Self-deception as a coping strategy for Christians

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On EvolutionNews, Casey Luskin posts that:

Casey Luskin Wrote:

Late last night I posted my final rebuttals to the NCSE on OpposingViews.com. This makes 12 total rebuttals for the pro-ID side and zero for the anti-ID side (though Americans United did post a sur-rebuttal tellingly titled “You Lost the Case – Get Over It”).

I responded: Over 375 comments, mostly showing the vacuity of ID, the NCSE need not respond. Casey’s description of the NCSE’s position is as usual full of empty accusations and yet fail to address the simple fact that:

ID is scientifically vacuous.

As to the title read SELF-DECEPTION AS A COPING STRATEGY FOR CHRISTIANS which explains how we Christians deal with contradicting evidence.

We slip into self-deception by means of tiny steps, each one of which is so small that we can in a sense ignore it, excuse it, not notice it. We creep up on ourselves gradually, thus enabling the story to evolve so slowly that we can justify ourselves in noticing the development. The techniques used are:

(i) Screening. This means that we select from all the information available to us that which is consistent with the beliefs we would like to have. We fail to hear the discordant notes.

(ii) Weighted evidence. We give greater weight to the evidence which supports what we want to believe about ourselves, and we discount the evidence which points in the other direction. Evidence that supports our self-interest is seen as logical and compelling.

(iii) Confirmation. Our attention is quickly drawn to little bits of evidence which confirm us in our false beliefs. Events which confirm us become significant and are remembered whilst those which might appear to have disconfirmed the event are quickly forgotten or regarded as insignificant.

(iv) Gradualism. We do not take too big a step at once because this would be difficult to deny.

(v) Refusal to review the evidence. We do not subject our preferred beliefs to periodic review in order to update them, and thus face the possible risk of invalidation.

(vi) Habit. These tricks of thinking and judging become habitual with us so that we gradually lose the very skills of self-critical knowledge. We become habituated in patterns of thought which contribute to and maintain us in our self-deception.

as well as

On folk science and lies: Back to the basics

As a Christian, I am scandalized and sickened by nearly all creationist commentary on evolution. But I’m not a misanthrope, and so I find it hard to believe that so many people could be so overtly dishonest.

So I proposed the term ‘folk science’ as a way to refer to belief-supporting statements that sound scientific but do not seek to communicate scientific truth. I have two goals in my practice of using this phrase: 1) I recognize folk science as a particular type of argumentation, and I want to be able to accurately identify it as such; and 2) I want to create space within which I can identify falsehood, and especially falsehood that seeks to mislead, without making unwarranted accusations.

28 Comments

PvM, I am also a member of that debate community:

http://www.opposingviews.com/

I’ve also been fighting the Intelligent Design battle on your side. Here are comments I made there:

Intelligent Design is simply nonsense.

If Intelligent Design is a valid scientific concept, why is it that we have examples of IDIOTIC design in so many organism, including vertbrates? All their eyes are wired BACKWARDS, making their retinas vulnerable to damage. And there is no good reason for this, because the eyes of cephalopods are wired FORWARDS. It seems that there was a more intelligent Designer for the cephalopod eyes than for the vertebrate eyes. - Dale Husband September 10, 2008 11:17PM

Looking at things scientifically?

Science is ultimately based on the scientific method, which is used to support and confirm physical and chemical laws. It is the application of those laws to the past that makes natural history possible and the application of those same laws to the future that makes it possible to make predictions.

The question is, what physical and chemical laws are in play in Intelligent Design? We know evolution is scientific because it does not contradict any scientific laws, we can make predictions based on evolutionary theory, and we can falsify it by finding a possible mechanism that would prevent mutations from accumulating beyond a certain limit, making evolution beyond the limits of a “created kind” impossible. But we have found no such thing, ever.

You cannot test to see if something in biology is “intelligently designed” by reference to scientific laws. Instead, you would ASSUME something is designed just because it looks complex and specific, but such complexity is indeed possible via natural selection, because complex organisms may have survival value over less complex organisms. DNA, RNA, and proteins are polymers, molecules that are made of repeating parts, and they can actually be of unlimited length, so their complexity is also unlimited.

In short, there is NO evidence for Intelligent Design. None. It is theology, nothing more. - Dale Husband September 11, 2008 11:07PM

As to the title read SELF-DECEPTION AS A COPING STRATEGY FOR CHRISTIANS which explains how we Christians deal with contradicting evidence.

How we Christians? So this is what you do? Can you give at least some of the rest of us credit for trying to think things through honestly and let go of bad ideas?

i-iv are psychological biases everyone has to some extent - not just Christians. Its one of the reasons science does peer review and confirmation experiments. Otherwise you get N-rays.

Religions lack these mechanisms. They could ALL be N-rays. :)

Though Luskin’s case is unbelievably egregious. Having read through most of the Opposingviews posts, I have to say its just comical to claim there are “zero” anti-ID rebuttals.

I rather think all humans are prone to self deception to a greater degree than the vast majority would admit, given a motivation.

IDers and the like would say that this would also explain the fact that “Darwinists” insist, against ID “evidence,” that evolution is the true basic mechanism that created the biodiversity that we see around us.

This ignores the fact that there is no such thing as “Darwinism.” If someone came up with a truly better explanation than evolution then biologists would flock to it. The is no motivation corresponding to religion to provide an incentive to stick with the idea.

Creationists, in all their forms, seem not to be able to grasp this. Possibly as another example of self deception.

Have I got timming or what? ;)

jobby said: … wrong. the testing is just as valid as the testing for Darwinism. show me the test that shows NS caused the complex lif forms.

you mean something like, predict the kind of stuff we’d see if evolution was accomplished via a series of selected random mutations, and show that real life meets these predictions? That’s a pretty good idea. We should get scientists to study the changes in alleles of populations over time, and come up with some kind of mathematics to explore it. ‘Population genetics’ is a catchy name, how about that?

jobby said:

ou cannot test to see if something in biology is “intelligently designed” by reference to scientific laws. Instead, you would ASSUME something is designed just because it looks complex and specific,

… wrong. the testing is just as valid as the testing for Darwinism. show me the test that shows NS caused the complex lif forms.

Aside from your bad editing, I already noted that polymers like DNA and proteins are unlimited in their length, and so their complexity is also unlimited. So what barrier could there be to complexity increasing over millions of years? I see none. Simple molecules form more complex ones easily when energy is applied, as experiments since the 1950s showed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller[…]y_experiment

I will grant that this experiment’s ability to simular the origin of life is extremely limited, because it had to be done in small glass flasks and over a short period of time. The actual conditions billions of years ago involved the entire Earth and lasted for many millions of years.

Once the first primitive life form arose, it would have reproduced itself and thus been subject to natural selection, with random mutations being edited out over time to produce both change and diversity in those early life forms.

All this is consistent with known scientific laws. What laws do Intelligent Design refer to or support?

Dale Husband said:

All this is consistent with known scientific laws. What laws do Intelligent Design refer to or support?

They refer to a weird understanding of thermodynamics, wherein some intuitive (but never quantified) idea of ‘complexity’ cannot increase simply by the input of energy, THEREFORE evolution cannot occur by natural means, THEREFORE design. And I admit it sounds reasonable. Sunlight falling on the ground just makes it dry up and crack, it doesn’t build machines out of it.

However, they use this argument to totally circumvent the process of evolution via mutation and selection, which IS a way to increase complexity by most reasonable measures. They bait-and-switch their definitions, first referring to the formal law that total entropy always increases over time (a fundamental law of physics), then switching it with their notion that complexity (which is not even the same as entropy) cannot increase spontaneously.

Therefore, when you point out to them that evolution can increase complexity, you get the (wrong) answer that this violates the laws of thermodynamics.

If we actually use the law properly, all it says is that energy and entropy changes must be balanced properly. Evolution is well within these laws.

Dale Husband said:

All this is consistent with known scientific laws. What laws do Intelligent Design refer to or support?

They refer to a weird understanding of thermodynamics, wherein some intuitive (but never quantified) idea of ‘complexity’ cannot increase simply by the input of energy, THEREFORE evolution cannot occur by natural means, THEREFORE design. And I admit it sounds reasonable. Sunlight falling on the ground just makes it dry up and crack, it doesn’t build machines out of it.

However, they use this argument to totally circumvent the process of evolution via mutation and selection, which IS a way to increase complexity by most reasonable measures. They bait-and-switch their definitions, first referring to the formal law that total entropy always increases over time (a fundamental law of physics), then switching it with their notion that complexity (which is not even the same as entropy) cannot increase spontaneously.

Therefore, when you point out to them that evolution can increase complexity, you get the (wrong) answer that this violates the laws of thermodynamics.

If we actually use the law properly, all it says is that energy and entropy changes must be balanced properly. Evolution is well within these laws.

PvM writes that the cited article “explains how we [?] Christians deal with contradicting evidence.” Not quite accurate: the article as a whole addresses how some Christians deal with some contradicting evidence (on topics of economic justice), a much more restricted subject. There is of course no one way that Christians deal with contradicting evidence: Christians are far too diverse a group for any such thing to exist.

Moreoever, the passage citing the 6 techniques of self-deception is not, in its original context, a description of some alleged special Christian variety of self-deception but a summary of results from cognitive psychology about how self-deception in general functions. The citation is to a 1989 article in the Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, “Self-Deception, Human Emotion and Moral Responsibility,” that does not appear even to focus on religious believers. (Unfortunately, it would cost me $29 to summon up a copy of the JTSB article, so I’m not going to. But I bet a panda-burger that the article doesn’t even distinguish religious believers’ self-deceptive techniques from those of other people.)

The idea – if anyone does hold it – that “Christians” possess any technique of self-deception special to themselves is simply silly. Only a few entries earlier on the Thumb we read that the Vatican has excluded ID and creationism from its evolution conference, naming good reasons for doing so – and Catholics were the most numerous group of Christians on Earth the last time I checked.

There is almost no point in making any generalizations about “Christians” at all, in the realm of evolutionary belief or any other.

Venus Moustrap Wrote:

They bait-and-switch their definitions, first referring to the formal law that total entropy always increases over time (a fundamental law of physics), then switching it with their notion that complexity (which is not even the same as entropy) cannot increase spontaneously.

Therefore, when you point out to them that evolution can increase complexity, you get the (wrong) answer that this violates the laws of thermodynamics.

If we actually use the law properly, all it says is that energy and entropy changes must be balanced properly. Evolution is well within these laws.

No matter how much the ID advocates want to distance themselves from being identified with Creationism, they can’t avoid it. The reason for this is their need to distort science in order to keep their sectarian dogma; and that dogma is not significantly different from that of other fundamentalist creationists.

With ID/Creationists, it is always sectarian dogma first and bend the science to fit. Why bend science? To give their dogma more “intellectual respectability”. What they actually end up with is kitsch that appeals to their rubes.

Besides distorting the science in characteristically identifiable ways, their attempts to hide the identity of their sectarian supernatural deity also comes off as kitsch. The “Discovery” Institution will “acknowledge” (as they did recently on that OpposingViews.com site) that the supernatural is outside of science, yet they attribute humanlike motives and intelligence to just such a being. What “science” allows them to do this? Such claims can come only from sectarian religion.

If you press them, they say they are not claiming the intelligence is supernatural and that it could be natural. Then why is it so important to worship a natural designer? Besides, if the designer is natural, that just removes the origin of life to another time and location; which is neither an original nor a profound question.

Now, with this sectarian supernatural deity in the background, they proceed to mangle and conflate all kinds of concepts, especially entropy, order, information, and design. Their dogma requires that everything is deteriorating since “The Fall”, hence they introduce “genetic entropy” to bolster their already entrenched misconceptions about the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Then they presume to determine how “information” is defined against the background of their hidden sectarian deity with humanlike attributes. Then they “quantify” that “information” with pseudo-mathematical assertions of probability based on a specified process consistent with what their imagined “intelligence” would do, and calculate that this process is impossible by natural means, hence a designer (their sectarian deity).

But above all, you can look at their systematic misconceptions and distortions of scientific concepts and use that to deconstruct their pretensions. The only way they can get legitimate scientific concepts consistently wrong in the ways that they do is to force them to be consistent with specific sectarian dogmas about the existence and nature of a supernatural sectarian deity.

They can babble, but they can’t hide.

Larry Gilman’s post effectively answers the OP, imo.

FL

FL said:

Larry Gilman’s post effectively answers the OP, imo.

FL

The original post was made within a specific context which is spelled out very clearly. PvM is not directing this at all Christians.

Could PvM be registered as an “expert” so as to raise “formal objections”?

Some evidence for the fideistic nature of materialism.

(i) Screening. This means that we select from all the information available to us that which is consistent with the beliefs we would like to have. We fail to hear the discordant notes.

A frequent problem on evolution promoting websites. Ask where cytosine synthesis came from, how CERV1 and 2 is found in primates but not humans, why recent volcanic eruptions show radio isotope dating 100s MYrs older than it should, or of course how red cells can be found intact in a 69 Myr old T rex - and often the answer is full of perjorative nonsequitors.

(ii) Weighted evidence. We give greater weight to the evidence which supports what we want to believe about ourselves, and we discount the evidence which points in the other direction. Evidence that supports our self-interest is seen as logical and compelling.

Homology is an excellent example. Again and again, materialists convince themselves this is incontrovertible evidence of descent, even though the nature and distribution of the distinctions argue against descent.

(iii) Confirmation. Our attention is quickly drawn to little bits of evidence which confirm us in our false beliefs. Events which confirm us become significant and are remembered whilst those which might appear to have disconfirmed the event are quickly forgotten or regarded as insignificant.

Marcellin Boule’s reconstruction of Neanderthal skulls? Why did Dubois conceal the cranial capacity of Homo wadjenkisis (1550 and 1650 cc) for 30 years, was it because it there were adjacent to his precious Pithecanthropus? Homo rudolfensis? What about Hesperopithecus haroldcookii (which the press hastily called ‘Nebraska man’) actually of course a pig’s tooth. Or at the less dramatic end of the spectrum how about the extraordinary ageing of Rhodesian man 11kyrs 1921, 40 kyrs 1962, 125+kyrs 1973, 300-400 kyrs 1999! Or the rather curious foot shuffling over the titling of Australopithecus ramidus to trumpet blasts and headlines, to the humbler Ardipethicus ramidus a year later in 1995 (even more curious was Ian Tattershall’s fury at being prevented from examining the fossils). The instances of misleading representations of fossil series (as alleged not by creationists but by evolutionary minded colleagues) especially of horse series and ape-humanoid sequences are well, starting from T.H.Huxley’s inclusion of ape ancestors he didn’t himself believe in. There’s plenty more where that came from.…

(iv) Gradualism. We do not take too big a step at once because this would be difficult to deny.

How true! How astonishly true of naturalism!

(v) Refusal to review the evidence. We do not subject our preferred beliefs to periodic review in order to update them, and thus face the possible risk of invalidation.

A prime example being the Missoula flood - resisted for decaded in spite of the evidence by large numbers of eminent geologists, on the basis it smacked on cataclysmic geology. http://www.uwsp.edu/geo/projects/ge[…]ablands0.HTM

(vi) Habit. These tricks of thinking and judging become habitual with us so that we gradually lose the very skills of self-critical knowledge. We become habituated in patterns of thought which contribute to and maintain us in our self-deception.

How dangerous never to examine one’s religious preconceptions! Especially when the Deity worshipped is inanimate Nature herself!

By the way, I was born and bred into a family which took evolution as granted.

So, then, charles, tell us again what the names of the Creationists who discovered that Piltdown Man was really a modern human skull with a filed down orangutan’s jawbone or that Nebraska Man was actually a peccary’s tooth?

Oh, wait, you can’t because Creationists never bothered to look at either.

Quite true but, why should creationists be the only thinkers? Do we claim a monopoly on intellection.

charles said:

Quite true but, why should creationists be the only thinkers? Do we claim a monopoly on intellection.

Actually, it’s been my personal experience that creationists tend to be anti-intellectuals, many of whom apparently loath the very experience of having things explained to them. That, and it’s also my personal experience that very few creationists have very little, if any motivation to make any sort of intellectual contribution in the first place.

Furthermore, if “materialist evolutionists” (sic) never examine their “religious preconceptions,” then, can you explain how reading the Book of Genesis literally to explain how the diversities of life came to be is not an example of refusing to examine one’s religious preconception?

charles said:

Quite true but, why should creationists be the only thinkers? Do we claim a monopoly on intellection.

Charles, you miss the point. Creationists can point to little or no intellectual contribution–unless asking question they can’t answer but expect other to can be called “contributions”.

What you point to as being somehow weaknesses simply are not; rather they are the way science works making discoveries, positing explanations for what has been discovered, batting that explanation around and finally coming to a consensus.

You whole third point is a set of example of that. Paloanthropology has always had a history of discoverers finding remains, making extravagant claims for their significance, vigorous (if not vicious) argument, until a consensus is found. Note that none of this is done by creationists, but by evolutionary scientists.

At the end of the day you problem appears to be that you expect that science should find the “truth”, simply and without fuss. Reality show that isn’t the case, so you opt for the simplest explanation POOF–even when that explanation has scientifically testable holes in it.

charles said:

Quite true but, why should creationists be the only thinkers? Do we claim a monopoly on intellection.

Where is your evidence that “creationists are the only thinkers and have the monopoly on intellection?

I have in my file cabinets the writings and propaganda of a number of famous creationists such as Duane Gish, Henry Morris, Gary Parker, and a bunch of others at the Institute for Creation Research. I also have many samples of the writings of the “fellows” at the Discovery Institute. Then there are Kent Hovind, Ken Ham, and the pseudo-science advocates at Answers in Genesis. These can now be found all over the Internet.

Nowhere in any of these writings can one find evidence of intellection. To the contrary, they are solid evidence of conscious distortion, mischaracterization of science, carefully exploited misconceptions, quote-mining of the writings of legitimate scientists, and rants about the evils of “materialistic evolution”.

Your impressions appear to be based on the self-promotion of these characters that have made their living deliberately playing on the prejudices and fears of sectarian fundamentalists and pumping up their own egos.

Some of us here have been tracking this phenomenon since the 1970s. Many of us are, or have been, active researchers for most of our lives. Real researchers work in areas that are constantly opening up and changing as new discoveries are made and old questions are answered or clarified. It’s a messy business, and we know how to live with it. A few can’t handle the uncertainties and unanswered questions and drop out for various personal reasons.

Most of the people from whom you take your cues have none of this experience, and the extremely few who have had some experience (e.g., Duane Gish when he was at the Upjohn Company working on the tobacco virus, or Michael Behe at Lehigh) have taken themselves out of the stream of scientific information and research to pursue sectarian agendas motivated by narrow sectarian ideas of a supernatural deity.

People drop out of science for various reasons, however the writings of those very few ID/Creationists, who have ever practiced science for a short time but then drop out to pursue sectarian agendas, betray their bitterness with their deliberate mischaracterization of what scientists do, what science knows and how it works.

The others at CRI and the DI, who have pursued multiple degrees but have remained shallow in all of these areas, show evidences that they have acquired these letters after their name in order to make themselves look impressive to rubes. Only people who are deeply immersed in the various areas of scientific research, and familiar with the concepts and details, are able to pick up on the shallowness of these characters.

Dropouts like this who then immerse themselves in pseudo-scientific tactics and political and grass-roots propaganda are failures in both the psychological sense and scientific sense. I would suggest that much of their bitterness toward science is related to their yearnings to be the big senior gurus at the top of the field, but they didn’t cut it in real science. As pseudo-scientists writing extensively from their well-funded ID/Creationist institutes, they enjoy the adulation they have always craved. The price they pay is the adulation they receive comes from naive rubes but not from competent scientists in the scientific community.

So everything you are picking up from them and raising as “issues” here actually reflects their tortured psyches and all the misconceptions and mischaracterizations they have been carefully exploiting and pushing onto naive audiences for decades.

charles said:

A prime example being the Missoula flood - resisted for decaded in spite of the evidence by large numbers of eminent geologists, on the basis it smacked on cataclysmic geology.

J. Harlen Bretz did encounter a good deal of hidebound resistance with his idea that the Scablands of Eastern Washington were created by huge floods. Partly this was indeed due to the fact that geologists were not comfortable with the notion of catastrophic geology. It was also partly due to the fact that the entire geology of the region was not entirely understood at the time. Particularly significantly, at the outset he didn’t know about glacial Lake Missoula.

So there was a bitter quarrel between members of the US geological community. Gradually, the Bretz faction built up data, in particular establishing the Ice Age existence of glacial Lake Missoula, answered all the questions about the issue, and when Bretz died in 1981 he was an honored figure in his field.

The scientific community tends to wire-brush new ideas, and the more unconventional the ideas, the stiffer the scrub. Lynn Margulis’s proposal of the symbiotic origins of the eukaryotic cell ran into resistance at first – it wasn’t even all that new, having been suggested decades earlier, but dismissed because of lack of data – but she was obstinate and had the data to back it up, so she prevailed. Carl Woese had to overcome considerable obstacles to sell the idea that the archaea were distinct from the bacteria, but he had the data from the outset. Willi Hennig’s ideas about cladistics were greeted with screams of outrage from traditional taxonomists, but it is now the standard approach for taxonomists.

I fail to get the impression that such stories indicate that the scientific community refuses to accept new ideas. In all four cases mentioned here, that is precisely what they did. To be sure, there was resistance, sometimes pigheaded resistance, but in the end even the pigheaded admitted defeat. The innovators fought for their ideas, backed them up with hard data, and shot down the objections one by one.

So what do we see instead coming from the Darwin-basher community? From the classic creation scientists, quibbling and misquoting and “heads I win tails you lose” games, with all objections simply ignored and the same flimsy criticisms levelled over and over again. From those in the ID camp who claim to be more sophisticated? Vague theoretical arguments like irreducible complexity and the explanatory filter, with criticisms dismissed as “ridiculous hairsplitting” and any need to “connect the dots” dismissed – while the O’Luskins of the movement keep on playing classic creation science games like “Hitler Was A Darwinist” and so on.

The mavericks were always members of the scientific communities they were struggling with. They took a level of abuse, but they published scientific papers and made their case. They might have got mad at times but they knew they had to answer criticisms and not just blow them off. And they absolutely knew they were not going to succeed until they sold the scientific community. They never even thought of taking their controversy to secondary school textbooks first.

And now we have people who don’t face the wire brush, don’t try to get their papers in the journals, don’t address the criticisms, and for the most part don’t seem to even have a trace of the sheer curiosity about how things work that makes the sciences tick, in fact seem to despise the sciences as a whole – elevating themselves to the level of Bretz, Margulis, Woese, and Hennig … the kind of people they are spending all their time denouncing.

BTW, my mom grew up in the Scablands. I have a nice panoramic set of shots of Dry Falls – spectacular view, sort of a semi-Grand Canyon – at:

http://www.vectorsite.net/gfxpxl_01.html

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

but not from competent scientists in the scientific community.

Add to that, not from well-read amateurs, either.

Henry

iml8 said:

The mavericks were always members of the scientific communities they were struggling with. They took a level of abuse, but they published scientific papers and made their case. They might have got mad at times but they knew they had to answer criticisms and not just blow them off. And they absolutely knew they were not going to succeed until they sold the scientific community. They never even thought of taking their controversy to secondary school textbooks first.

Exactly. The aim of creationist pseudoscience has never really been to generate data and a body of research. The aim has been to subvert the scientific method and infiltrate the secondary schools.

iml8 Wrote:

The mavericks were always members of the scientific communities they were struggling with. They took a level of abuse, but they published scientific papers and made their case. They might have got mad at times but they knew they had to answer criticisms and not just blow them off. And they absolutely knew they were not going to succeed until they sold the scientific community. They never even thought of taking their controversy to secondary school textbooks first.

And I think it bears repeating (even if it is getting a little threadbare):

Place a real scientist in the crucible of peer review and what emerges is better science and a better scientist. Expose a pseudo-scientist or an ID/Creationist to even a hint of that crucible and what emerges is a whining child with a persecution complex.

There is no question that the scientific enterprise can get rough at times. There is competition for scarce resources, money and workers. Judgments have to be made about the research potential of young, newly-minted researchers. There are politics over space, priorities, qualifications, payoff/risk ratios. All this is just as necessary as it is in any area where resources and time are less than what is required for the number of tasks that need to be done.

There are interactions with state, national, and international agencies that have to be negotiated. Security agencies and defense departments swoop in unexpectedly and classify research and then battles and decisions have to be made about issues outside of the research and how the research impacts these outside issues.

Then there are all the human foibles and flaws the rest the human species has. Scientists suffer from all the genetic disorders, mental illnesses, temptations, and character flaws along with everyone else. They tend to work longer hours (80 to 100 hour weeks are not uncommon). They need sleep and often don’t get enough. Equipment breaks down, time pressures arise, and people get frazzled and testy. Some of the work is dangerous.

The relaxed scientist on television passionately explaining the excitement of his or her work is mostly an illusion. This is a time-out opportunity for a busy scientist. However, most of my colleagues I have worked with don’t care to be in the spotlight anyway; they are too busy, and they often feel the reporter will just mischaracterize what they are reporting.

But probably one of the biggest differences between scientists who stick with it and continue in the face of obstacles (rational or irrational) is their fundamental love of the chase and their fascination with the natural world. Just getting hooked from discovering that the universe responds to probing with understandable answers is a pretty heady experience. Most successful scientists discovered this when they were young, and they never turned back.

On the other hand, most of those who thought they were entering scientific fields for prestige, adulation, fame, and to impress others around them; these are too superficial to understand the processes of scientific investigation. They leave with bitterness and blame others for their failure to cut it.

Nature takes no prisoners.

Mike Elzinga said:

There is no question that the scientific enterprise can get rough at times. There is competition for scarce resources, money and workers. Judgments have to be made about the research potential of young, newly-minted researchers. There are politics over space, priorities, qualifications, payoff/risk ratios. All this is just as necessary as it is in any area where resources and time are less than what is required for the number of tasks that need to be done.

And everybody who’s ever been through a college environment knows that, while every institution of higher learning has its heroic profs, it also has its hidebound arrogant SOBs who like nothing and nobody and will stand in the way of what, in hindsight, was the path of progress.

It still takes the cookie for the Darwin-bashers to invoke the internal controversies of science as backing up their case. Here’s a famous one: an upper-class Englishman who went on an ocean voyage that inspired some radical ideas, so radical that he spent a good 20 years trying to build a case. And when he released his theory, there was an uproar from the old guard who didn’t like the idea and even abused him personally over it.

Fortunately, this Englishman, though not all that aggressive himself, was very thorough, did his homework and then some, and had close allies who were as aggressive as anyone would like who pushed the ideas through. Even then, it wasn’t until well after his death that the science community came to full agreement that he had been right to an, if not entirely complete, an astounding level of detail given the limited data at his disposal.

But his ideas had implications that made some factions of the public upset because they challenged their long-held ideas, and to this day they continue to abuse him – some even calling him a monster whose concepts were responsible for mass murders.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Mike Elzinga said:

The relaxed scientist on television passionately explaining the excitement of his or her work is mostly an illusion. This is a time-out opportunity for a busy scientist. However, most of my colleagues I have worked with don’t care to be in the spotlight anyway; they are too busy, and they often feel the reporter will just mischaracterize what they are reporting.

Like when the reporters keep asking about how the scientist’s current project of genetically engineering more nutritious vegetables is just another ploy by their horned masters to gather more babies with which to leaven their unholy matzo bread with?

Stanton said:

Like when the reporters keep asking about how the scientist’s current project of genetically engineering more nutritious vegetables is just another ploy by their horned masters to gather more babies with which to leaven their unholy matzo bread with?

The famous one along this line was when one of the inventors of the laser was being pressed by a reporter on whether it could be used as a death ray. The researcher kept telling the reporter it was impractical for that use, but on being pressed further conceded that someday, over the horizon, it might be used as death ray.

Headline: SCIENTIST SAYS LASERS WILL BE USED AS DEATH RAYS.

Of course, within a decade or so it was being used in combat to direct laser-guided bombs. We’re slowly getting to the point where it will be used as an actual weapon itself, 50 years on.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

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