Gallagher gets it?

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The name “Richard Gallagher” may be familiar to some readers. Gallagher is the editor of The Scientist, and last year, somewhat naively suggested that the evolution/creation “debate” was actually a good thing (you can find the text of his editorial at this site). Both PZ and Jason Rosenhouse took him to task for the editorial (and Gallagher replied, and PZ shot back). The next month, New Scientist then published a number of letters responding to the editorial, and Gallagher also wrote a reply (republished here by the Discovery Institute). Gallagher ended that piece with this quote:

Critical thinking has no place in science class? Really? That bodes incredibly poorly for the future of science teaching. We’re shelving our best weapon against intelligent design, and I find it incredibly sad that scientists who support evolution so strongly would have us shield growing young minds from the “dangers” of critical thinking.

If that’s not dogma, I don’t know what is.

…which of course doesn’t really address the arguments PZ and Jason had put forth–no one wants to “shield minds” from critical thinking at all.

So, of course it’s a bit depressing to see an editor of a life science magazine make strawman mischaracterizations of his fellow scientists who approach the issue differently (and, perhaps, have spent a bit more time in the trenches than Gallagher has). But Gallagher’s editorial in the July issue (“Zealots for Science”) makes me think that, maybe, hopefully, he’s starting to get it.

(Continued at Aetiology)

51 Comments

While channel surfing I came across an interview segment for an herbal remedy cream on one of the religious television stations. The interviewer was one of the regular preachers and the interview had all the religious trappings. It would seem the spiritual left and the religious right are meeting around the back.

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

The interviewer was one of the regular preachers and the interview had all the religious trappings. It would seem the spiritual left and the religious right are meeting around the back.

Are they REALLY the spiritual left?

It reaks more of yet another attempt at getting people to waste money on useless stuff, rather than REAL spiritual people trying to spread the “good” of their teachings.

There is one caveat, and it’s a big one: The topics must be taught on a level playing field. Full information on evolution and on intelligent design must be supplied, and there must be no further pressure on curricula or teachers. Given this, I’m in little doubt that the open-minded students of the heart of America will see the strength of evolution as a theory.

The big problem with the above, Gallagher’s earlier statement, is that it is so ill-defined, so open to interpretation. To IDists, “level playing field” means not privileging the scientific method, but allowing claims that intelligence was responsible for something to lack any rigorous scrutiny and detailed evidence.

You want a truly level playing field? Then ID will be treated like other pseudosciences, like Atlantis in the Bahamas, Velikovsky, and homeopathy. It might be mentioned as a failed claim, then, but little more attention will be paid to it.

I’ve always been one who thought that dealing with genuine stumbling blocks to students’ understanding are worth addressing, however. Because ID is a common pseudoscience impeding learning, it could be granted more exposure in schools than other pseudosciences are.

But what would that mean? What is “full information” with respect to ID? “A designer has been proposed to be responsible for life, even though we have no evidence in favor of rational design of organisms.” Does ID go beyond that, when stated honestly?

How long can any “instruction” in ID go, when treated according to the scientific method? Are specious attacks against evolution supposed to be included? Are we, for example, to include Dembski’s arguments against evolution, even though they’re non-empirical and children wouldn’t understand his claims? What sort of “level playing field” would that be?

I’m not sure how Gallagher’s latest relates to his earlier statements. The truth is that one could probably use either ID or homeopathy to contrast with the scientific method, but both are probably too involved (in the arguments of their proponents, that is) to address more than cursorily in a biology class. I would hope that Gallagher would begin to see this, yet I can’t say that his latest article indicates that he does (he doesn’t address education and the “spiritual left”, from what I gather).

I’d also guess that he hasn’t been teaching biology to young humans at all recently. His jibe about the value of critical thinking is well and good in the abstract, but in reality teachers are striving to teach the basics of critical thinking to their young charges. Most below college level (and many at or above college level) are not equipped to recognize the superiority of a detailed analysis of the derivative nature of life, over the claim that a hugely capable god or alien produced life. The latter “explanation” sounds very good and simple to those who don’t worry about what a vestigial organ implies, or why rational design is lacking in organisms.

The fact is that Gallagher does sound somewhat like he did before in one crucial aspect–he has a kind of naive abstract take on how to address both ID and the “spiritual left”. In both cases he wants to expose the “core weaknesses”, as if this is going to lead to capitulation on either hand. Sure, loan a book to them (or let sixth graders decide if ID is sensible), and they’ll understand. Most won’t even read it, and if they were likely to understand it, they probably wouldn’t have fallen for pseudoscience in the first place.

The truth is that probably the best cure for pseudoscience is teaching science without any more diversions than are necessary. People are not likely to recognize the failings of pseudoscience until they have learned some science.

And any considerable treatment of either ID or New Age claptrap in biology classes is likely to detract from the one weapon that can defeat them, scientific education.

What we need to worry about is how little evolution is being taught today.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Glen, your comments should come with Abstracts.

Glen D Wrote:

The truth is that probably the best cure for pseudoscience is teaching science without any more diversions than are necessary.

That sums it all up nicely. I’d just toss on the idea that teaching good scientific method is equally important - it’s good training to evaluate things in one’s life as well. I don’t directly use my degree (Psych and some neuroscience), but the methods are invaluable.

I personally think this “spiritual left” of his is more a composite boogieman than anything else. (I mean I meditate and I like recycling and I’m a Democrat, am *I* spiritual left?) The real, coherent, organized, identifiable threat science faces now is ID and the religious right.

I agree that the “spiritual left” is a lot more nebulous than the “religious right,” but I disagree that there’s not a real threat there. Indeed, a lot of biomedical scientists would say that these types of beliefs (natural is always better; medicines, especially vaccines, are bad; animals should never be used in research; HIV doesn’t cause AIDS; etc.) are a bigger threat to science than even ID, because they directly affect the health and well-being of millions of people every day.

DragonScholar asks:

I mean I meditate and I like recycling and I’m a Democrat, am *I* spiritual left?

What Gallagher (and Silver, I presume) are talking about aren’t just the stereotypical “hippie, granola” types. You mention meditation, and that’s a good example. Lots of people meditate, for various reasons. But are you promoting meditation as a cure for cancer? Multiple sclerosis? Acne? :) Especially in lieu of other, established treatments, and in light of studies that show there’s no improvement between groups that use meditation and those that don’t? That’s the difference.

While many on the right are anti-science because they believe it conflicts with their beliefs about god, there are those on the left who are very into conspiracy theories, the “don’t trust the government” mentality left over from the 60s, I guess. And especially with our current leaders, anything and everything is because of “big business,” and an oft-cited scapegoat is “big pharma.” Therefore, ineffective but “natural” herbal remedies are preferred to effective but “pharma-tainted” drugs, even something as basic as antibiotics. Scientists are distrusted because many of us receive government funding via the NIH, and therefore, we’re also “tainted” since government–>controlled by “big pharma”–>scientists are pharmaceutical shills. I see this time and time again on my blog from people who disbelieve all AIDS research, vaccine research, even influenza research. They’re more fragmented and don’t have a funding powerhouse like the DI to unite them under the “big tent”, but they’re out there, and they’re also a threat to science.

I believe the people Tara mentions are threats to themselves and their kids, but are they a threat to science?

That’s a good question. I’d argue yes. They’re not campaigning to add their “alternatives” to our primary schools (since they’re really not appropriate at that level), but they use the same tactics as the creationists in order to instill doubt about the entire scientific process, and the people who carry it out. I certainly consider that a threat.

I see your point.

I found out recently that homeopathy is growing at 20% a year right now.

I came across this excellent essay by Dr. Massimo Pigliucci a while back. Part of it deals with anti-intellectualism and seemingly it’s not confined to fundamentalists as Tara was saying. I’ve actually heard some of the views that Dr. Piglliucci talks about being expressed from the pulpit !

http://www.jodkowski.pl/ek/MPigliucci001.html

Tara,

Not quite 100% sure WHAT he means, which is why I feel his idea of a “Spiritual Left” is really just some vaugel poppycock to put a label on a bunch of phenomena. These phenomena lack the coherent reach and organization of ID (so far), and the strong religious backing and political elements. If he’s going to take on threats to science, there’s some very large ones in front of his face over some hippy-and-granola type and people that practice quack medicine. It still sounds rather vague to me, so I’ll confess my biases upfront that it sounds like he’s trying to find a new villain.

Related, this is something that contributes to my curiosity - I think the ID movement is having a very corrosive effect on dialogue about science and responsibility. It promotes the idea that anyone dissenting from an idea means there’s a controversy - as opposed to a lone nut, or a few people with an agenda.

Science is NOT about giving different sides equal time.

DragonScholar wrote:

his idea of a “Spiritual Left” is really just some vaugel poppycock

I’ve always thought of the Spiritual Left as people like Deepak Chopra and his followers:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepa[…]b_19139.html http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepa[…]b_25198.html http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepa[…]_b_4003.html

Norm,

You may have something there actually (isn’t he technically an IDer?). Though reading through the articles, I like the idea that if there is a God, he/she needs atheists.

Even a tiny dose of homeopathy can have a powerful effect… Still.

My impression is that superstitious leftists tend to leave the teaching of science alone because most of them assume that the serious sciences, properly understood, actually agree with their ideas or at worst are irrelevant to what they care about. I know umpteen astrologers, dream guides, and even a stray alchemist or two. None of these largely harmless and often rather agreeable characters expects their ideas to turn up in the real sciences. In fact, though, once again, it’s just an impression, the New Age crowd seems to believe in their own stuff with their fingers crossed. I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions, but for lots of ‘em, all the higher freebus is essentially just a hobby. Is there a leftist answer to the Discovery Institute? (real question)

That said, I’m sure that alternative medicine makes a net contribution to the American death rate and that the more romantic versions of environmentalism tend to muddy the serious discussion of environmental issues. I just don’t think there is anything like an equivalence between goofy rightists and goofy leftists as far as their respective real-world impact on biology and the teaching of biology goes.

normdoering I’ve always thought of the Spiritual Left as people like Deepak Chopra and his followers:

Leftist? That’s surely a joke. The cheapest it gets with Chopra is about $35 or so for a few hours of drivel. Some years ago Chopra and if i remember right was hawking tickets for yet another one of those vague lectures joined by none other than one of MK Gandhi’s grandsons - Arun Gandhi.

Since I first heard about ID in the late 1990s, I thought as Gallagher did. That is, I thought it would make teaching biology in high school fun, a good way to bring up the evidence for evolution by adding cultural controversy. In fact, Ken Miller does a great job of presenting rebuttals to Behe’s Black Box examples, as he famously did for the Dover trial recently.

Having read the comments, I still hope there’s some way to show the kids in school that the biology teacher does not avoid ID/creationism out of fear or ignorance of it, but because of its lack of merit and content. (and without offending their parents and church) I know it isn’t practical to include it, but I fear some who are indoctrinated into creationism already won’t even listen until the existence of their side is acknowledged.

My high school teacher did a great job with this, I thought. When it was time to teach the evolution chapter, he said, “We are about to go into a chapter that some students might find in disagreement with their religions, but what will be presented is just the science, and though you are not required to believe it, you are required to know it.” The comment never applied to me, but the students in the class to whom it was applicable, relaxed a bit and went with it. I am not sure if it changed their views, but at least they were being offered a way out of the ignorance.

but I fear some who are indoctrinated into creationism already won’t even listen until the existence of their side is acknowledged.

how do you acknowledge that which does not exist?

what you are asking is for a science teacher to acknowledge, for however brief a time, that faith is relevant to science.

even Miller would disagree with that.

It goes FAR beyond the whole ID thing; hence the wedge strategy.

It isn’t enough for any of these folks that you address the vacuity of ID; ID is simply a painted door for the idea that religious faith can substitute for science.

to present the issue in any other way is essentially incorrect and does nobody any favors, least of all the kids themselves.

this is why Ghallager is considered naive, and I still haven’t seen much to change that idea, personally, his latest musings aside.

he still holds a more positive view of the average teens’ ability to differentiate data from mythos than is warranted by the current evidence.

again, it’s easy to lose the point that ID has nothing to do with science.

there is nothing to acknowledge, even if one wanted to.

Sir Toe_Jam,

The social controversy exists. And that isn’t appropriate to bring up in science class, even though the social controversy is, however vaguely, about that science.

I was thinking more along the lines of defining what science is, and what it isn’t. What pseudo-science looks like, using ID as an example. It’s just an idea.

it’s all about timing.

by the time students get some knowledge about how science works, how one gathers evidence, and what the nature of evidence is, THEN they might be ready to differentiate appropriately between science and psuedoscience; and it can be a productive discussion. Hence, Alan McNeil’s course at Cornell comes to mind.

usually though, that doesn’t happen until college.

In your high school, you were lucky to likely only have a few students with dissenting viewpoints, and even then, the issue of faith was entirely bypassed by your teacher, not addressed. In fact, the idea that “ but what will be presented is just the science” is exactly what I am saying. Much harder to do this in some schools in kansas. Ask Jack Krebs. ;)

If a teacher feels obligated to give a reason (I would) the only reason that needs be given is that we teach what has been shown to be utilitarian and productive in answering questions arising from observations. The scientific method is what we teach, simply because it works. It displaced religious philosophy for that one reason alone, and it’s the lone reason why we no longer teach any religious philosophy AS science, regardless of whatever clothes it dresses up in.

This works regardless of whether you are talking about quantum theory or evolutionary theory, or weather forecasting, for that matter.

saying that “you need to learn it for testing purposes” is a cop-out i see all too frequently.

I understand you want to utilize the obvious differences in evidence supporting the ToE vs. ID (near infinite vs. absolute zero), but this really avoids the heart of the issue, and grants validity that ID doesn’t even merit.

It’s the APPROACH that needs the focus for beginning students in science. getting into the details regarding the vacuity of psuedoreligious claptrap is simply a waste of time that a good teacher has too little of already.

It depends on what the aim is … If our goal is to have kids drop ID beliefs, forget it. They weren’t won to those beliefs by science, and they won’t be won AWAY from them by science, either.

Alas, I have resigned myself to the simple fact that a large proportion of Americans will always be utterly pig-ignorant and creduluous about their pet beliefs, whether they are homeopathy, ESP, Roswell or ID.

Speaking about the religious right and the spiritual left, I happen to get a copy of Jerry Falwell’s National Liberty Journal regularly (don’t ask), and almost every third page is full of hokey alternative medicines, herbal whatsits, energized waters, magnetic jewelry (maybe his audience is full of people with bad knees?) that sort of thing. Aside from all the jam-packed hokey articles about Christian persecution, murder of pre-born children, the corruption of marriage and consequently American society, Liberalism, and of course no issue would be complete without some dirty words for Evolution.

Toe_Jam and Lenny, thanks for addressing my comments. I know you guys are right. And Rev, I know you’ve been in the trenches. But it’s hard for me to let go of this pet idea that as a teacher, I can make a difference in how people view creationism, and whether it seems acceptable to them. Sure, I could teach critical thinking skills and leave it at that.

The idea of even mentioning ID is probably unconstitutional. But, a teacher could ask a hypothetical question that sounds something like the questions that ID-ers say evolution theory hasn’t addressed. Such as, “What is the evidence for evolution?”, “How do complex forms evolve?”, etc. And then go on to present the answers in a way that involves all the required material anyway. It doesn’t have to be an obvious comparison. For those students who have heard creationist arguments, it would cause them to pay attention. Of course, questions like “How does information increase?” would be too involved to answer thoroughly, but even that could be addressed in a summed up, general way while discussing mutations and pointing out that knockout mutations are only one of the kinds that can occur, as the raw material for natural selection.

Also, most creationists don’t understand what is meant by “natural selection,” maybe that’s why they always skip it. A fair amount of time should be spent teaching what exactly that means, and how many different factors it depends on. As soon as you mention “sexual selection” to a high-schooler, the ears perk up. At least they are likely to remember that one.

Of course there are a lot of questions there isn’t time to get into, but I am sure a fair amount could be covered just by teaching the substance of the course. I’m not sure about freshmen biology, but the AP biology, sure.

And I think if more teachers thouhgt about creationism and how to sublty combat it, the problem of ignorance about what evolution means, what it says or doesn’t say, and which areas of life it applies to, wouldn’t be so great. I am optimistic that knowledge can empower even the indoctrinated.

…his idea of a “Spiritual Left” is really just some vaugel poppycock to put a label on a bunch of phenomena. These phenomena lack the coherent reach and organization of ID (so far), and the strong religious backing and political elements.

Part of the problem, as I see it, is that while the “spiritual left” (yes, an overly vague term) aren’t as willfully dishonest or malicious as the creationists, their mistrust of things scientific, and their rejection of basic principles of science, leave them unable to discern and reject such anti-scientific con-games. This makes them easy pickings for the demagogue or con-man – of any persuasion – who uses the right slogans to appeal to the right emotions. They’re not creationists now, but they could easily be manipulated into becoming creationists, or $cientologists, or Moonies, or Islamofascists, tomorrow.

And, in fact, I have seen many nice, harmless airheads become rabid-born-again-Christian airheads – creationism, intolerance and all.

Alas, I have resigned myself to the simple fact that a large proportion of Americans will always be utterly pig-ignorant and creduluous about their pet beliefs, whether they are homeopathy, ESP, Roswell or ID.

Some stupidity will not be crushed by the science-education prong of our attack on ignorance. That’s why we need the religious-education prong as well. As long as people have these pet beliefs, it’s important for honest ministers to appeal to these beliefs and guide them to a more honest way of thinking. Chiefly’s numerous links to mainstream-Christian statements on science, in a previous thread, prove that this can work.

I have to wonder which is actually responsible for more deaths: people turning away from effective treatments in favor of “alternative” nonsense, or people who are given the wrong drugs, contract a noscomial infection, or perish from complications of a unnecessary procedure.

Modern medical science has much to recommend it, but at present I suspect it kills far more people than die because they don’t use its treatments, at least in the Western world. Does that make modern medicine more dangerous than its absense? No.

The spiritual left and the religious right are both dangerous to science. When I have had to work late nights or early mornings, I would listen to Coast To Coast AM (best known by create Art Bell) to help keep me awake while driving home. The show is filled with wackos of all stripes (and far too seldom, a real scientist). Many are just hucksters for books and videos, but several are sincere. The larger threat to science education comes from the religious right, however, since lawmakers are more likely to mandate instruction in creationism or ID than they are instruction in alien abductions, crop circles, remote viewing, and homeopathy.

Edwin Hensley wrote:

The spiritual left and the religious right are both dangerous to science.

And both sides have active, conscious liars who make a profit peddling garbage to the ignorant.

When Deepak Chopra wrote his thread “Gaps in Evolutionary theory ( Part 1)”: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepa[…]_b_6606.html

It originally spawned almost a hundred negative comments some with links to sites like Panda’s thumb (I know because I put one there). But look at that post now – the comments were edited away leaving only one positive remark.

Deepak Chopra is an active fraud and he was aided by Arianna Huffington in allowing the editing out all the negative comments.

I’m sure people who study Chopra’s methods will find he has done worse.

The great thing about the “spiritual left” is that it is splintered, with competing and often contradictory elements within its melange of strange beliefs. As such it isn’t organized, and is unlikely to become organized in any foreseeable future.

The splinters on the batty creationist right are quite evident as well. However, they do have a common religion (or at least a common religious name) that they all want to push into public education, and thus are able to create alliances having enough power to pass legislation favorable to their aims. The political danger is primarily on the right.

The mushy softening of American brains can be produced from both sides, however. Loons on the left and the right have their alternative realities going, with the internet allowing them to “learn from each other” instead of learning from competent individuals.

Directly they threaten their relatives and friends with bad advice and useless treatments of the old and the young within their sphere of power with bogus medicine. Beyond that, humans learn from each other, with common misperceptions being passed horizontally from the left and the right. Specific bad advice and useless medicines begin to enter into the mainstream due to propagandizing by people who have more conviction than thought.

Presumably science itself becomes weakened as a force in society as more chants, more untested medicines, and more glib hope in spiritual advisors displace scientific results, along with whatever scientific spirit that once was instilled by the Enlightenment.

By the way, it is not very uncommon for people to switch from loony left to loony right, and vice versa, as situations change during life. Certainly a good many acid-dropping flower children who once believed in learning from drugs and the cosmic consciousness turned away from that to fairly rigid religious sects, mostly Xian ones. The lack of critical analytical ability allows either side to sound as if it makes sense.

We certainly can’t tell the “spiritual left” and the “religious right” that they have no freedom to spread their nonsense abroad. Thus we tend to focus upon illicit acts, like teaching ID in public schools, as the threats that we should address.

What might be profitable in the Gallagher piece is the recognition that silly nonsense that isn’t being forced into the schools is also a threat to reasoned thought in society. It is not at all easy to see what we can do about these threat, other than promoting science as most of us do (to some extent) anyhow. But at least we must be aware of the threats that all of pseudoscience poses, sometimes directly, and sometimes through more indirect means, that is, by calling into question the value of expertise in deciding what to teach and what to fund.

Why should their children bother with science at all, if faith healing and shamanistic trances are superior to the medicines and procedures wrought by the scientific method?

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

One of the problems with Gallaghers piece is that many of the examples of pseudo-science that he cites are supported by wacko right wing cultists as well. A few years back I attended a gun show in Portland Oregon. This was heavy duty rightwing. About 1/3 of the booths featured alternative medicine displays. They had everything plus some I had never heard from before. Also historically, the antivaccination movement originated from the right. In addition, does anyone remember the antifluoridation movement from the 50s?

It is downright bizarre to atribute these movements to the ‘spirtual left’ though of course we must acknowledge that some of our misquided comrads do embrace this nonsense.

Glen: To attack anti-science attitudes, the medical and scientific establishments also need to be mindful of their image, and their relevance in the lives of ordinary people. One of the reasons for the appeal of “alternative medicine” – both good and bad – is that for many years after WWII, the “scientific-insustrial complex” saw itself – and acted – like a new God, the answer to everyone’s prayers, and the sole source of rationality and useful solutions, superceding and casting aside all things old, folky, backward, untested (by their methods), superstititious, irrational (and generally non-Western). From this era we got colossal arrogance, contempt for ordinary shmoes, badly-built nuclear power plants, Robert MacNamara, and thalidomide.

This lasting legacy of arrogance and incompetence is especially strong among the poorest people, who can’t afford high-tech treatments and get stuck with uncaring mediocre doctors.

And let’s face it: “big pharma” is still a hit-or-miss proposition, and taking the wrong combination of drugs while fumbling for the right one, and dealing with nasty side-effects, can leave a lasting bad impression of “conventional medicine.” (Any doctor who recommends prednisone had better not complain about the dangers of marijuana!)

Raging Bee,

Not sure I entirely agree with your history and interpretation, but I agee that scientists who want to promote science do need to be mindful of image. The IDers and anti-science types are more than glad to try and tear down scientists - the best response is to show they’re wrong by not acting like any of their stereotypes. Like it or not, the fight against the anti-science crowd is a war of image as well as fact.

I desperately wish it was different. As a manager, I love my facts, but in many cases I get things done by the intangibles - swapping DVD’s with my Technical Expert goes farther than explaining in excruciating boring detail why we need to follow this flowchart.

Raging Bee wrote:

One of the reasons for the appeal of “alternative medicine” — both good and bad —

Be specific, which alternative medicine do you consider “good.”

… is that for many years after WWII, the “scientific-insustrial complex” saw itself — and acted — like a new God, the answer to everyone’s prayers, and the sole source of rationality and useful solutions, superceding and casting aside all things old, folky, backward, untested (by their methods), superstititious, irrational (and generally non-Western). From this era we got colossal arrogance, contempt for ordinary shmoes, badly-built nuclear power plants, Robert MacNamara, and thalidomide.

Am I the only one here who can detect the faint hint of bovine fecal matter rising up from Bee’s comment?

I think that highly compressed bit of history is rather distorted.

Glen Davidson Wrote:

But at least we must be aware of the threats that all of pseudoscience poses, sometimes directly, and sometimes through more indirect means, that is, by calling into question the value of expertise in deciding what to teach and what to fund.

Why should their children bother with science at all, if faith healing and shamanistic trances are superior to the medicines and procedures wrought by the scientific method?

Sounds good to me, though if we’re going to do that we might as well take the time while we’re at it to recognize the similar problems presented by Scientology, or infomercials (?).

Raging Bee Wrote:

Glen: To attack anti-science attitudes, the medical and scientific establishments also need to be mindful of their image, and their relevance in the lives of ordinary people. One of the reasons for the appeal of “alternative medicine” — both good and bad — is that for many years after WWII, the “scientific-insustrial complex” saw itself — and acted — like a new God, the answer to everyone’s prayers, and the sole source of rationality and useful solutions, superceding and casting aside all things old, folky, backward, untested (by their methods), superstititious, irrational (and generally non-Western).

The thing is, this is largely just prejudice. I can’t say what happened after World War II, because I wasn’t there. But I do know that was a really really long time ago. Whatever mean things it was you think scientists did in the 1950s was so long ago that their lasting effects can no longer be ascribed to anything besides just plain ‘ol “anti-intellectual sentiment”.

Too many people in America today interpret “aarogance” whenever anyone says anything they don’t understand.

Of course, such a situation is hardly helped when people like Mr. Gallagher are, say, going out of their way to make it seem as if people who for whatever reason see ethical issues in genetic engineering must be “spiritual” and “leftist” and worship “Mother Earth”.

Yes, Norm, it’s at least overwrought.

We got antibiotics after WWII, perhaps the single greatest achievement in medical history. By and large that, and vaccines, came through applied science and little else (vaccines did have folk practice to build upon, but even if cowpox worked to prevent smallpox, nothing but modern medicine would give us a polio vaccine).

I actually had thought about mentioning in my earlier post the fact that shaman’s medicines were often given too little credit. But then again, the West readily adopted quinine from native people(not to their benefit, but that’s another story), and soon enough improved it as well.

Modern drug discovery is far from hit or miss. Drugs are frequently designed, and often very effective.

There’s been enough arrogance from the establishment, of course, and science is primarily a part of the establishment. Even today many physicians pay little heed to the careful observations of those “lower down”.

But how is this relevant to science per se? Science is an empirical approach having developed a host of methods for dealing with the evidence. Conflating science with its sometime ill-use is one of the dangers we face from the “spiritual left” and the “religious right”, many of whom will fault evidence-based research for real and imaginary utilization of the results of science.

This is a fundamental problem obtained from those who cling to magical thinking. Instead of complaining about the misuse of power, many will try to fault some spiritual problem, often focusing in on science as the anti-spiritual phenomenon causing their problems. The “wrong-thinking” found in science is supposedly to blame, for science is thought to be at odds with the wishful thinking of the “spiritually superior” ones (and it often is). It isn’t the wonderful “stoned thinking” that Andrew Weil used to trumpet as superior.

Even faulting “the establishment” can go too far, for it often scapegoats others for one’s own faults, selfishness and greed. Nevertheless, the establishment has much to account for, and to change (not that it will).

The people who fight against science deprive themselves of the one good weapon that we have against the wrongful use of science. Whatever is wrong with pharma, etc., is hardly to be helped by pouring money into the hands of charlatans in order to obtain their snake oils. To be sure, not all “natural remedies” are useless (at best), but the rows of bogus cures, plus the wonders of ephedra bespoken by many healthnuts, ought to give pause to anyone who thinks that the alternative to today’s scientific discovery processes is to jettison drug design and careful testing.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

I don’t think that people of any religious or political orientation have a monopoly on pseudoscientific thinking. Rather, I think the process might go more like this:

* Person misunderstands or distrusts the scientific process.

* Person incorporates this misunderstanding or distrust into his or her own developing or long-standing political or religious beliefs.

However, although I don’t think any group is immune to this problem, I think that members of the most influential and best-funded groups are the ones in a position to do the most damage with it. In the former USSR, Lysenko had the political power to wreak havoc with crackpot ideas. Currently, in the U.S., the religious right and the corporate right have considerable political and economic clout, and are most effectively exploiting pseudoscience for their own ends.

I can make a difference in how people view creationism, and whether it seems acceptable to them.

I’m glad to see that you think you can make a difference in how students think about these issues.

However, your best approach is to treat it as an issue to be addressed OUTSIDE of the science classroom.

set up outside of class time to discuss the issues with students. You might even invite the parents to participate as well.

Just make it readily apparent that there is a very clear distinction between what is taught as science, and whatever these students wish to discuss. Which is why it shouldn’t be addressed in science class itself.

good luck!

Modern medical science has much to recommend it, but at present I suspect it kills far more people than die because they don’t use its treatments, at least in the Western world. Does that make modern medicine more dangerous than its absense? No.

gees, Cale, you’ve said some bizarre things, but that one takes the cake.

suggest you dig a bit deeper and dispel that idea for yourself.

shouldn’t be too hard.

I could teach critical thinking skills

Indeed, the best thing you can do for students is to help them develop a working BS detector.

They’ll be able to put it to good use, not just in regards to ID/creationism, but with everything from TV commercials to political campaign speeches. After all, nearly everything in our social/economic/political system is based solely upon systematic (and unquestioned) acceptance of BS.

I have to wonder which is actually responsible for more deaths: people turning away from effective treatments in favor of “alternative” nonsense, or people who are given the wrong drugs, contract a noscomial infection, or perish from complications of a unnecessary procedure.

Modern medical science has much to recommend it, but at present I suspect it kills far more people than die because they don’t use its treatments, at least in the Western world. Does that make modern medicine more dangerous than its absense? No.

I suspect that an awful lot of people die in the US simply because they don’t have money for effective health care, much less for effective preventive medicine.

That, of course, is a political, rather than a scientific or medical, problem. One that we as a nation show no inclination whatsoever to do anything about.

Kind of like “education”. (shrug)

Loons on the left and the right have their alternative realities going, with the internet allowing them to “learn from each other” instead of learning from competent individuals.

It is indeed ironic that the Internet, the source of such a vast store of carefully-won knowledge and information, is so dominated by the kooks and loons. Heck, any fruitloop with a crackpot “theory” can put up a website and reach more people in a month than best-selling authors could reach in their entire lifetimes just thirty years ago.

Yes, the Net is a vast storehouse of knowledge and information.

Most of that, however, is pure BS.

By the way, it is not very uncommon for people to switch from loony left to loony right, and vice versa, as situations change during life. Certainly a good many acid-dropping flower children who once believed in learning from drugs and the cosmic consciousness turned away from that to fairly rigid religious sects, mostly Xian ones. The lack of critical analytical ability allows either side to sound as if it makes sense.

Usually the change itself isn’t really all that large. Hardcore Trotskyites who hate liberals find it pretty easy to become hardcore neoconservatives who, uh, hate liberals. Evangelical intolerant fundies who hate moderate religions can easily become evangelical intolerant atheists who, uh, hate moderate religions.

Not much changes, except which side of the aisle you’re sitting on. Under the feathers, they’re still the same bird as before. (shrug)

gees, Cale, you’ve said some bizarre things, but that one takes the cake.

Not really. The rates of mortality and morbidity due to medical errors is quite high.

http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/9911/29/medical.errors/

I don’t know how many people die sooner because they didn’t have access to medical care and preventative treatments, and I don’t dare hazard a guess. That is not what I spoke about earlier, though, and is irrelevant to the point.

I strongly suspect that far more people die because of modern medicine’s interventions than die because they refuse modern medicine’s interventions. Life in a first-world country is pretty easy, and with a little luck, the right nutrition, and some immunizations, it’s not at all unlikely that someone wouldn’t need to see a doctor for most of their lives.

I strongly suspect that far more people die because of modern medicine’s interventions than die because they refuse modern medicine’s interventions.

I strongly suspect that the interior of the Moon is made of chocolate.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon

The moon weighs about 73,476,730,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms. Even allowing that (as lunar rock samples show us) the exterior 10% must be made of rock, that is a lot of chocolate.

I strongly suspect that far more people die because of modern medicine’s interventions than die because they refuse modern medicine’s interventions.

uh, right, so surgery is a net loss of life.

got it.

like i said, you’re not making sense. i was willing to give you time to think about what you said, but now that you have, i would have expected you to think about what you are trying to say in a little more depth.

What you in essence, are saying, is that mortality and morbidity stats are more important that the positive results of disease treatment and surgical procedures.

it’s simply absurd.

Caledonian Wrote:

I strongly suspect that far more people die because of modern medicine’s interventions than die because they refuse modern medicine’s interventions. Life in a first-world country is pretty easy, and with a little luck, the right nutrition, and some immunizations, it’s not at all unlikely that someone wouldn’t need to see a doctor for most of their lives.

I strongly suspect you’re an idiot. Want some evidence? Go compare societies with modern medicine to those that still practise traditional, “alternative” (i.e., not working) medicine. See the difference in life expectancy. But also see what sort of diseases people are dying from: ones that can be diagnosed and treated in five minutes in most Western societies.

I can’t believe you can actually put forth that nonsense with a straight face.

Tara: … the “don’t trust the government” mentality left over from the 60s, I guess.

Which implies the government became trustworthy during the ’70s, and has continued as such ever since.

Gee - sorry I missed it…

Tara wrote:

While many on the right are anti-science because they believe it conflicts with their beliefs about god,…

And that includes our American president and a large chunk of congress.

… there are those on the left who are very into conspiracy theories, the “don’t trust the government” mentality left over from the 60s, I guess. And especially with our current leaders, anything and everything is because of “big business,” and an oft-cited scapegoat is “big pharma.”

That aspect of the “loony left,” is not always spiritual. And while it also shows up in Deepak Chopra and other bloggers on the Huffington Post. One of the most notable was Dr. Peter Rost, a former Vice President for the drug company Pfizer: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/contr[…]Peter%20Rost

Here’s a sampling of his HuffPo blog: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-pe[…]b_21934.html

His take isn’t from a religious/spiritual angle, but it sometimes seems loony.

Therefore, ineffective but “natural” herbal remedies are preferred to effective but “pharma-tainted” drugs, even something as basic as antibiotics.

Rost isn’t that bad, but Bill Maher, the HBO comedian, might be. He won’t even take aspirin. Again, that’s not “spiritually” motivated.

Scientists are distrusted because many of us receive government funding via the NIH, and therefore, we’re also “tainted” since government—>controlled by “big pharma”—>scientists are pharmaceutical shills. I see this time and time again on my blog from people who disbelieve all AIDS research, vaccine research, even influenza research. They’re more fragmented and don’t have a funding powerhouse like the DI to unite them under the “big tent”, but they’re out there, and they’re also a threat to science.

I confess, I can’t always tell when a complaint against “big pharma” or big business lobbyists is merely paranoid or actually true. This is a fuzzy area for me. It’s easy to see where some paranoids have gone off the track, but I do think there is a pinch of corruption and delusion in all institutions. I trust science and modern medicine more than I do most other institutions, but just because they’re better than your average witch-doctor doesn’t mean they’re perfect.

Hey, having seen the gamut in politics here in CA, I’ll take governor Moonbeam over the gubernator any day of the week.

Modern medical science has much to recommend it, but at present I suspect it kills far more people than die because they don’t use its treatments, at least in the Western world.

If this is true, it is true because most people, when their illnesses or injuries get life-threatening, seek modern medical treatment before they die. Thus, those who die as a result of said illnesses or injuries, die while under the care of modern medicine. (And when relatives look for someone to blame for the death of a loved one, well, the surgeon whose hands were inside of him at the time of death makes an easy target.)

norm: Yes, that picture of history I painted is compressed and distorted. That’s my point – that people who have had bad experiences with the scientific or medical establishments will come out of it with “distorted” views. And when their perspectives are ignored or belittled by arrogant practitioners, their distorted view becomes a concrete prejudice.

The thing is, this is largely just prejudice. I can’t say what happened after World War II, because I wasn’t there. But I do know that was a really really long time ago. Whatever mean things it was you think scientists did in the 1950s was so long ago that their lasting effects can no longer be ascribed to anything besides just plain ‘ol “anti-intellectual sentiment”.

Many of those “mean” things are still being done, most often to poorer people who can’t afford better or more compassionate treatment. Have you noticed the RECENT headlines about surgical and drug-administration FUBARs? Who do you think suffers most from that sort of thing?

And yes, the less-educated will take a more distorted view of this than the more-educated; but even the best-educated patients will have a hard time “understanding” mistakes that adversely affect their lives.

Too many people in America today interpret “aarogance” whenever anyone says anything they don’t understand.

True – but the perception of “arrogance” is made worse by professionals who make too little effort to explain things in terms the rest of us can understand. (Does anyone remember what happened when scientists refused to engage with the rubes in Kansas when evolution came up for debate?)

True — but the perception of “arrogance” is made worse by professionals who make too little effort to explain things in terms the rest of us can understand.

But the professionals cannot control the feelings of superiority the ignorant masses get when they perceive themselves as having knowledge that professionals with decades of learning supposedly “don’t know about” or are “keeping secret”.

And the ungrateful bunch don’t understand that it’s better if they increase their knowledge instead of professionals having to explain things to them they understand.

There’s no hope for the human race if people would rather remain stupid instead of trying to raise the general level of intelligence of the population. Kind of like the “teach the man to fish” kind of thing.

And guess what, there are a few places where the ignorant masses can go to where professionals indeed DO talk in ways they understand with the additional aim of raising their intelligence. It’s called UNIVERSITY. Many places in the world have them.

Stupidity comes in many flavors.

Back when I was unemployed and free time was copious, I was a bit more broad in my dealing with anti-science. These days, I mostly focus on creationism and in just a few forums. I’ve gone so far downhill becoming a wage slave. Still, food is good.

It’s easy to get lost in the creationism debate and miss the other forces of anti-science out there. WAY out there in some cases. Senator Claiborne Pell tried to get the government to spend money saving the environment… with the power of crystal healing. The bill was co-sponsored by Al Gore!

I’ve had people tell me that science is, itself, “Paternalistic” and that reality responds to how you BELIEVE it should. If objects fall at 9.8 m/s^2, well, that’s just how I see it because I’ve bought into the science paradigm, you see. If you believe it will fly up into the air, it will! Amazing! Oddly, none of these people seem to have enough faith in their own claims to step off a building and fly, but there you go.

Science should be removed from schools, you see. Students should be encouraged to come up with theories that work FOR THEM. That’s better than imposing the supposed “facts” on them! Facts invented by dead white males! You can’t trust things invented by dead white males!

It’s been said several times on this forum that the left side of the equation is disjointed. This is true enough. While the right pseudos have a cohesive agenda (even if they all hate each other), the left-leaning pseudoes have nothing to unify them at all. Wiccan pseudoes don’t support the same kind of ideas that physical relativists do, etc. This makes the left weaker as a political force, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous.

Still, not half as dangerous as the creationists are.

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This page contains a single entry by Tara Smith published on July 20, 2006 1:20 PM.

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