Impact of science
|Poetry of reality|
|We must know. |
We will know.
|A view from the|
shoulders of giants.
“”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.
Ultimately, the most important thing about science is what it can do for the human species. The scientific method isn't arbitrary; it's the best way we've found to investigate the natural world and expand our knowledge of it.
Cool stuff you can thank science for
- The Industrial Revolution
- Factories and mass production
- Norman Borlaug, GMOs and the Green Revolution
- Increased longevity due to:
- Hearing aids
- Instant electronic access to the collected wisdom (and folly) of humanity
- A real-life Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in the palm of your hand
- Google Maps and Street View
- Instant text, audio, and video communication worldwide
- Electronic communication in outer space
- Audio and video reproduction (movies, photographs, audio recordings, smartphones, MP3 players, TVs, movie theaters, radios, cameras)
- Faster forms of transportation, such as motor vehicles, trains, and aircraft
- Spacecraft and satellites
- Light bulbs and flashlights
- Any transport faster than a horse
Why anti-science and pseudoscience matter
“”Science is like an inoculation against charlatans who would have you believe whatever it is they tell you.
|—Neil deGrasse Tyson|
Not only do anti-science, pseudoscience, and anti-intellectualism result in opportunity costs (work that could have been spent helping advance science was instead spent promoting unworkable ideas), but can and have caused death and suffering on a large scale.
Reducing understanding of science
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. 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.
Reducing trust in science
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.
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"!
Abusing trust in science
Alternately, pushers of woo can use the credibility of science to push their own ideas. The reason that creationist sham peer review journals exist is that having your paper "published" in a "peer reviewed" journal makes it seem more authoritative, which makes it easier to convince people that your ideas are right, or at least not insane. For example, pseudoscience has helped the pushing of creationism into public school classrooms, even over the scientific theory of evolution.
Hurting science education
Scientific literacy allows distinguishing science, such as astronomy, from pseudoscience, such as astrology. Science education and literacy is key to scientific research, understanding the effect of scientific research on government policy and on life, and in adapting to the world. Promotion of pseudoscience can take away funds from science programs or just generally misinform students about science.
Lack of medical treatment
Consider Jane. Jane fervently believes that homeopathy is effective and can treat her illness. Instead of going to one of those nasty allopathic doctors, she gets a full array of homeopathic treatments. Her condition deteriorates, and she dies. Jane's life could possibly have been saved, and all of the work that she could have done to improve humanity's fate could have occurred. Because of pseudoscience, she suffers and humanity suffers.
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. Disinformation about HIV and AIDS in African (and worldwide) culture continues to exist today, leading to further problems with reducing the spread of HIV through use of condoms and to discrimination against AIDS victims.
- "The contract between science and society, plus a possible new Renaissance". Ars OpenForum. 10 December 2012. Web forum. 19 May 2014.
- National Institute on Aging: Living Longer
- Kindle, xkcd.
- Makgoba MW (May 2002). "Politics, the media and science in HIV/AIDS: the peril of pseudoscience". Vaccine (journal) 20 (15): 1899–904. PMID 11983241.
- Lyons, Linda. "Paranormal Beliefs Come (Super)Naturally to Some." Gallup, Inc. 01 November 2005. Web. 17 May 2014..
- Hansson, Sven Ove (September 3, 2008). "Science and Pseudo-Science, Section 1: The purpose of demarcations". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
- The National Council Against Health Fraud (1994). "NCAHF Position Paper on Homeopathy".
- Boseley, Sarah. "Mbeki Aids denial 'caused 300,000 deaths'." Guardian News and Media Limited. 26 November 2008. Web. 17 May 2014.
- Holmes, Alexander. "Anti-science can be a lethal game." Guardian News and Media Limited. 18 January 2010. Web. 17 May 2014.
- "UN study says youth are uninformed about HIV/AIDS." UNICEF. 2 July 2002. Web. 20 May 2014.
- "HIV & AIDS Stigma and Discrimination." AVERT. n.d. Web. 20 May 2014.