What is Anti-Science

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This post is under construction. It is only an assembly of fragments.

Link to http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2012/11/01/tribalism-cultural-cognition-ideology-were-all-talking-about-the-same-thing-here/

What do you think when you here the term “anti-science”. Most people would say something like “That’s people who don’t believe in science.” That sounds right, but it misses the pervasive and powerful role that anti-science plays in our daily lives, our community, and our politics.

Before proceeding, let’s talk briefly about religion. Being anti-religion, non-religious, agnostic, or atheist does not mean you’re not anti-science, at least sometimes. Too often I hear people claim their indifference to (or contempt for) religion and then proudly proclaim their “belief” in science. They let themselves off too easily. In doing so they avoid digging deeper to see how they could be using the scientific approach to better understand their world. They are apt to live in a cocoon of unchallenged beliefs and groupthink as powerful and sedating as any religion they deride. Alternatively, there are religious people who are capable of applying rigorous scientific methods to many aspects of life and profession. Their religion informs their morality, their social arrangements, and often a belief in life after death, but they can separate their spiritual domain from many rational activities. And then there’s this as if on cue: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/computer-scientists-prove-god-exists/story?id=20678984

A working definition: Anti-science is the application of non-scientific methods to situations in which the science’s results are unappealing.

The tricky part about this is that most of us don’t consider ourselves anti-science. Indeed, most people, even if not trained in science and it’s close siblings of logic and mathematics – especially statistical reasoning, like to think their views are supported by science. So ironically anti-science often takes the form of the selective use of science (often badly misunderstood) to support existing conclusions.

Science is about seeking out dis-confirming information. Science is about trying to prove your hypothesis wrong. It is about poking holes in your theory. That is what scientists do. They try to disprove things.

Most people actively seek out only confirming information and reject evidence that is at odds with existing beliefs. That is anti-science.

In other cases, though new conclusions and insights may be available, an individual or group rejects the very notion that existing conclusions or practices could be the subject of scientific inquiry.

Emotional override; reptile brain – association of other with mortal threat, adrenaline, attack, ad  hominem

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2 Responses to What is Anti-Science

  1. David Batty says:

    Interesting post and your working definition of anti-science seems viable. Really I think you could broaden the definition to the application of non-rational thought processes in general (rather than just non-scientific principles) but I understand your desire to be more specific and limiting.

    Likewise, I understand the desire of the author of your first link to avoid jargon whenever possible. Kahan in particular is too fond of very complex terminology for some fairly simple concepts. However, I think the term “ideology” is too loaded a word for what we’re targeting. Beyond the numerous positive and negative connotations of the word, ideology is really a symptom of a much broader internal process. The nature of our minds results in a tendency to accept flawed ideology, not the other way around.

    It some ways it reminds me of a science fiction novel by Neal Stephenson (“Snow Crash”). It is not meant as pure social commentary but certainly touches on the concept that aspects of our modern world actually plug us back into pre-rational thought, sometimes in a scary way.

    • tward says:

      I’ll try to clean up this post. Going forward I’ll usually put things in draft (unpublished) space while I iron them out, but I just wanted to dump some content on here for the three readers (myself included).

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