what we're seeing with anti-vax/anti-mask/anti-science itself is something else completely.

They reason they are thriving is this doctrinal view of science where anything that gets published is holy gospel.

It opens up for these fringe movements is to present themselves as scientific, since they too have papers they can point to, and arguments that mirror the form of the scientific establishment.

The way to beat them is to be very clear about the limitations of science, and stop trying to misrepresent it as having a larger degree of certainty than it has. Science is demonstrably wrong sometimes, especially early research like the stuff that was circulating in the beginning of the C19-pandemic, and to make matters worse, a large part of science is dedicated to identifying instances where science is wrong.

That clashes with the official message is "trust the science" and makes devastating ammunition for undermining its credibility, especially nowadays when it is very easy to go back and check what claims were made in the past against which claims are made today.


I wish we would stop talking about science as a singular authority. Science is what you get if you follow the scientific method.

The scientific method is practiced by imperfect people with biases and external motivators. That is why thorough peer review is required (and sadly lacking).


Correct.

Look, I didn't get vaccinated because I was told to by pharmaceutical companies. Those shady bastards are on TV all the time selling stuff that seems super sketchy.

ALSO, I didn't get vaccinated because I was told to by doctors; I've had enough experiences with them getting things wrong in what they tell you to do.

I got vaccinated because doctors and health professionals THEMSELVES got vaccinated without hesitation. Was lucky enough to see a good friend, a quasi-famous black doctor, get the jab on TV, which sealed it pretty quickly for me.


Why are there mass firings of nurses for refusing to get the shot?

> Why are there mass firings of nurses for refusing to get the shot?

AFAICT, there aren't. Very small numbers have left (permanently or temporarily) jobs for that reason, whether fired, quit, or suspended. On the order of hundreds out of ~17 million health care workers covered by mandates.

Lots of political opponents have pointed to mass firings as hypothetical future consequences of mandate policies, and then reacted as if these hypothetical future outcomes were present reality.


> On the order of hundreds out of ~17 million health care workers covered by mandates.

There are 17 million employees in the healthcare industry as a whole, but so far it's a handful of healthcare systems that have announced this firing policy, primarily (but not exclusively) in NY and California, and an even smaller subset has actually gone through with firing people. Of course, even 1% of 17 million healthcare workers is 170,000 people, and even if 95% are vaccinated, that's still 8,500 people to be fired. And 95% is optimistic.

As to the claim that only hundreds have been fired, I'm not sure where you are getting your data. One healthcare provider in NY fired 1400 people[1]. 87% of New York's hospital workers are vaccinated and 64% of New York's general population are vaccinated.

So if the providers in extremely blue areas are faced with firing 13% of their healthcare workers, I'm a little skeptical that only hundreds will be fired, or that this is even a workable plan. But who knows, I don't think anyone has the full count for the nation at the moment. If you didn't just make it up, then please do share your source. More facts and less speculation are needed when discussing this issue.

[1] https://www.axios.com/new-york-northwell-health-vaccine-mand...


"Vaccine Mandates Lead to Mass Firings and Mass Walkouts from State Troopers to Hospital Workers" (https://cmsedit.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2021/september/vaccine-ma...)

As of Sep. 28, CBN could find only 843. And, oh, look, they linked to https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/hospitals/how-many-employee...

Kaiser Permanente and Northwell Health were the largest with 1-2% of their workforces, although Kaiser's are on "administrative leave".


It's something like 1%?

Also, some of these stats include nurses that are still registered but not currently working anywhere so it's unclear that their vaccination status is correctly recorded.


Because there is a debate about the degree of immunity that you get after being ill with COVID-19. And many healthcare workers that have been exposed to the virus have been ill, have high levels of antibodies and they don't think that the vaccine is necessary or beneficial for them.

But right now you must be in one of the two fields: you are either an anti-vaxxer or you believe in science and will do everything your government says. There are no room for rational discussion about important issues anymore. You just choose your team and fight for it till death.


Because a lot of nurses are dumb and/or highly partisan or otherwise ideological

You counter all skepticism the same way: by a designing an experiment to test the skeptic's hypothesis and presenting the results of the experiment to the skeptic. Name-calling, censorship, and persecution are not going to bring the skeptic to your side, but they will almost certainly discourage future skeptics from presenting their findings.

If we allow politicians to turn science into a dogma instead of an investigative process, progress will come to a grinding halt.


> You counter all skepticism the same way: by a designing an experiment to test the skeptic's hypothesis and presenting the results of the experiment to the skeptic.

I've tried this (by sharing data) with friends and family members - it doesn't work/matter. They simply dismiss the data as "fake news" and shift to a new argument. This is why I classify it as "disingenuous skepticism".

Their actions (anecdotally) are driven by culture and politics, not data.


This is not what pumaontheprowl said.

You are right, simply presenting people with data doesn't work. If it did, you would never see a fat nurse, or a doctor who smokes, or... the list is endless.

pumaontheprowl's suggestion is to design a (thought) experiment that involves the skeptic. There are various ways to do this, but history is literally built on this exact phenomena. Getting people to change their mind on an issue requires that you have a real conversation with them. You can't just shove data in their face and see "See, look dummy you're wrong I'm right!" There are all sorts of people that do this for a living: helping people leave cults/white supremacy groups/etc.


> Their actions (anecdotally) are driven by culture and politics, not data.

I'd argue 40% of societies response to this pandemic is culture and politics. 30% is media fear mongering. 20% is intellectual error and 10% is actually disease mitigation.

Requiring fully vaccinated individuals to wear masks is culture & politics.

Shutting down outdoor restaurants is culture and politics

Casting moral shame on people who get covid is culture and politics

Saying it is totally okay to go to a BLM rally while not being able to attend a football game is culture and politics.

Closing the birthday card isle in the grocery store is culture and politics.

The list goes on and on...

In fact the very core of lockdowns is premised in culture and politics and not science. Science doesn't create policy. Human values do. For example places that place more emphasis on living life instead of protecting life were probably the first to drop restrictions.... a perfectly valid stance.

Science doesn't tell us what to do. It is merely a process for testing hypothesis in an attempt to get to the "truth" of something. That's all it does. Science didn't tell us to lockdown, it doesn't tell us to require vaccinated individuals to wear a mask, it doesn't tell us to shut down our borders, or any of that. All those decisions were driven by culture and politics.


If your goal is to convince them, and not come to a more clear understanding of the truth, this will be frustrating. Once you let go of convincing anyone of anything you are free to find the truth for yourself.

I mean, very often "shared data" is fake news because we know that studies on politically charged topics are under intense pressure (via funding or public lynch mobs) to come out a particular way. In the past two years studies on crime rates by race, illegal immigration/amnesty, and many covid related topics have all been shaped by this.

And remember, the way most people are finding out about this "shared data" is via the media that just got done spending 4 years accusing trump of being a russian agent. So, they're biased or they're liars. Hence the skepticism.


The data conflicts within different nations across the globe. Some barely had lockdowns, with minimal impact to their healthcare system, and others are at a high vaccination rate with record cases. There's nothing concrete in this.

Besides analytical skill, people also posses intuition which is a valid tool to interpret the world. A wife that is cheated on by her husband, intuitively knows that she s cheated on even though she has no proof. She might see the unusual behavior of her husband, the fact that he s secretive doesn't give her attention as he used to or comes home very late. She might even confront him about this only to be met with a lot of logical explanations and alibies(I had to work till late, I went on a teambuilding trip, etc). His reasons might be completely rational and logical but she knows something is wrong. He might even attempt to make it seems she s the hysterical and crazy one while he s the rational and calm guy. See where I m going? Your friends and family don t contest "the data",they couldn t do this even if they wanted. But they have serious reasons to believe something s off. Their intuition is telling that. They might not have the data, only a feeling. But that feeling is strong. They don t deny your good intentions,it s just that you made yourself the defender of a certain conclusion.They have an issue with the mainstream source of that data, with the government and the the industry behind, which academics ar legitimizing through skewed papers, paid research, etc. I suggest to take their skepticism more serious, since even I, from the other side of the world, can see they probably they are right. There is definitely something off and skepticism is reasonable these days.

If only. There's a nice flat-earth documentary on Netflix. Some scientifically-minded flat-earthers designed and carried out not one but two experiments to "prove" the earth is flat. Both of them came conclusively on the side that the earth is not flat, but is quasi-spherical with a radius and rotation rate consistent with the scientific consensus. Remember, these experiments were on their own terms. They repeated them several times and they declared them "inconclusive". This is not someone you can convince by any means.

Who are they hurting by believing that the Earth is flat?

The harm people cause by holding believing false beliefs is rather complicated at times, yet extremely important and impactful nonetheless.

For flat earthers in particular this video sheds some light on why their way of thinking is harmful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTfhYyTuT44

To be extremely reductive, allowing false beliefs into one's web of beliefs corrupts it. This typically gives rise to a multitude of other false beliefs. Flat earthers almost never only believe one obviously false conspiracy theory. They become epistemically susceptible, and worse still, they tend to spread these awful ways of thinking with great zeal.

In the more general case, I recommend you learn about the ethics of belief. The Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy page on the topic is a good starting point: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-belief/

Maybe someone can come along and answer your question in a more succinct yet equally (or ideally more) convincing way. This request that you commit several hours to educating yourself is the best I can do at this time.


Well said. I propose therefore that we ban Boltzmann for his crime of false belief in statistical mechanics. /s

How do you inform a voter on the implications of say, tax policy, and expect them to make a rational decision if they can't even comprehend that the earth is proven to not be flat? Ignorance and its tolerance hurts everyone in a democracy.

What a curious argument against democracy.

It's not that curious, it's pretty clearly self describing actually.

And what's wrong with arguments against democracy? We are in a thread explicitly discussing questioning anything and everything and talking about the virtues of being averse to dogma. What if democracy is not as good as it gets? What if there's an alternative that is not authoritarianism?



There's no such thing as scientific consensus, strictly speaking

> coordinated unauthentic or disingenuous skepticism

We stop trying to ascribe malicious motives to their actions and try to have genuine conversation with them. If they aren't convinced after that then we have more work to do.


Do you attribute malicious motives to the skeptics employed by tobacco companies?

Right now at this moment my 60 year old SiL is holed up in her apartment with covid. She refused to get the vaccine. She believes that there are lizard people who live beneath the earth's crust, etc. She found a "doctor" to prescribe her ivermectin - the "doctor" does not allow vaccinated people into their clinic for whatever bizarre reason (sPIkE pRoTeenZ no doubt).

We asked her to take a pic of her oximeter reading and send it to us - it read 91. We told her she should get to a hospital where they could give her some oxygen, but she refuses (doesn't want to be in "the system"). She is the poster child for disingenuous skepticism and it's impossible to have a "genuine conversation" with her because she's so infected with conspiracy theories (including the Q conspiracy).


> She is the poster child for disingenuous skepticism

She doesn't seem at all disingenuous to me, what actions make you doubt her genuinity? To me it sounds like she may have some mental health issues to work out and that is an entirely different beast than this conversation.


Why do you believe that “mental health issues” (very non-specific) is an entirely different beast? My family experiences suggest that information silos (my personal diagnosis of one of the root causes of disbelief of reproducible scientific findings) can and do create mental health issues similar to the parent’s SiL.

There is good reason to not want to be in the system. During COVID, both my aunt and grandmother were abused during their hospitalizations (not for COVID). The experience left my aunt feeling she'd rather have died than endure what she had to, and after hearing her experiences, I think that would have been a perfectly rational decision to make had she known what was going to happen.

Why are we so upset when people decide to refuse treatment?


>Why are we so upset when people decide to refuse treatment?

The anecdotal evidence you gave (hospital abuse) is an outlier, not a norm.

A better question is, why wouldn't you be upset when a family member refuses life saving treatment, rationalized by disinformation?


> A better question is, why wouldn't you be upset when a family member refuses life saving treatment, rationalized by disinformation?

Because unless I'm the parents of a minor child, it's ultimately not my decision.


Hopefully someone can help get her script filled. If she doesn't notice improvement after a couple of doses, maybe she'll reconsider hospital. Time is of the essence with ivermectin, early application is more effective.

If ivermectin has any effect against covid (I'm skeptical, but try to keep an open mind) it's likely past the point where it would have been possibly effective as she's over a week into it so the viral replication phase is likely mostly over and it's entered the inflammatory phase (meaning she probably needs steroids at this point).

Hospital best choice if she's that far into it. No harm in getting her the ivm too though if possible.

Thank you. The phrase "disingenuous skepticism" is difficult to imagine. If someone believes masks don't work, or that a vaccine could have risks, they are skeptical; they haven't seen evidence that convinces them otherwise.

It's interesting how much time and effort is spent trying to win people over to another way of thinking or opinion.


I don't know how many of these conversations you've tried to have, because the confirmation bias is very real.

We're not discussing skepticism of nematode behavior, but of the politicization of a pandemic, which makes it opinion. You can't reason with someone out of an opinion who didn't reason themselves into it to begin with.

Rational bad actors abuse this notion that they have the right to play, to be heard, to have a discourse; when in reality they're repeating the same disinformation ad nausea to profit for themselves.


I also think misconceptions about Occam's razor are to blame. It's a good heuristic for choosing which hypotheses to test first, but a lot of people seem to misuse it as a heuristic for which of two propositions is more likely to be true, which is unfounded and very often leads to incorrect conclusions. It's basically on par with "there's no smoke without fire".

People tend to assume that if they cannot prove P and cannot prove ¬P, then ¬P must be assumed to be true. This is of course not correct at all, and most propositions can be rephrased so that Q=¬P and ¬Q=P.

If there is no evidence either way, then neither P nor ¬P is supported, and we should remain uncertain.


>>The phrase "disingenuous skepticism" is difficult to imagine.

I find it easy to imagine and indeed can pinpoint many observed instances. A lot of "I'm not saying anything, I'm just asking questions" ARE in fact saying something, quite strongly, with minds made up and no curiosity or eagerness to learn, but are being disingenuous. It's not skepticism: they are not awaiting or hoping for data or facts or claims, rational discourse or healthy discussion; their mind is not open to change; they have an objective, they are aiming to persuade and recruit, or sow doubt. To the point that when a user made an innocuous comment in this thread and ended it with "not a criticism, just an observation:)" we all assumed he was in fact disingenuous and was criticizing, because that's the current (unfortunate!) norm for that form of statement.

A lot of cult-like institutions or groups understand, consciously or subconsciously, that their views are not agreed upon and appreciated. So they have devised disingenuous ways of promoting them. From naming ("Discovery Institute" is hard-core creationists, "National Vaccine Information Center" is hard-core anti-vaxx group etc), to appearances (websites are full of stock photos of people in white lab coats and charts, to appear science-y), to discourse (again, the frequent, "I'm not SAYING anything, I'm just ASKING"; "I'm not AGAINST vaccines, I just have QUESTIONS on the timing" - all pulled from distributed talking points),disingenuous skepticism has become the norm, I'm sad to say... and thus trivial to imagine.

edit: All forms of discussion like this ultimately converge to definitions; so to be explicit and hopefully drive us to point of mutual understanding, to me, skepticism implies seeking facts, data, truth; openness to change your mind; genuine looking for mutual objective truth and agreement. As such, there's disingenuous skepticism aplenty in this world of ours :-/


The tongue in cheek term for this is "JAQing off". JAQ = Just Asking Questions. It is also known as "concern trolling". Any fool who spends the effort to successfully address the face value concern will find that the troll has immediately transitioned to having a new concern which happens to support/oppose the same exact things as the previous. It is a textbook example of motivated reasoning laundering itself in the clothing of skepticism.

It is like fighting a squid. The moment you've caught it by one of the tentacles it slaps at you with the other 7 while the first 1 slips away.


This is exactly right, and what the original comment was describing I believe. Although I wonder if the subject is muddied as the adjective may be applied to the wrong noun.

Their _skepticism_ is likely genuine and sincere, but their _engagement_ is not in good faith and is disingenuous.

One problem, I think, is that it the communities are self selecting. Skeptics who engage in good faith on well understood topics become converts; all who remain over time in the community of skeptics are those who do not engage in good faith.

It's a worthwhile question to ask why they don't engage in good faith, which I think has a more complicated answer than either straightforward ignorance or malice.


How much evidence would it take you to come to believe that masks work or that the risks of vaccines do not outweigh the risks of the disease?

And what do you do if the answer is "No amount of evidence"?


Hanlon's razor

> anti-vax/anti-mask/anti-science

I'd like to define what these terms mean. Right now, I think the mainstream technique is anyone who questions vax/mask/science gets the anti- prefix.


Or the -phobe suffix. This isn't isolated.

Labeling people as part of some group of undesirables seems to be a very popular way of not having to meet legitimate criticism these days. I wish we would be better at calling it out.

What, exactly, is "legitimate criticism"?

In common parlance it usually means “is disgusted by” rather than the traditional “is afraid of”.

We have to train people to have critical thinking skills in school so that they can tell the difference between truth and lies when they see them out in the wild. Of course, the government will have to stop making stuff up, but that's a small price to pay for insulating society against other forces who are way better at making propaganda than our government / our "institutions."

How does government benefit from teaching critical thinking in government schools? If there's no good answer to that, it won't happen.

The assumption that all governments are at best always hostile is not something shared by everyone in the world.

it seems to be a reliable indicator that the person expressing it is a US citizen or at least resident in the US.

Isn't it debilitating to live in a place suffused with this opinion? Does it become self-fulfilling?

And to answer the question: the government is composed of people like you; critical thinking helps the government see how to improve society just as it helps you to improve your own life and prevent you from falling for scams.


When you say "the government is composed of people like you," I imagine you are talking about the low to mid echelons of the civil service. That's right, but they don't set policy. Corporations work together with politicians and reliable upper-echelon civil servants to set US policy, and the media works together with them to prevent the use of democracy. It's impossible for a US citizen to believe anything else if they have but the most shallow awareness of even the foreign policy alone of the past 70 years.

It's universal knowledge; you will hear it whether you are talking to a conservative christian or a communist, although the particular culturally appropriate way of phrasing it will change. You will even hear it from comfortable urban professionals, although couched in a way that makes it look like they're not excessively upset about it.

I have heard a lot of opinions, some of them bonkers, but there is one I have never heard; I challenge you to find one single American who believes that Iraq was invaded due to popular demand.


> I have heard a lot of opinions, some of them bonkers, but there is one I have never heard; I challenge you to find one single American who believes that Iraq was invaded due to popular demand.

I seem to recall it being fairly popular among the public back when it was proposed and first carried out, because there was a pretty widespread belief that Saddam did still have WMDs, and that he was somehow linked to 9/11. Those were both wrong, and there were certainly people who were skeptical, but it did have somewhat popular support at the time.


Some popular support?

"Days before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Maines told a London audience the band did not endorse the war and were "ashamed" of US President George W. Bush being from Texas. The remarks triggered boycotts in the US and backlash from fans." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chicks)


That's overlooking the order of events - first the decision was made to invade Iraq, then the WMD claim was invented, then the public was convinced of the claim, and then Iraq was invaded. If you only consider the last two steps, then it would look like the second to last event was first. Sadly, public demand was a consequence, not a cause.

I don't know whether it was actually invented or was the result of poor intelligence and the Bush administration wanting it to be true. At any rate, the public largely bought into it at the time.

> It's universal knowledge; you will hear it whether you are talking to a conservative christian or a communist,

I wouldn't expect either to be part of the Overton window, and both to be rather unhappy with current society. As for upper civil servants, corporations and the media, one has to suppose their interests are all aligned, as opposed to being in disagreement over various matters. Sounds like something you'd hear conservative christian or communist say. Someone unhappy with the current form of government who supposes there is a grand conspiracy preventing their ideal conservative or communist society from being realized. Instead of a majority of people not wanting such a society.

Both have a narrative of the world as being controlled by dark forces brainwashing people, instead of it being a complex, emergent structure from a messy history with nobody in control.


The factions within the, as you put it, Overton window, share some interests and oppose each other on some other goals. All of the uncertainty in policy lies in wondering whether corporations, politicians or upper level civil servants will get their way in each conflict, sometimes none of them getting their way due to gridlock. Nobody is in control, but some people are in more control than others. As you put it, groups outside the "Overton window" are all dissatisfied - but the really revealing thing is that they make up almost all of the US population.

> Isn't it debilitating to live in a place suffused with this opinion? Does it become self-fulfilling?

One of the 2 major political parties in the USA has pushed this opinion for as long as I’ve been alive. They deny federal government any opportunity to improve then point at government as an example of why it doesn’t improve peoples’ lives.

I hope other still-functioning governments learn from the institutional failures of the USA in the 1970s and 1980s so as to avoid following the same path.


The people running our society have more to lose from getting replaced by some kind of taliban-equivalent than they have to lose from inoculating the population against propaganda at the expense of limiting their own power in some cases. This is a plan where they can keep their money and their authority, and they'd only have to sacrifice a small amount of the effectiveness of the big papers, which are not effective anymore anyway.

The problem with your reasoning here is that your two options are replacement by "a taliban-equivalent", or a slight limitation of their power. I think you've vastly overestimated the risk of a naïve population to government while underestimating the benefit. In my view, the U.S. government's propaganda system is essential to its survival in its current form. It uses it to maintain the war industry, to justify its spending power, to preserve the stability of the currency, to ensure the election of tame officials — there's a lot to lose.

The stability of the currency is mainly decided by countries outside the reach of the US's internal propaganda, because of the enormous debts and reserve currency status. I agree that a population which wouldn't go for Qanon would also make them quit invading countries in the middle east and south america, but depending on how this crazy business plays out, leaving Iran alone may be a small price for them to pay.

I hate to invoke Godwin's law, but business people loved Hitler all around the world right up until his propaganda machine shut out their influence and he started invading the other half of their markets and supply chains. If the people running our country have learned anything from history they will quit encouraging irrationality and gullibility some time before the curtains close, so to speak.


Maybe you are right. I'm not as confident as you that the U.S. government has learned from history, though; it spends a lot of time explaining that it has made historically-attested consequences of its actions impossible. But I'm not a fan in general, and that may color my perceptions.

GP told about "a government". You rephrased to "The people running our society". If we accept the fact that this people is, simply put, the rich and the giant corporations... they have a lot to gain from some kind of fascist society. That's the heart of fascism: a strong government serving the rich. They do have to gain a lot from the masses ignorance, irrationality and short sight. Not that I'm saying they all adhere to fascism, people may have principles that contradict their most direct interest.

Multinational corporations don't like nationalism. I think the idea that big corporations benefit from fascism is an interesting one, but it doesn't square with capitalism's need to keep borders open to trade and capital flow. If you're proposing that someone is going to invent a non-nationalist version of fascism, that's again an interesting idea, but I'm having a hard time imagining it.

If it's successful it won't get a name, it won't be a "thing," it will just be the new normal.

I don't think critical thinking will do anyone any good if people abuse critical thinking to have opinions they want to have as opposed to changing their mind.

Talking of unscientific beliefs, I have yet to see any evidence that teaching critical thinking is either possible or likely, or that schools would do anything other than use the time for propaganda - particularly in regard to anything of importance that is contentious.

Labotomies won the Nobel prize.

Descartes was excommunicated.

Semmelweis was mocked.

How you should approach anti-vax/anti-mask people is to consider that they may have a point.

But your FAITH in the science of your narrative precludes you.


> How should we counter coordinated unauthentic or disingenuous skepticism?

Isn't this really asking "how do you have ideas that stand up to the Socratic method?"


No. You are making categorical error by equating emotional messages with cognitive messages.

Coordinated inauthentic ideas are not intended to withstand rigorous review. They are intended to tickle the limbic system and to get retweeted before the reader’s cognitive mind has a chance to weigh in. The author will shed that idea or identity and move to another. For this reason, they are also called a “disinformation firehouse”.


Do you mean people who question the vaccine at all are "something else completely"?

Seems strange to be called "anti-vax" and, presumably, "anti-science" for questioning the logic in mass vaccinating with an experimental vaccine, built with experimental technologies, which since its deployment has been demonstrated through various data to be a spectacular failure in terms of safety and efficacy.

What about just questioning the policies themselves?

What about the fact that from where I'm sitting there's zero "science" supporting the use of cloth masks, yet they're attack vector numero uno when it comes to bifurcating the populace into angels and demons?


Science is only one piece of the puzzle. Ultimately it's a political game, so science is only part of the equation. Masks are to signal that I care about you, and to make you feel safe. Bullshit of course, but it's way to hard to make people understand that they are overestimating the risk of death and hospitalization by factors of 10x and 20x. Much easier to not correct the record and pretend masks reduce the risk 10-20x.

Back to basics: The government doesn't care about you. Any interventions are likely to sacrifice long term success for short term success.


Lying to people in some kind of psychological game to manipulate their feelings in the way you're describing is despicable and anyone participating willfully in such bullshit deserves zero respect.

Many scientists and doctors out there are obviously either completely uninterested in the truth or just toadies for the elite, if what you're describing is correct.

If so, they don't deserve our respect, our trust, or even our attention.


> If so, they don't deserve our respect, our trust, or even our attention.

Totally agree. What's the number one rule of crisis management? Keep people calm. I cannot name a single "expert" who has attempted to calm people at all. In fact most have done the exact opposite. They have intentionally provoked fear.

If these people wanted respect, trust and attention they'd go out of their way to clearly articulate the risks of covid for each population group. Instead they act as if covid is a death sentence for anybody. They would actively stamp out misinformation like "4% kill rate" and "25% of people get long covid". They'd clearly frame "hospitals full" with the context of how busy an ICU is during normal times. They'd spend large chunks of their time calming parents who are fearful for their children.

More important, they'd offer hope and work to instill courage and bravery in people. They'd tell people what they can do to minimize symptoms. They'd remind people virtually everybody recovers and many don't even know they had it. They'd give people ways to meaningfully contribute "to the cause" within their communities.

Instead they've done nothing but crank up the fear factor and freaked the absolute shit out of people. They'd literally knocked screws loose from people I used to regard as level headed, rational people. And they keep at it. Never offering positive messaging. Never offering hope. Never communicating good news. Never calming people down.

Of course if they did any of what I described, I'd imagine most people wouldn't have accepted any of these mitigation measures at all. Because I believe a rational individual looking at the data would see almost none of what we've done over the past year and a half makes a single ounce of sense at all. The cynic in me says that is exactly why they don't do what I describe... cranking up the fear is the only way to sell lockdowns, masks, vaccine mandates, border closures, and whatever other human rights crushing crap these people want to shove down our mouths.

These "experts" are some of the most vile individuals I can think of. They don't deserve an ounce of respect, trust or attention.


> I cannot name a single "expert" who has attempted to calm people at all.

That's odd, because here are some excerpts from President Biden's remarks on covid [1].

"THE PRESIDENT: Good evening, my fellow Americans. I want to talk to you about where we are in the battle against COVID-19, the progress we’ve made, and the work we have left to do.

And it starts with understanding this: Even as the Delta variant 19 [sic] has — COVID-19 — has been hitting this country hard, we have the tools to combat the virus, if we can come together as a country and use those tools.

If we raise our vaccination rate, protect ourselves and others with masking and expanded testing, and identify people who are infected, we can and we will turn the tide on COVID-19.

...

So, let me speak to you directly. Let me speak to you directly to help ease some of your worries.

...

We know that if schools follow the science and implement the safety measures — like testing, masking, adequate ventilation systems that we provided the money for, social distancing, and vaccinations — then children can be safe from COVID-19 in schools."

And here are some from a recent press briefing [2] by the COVID response team:

"MR. ZIENTS: Good afternoon. Thanks for joining us. In a moment, I’ll turn to Drs. Walensky, Fauci, and Murthy.

I’ll start by discussing the progress we’re making on testing, vaccination, and boosters — three critical parts of the President’s six-point plan to accelerate our path out of the pandemic.

First, testing: In the past few months, testing has increased, particularly at-home testing — a convenient option that came to market earlier this year.

To meet this increased demand, the President’s plan ramps up both the availability of tests and access to free testing. In just a matter of weeks, we’ve made significant progress on both fronts.

...

I’ll close with this: We’ve made tremendous progress over the past eight months, and we are executing well against the President’s six-point plan. We’re on the right track, but we need everyone to do their part."

The experts are saying "stay strong and we'll get through this". Meanwhile you are talking about how wearing a piece of cloth on your face is "human rights crushing crap" like we're one step away from the death camps. How is that calming anyone down? And who exactly do you mean when you say "them" anyway? It's a really worrying sign when "they" are always doing all these nefarious things just to frighten and control people. Do you know many in your life who acts that way? If not, why do you imagine that "they" are any different from the people you know? Where do you think "they" live? What do "they" want to do when "they" get home from work today? Do you think "they" read to their children before "they" tuck them in at night?

[1] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/20...

[2] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/202...


Naw. That doesn’t address anything. For one thing it says kids are at risk, which they aren’t. That entire speech is pure fearmongering. It says “everybody, this is Space Ebola. Remain frightened.”

It doesn’t highlight anything. It’s just doomsday nonsense and is yet another example of exactly what I’m talking about.

Covid isn’t space aids. It’s a damn respiratory virus. The vast majority who get it recover. It’s a non event for kids. These are facts backed by solid data. President didn’t state that at all.

And gaslighting about a “piece of cloth” is another example. It’s a “piece of cloth” that doesn’t do a damn thing besides divide people. Masks should never have been raised to the pedestal they were raised to. It’s people acting like they have some kind of moral high ground when they occupy anything but.


It's more complicated than that. Most scientists do not set out to willfully participate in bullshit. They do honest work within the constraints of their profession.

As an example, take covid antibody studies. It is interesting and useful to learn how covid vaccines elicit antibody production. OTOH, the immune system is not limited to antibodies. Extrapolating long-term immunity conclusions from an antibody study is unwarranted. Alas, the scientists performing antibody studies don't have the resources to perform long term studies. This creates an over-abundence of antibody studies, which are cheap and likely to produce measurable results. These studies are then used as incontrovertible evidence that 'science says' there is no such thing as natural immunity, and even if it were, vaccines are much better.


> Most scientists do not set out to willfully participate in bullshit.

Probably true. But “scientists who seek political power” is a different set. See, Fauci


It’s actually more like a factor of 100x for Democrats - maybe 50x for Republicans.

> Seems strange to be called "anti-vax" and, presumably, "anti-science" for questioning…

Who is calling you these things? Are they government epidemiologists or just randos on the internet? If the latter, then why do you care what they call you? Opinions are like models: they are all imperfect and only some are useful.

Questioning policies is fine, but you have to recognize that you aren’t the only person espousing your position. There is a seemingly endless stream of opinions about how policies should be changed, so your voice is grouped together with other voices (some louder, some uninformed, some come with death threats, some come with violence).

And it doesn’t help your case when you discount the actual scientific evidence that masks (even some cloth masks) do a non-zero amount of intervention. Never mind the fact that cloth masks are available, cheap, safe, and visible. You may not agree with these qualities, but you aren’t (I’m going out on a limb here) a government official charged with maintaining public health. Policy makers have to factor in things like effectiveness, cost, ubiquity, ease of implementation, effectiveness, and how it affects public order. If you aren’t applying all of these in your calculus, then you are just complaining without suggesting a viable solution.


> demonstrated through various data to be a spectacular failure in terms of safety and efficacy

No


It's best broken down by group, so here's just one example that I think is irrefutable about these being unsafe.

If you've ever been pregnant or had a pregnant wife, you'd know that the list of medications which they can avail themselves of during pregnancy is tiny. This is because due to ethical concerns, testing pharmaceuticals on pregnant women is almost never done. So doctors tell pregnant women to never take most things while pregnant.

The studies for the covid vaccines intentionally excluded pregnant women from their cohorts, for the same reason.

Therefore, by the definition of unsafe that we've used for generations of medical advice, the vaccines are unsafe for pregnant women. No study on pregnancy? Not safe.

And yet, pregnant women are recommended the vaccine every day.

That's just one among many.

As for failure, that's blindingly obvious at this point. If you disagree, please let me know how your view changes as you prepare for your fourth booster.


You are conflating unsafe with unknown.

You are ignoring the difference between a disease which is highly contagious (therefore difficult to avoid) versus pregnancy complications that are easy to avoid because they aren’t contagious diseases.

You are also projecting typical ethical concerns around medical research on pregnant women and the mounting body of evidence that COVID vaccines are safe for women who get pregnant after vaccination. It turns out it is easy to study this after billions of doses are administered. The CDC is currently studying the effects of these vaccines on pregnancy: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommend...

“That’s just one among many”

Perhaps some of the “many” might stand up to scrutiny…


> You are conflating unsafe with unknown.

No, I am not. I am using the same definition of "safe" as doctors have for pregnant women for several generations, at least 60 years. Untested on pregnant women == unsafe for pregnant women and their babies. Period.

Of course, it's possible that the covid vaccines are safe for pregnant women and their babies. It's also possible that all the various pharmaceuticals that women are told not to take are safe too! The risk is unknown, as you state, but where you're mistaken is that the precautionary principle for pregnant women is taken much more extremely, for good reason. So to medical doctors, unknown is equivalent to unsafe, for pregnant women.

Sure, CDC is studying the effects now--they're studying it unethically on human experimental subjects in the general population, who have been mislead into thinking that the vaccines are safe for pregnant women--a total lie.



> Seems strange to be called "anti-vax" and, presumably, "anti-science" for questioning the logic in mass vaccinating with an experimental vaccine, built with experimental technologies, which since its deployment has been demonstrated through various data to be a spectacular failure in terms of safety and efficacy.

Well yeah, that is hilariously bad anti-science. There's nothing scientific to support any of that.


> which since its deployment has been demonstrated through various data to be a spectacular failure in terms of safety and efficacy.

What do you mean by "spectacular failure"? I live in Romania, one of the least vaccinated countries in the EU (together with Bulgaria) and we're now in the middle of a very, very bad Covid wave because of the low vaccination rates. The other EU countries don't go through the same thing as us. I don't call the vaccine a "spectacular failure" in terms of safety and efficacy, quite the contrary, it demonstrates that it has been doing its job pretty well.


In the US, 44% of the population remains unvaccinated, including virtually all school-aged children... but because the same anti-vax people are also really bad at math, they think that infection rates are proof that they're right when factually the virus is much more widespread than this time last year due to their lack of care.

Meanwhile, the most vocal vaccine skeptics are catching and dying from the virus with such frequency that there are multiple subreddits devoted to their stories.


And here to me, it seems very obvious that vaccinating children is utter madness. Children are not at risk of covid.

And here to me, knower of basic biology and observer of children, know that children spread viruses.

I sorta caught COVID from my kid and stuff. She sat in a class for 3 days with another infected child whose parents knew the child was infected but who also did not have an adequate plan in place to care for him during the day. It was a complete shitshow, and I permanently lost most of my sense of smell.

But thanks for your information.


Risks of the vaccine in kids are lower than the risks of MIS-C or myocarditis from the actual virus.

Children have a very low risk of COVID complications, but the risk of vaccine complications is even lower.


Risk of Myocarditis from COVID-19 Infection in People Under Age 20: A Population-Based Analysis.

> Conclusions

> Myocarditis (or pericarditis or myopericarditis) from primary COVID19 infection occurred at a rate as high as 450 per million in young males. Young males infected with the virus are up 6 times more likely to develop myocarditis as those who have received the vaccine.

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.07.23.21260998v...


It depends what you think the intent of vaccination is.

The 3 vaccines authorized / approved in the USA all significantly reduce the probability of severe disease, the duration of contagiousness, and the magnitude of contagiousness.

I would agree that severe disease is already exceedingly rare among that population, but the contagiousness issue is more of a trade off of multiple factors.


> has been demonstrated through various data to be a spectacular failure in terms of safety and efficacy.

Wat.

There are 6 major vaccines which are approved for use in most countries. Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, J&J, AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, Sputnik. Most are extremely safe (obviously risks are non-zero, but those risks are orders of magnitudes better than the effects of the disease). Some are extremely effective (at reducing severe disease and/or reducing the spread of disease), at least for the first several months. Some are even very effective against a variant that didn’t present until after development and testing were done. Only 2 are mRNA based, which I presume is what you mean by “experimental”. These vaccines have been administered in billions of doses and side effects have been monitored for over a year. Your statements completely overstate the facts as observed.


>coordinated unauthentic or disingenuous skepticism

There is certainly some of this happening as with every issue, but echo chambers can easily emerge and sustain themselves without the need for coordinated bad actors. I believe the larger issue is simply lack of education rather than bad guys doing bad things.


Who's welcoming authentic concern? The media, who labels parents as "domestic terrorists" for concerns over a mandate that may have detrimental social effects of their children down the line?

Being anti-mask isn't "unauthentic or disingenuous skepticism". I've yet to hear a compelling argument why a fully vaccinated individual has any business wearing a mask. I've also yet to see any real data that shows that most masks worn do anything beyond being a placebo.

All these studies conducted around masks are being done in the heat of the moment in a highly politically charged environment. Releasing a study that says masks don't work will get the authors labeled as "anti-science" and probably destroy their careers. All the studies performed prior to this mess were inconclusive, at best.

Just because you disagree with somebody doesn't make that person anti-science and doesn't make them dangerous, "disingenuous" or "unauthentic". People have plenty of good reasons to call BS on almost all of our mitigations.


There is no compelling argument. They constantly keep shifting the goal posts whenever asked genuine questions. The definition of "vaccine" is even being redefined by a couple of these radical groups.

This is all well said, but I'd put a caveat here, science, by it's empirical nature, is fuzzy.

What that means is that for nearly any generally accepted position, you can find studies that invalidate that position.

This all comes into the need for looking into meta analysis over single studies.

The perfect example of this is climate change. There are, literally, thousands of studies supporting the notion that human made climate change is real. However, there are 100s of studies that call it into question.

That is where you can get 2 individuals saying "I'm following the science" that talk past each other because each is clinging onto the set of studies that confirm their beliefs.

Skepticism is fine, however, if you aren't challenging your own position you aren't being a skeptic, you are simply using it as a cover for what you want to believe. The example here is flat earthers that would all describe themselves as "skeptics".


“The seeker after truth is not one who studies the writings of the ancients and, following his natural disposition, puts his trust in them," the first scientist wrote, "but rather the one who suspects his faith in them and questions what he gathers from them, the one who submits to argument and demonstration and not the sayings of human beings whose nature is fraught with all kinds of imperfection and deficiency. Thus the duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and, applying his mind to the core and margins of of its content, attack it from every side. he should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency.” ― Ibn al-Haytham

What about bad-faith skepticism, like cigarettes-cause-cancer skeptics and global warming skeptics?

From what I can see, good faith skepticism makes science sturdier, but in bad faith it seduces the less knowledgable and burns the time of the more knowledgeable.

On the flipside, most flat earthers don't seem to be arguing in bad faith.


Your statement that all, for e.g., global warming skeptics are bad-faith shows you don't have a scientific mindset yourself.

I live near glacier national park. In the 1990s, some climate model predicted the eponymous glacier would be gone by 2020. Signs around the parks' entrances were erected boldly stating this claim. In January of 2020, the signs were removed because the glaciers hadn't even shrunk.

If there were real scientific interest in climate change, there'd be some interest and funding in ascertaining why that prediction was proven incorrect. But there is no such study, no funding for it, no interest whatsoever.

The climate change alarmists have zero opposition in all major institutions. Anyone who says their models are bullshit, or who says maybe the Sun is having a larger impact on the climate than are GHGs, is ridiculed without their arguments even entertained. You belie this with your statement that any such skepticism is "bad faith".

When it comes to climate change in particular, a field that seeks to study an incredibly complex collection of phenomena, whose leading experts have raised blood-chilling alarmist calls for action for decades and many of whose forecasts have proven totally bunk, who study a system far more complex than even the economy (are economics skeptics bad-faith too?)... Well, if you think YOU have a lock on what's true, and everyone with varying opinions is an obvious quack or a shill, then I think it's you who doesn't understand science.


Like Grinnell Glacier (https://www.usgs.gov/centers/norock/science/grinnell-glacier...)?

"Between 1966 and 2005, Agassiz Glacier lost a third of its surface area. ... Between 1966 and 2005, Ahern Glacier lost 13 percent of its surface area." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_glaciers_in_Glacier_Na....))

Blackfoot and Jackson Glaciers (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackfoot_Glacier#/media/File:...)?

Chaney Glacier (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaney_Glacier)?

Dixon Glacier (45%)? Whitecrow Glacier (47%)?

Anyway, here's the USGS on Glacier National Park: https://web.archive.org/web/20120511154502/http://www.nrmsc....

You may be interested in knowing that work on climate models has progressed significantly since the 1990s. Also that Glacier National Park does not have an eponymous glacier.


> You belie this with your statement that any such skepticism is "bad faith".

I really didn't, and I feel that you did not attempt to engage with a charitable interpretation of my argument.

I used climate change denial as an example, because there clearly are people that make those arguments in bad faith, for monetary compensation. The same was true during cigarette legislation. I made no all statement at any point.

> Well, if you think YOU have a lock on what's true, and everyone with varying opinions is an obvious quack or a shill, then I think it's you who doesn't understand science.

Dude are you arguing with me or a million other people?


I searched the internet trying to find a reference to the study regarding the glaciers at GNP and found exclusively news stories and blogspam repeating the "removal of the signs" meme from foxnews, right-wing think tanks, fundamentalist christian organizations, and oil & gas funded "science" web sites.

I'd love to have a look at the original publication that the USGS used when it decided to create those signs, but its buried so deep under partisan schadenfreude that I can't find it to even analyze it.

With respect to Greenhouse Gases: what's hard to understand about conservation of matter?

GHGs cause some warming; you can do lab experiments on flux and gas mixtures in identical glass containers to prove this.

The Biosphere (that is, the surface of the earth and all its organisms) has some essentially fixed amount of carbon distributed between critters, plants, soil, air, and dissolved in water. It's a closed system. When something dies and decomposes, it releases its carbon into the soil and atmosphere where it is endlessly recycled. Only in rare (and extremely slow) circumstances does the carbon get removed from the biosphere and put deep into the earth as coal, oil, or natural gas.

When you dig up carbon that is currently out of that cycle and put into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels you are adding additional carbon to the system. It has to go somewhere. Some of it will temporarily become plants (until they die, rot and release the carbon again), some of it will dissolve into the ocean and raise the acidity, and some of it will stay in the atmosphere and cause some warming.

This part of "climate change" is very simple to understand. The earth previously did just fine with a higher fixed amount of carbon in the biosphere, but it was a lot warmer, wetter, and humans weren't around.


> I searched the internet trying to find a reference to the study regarding the glaciers at GNP and found exclusively news stories and blogspam repeating the "removal of the signs" meme from foxnews, right-wing think tanks, fundamentalist christian organizations, and oil & gas funded "science" web sites.

Seriously? How hard did you look? https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/08/us/glaciers-national-park-202...

Also, if you want a science source, Google scholar is your friend. This doesn't look like the original source, since it's from 2003, but it makes similar predictions. https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/53/2/131/254976?...


According to your CNN source, the GP is wrong and the glaciers have shrunk.

> The signs at Glacier National Park warning that its signature glaciers would be gone by 2020 are being changed. [CNN link]

> In the 1990s, some climate model predicted the eponymous glacier would be gone by 2020. Signs around the parks' entrances were erected boldly stating this claim. In January of 2020, the signs were removed because the glaciers hadn't even shrunk. [GP]

No, the source backed up the GP, because the prediction was that the glacier would be gone. Whether or not it shrank is secondary.


It’s not gone, it’s only partially gone - Climate change debunked!

>>> the signs were removed because the glaciers hadn't even shrunk.

Except the same article explains how the glaciers have shrunk. It's not secondary, it's core to the FUD argument made.


A theory was posited, and a testable prediction was made. Since the prediction was false, the theory should be critically examined. That's the scientific method.

A critical examination of the theory which produced the incorrect prediction seems to be missing. That's the point.

It's not reasonable to point to partial fulfillment of the claim; if that was the standard of evidence, a perpetual motion enthusiast could reasonably point out that they almost broke even.

From what I've understood, the reasonable arguments on either side boil down (heh) to the rate of change, because climate varies so much naturally and we seem to be accelerating it. If the rate is not what was predicted, that's a big deal and makes this failed prediction all the more relevant.


I think the comment you're responding to is taking issue with predictions about the specific effects of climate on a particular time table. I think your comment is talking about the general concept of greenhouse gases produced by humans causing warming. There is a large chasm between these two things.

This is also why it's important to clarify what we mean by "global warming skeptic." Are we talking about someone that denies that human behavior creates greenhouse gases that warms the climate? Or are we talking about someone who views predictions about the specific effects of that warming on our environment on a particular time scale with great skepticism? These are two very different positions to take.


You and GP both have spherical cow ideas about how GHGs impact the climate.

Yes, we can create an ideal lab "climate" and demonstrate some GHGs cause warming.

The global climate is much, much more complicated. What is the impact of GHG-caused warming on cloud formation? What is the impact of same on jetstreams? Chaos Theory was started as a result of the complexity of weather prediction, which is simply short-term climate forecasting. The two variables I mentioned are just two, and they are dizzingly complex to model. It is not as simple as "GHG++ == HEAT++".

Further, taking a step back: If we could agree on exactly how GHGs impact the global climate, then can we get a number on how much humans impact the climate at all? The way climate change alarmists seem to think, the climate would be absolutely static were it not for our industrial revolution. So what is it? If humans got GHGs to zero, how much less would the climate change? Are we responsible for 1% of overall change? 50%? 100%?

Pretending these are simple or obvious questions is absurd. I've read hundreds of papers on climate change. These topics never seem to come up. Rarely do climate scientists mention the sun, which seems to be treated like a static heat bulb in the sky that gives off an steady, constant flow of energy, which couldn't be further from the truth!

Even the name of the topic, Climate Change, describing it as some kind of problem in itself--if the climate were static it'd be a HUGE alarm! The climate has always changed.

Then a step back even further: The climate has changed throughout civilization and it appears that large-scale civilizations grow in population during periods of warming, and shrink (sometimes drastically), during periods of cooling. So how much warming is acceptable? It seems the goal is to get to zero change (lol) or to cooling. Why is that the necessarily best way?

The entire field is super-complex, and because of the political environment, even asking questions such as the above make it impossible to actually do science--only one view is acceptable.


> You and GP both have spherical cow ideas about how GHGs impact the climate.

I didn't tell you what I believe. I was trying to communicate how y'all might be talking past one another.

If anything, teasing apart these positions (and the positions inbetween) is exactly the opposite of a spherical cow. Which seems to be exactly what you're saying. So it seems like you've completely misinterpreted my comment.


"I've read hundreds of papers on climate change. These topics never seem to come up. Rarely do climate scientists mention the sun, which seems to be treated like a static heat bulb in the sky that gives off an steady, constant flow of energy, which couldn't be further from the truth!"

These statements are contradictory.

"Modelling the impact of solar variability on climate" (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S13646...)

"Climate change and solar variability: What's new under the sun?" (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S00128...)

"Significant impact of forcing uncertainty in a large ensemble of climate model simulations" (https://www.pnas.org/content/118/23/e2016549118.short)

"Has solar variability caused climate change that affected human culture?" (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S02731...)

"Do Models Underestimate the Solar Contribution to Recent Climate Change?" (https://journals.ametsoc.org/view/journals/clim/16/24/1520-0...)

Hell, Roy Spencer has made much of his career off blaming what climate change he admits exists on solar variability.


Appealing to complexity doesn’t make basics like conservation of matter go away.

The Climate is extremely complex, and will not be entirely understood in our lifetimes; but I’m not interested in litigating my way to a perfect climate model. I’ll leave that to climatologists or whatever.

I’ll state my policy position (the end result of whatever one’s understanding of the problem is anyway) and leave it at that:

My position is that mankind ought to follow what I was taught in scouts: “leave no trace”.

Return GHGs to preindustrial levels, control all other pollutants in a similarly strict sense. Work towards solving the problems we have with deforestation and destruction of habitats, etc. All while maintaining freedom of reproduction for everyone, and continuing to improve quality of life for humans everywhere. Not exactly an easy feat.

That world (the preindustrial world) changed according to its own whims and patterns, but it was beautiful and humans thrived in it.

Knowing that a much warmer planet would look different and likely be less hospitable makes me want to avoid that outcome; however I’ve made my peace with the high likelihood that I wont see “garden earth”. We’re working with a system we don’t understand against a timetable we can’t see while people make money every time they slow us down.


> My position is that mankind ought to follow what I was taught in scouts: “leave no trace”.

This position isn't really coherent on its own, because with enough time, it doesn't matter what we do: there won't be a trace of us left. So really, you need to say what you mean by "trace" and on what time scale. Your time scale can't be zero, because then we couldn't build anything. But it can't be arbitrarily long either, because then it ceases to be any kind of restraint at all.


I thought I laid out what I meant by that in the following paragraphs -- it was intended as a finger pointed at the moon, not a prescriptive maxim to be taken literally. A goal to work towards instead of "everyone do whatever is profitable for them in the near term"...

In the very long term it would be awesome if our industrial systems emitted only manageable waste heat and the produced good, with all waste streams recycled or otherwise kept from contaminating the environment; but this is pure sci-fi utopian optimism on my part.


Fair enough.

> I'd love to have a look at the original publication that the USGS used when it decided to create those signs, but its buried so deep under partisan schadenfreude that I can't find it to even analyze it.

Don't you and the guy you responded to want the same thing: answers from the scientific community? You can criticize the right wing news sources all you want... the existence of the signs saying the glaciers were going to disappear is pretty indisputable. Clearly, someone at some point had enough belief in that prophesy that they made a sign.


I found it pretty easy to find non-flamebait information on this story, here it is on CNN[0]. Here[1] is some background; here[2] is the original 2003 study (which predicted the glaciers would disappear in 2030; the date was apparently pushed up based on field observations showing glaciers melting faster than the model predicted.

[0] https://edition.cnn.com/2020/01/08/us/glaciers-national-park...

[1] https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2019/09/fact-check-no-the...

[2] https://doi.org/10.1641/0006-3568(2003)053[0131:MCIGCI]2.0.C...


How do you determine someone is arguing in bad faith? I'm not asking how do you determine that a bad faith actor exists somewhere but on the individual level, which is where we all exist, how do you know? Is everyone who disagrees with your individual personal view of science a bad faith skeptic? If not, how do you sort them out? Is based on how much effort was required to convince you of a particular POV? That should be something greater than zero, otherwise you're acting on faith not science. Should everyone require the exact same amount of evidence? And what about the situations where you believed something to be true but later found out you were wrong? Were you acting in bad faith all that time or were the people who were ultimate correct acting in bad faith until you agreed with them, at which point they were arguing in good faith?

Bad faith actors exist but the bad faith label appears to be an overused and a lazy way of shutting down debate. Not everyone who was skeptical about the link between smoking and cancer worked for the tobacco companies or were addicted to smoking. How often are medicines we're told are safe taken off the market because it turns out they're not? Are people who were skeptical of that safety bad faith actors until they were proven correct?

Why are there "scientific" subjects for which skepticism automatically bad faith? What is the criteria for being able to question the mainstream dogma and still be considered arguing in good faith? The people who proposed the possibility of a lab leak were not long ago considered to be arguing in bad faith. How did those arguments one day suddenly stop being bad faith arguments?


> How did those arguments one day suddenly stop being bad faith arguments?

I know you're asking this to demonstrate, but I'll answer anyways, because it's obvious: The elite who have very effectively captured the press, big tech, and the scientific institutions used their leverage to ensure that all such skepticism was "bad faith", even though it very clearly was not.


Skepticism is not automatically bad faith, and I really try to make that point clear when I say that most flat earthers are not arguing in bad faith, although their worldview seems to sustain a massive conflict with reality.

I would even say that the vast majority of people who argue that climate change is not real do not argue in bad faith, they really believe it. But in both of my examples there _are_ bad faith shills, and they poison the discourse.

Bad faith is when your external motives supersede your opinion on the topic. Good faith is engaging directly with the topic.

Another example:

If someone is arguing that abortion should be illegal because it is dangerous for the woman, and they believe this because a friend of theirs was injured in an abortion, or because they heard it on Fox news, they are making an argument in good faith. For whatever reason, they really believe in the risk to the health of the woman.

If someone is making the same argument, after understanding the statistics on abortion and childbirth, because they care about the life of the unborn child, they are making an argument in bad faith. Their feelings about the effects of abortion are motivating an argument about the safety of abortion.

I never said it was easy to distinguish - but clearly bad-faith skepticism exists. If you leave it be it will poison discourse. Engaging with and understanding the worldviews of people you are discussing with is expensive and it is painful if the person on the other side has no intention of engaging with your or even their own arguments.


> How do you determine someone is arguing in bad faith?

You can tell when someone is arguing in bad faith by the fact that he disagrees with The Science. Duh.

(I'm being sarcastic here, but that's what a frightening fraction of the population actually thinks.)


To me, it seems like there's a failure to differentiate bad-faith skepticism.

There's malicious "I know what I'm saying is a lie / broken argument, but I'm willing to make it because my righteousness / beliefs justify winning." (Fixable with... nothing?)

But there's also ignorant "I don't understand the foundations of this information, and so arrive at an erroneous conclusion." (Fixable with education)

One of the failures of scientific proponents (especially pop scientific proponents) has been to treat the second group as synonymous with the first.


This is a great point, and one that I wish was more widely understood. In my anecdotal experience at least the latter group by far outnumbers the former, and treating the "good faith but poorly informed" group as you would the bad faith group is nearly always counterproductive.

I agree with what you say in general, but...

One of the problems today for me is that most people is skeptic because they cannot understand the answer to the question they ask.

Sooner or later I have to rely on an expert in most areas of science. Which would be fine for me if I could trust that the expert actually answers in his expert opinion and not because he was bought to give a certain answer.

Schooling is mandatory up to a certain level in my country. I'm going to pull dates out of my ass, because I'm too lazy to compare them to what you actually learn in school, but the level of math for the average person is probably 19th century of science, as well for chemistry and physics, with some basic knowledge about stuff from the 20th century.

Most people are not equipped with the tools to understand most of modern day science. They approach it with opinions based on feelings or what their random favorite actor/actress or singer thinks. And we cannot expect them to be equipped with the right tools either.

Reality doesn't change even if people deny it, but is science as a field really resistant if most people just flat out deny science, especially if politicians starts doing it and deny funding due to it?


> The only time it really stops working is if people start treating it as doctrine, and demanding that you accept it on faith, and take any questions as evidence that you are an enemy of science. If anything destroys science, it is this line of reasoning.

There is another point when "skepticism" as a principle fails, and that is when it is being weaponized by political and/or financial interests. Climate change is the most obvious example with oil companies funding all sorts of quackery, derailments and misinformation (such as BP did by inventing the "individual carbon footprint" in the 70s, see https://mashable.com/feature/carbon-footprint-pr-campaign-sh...), but also the tobacco and alcohol industry - and in the last two years, COVID deniers who branded themselves "skepticists" only to renounce the most basic bits of societal solidarity such as wearing masks and getting a recommended vaccination.

Skepticism should always, always come with at least some provable (!) claims - for example, with COVID vaccines, the issues regarding AstraZeneca and blood clots. These claims can then be investigated and validated or disproven. The problem is that modern and/or "alternative" media simply takes skepticist claims and reports them as gospel either because they don't have journalists with a science background any more or (as is the case with OAN/Newsmax/Fox/Murdoch/Axel Springer) they follow their own/their owners' agenda.

The root cause at the bottom of weaponized skepticism is the truly horrible state of teaching and the attitude towards science in schools in most Western countries. "Creationism" should not be seen on any curriculum worth its name, the fact that students get ruthlessly bullied as nerds/know-it-alls/autists/<insert whatever label you were bullied with here> without consequences and that such behavior is culturally accepted (e.g. in "teenage movies" and sitcoms, where "nerds" are routinely portrayed in absurd cliches), the total lack of media education (aka what bias is, how it works, and what the pitfalls of modern mass media like clickbait, deceptive ads masked as journalism etc. are)... our societies are rotten from the core.


It is difficult for most people to defend against weaponized anti-science. The reason is that no one can become an expert scientist in one day or even one year. First you learn elementary-school science, which by necessity involves some simplifications, and some things are left unexplained. Then you learn high-school science, which explains some of the gaps of the previous level, and improves some of its simplifications; yet it comes with its own simplifications and gaps. Then you learn undergraduate science... and after many years you hopefully become capable of understanding and evaluating the most complex scientific claims.

Weaponized anti-science attacks people with statements that sound credible at their level, and require higher level to understand the deception. This does not happen accidentally; it is constructed so on purpose. So the person with elementary-school knowledge reads the statement that seems to make sense from the elementary-school perspective (it does not contradict anything taught at elementary school), but a high-school students could see why it is completely wrong. So the person can only conclude: "as far as I can understand, it is correct... and there is this one guy saying that it is wrong, but his arguments I can't understand". Similarly, you target people with high-school knowledge with statements involving undergraduate-level deception, etc.

This is for me the most frustrating part of debating smart people who believe pseudoscience -- as far as they know (in my bubble that typically means undergraduate level of math, plus high-school level of everything else), the science often checks out. Someone who graduated in given area will be completely frustrated by hearing the "proof", because it contradicts many known and well-tested things... but to convince the person who is ignorant about it all (but is completely willing to trust his own Dunning-Kruger syndrome and Nassim Taleb's twitter over thousands of peer-reviewed papers), you need to hunt for the subtle error in the mathematical proof.


> The reason is that no one can become an expert scientist in one day or even one year.

Indeed. However, basic media literacy training could help people to differentiate between quacks (Alex Jones, un-attributed opinions in social media share pics not grounded in any scientific facts), actual experts but not in a relevant field to a debate (e.g. a PhD in art history or psychology in a debate about the infectiousness of coronavirus), and actual experts (e.g. Christian Drosten, one of the discoverers of the first SARS Coronavirus).

A bit of common sense in media entities such as newspapers in TV stations - such as not giving quacks and non-relevant experts airtime and having scientific expertise on-call - would do the rest to further civilized debate.


Problem is that science is sometimes expensive. Math usually is not, but physics sometimes requires building huge machines, and psychology requires giving questionnaires to thousands of people. You can check the logic of the study, but unless you have lots of money, you need to trust the data.

If we no longer can trust the data, and don't have money to gather our own data... well, yes, then the only option is to admit that we don't know.


One thing Heather Heying talks about with some frequency is the bias in science towards "Big Science", that is, expensive science with complicated studies and huge funding requirements and expensive machinery. These are the things our scientific institutions prioritize and highlight.

Science can be much cheaper, but nobody's interested in cheap science if it doesn't advance their careers.

It's similar to how NASA was obsessed with putting people into space for a long time. That's basically adding a gigantic expense to the exploration of space. When they decided to stop all that shit and use robots and probes and leave the human out of it, the science of exploring space became much cheaper (relatively) and we got far more out of it.


> If anything destroys science

Nothing destroy science, people can always opt to not believing in science, sometimes to their own peril.

> accept it on faith

I accept GNU/Linux on faith, having not analyzed its (public) code or build, because I trust that other people have done their best. And science is honestly an even easier decision.


https://www.nature.com/articles/533452a

> More than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist's experiments, and more than half have failed to reproduce their own experiments. Those are some of the telling figures that emerged from Nature's survey of 1,576 researchers who took a brief online questionnaire on reproducibility in research.

If 70% the GNU/Linux installations failed to boot, are you sure you'd take it on faith?


If you installed ALL packages from npm, yum or pip, I wouldn't be surprised if 70% contains significant bugs or won't even start. Afterall, I published like 5 of them out of about 2 weeks worth of work and never looked at them again.

But it's not that 70% that matters, it's the stable branch OS that you're running. It's the science that has been there for decades, that is the backbone of that faith.


"“It's healthy that people are aware of the issues and open to a range of straightforward ways to improve them,” says Munafo. And given that these ideas are being widely discussed, even in mainstream media, tackling the initiative now may be crucial. “If we don't act on this, then the moment will pass, and people will get tired of being told that they need to do something.”"

As Wittgenstein notes in On Certainty ‘A doubt without an end is not even a doubt.’ Bad faith scepticism is of this order, no amount of evidence will convince such sceptics. Science doesn't become 'harder' in the face of the this kind of scepticism, it becomes irrelevant.

Why must skeptics be convinced? It is perfectly okay to live in doubt, ask Pyrrho.

Skepticism requires discipline to actually look at the outcomes of exploring that skepticism and reevaluating.

Sadly I see a lot of skepticism expressed that I think is just driving to a result people already believe.


Skepticism is indeed healthy, but beware of selective skepticism. Humans have a tendency trust people that they like or who make them feel good about themselves, and distrust people they don't like or who challenge assumptions they'd rather hold onto. So yes you should be skeptical, but you do need to keep yourself grounded.

How are you to convince a flat-Earther that the world is round? You can show photos of Earth taken from the moon, but clearly you have to trust NASA. You can show global flight traffic patterns that only make sense if the Earth is a sphere, but then you have to trust the FAA or wherever you're getting the airline data. You can dig up whatever evidence you want but at some point you'll need them to relinquish their skepticism and accept that these institutions are not part of a vast conspiracy to hide the shape of the Earth. Now apply that to vaccines, climate change, election results, economic theory and everything else that matters.

Institutions are imperfect. They have their own agendas and sometimes they happen to be wrong, and sometimes they flat out lie. If you only trust people that you like, you're liable to fall prey to charismatic charlatans. If you demand absolute certainty, you'll never get past a bedrock reality of cogito ergo sum. You have to make some sort of reasonable balance between trust and skepticism and accept that sometimes you'll be wrong.


You're correct that institutions are imperfect, just like individuals...

But there is another factor here: trustworthiness or credibility.

If an institution or an individual is caught more than once being dishonest, putting their agenda above the truth, etc., should they be trusted again, or should anything they say or do be treated as a curiosity and thought experiment at best, until it is agreed with by someone credible and trustworthy?


The problem is it all comes down to authority in the end.

There, I said it.

But it does.

In the end all evidence in the public sphere is second hand. If you don't already trust the scientists, there's an alternative universe of quacks who will give you what you're after.


Anything independently reproducible doesn't come down to authority. Reproducibility is fundamental to science.

He's talking about "the public sphere." Among the general non-specialist public (probably 95%+ of the population), virtually nobody can even do things like prove the Pythagorean theorem. The idea that science is substantially different from religion for most people because they "could", in principle, reproduce the studies is laughable.

And nobody can realistically reproduce anything outside their own little niche.

"I injected the boys with fluid from cowpox victims, and they didn't get smallpox later."

"I don't believe you"

Turtles all the way down. At best we can say the quacks hold everyone else's evidence to a higher standard than their own.


Only if the "skeptic" is acting in good faith.

Consider the skepticism regarding the health effects of smoking cigarettes.


This is the best, concise write up I have seen on this topic.

I understand what you're saying but skepticism is also a tool for manipulation.

We now have a significant number of people who are rejecting the Covid vaccine because they're "skeptical" or "waiting for the evidence" or, the worst, they've "done their own research".

Hint: some random guy talking about this in his basement and putting the video up on YouTube is not "research".

The fact of the matter is that we simply can't be skeptical about everything and research everything. It's physically impossible. It's why we delegate authority to people and institutions who do actual research and have credibility. It's why I listen to the CDC about diseases and CERN when it comes to physics.

"Skepticism" these days is often a euphemism for confirmation bias.


It's when those institutions lose credibility that things fall apart. If CERN came out with a press release tomorrow that said that actually the theory of relativity was wrong and the universe operates by newtonian mechanics, I would not only doubt that press release, but also everything else CERN put out recently. If a certain group started calling anyone who asked questions like "well how are GPS satellites so accurate" and "why does Mercury's orbit precess instead of being a perfect ellipse" was called a "science denier", well I would start doubting the credibility of that group.

> The only time it really stops working is if people start treating it as doctrine, and demanding that you accept it on faith, and take any questions as evidence that you are an enemy of science. If anything destroys science, it is this line of reasoning.

Agreed with everything you wrote. We should be especially vigilant when politics/media gets involved in science. Science is just as corruptable, especially in the short term, as any other field.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piltdown_Man

The more obvious example being the purging of "jewish science" from germany during ww2.


It would be easier to "trust the science" for the plebs out there if they felt that institutions valued their needs. Insulin could cost $15 per vial, but they can cost $300. The financial institutions (see 2008 crash) caused no problems for leaders of institutions.

When I hear someone say "trust the science", I hear, "institutions have worked out for me so far". As much as we wish it were based on rational belief, it is almost certainly personal experience.

George Carlin was right: "they" want you to be smart enough to keep the system moving, but too dumb to see how inequitable the system is.

EDIT: Addressing the "that's just capitalism, not science" point.

You can't really separate the funding from institutions from the products / science. Governments limit the possible research that can be done, media brings in attention and recognition, universities placate their owners (corporate, government, academic, investors). None of the institutions are really motivated by what the base needs or wants apart from avoiding actual anarchy and chaos. It's not a conspiracy. It is power getting more power and power corrupting, quite naturally and with people making rational choices in their own self interest.


Okay, look, science has some ups and downs but unless you expand its definition to include all components of modern society, it's not charging people $300 for insulin. That's a result of the various problems of the US medical system. We can check this claim by comparing the price of insulin in different countries, where science (being the same everywhere in the universe) is the same but business works differently.

They aren't really talking about science. They are talking about "trust the science", group-think, and trust in societal institutions.

You're right that insulin price has nothing to do with science, but rather economics and societal institutions/policies. The trust in the institution presenting the science is important. The purpose if science is to answer questions in fact objectively through reproducible observations. Telling people not to ask reasonable questions and just "trust the science" is appearently antithetical to people who understand the process.


Telling average people to "trust the science" in practice means telling them to trust the guy who says "I am speaking in the name of science". Often, he is just lying. The average people are not going to "trust the science" by reading peer-reviewed studies.

Then there is the fact that someone can be a respected scientist in e.g. linguistics and simultaneously a crackpot in e.g. quantum physics, or vice versa. So you need to be careful even with trusting the actual scientists. (Similarly, the doctor talking about covid... is he an epidemiologist, or does he just fix broken legs?)

Trying to think about best solution to make the actual science accessible to average people... the "ask science" subreddit is probably the best currently existing option.


You don't even have to go that far. Scientists are just people. They are intelligent and experts in their fields but to be a Phd means you have a very narrow slice that you are an expert in.

The problem is when these people try to public support certain government policies. Knowing climate science or quantum physics does not qualify you to be a policy maker. It does qualify you to inform policy makers on your narrow area of expertise.

I've seen a lot of scientists pull appeal to authority fallacies by saying, I'm an expert in X and I say the government should do Y. Most people aren't scientists but they are smart enough to know that scientists don't know everything and usually not any more adept at politics or government than anyone else.

Politicization of science by scientists has done more damage to the public trust in scientific institutions than anything else.


Criticizing "trust the science" isn't the same thing as criticizing science. "trust the science" is a euphemism for "trust the system" i.e., the media, special interest groups (e.g., pharma), government, etc. "Trust the system's portrait of 'the science' irrespective of whether or not it accurately represents the views of a quorum of scientists". In other words, "trust the system" is about institutions broadly, not science in particular. That said, "trust the science" rhetoric works precisely because science is so complicated for individuals to tease out--we depend on someone (our epistemological institutions) to synthesize it for us.

I agree with you in the abstract level you're operating on, but in the two cases I know of where the slogan "trust the science" is applied (vaccine safety/efficacy and global warming), the claims about the opinions of scientists are mostly true and the question is whether the studies are right. The big studies do say that the vaccine is effective, and they do say that global warming is real, and you don't have to trust the Institutions(tm) because, well, you can read the studies yourself.

Disclaimer: I have not read anywhere near every news article published on either topic, and if you want to make the case that the media is presenting a consensus different from scientist's, that would be worth looking in to.


I'm generally in agreement with you about those two cases as well, but it's hard to ask the public to "trust the science" in those cases when "the science" (i.e., epistemological institutions) don't seem trustworthy more broadly.

Moreover, my understanding of the actual science (and it's hard to say for certain because again, science is complicated and institutions distort) is that natural immunity performs at least as well as vaccine immunity (and maybe even quite a lot better), but a lot of people are (perhaps understandably) upset at "vaccine passport" policies which don't make exemptions for the naturally immune. Moreover, "the science" i.e., the media, governments, etc seem (or at least seemed--I haven't kept up with the issue recently and perhaps the media has finally picked it up?) very reluctant to talk about the merits of natural immunity. So even in what seemed like a slam-dunk, happy path where "the science" and the actual science seemed to align, the picture seems plausibly distorted. :(


Here are the facts about that which I know:

- Someone who has been vaccinated is several times less likely to catch it than someone who has not.

- Someone who has had it and gotten better is several times less likely to catch it again than someone who has been vaccinated but has not caught it yet. (This is one definition of "natural immunity.")

- For some reason, many registries won't count a positive test followed by a negative test as evidence for immunity.

The first two are clearly laid out in the Israeli study and are what I'd call "the scientific consensus," gathered by reading what actual scientists are saying. I'm lost at the jump from the first two points to the third because I can't see why it's done that way. The media is not completely silent on natural immunity, I think I saw one article about the Israeli study somewhere.


The media is never completely silent about anything, but for many, many, many months it was very difficult to get any information at all about natural immunity from the media. I recall Googling around about it because everyone was talking about vaccination numbers and progress, but for the better part of a year, no one was talking about how many people had natural immunity much less how effective it is. Even if you're inclined to argue, "but what if no one knew the answers to those questions?"--first of all, it's unlikely that epidemiologists and virologists had no estimates at all, and even if they did, that itself would be newsworthy. Moreover, it's the media's job to dig up these answers.

What I think GP is hinting at is that low trust in science is part of a general low trust in elites. If you don’t trust elites for whatever reason, personally I think it’s more complicated than $300 insulin, then you’re also not going to trust scientific elites either.

In what universe are researchers elites and where do I apply for their work visa?

Elite doesn't mean wealthy. It means superior, and when we talk about scientific research we're talking about work being done by people with elite training compared to the layman.

This is why we talk about peer review including the scientific community, not the community of all people. It is an elite group with specific skills.


Elite is not equivalent to rich. In particular their high level of training and education puts them into a special social class that very much makes them elite compared to the rest of society.

Maybe PhDs or PostDocs are not elites but professors they work for, definitely are elites. If you need work visa you are not in elite category. It is like asking how to apply visa to be senator, governor, member of congress or millionaire entrepreneur and so on.

You could replace “elite” with “professional class.”

Researchers and scientists are absolutely not elites. However, they almost exclusively rely on the ruling class for their funding, for their platforms, for their careers, and thus they become de facto toadies of the elite.

Just go see how well the ruling class is treating the doctors that are actually fighting covid on the front lines, showing it's a treatable ailment, saving lives. Since their perspectives don't align with Team Elite's clear agenda (inject everyone, boosters forever!), they are ridiculed, shamed, relegated to alternative or "low status" press.


I agree they aren’t elites, which is why I’m suggesting the term “professional” instead of “scientific elite” in the GP post above.

The professional class are the foot soldiers of the elite class. I subscribe to the view put forth in “Disciplined Minds,” a great book on the subject.

https://louisville.edu/journal/workplace/martinreview.html


> Researchers and scientists are absolutely not elites. However, they almost exclusively rely on the ruling class for their funding, for their platforms, for their careers, and thus they become de facto toadies of the elite.

You’re confusing economic class and social class. PhDs might not be rich, but they have a much elevated social status compared to the vast majority of the populace.


PhDs in general may have a very minor elevation in status compared to other social groups. There are many, many PhDs, many of them working shitty jobs outside their fields. Think outside STEM, wherein generations of poor saps were sold on the professorial life when entering their PhD program but now have their Gender Studies or Literature PhD proudly on their shared apartment wall while they drive bus for the city of Columbus.

I would say we shouldn't trust institutions on just the fact that they are an institution (elite, other credentialized thing/person). That people will/should build trust based on demonstratable answers to the questions they have. If it's based on credentialing, then we'll end up with people choosing which credentialed person to believe... and taking veterinarian ivermectin because some figure they trust told them too.

In general, I think questioning (within reason) government and other institutions helps weed out bad policy and hold them accountable.


Right - "Trust the science" means that if your doctor prescribes you insulin for high blood sugar, it's likely to work and to help you live longer and healthier.

There are political decisions that cause it to be ruinously expensive in the US. The messy bit is where science necessarily interacts with politics.


Doctor's prescriptions aren't really scientific although they are a lot more science-adjacent than price setting.

Everyone knows about "regulatory capture", the mechanism via which regulators who are supposed to work for the people become captured by the elite few who control the organizations they ostensibly regulate. But what I think most people fail to see is that the ruling class have effectively captured every major institution in the west, possibly the globe. From the academy, to the science industry, the press, government, the courts, everything, all the way down, is completely and utterly captured by a tiny elite.

That anyone, after the past couple years, could think that the elite are in any way well-meaning is absurd--I think the most charitably you could interpret the data is that they are so incompetent they shouldn't be trusted to judge a high school gymnastics competition.

When it comes to the scientific institutions, I think Horton, current editor of The Lancet, sums it up well: "The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness."


>. Insulin could cost $15 per vial, but they can cost $300.

I guess the lesson here is to educate folk that "science" doesn't set insulin prices?

Is that a widespread belief?


I think the OP is saying "high modernist science-imitating central planners" when they use the word "science." They're talking about the people who give prions names like "Shawshank Diagnostic and Treatment Center."

I mean we can't really spend decades systemtically ruining people's lives then hope they beleive whatever we say about thier health/research can we?

catchphrases like 'trust the science' don't even make sense everyone knows it really means just 'trust who ever is in-charge'

credibility problems all-around


>I mean we can't really spend decades systemtically ruining people's lives then hope they beleive whatever we say about thier health/research can we?

I don't really know what that means.

Dude working on COVID research didn't create the medical industry...


How do you know you can trust dude working on COVID research? It’s impossible for an individual to verify everything.

Trust doesn’t scale. If somebody could solve this society would be a lot better off.


I don't know where this idea is going.

If we're talking about people who think of medical prices as part of "science" but apparently also are worried if they can trust a given researcher who happened to be working on COVID?

I don't think any of this is how people actually think / what motivates them.


I agree with this. Relatedly, the media's portrayal of "who trusts the science" (with respect to vaccination rates in particular) has been really interesting. It seems like they're deeply invested in giving the impression that conservatives don't "trust the science", and the coverage seems particularly unsympathetic. But when one digs in further, it seems that poor people don't trust the science, including poor liberals and progressives, which is why even blue cities hardly outperformed the national average for vaccination rates for so long. Of course, when the media broaches that, the reporting becomes sympathetic, e.g., "why is science failing communities of color?" and so on.

And of course, these kind of shenanigans further discredit the media--including the science media--to the poor, minorities, and conservatives thus propagating a cycle of division. It's not enough to have a media that shares our (wealth, predominantly white liberals and progressives) biases, we really need to get back to a media that aspired toward objectivity and neutrality.

EDIT: to put a finer point on it, when we politicize science, we make it harder for people on the outside to trust science. And we have some pretty big problems to tackle right now--covid and climate with the latter being orders of magnitude more serious than the former--and we should want to make it as easy as possible for people to trust the science and do what they can--specifically vote--accordingly. And with respect to climate and covid, it's not liberals who are primarily responsible for distorting the science, but we do distort it on a wide array of social issues and it's hard for lay people to know which science is distorted and which is reliable. If we care about these things, we need to put on our grown-up pants and stop using these issues as political footballs (this means not responding to this comment with some variation of "but the other side is worse than us!" as though it absolves us of our own responsibility). /soapbox


If we want to say science is a byproduct of the social system we have in place, then I understand your point. We don't need that system to have science tho. You can practice science yourself. That's kind of the point of it really.

> You can practice science yourself

Being a gentleman scientist, back when it was a thing, required you to be a gentleman, that is, rich... and well, usually a man too, but that was how it was back then.

Science needs years of study, training in the use of complex machinery and strict methods, access and being able to understand scientific publications meant for peers.

Chances are you're not a peer. With much effort, under the right circumstances, maybe a stroke of luck in your youth, you could aspire to be one of such.

But you probably aren't, and trusting the science means trusting scientific institutions, men and women in white robes delivering what's, at this point in time, accepted as truth.

That's a big responsibility to bear of them, and if there's an erosion of trust in social institutions, then people won't bestow it upon them either.


You're describing the social constructs we currently have in place. Science, the practice, doesn't require complex machines. If it did, dissecting animals with knives and drawing what you see with pencil and paper and describing what you did and how you suspect the body works wouldn't be Science, but I believe that it is.

Today we have peer review journals, LHC, computers etc and we use that when we practice Science but the tools and the social structure are not Science. Science is a process and anyone can do it.


The insulin issue is purely a broken American issue. It isn't an issue anywhere else that I'm aware of.

Insulin does not cost $300 in >90% of countries out there. You are just cherry-picking examples to fit your narrative.

This is a swing and a miss.

While I agree insulin prices are way too high and the government allows Big Pharma to profit off death and the taxpayer, this is really nothing to do with science and all to do with the legislation around intellectual property that, for example, prevents the import of cheaper and equivalent substitutes from Canada and elsewhere.


The example of institutional failure and its effects I always come back to is autoworkers unions. An entire generation of millions of autoworkers have left Detroit (once the richest city in the world per capita) and become anti-establishment conservatives as a result of broken trust and mistreatment.

(deleted)

Yes, fixed. Thank you.

Dont conflate science with capitalistic empire built on top of it

The cause of that problem is capitalism yet people trust that system blindly.

Do you even know what capitalism is?

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