Research, Technology

Should you trust science?

Development of the scientific method over the past fivecenturies has led to unprecedented technological growth, which has greatly improved the quality of life for people. I don't know if you noticed, but we are literally surrounded by high technologies. Plasma TVs and computer screens, for example, are nothing more than the results of advances in quantum mechanics and quantum technologies. Thanks to the development of science, we have been able to defeat many deadly diseases, life expectancy has increased significantly, and the world's population in the near future will reach a record eight billion people. It would seem that this is it, the future. A world that keeps getting better and better. But is it? The coronavirus pandemic, oddly enough, drew attention to the "elephant in the room": it turned out that some seriously treat covid from "healers", talking about the disease or sending it to inanimate objects. Yes, yes, the people we work with, are friends or just know, are seriously building their lives according to astrological forecasts, and there is no need to talk about climate change, they say, “there is no such problem”. But how did it happen that, along with scientific and technological progress, millions of people around the world deny science? And what can this state of affairs lead to?

Despite scientific and technological progress, a huge number of people around the world deny scientific knowledge

Content

  • 1 "Why Should We Trust Science?"
  • 2 Alternative answer
  • 3 What is the scientific method?
  • 4 Science denial
  • 5 Who and why denies science?
  • 6 What to do?

Why should we trust science?

We all love simple answers to difficult questions.We are made that way and sometimes it is really simpler that way. However, the more often we choose a simple answer, the less often we think about the question and ask new ones. It just so happened that the Internet has allowed everyone to form their own so-called "information bubble" - people surround themselves with the information they like.

Imagine that somewhere on the Internet youstumbled upon an opinion opposite to yours. And so much so that you are even ready to be offended by accepting a random, for example, tweet into your account. There are countless similar situations in the world, especially today, when everyone seems to be offended. But an insult is one thing and a distrust of science is quite another. Or not?

Is science worth our trust? Let's figure it out!

This is interesting: Superstition from the point of view of science: why do we believe in the supernatural?

I have no answers to these questions, inAfter all, I'm not a psychiatrist. However, I see unflattering (and often aggressive) reviews about my work mainly in articles about climate change, vaccinations, astrology and other pseudosciences. Any arguments are used, and out of respect for the reader, I will not give them. I note, nevertheless, that not only I have noticed such a trend - the press is literally buzzing, since the aggressive denial of science contributes to the spread of COVID-19, the pandemic of which is far from over. And this is only part of the problem.

According to the newspaper Time, in recent years, suchquestions like "Are genetically modified crops safe to eat?", "Do childhood vaccinations cause autism?", "Is climate change an emergency?" and others, became politically polarized, and people reject scientific evidencethat are inconsistent with their political preferences.

Swedish eco-activist Greta Thunberg at a congressional hearing

When Greta Thunberg, Swedish environmentalactivist, testifying in Congress, presenting the latest IPCC report as her testimony, one of the members asked her why we should trust science. She replied incredulously: "Because this is science!"

More and more data appears todayevidence that a massive and orchestrated campaign to create distrust of science has been going on for decades. According to Green Peace, all this beauty is funded by individuals whose interests and ideologies are threatened by the discoveries of modern science.

Interesting fact
As the results of a study by scientists from the Universities of Cardiff and Canberra have shown, most often people deny human responsibility for climate change (anthropogenicity), admitting its existence.

In response, scientists tend to highlight the successesscience. And they are really impressive. After all, our planet really revolves around the Sun (and not vice versa), and the theory of relativity formed the basis of all our knowledge about the world, which lies far beyond our tiny, blue planet.

Alternative answer

An alternative answer to the question “Why trustscience? " sounds like this: scientists are using the "scientific method." But do we really know what it is? What is generally considered a scientific method - developing a hypothesis and then designing an experiment to test it - is not what scientists actually do.

The history of science shows us that scientistsuse many different methods, and these methods change over time. Those that did not live up to expectations are discarded, but new ones appear instead. So the so-called scientific method doesn't work?

It was science that allowed us to look into the secrets of the universe, as well as find out what lies beyond the Earth, the solar system and our Galaxy

False theories can give true results, so even if an experiment works, it doesn't prove that the theory it was designed to test is correct.

Moreover, there may be hundreds and thousandsa variety of theories that, when tested, can show the same result. Conversely, if the experiment fails, this does not mean that the theory is wrong; perhaps the experiment was poorly planned, or there was a failure in one of the instruments. But if the scientific method does not work, then why should one suddenly trust scientists? And is it even possible to justify the use of scientific knowledge in making difficult personal and social decisions?

This is interesting: What lies at the heart of conspiracy theories?

What is the scientific method?

To try and answer these questions, it would beit is not bad to understand what kind of methods these are, with the help of which statements are evaluated. The reality is that regardless of methods and assumptions, the main force driving science is critical review of statements... This is what scientists do when they accept a scientific article for publication in a serious scientific publication.

And yet, there are many known cases whenunscrupulous "scientists" published their so-called works in eminent scientific journals. Moreover, there is a whole "Cemetery of recalled articles", which was well written about, for example, in N + 1.

It is this process - tight, constant monitoring - that works to ensure that erroneous assumptions and claims are rejected and that accepted comments are likely to be correct.

There are many methods that can be used to test certain hypotheses.

Science evolves because scientific statement is notmay be considered true until a lengthy process of learning by others, including peers, is completed (this is an informal process in which scientists discuss data and preliminary findings with their peers). Then the application for scientific work is submitted for discussion at specialized conferences and seminars.

Sometimes additional research and workshops lead to revisions of preliminary results. But still, justified criticism Is the best thing that can happen to a scientist.After receiving additional information and new data, he can revise the preliminary results and if they are wrong, discard them. Of course, sometimes this leads to more radical revisions, for example, to a change in the data collection program or a complete abandonment of research.

So, for example, was the case with the discovery of a black hole that should not exist, you can read more about this fascinating story here.

The covers of well-known scientific journals that publish scientific research. Actually - the engine of science in person

But even if it's okay, the process is not overafter all, ahead is the confirmation of new, received data and conclusions. The next step is even more difficult: as soon as the article is ready, it is sent to a scientific journal. Editors then deliberately refer research papers to people who are not friends or colleagues of the authors — the reviewers. Their task is to find errors or other flaws in the article.

In the academic environment, this process is called "expert judgment"- reviewers are not scientific colleagues -experts in the same field - but they act as a boss who has both the right and the responsibility to find flaws. Reviewers, like critics, can be quite harsh (so don't take it personally).

After reviewers and editor willsatisfied with the "correction of errors", the article is accepted for publication. But even here the story does not end, as often serious mistakes are found in articles of eminent scientific publications. When this happens, the editorial board of the journal withdraws the article and writes an appropriate refutation, indicating the mistakes made in the work.

Don't Miss: How Social Media Is Helping Pseudoscience Spread

Denial of science

The answer to the question of why you should trust science sounds, I suppose, as follows: scientific judgment Is not an individual judgment. It is collective.Yes, there is a lot of controversy among academics on a variety of issues. But if some individual scientist, even a very famous one, disagrees with the scientific consensus, calling him nonsense, does that mean that he is right?

The likelihood that a lonely dissenting person is rightand all the others are not, not equal to zero. But only as long as there is a possibility of complete verification of all his works and statements. This is why diversity in science is important: the more people view a statement from different perspectives, the more likely they are to find errors and inaccuracies.

Anti-scientific protests in the United States. In the photo, a girl holds a poster with the words "Physics is Violence"

That is why it is necessary to treat news (anyone) with healthy skepticism, as well as loud statements: it takes years, and sometimes decades, to develop a scientific process.

Did you know that
According to a number of scientists and researchers, climate change denial is a form of science denial.

The denial of science today has acquired unprecedentedscale. The results of numerous studies indicate that most of all people doubt the reality of climate change and the impending, possible, environmental disaster. It may seem surprising, but the most common pseudoscientific beliefs in the United States (or similar research is conducted there a little more often than in Russia).

It is interesting that dissatisfied scientists were found in France. According to a recent poll in the country, almost 40% of French people are convinced of the existence of conspiracies.

Opponents of knockdown and vaccinations are protesting more often than you might think

As David Ladden, professor of psychology at Georgia Gwinnett College, writes in his article for Psychologies, recent polls have shown that 41% of Americans believe in psychics and about a third of them believe in haunted houses, ghosts, and telepathy.

This may be partly due to lack of scientific literacybut even well-educated people canDeliberately reject science when it comes to issues like vaccines, genetically modified foods or climate change, Laden writes.

I described in more detail how and why science is denied to science in Russia in this article, I recommend reading

Who denies science and why?

In a 2020 article published in the journalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science, University of Queensland psychologist Matthew Hornsey has suggested that motivated rejection of science is not so much due to lack of scientific literacy as due to deep-seated emotions and psychological needs.

Thus, a direct approach to providingadditional information or rational arguments will not have any effect on the denier of science, and the only hope to influence their attitude is to appeal to the emotions that underlie them. Hornsey explains the psychology of aversion to science using six basic criteria:

  • Ideologies... People adhere to certain systemsbeliefs that clearly define who they are. They are also motivated to reject any aspect of science that is inconsistent with their point of view or ideology. Two examples are relevant here, namely the rejection of human evolution by fundamentalist Christians and the rejection of climate change by those with conservative political views.
  • Fortunately, defenders of scientific knowledge also gather at the rally. The inscription on the poster reads: The planet needs thinkers, not deniers. "

  • Acceptance or rejection of climate science associated with political affiliation andeducation, but in an interesting way. As liberals become more educated, their confidence in the science of climate change increases. The opposite is true for conservatives, however, and become increasingly committed to climate change aversion as their educational level improves. Thus, climate skepticism is associated not only with a lack of scientific literacy, but rather with conflict with ideology.
  • More on the topic: Why are old conspiracy theories still popular?

  • Selfish interests... In fact, people strongly support the scientificprogress - after all, smartphones, computers, medicines and many other technological advances have greatly improved our lives over previous generations. But we often resist scientific knowledge when the discovery entails a cost or inconvenience on our part.
  • Selfish interests also play an important role in skepticism inrelation to climate science. Obviously, those in the fossil fuel industry have a very strong stake in refuting climate change. Likewise, political conservatives - with their desire to maintain the status quo - are resisting the lifestyle changes needed to tackle global warming.
  • What is not attributed to the poor fellow Bill Gates - and the destruction of the inhabitants of the Earth, and chipping with vaccines, and the fact that he is an Illuminati, a Freemason, and, of course, a reptilian

  • Conspiracy worldview... The vast majority of people clearly believeconspiracy theories are highly implausible. However, part of the population is deeply convinced that the world is ruled by conspiracies. Thus, a person who believes the moon landing was rigged is likely to subscribe to conspiracy theories about reptioloids, chemical trails, and microchips in vaccines as well.
  • Fears and phobias... It is very likely that anxiety is the mainsource of problems. For example, research shows that anti-vaccine opinions are based on deep feelings of anxiety and disgust towards hospitals and medical procedures.

As you can see, the topic is vast and very interesting.In addition, the emergence of social media has led to the creation of online communities that promote all kinds of science-denying positions, from the Flat Earth Society to psychoanalysis. But is there anything you can do about it?

You will be interested: Scientists have found out why some people believe in conspiracy theories about the coronavirus

What to do?

According to Hornsey, we need to be sensitiveto the psychological motives of abandoning science and instead to build communication in such a way as to bypass the emotional basis of their beliefs. What do you think about this? Do you agree with the conclusions of scientists or, on the contrary, do you deny scientific knowledge? We will wait for the answer here, as well as in the comments to this article!

Oh, and of course we remind you - every year in Russia the most outstanding pseudoscientists of the country are awarded. Follow the news!

By the way, we recently talked about how to distinguish truth from fiction on the Internet. To read about why misinformation and men are a particularly bad mix, click here.