Silver-level articleAnti-science

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There is something even more vital to science than intelligent methods; namely, the sincere desire to discover the truth, whatever it may be.[1]
—Charles Sanders Peirce, pro-science
It's scientifically impossible for the bumblebee to fly; but the bumblebee, being unaware of these scientific facts, flies anyways.[2]
Mike Huckabee, anti-science

The term "anti-science" refers to persons or organizations that promote their ideology over scientifically-verified evidence,[3] usually either by denying said evidence and/or creating their own.

If a position or theory is pro-science (aka "science"), as opposed to anti-science, it will follow the scientific method, be potentially refutable, peer-reviewable, reproducible, and open to change if the position comes in conflict with observed fact. An anti-science position will violate one or more of these thresholds, in addition to likely being incoherent. In other words -- is it science?

Anti-science positions are promoted especially when political ideology and/or religious dogma conflict with actual science. While it is highly likely that anti-science positions are the result of ideological positions, it is important to note that holding a particular ideological position does not automatically make an individual guilty of being anti-science, or vice versa.

Common anti-science targets include evolution,[4] global warming,[5], GMOs, and various forms of medicine,[6] although other sciences that conflict with the anti-science ideology are often targeted as well.

While it is frequently associated with conservative political positions, vaccine denialism, alternative medicine (particularly of the Eastern or herbal-based variety), the entire organic food movement, chemophobia, and opposition to a lot of genetic research is associated with the left.

Contents

[edit] Examples

[edit] Examples of anti-science tactics

Get your facts first, and then you can distort them at your leisure.[7]
Mark Twain

Anti-science proponents often attack science through:

[edit] Examples of anti-science proponents

If somewhere in the Bible, I were to find a passage that said two plus two equaled five, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the Bible. I would believe it, accept it as true, and then try my best to work it out and understand it.[11][12]
—Pastor Peter LaRuffa

Anti-science proponents usually attack science because of their religious or political view(s). Some of the major ones are listed below:

[edit] Other uses of the term

This modern usage of the term should not be confused with the anti-science movement in the 1960s and 1970s, which, similar to but less violent than the Luddites, was mostly concerned with the potential dehumanization that uncontrolled scientific and technological advancement could cause.[15] While this skepticism of unchecked change meets the dictionary definition of classic conservatism, it falls far short of the anti-intellectual thrust of modern political conservatism.

[edit] What it is not

For the reasons stated above pseudosciences like intelligent design, and concepts such as the global warming conspiracy theory are examples of "anti-science."

The phrase does not mean:

  • "Having a scientifically testable and potentially falsifiable hypothesis which is opposed to the paradigm currently dominant in the scientific community," because in this case, Einstein, Darwin, Pasteur, Galileo, and Copernicus would also meet the definition of having been "anti-science".
  • "Wrong," in which case every scientist that has held a hypothesis, based on evidence of their time period, that is ultimately proven false would meet the definition of having been "anti-science". It is simply the nature of scientific theories to be overturned or updated once new evidence is found, often with technologies not present previously. On the other hand, even pseudoscientific or non-scientific claims can accidentally go right.

[edit] Why it is important

In very many ways I am far richer than King Henry VIII. I own two cars, I have air conditioning and clean running water, I can play Mickey Mouse on an HDTV, and with Simvastatin will likely live twice as long as he did. This doesn't even consider the fact that I have In n Out, sushi, ice cream, Coca Cola, and thousands of things on a daily basis he would have considered to be in the realm of kings.[16]
—"OrangeCream"

Anti-science positions and general anti-intellectualism can and has caused death and suffering on a large scale. For example, many early policymakers discounted scientific evidence that HIV causes AIDS, and consequently failed to provide appropriate treatment to those in need. This HIV denial caused hundreds of thousands to die; in South Africa alone, 300,000 people died.[17][18] Disinformation about HIV and AIDS in African (and worldwide) culture continues to exist today,[19] leading to further problems with reducing the spread of HIV through use of contraception and to discrimination against AIDS victims.[20]

The harm done by anti-science movements goes beyond the specific sciences with which they are mainly concerned. By undermining the scientific method, or seeking to "amend" it so that a particular ideology is shoehorned into the definition of science, such movements threaten to disrupt the public's understanding that systematic logical investigation, also called "science", is the best system for gaining knowledge. Take, for example, the results of a 2005 Gallup poll about the public's beliefs in paranormal activity.[21] Among other things, this poll found that about a quarter of the people surveyed in the U.S., Canada, and U.K. believed that the positions of stars and planets have an effect on their lives and communication with the dead was possible. Watering down the scientific method (as some anti-science advocates attempt to do) is unlikely to improve those figures.

Furthermore, corrupting the scientific method has the potential to damage public trust in empirical findings. If people are led to believe that science is nothing more than another agenda, on the same footing as any belief system, will they react if scientists find that a factory near their homes is releasing dangerous chemicals into the environment? Why should they care? After all, the only people concerned are "scientists"!

Ultimately, the most important thing about science is what it can do for the human species. Watering down or corrupting the scientific method and reducing public trust in science can only reduce science's ability to improve people's lives. When researching cancer, concluding that Goddidit contributes nothing to the quest for a cure. The scientific method isn't arbitrary; it the best way we've found to investigate the natural world and expand our knowledge of it.

[edit] See Also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Peirce, Charles S. 1997. Pragmatism as a Principle of Right Thinking. State University of New York Press. Lectures originally delivered in 1903.
  2. Goldenberg, Suzanne. "Huckabee, the bumblebee, rises to the top on a wing and a prayer." Guardian News and Media Limited. 05 December 2007. Web. 17 May 2014.
  3. "Anti-science." Dictionary.com Unabridged. n.d. 18 May 2014.
  4. The Edge of Evolution
  5. Global warming denialism, global warming conspiracy theory
  6. Vaccine denialism, alternative medicine
  7. Kipling, Rudyard. From Sea to Sea, Chapter 37.
  8. For an example, see Evolution is Religion by Ken Ham.
  9. Conservapedia:Conservapedian relativity
  10. Tim Ball
  11. "Watch Creationists Talking About Creationism"
  12. "Questioning Darwin". (Creationist)
  13. "The Amazing Revolving Door Between Montsanto, the EPA, and the FDA."
  14. Smithsonian Magazine: "Alternative Medicine is a $34 Billion Industry, But Only One-Third of The Treatments Have Been Tested"
  15. "Anti-Science of the 1960's and 1970's."
  16. "The contract between science and society, plus a possible new Renaissance". Ars OpenForum. 10 December 2012. Web forum. 19 May 2014.
  17. Boseley, Sarah. "Mbeki Aids denial 'caused 300,000 deaths'." Guardian News and Media Limited. 26 November 2008. Web. 17 May 2014.
  18. Holmes, Alexander. "Anti-science can be a lethal game." Guardian News and Media Limited. 18 January 2010. Web. 17 May 2014.
  19. "UN study says youth are uninformed about HIV/AIDS." UNICEF. 2 July 2002. Web. 20 May 2014.
  20. "HIV & AIDS Stigma and Discrimination." AVERT. n.d. Web. 20 May 2014.
  21. Lyons, Linda. "Paranormal Beliefs Come (Super)Naturally to Some." Gallup, Inc. 01 November 2005. Web. 17 May 2014..
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