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Author Topic: Science Thread (and !!SCIENCE!! Thread!)  (Read 18316 times)

Trekkin

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Re: Science Thread (and !!SCIENCE!! Thread!)
« Reply #450 on: June 12, 2019, 03:57:33 pm »

Relevant: https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/6/11/18652225/hype-science-press-releases

You know, everyone talks about the public's "faith in science," but nobody ever talks about scientists' faith in the public.

I'm not just saying this to be edgy. The majority of my immediate colleagues openly consider outreach to be a waste of time, particularly in the post-Trump era; if the public wants to believe the Earth is flat and vaccines cause autism and windmills cause cancer, why on (flat) Earth would they listen to us? Even when they're given papers, they just quote-mine them for trivial things with which they can justify disregarding them.
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Eric Blank

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Re: Science Thread (and !!SCIENCE!! Thread!)
« Reply #451 on: June 12, 2019, 04:10:19 pm »

That's entirely true
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smjjames

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Re: Science Thread (and !!SCIENCE!! Thread!)
« Reply #452 on: June 12, 2019, 05:47:27 pm »

Relevant: https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/6/11/18652225/hype-science-press-releases

You know, everyone talks about the public's "faith in science," but nobody ever talks about scientists' faith in the public.

I'm not just saying this to be edgy. The majority of my immediate colleagues openly consider outreach to be a waste of time, particularly in the post-Trump era; if the public wants to believe the Earth is flat and vaccines cause autism and windmills cause cancer, why on (flat) Earth would they listen to us? Even when they're given papers, they just quote-mine them for trivial things with which they can justify disregarding them.

Hasn't it kind of always been this way though? I mean, even in Galileo's time...

 The Church was pretty pro-science at one point wasn't it? Because 'God would want us to learn how the world works' or something like that. Then they started finding things that contradicted God and whatever. Still, even though they've almost completly stopped being anti-science now, theres still a lingering stereotype of being anti-science. I was just sort of spontaneously wondering how it'd help things if The Church (and religion in general) was more pro-science.
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Trekkin

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Re: Science Thread (and !!SCIENCE!! Thread!)
« Reply #453 on: June 12, 2019, 06:55:33 pm »

(-snip-)
Hasn't it kind of always been this way though? I mean, even in Galileo's time...

 The Church was pretty pro-science at one point wasn't it? Because 'God would want us to learn how the world works' or something like that. Then they started finding things that contradicted God and whatever. Still, even though they've almost completly stopped being anti-science now, theres still a lingering stereotype of being anti-science. I was just sort of spontaneously wondering how it'd help things if The Church (and religion in general) was more pro-science.

They generally dispute the conclusions rather than the process, though, and there are ways to reconcile that. Non-overlapping magisteria, for example. It's obvious bullshit, but it lets both sides work on what they care about.

I think the Internet has done a lot to unify individual cranks into a kind of reflexively nihilistic, narcisstic disbelief, though. If someone thinks the Earth is six thousand years old because their holy book says so, that's a falsifiable claim that we can, at least, argue about. However, there are plenty of people now who just reflexively demand to see proof about everything, call people "biased" with no explanation of how, say "I question these data" as though that means anything on its own, and generally have come to the conclusion that science is wrong because they want to sound smarter than scientists, however much they "love science". They tend to end their statements with "checkmate" a lot, and nitpick about fonts and statistical minutae. They don't need or want a coherent position to argue beyond "neener neener", and so there's no way to make them face facts because they'll deny them just to "own" you and then declare victory anyway. It's the "everybody's too scared to debate me" school of debate.

They've always been around, but now they're talking to each other and reinforcing each other, and they're not doing it with any kind of consistent logic, and we're powerless to disprove a disbelief in proof.
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smjjames

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Re: Science Thread (and !!SCIENCE!! Thread!)
« Reply #454 on: June 12, 2019, 07:53:58 pm »

It suppose it might be possible to loopception them by saying that if they disbelieve proof, then they should disbelieve their own proof, then watch their heads explode from the logical 'DOESNOTCOMPUTE!!!!!'

Really though, it'd probably take a Phd in psychology to start figuring out how to combat those type of people, but the ones that aren't hardcore in it and still reasonable could still be coaxed away from that kind of thing. That's probably the group (along with stereotypical conservatives) that your colleagues are talking about, not the ones who just go 'HA HA! I OWNZ YU LIHBRUULSSHH!'
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Trekkin

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Re: Science Thread (and !!SCIENCE!! Thread!)
« Reply #455 on: June 12, 2019, 08:26:31 pm »

It suppose it might be possible to loopception them by saying that if they disbelieve proof, then they should disbelieve their own proof, then watch their heads explode from the logical 'DOESNOTCOMPUTE!!!!!'

Really though, it'd probably take a Phd in psychology to start figuring out how to combat those type of people, but the ones that aren't hardcore in it and still reasonable could still be coaxed away from that kind of thing. That's probably the group (along with stereotypical conservatives) that your colleagues are talking about, not the ones who just go 'HA HA! I OWNZ YU LIHBRUULSSHH!'

You'd think, right? There's a twofold problem with that, though. Not only does the backfire effect drive people further into believing wrong things rather than admitting they're wrong, but the social dynamics are backwards for that kind of transition. By the time people come to believe certain counterfactual things, they're used to being ridiculed and rejected for them except by fellow believers, which leads them to think that if they give up now they'll lose all their friends and still be mocked by the nonbelievers.

Now, that's not to say there aren't ways to fix this. It's just that, in our official capacity, we're absolutely not the people you want trying; they've already decided we're full of shit, and we're expected to make our case in ways they're already numb to. That's also why you can't trap them logically, by the way. They are used to finding other ways of making sense of things in preference to logic, so if what they believe doesn't make sense, that's only proof that they've slipped the mental bonds of the sheeple and started thinking for themselves.

Then, too, we're way outnumbered by people that "love science" as a way to get to call people idiots for not believing it, and they've become adept at skimming our output for new vocabulary without actually learning anything. I've watched it happen. So, when we come along and explain how we know various things not to be true, we sound a lot like the Internet experts whose thesis is "you're all idiots." If you want to stop the cranks, I think a good first step would be to stop the folks driving them into crankdom in their zeal to demonstrate what they know and figure out a way back for the quasi-cranks that doesn't involve them being ridiculed for having believed something stupid. Otherwise, we're fighting an uphill battle on quicksand.
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smjjames

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Re: Science Thread (and !!SCIENCE!! Thread!)
« Reply #456 on: June 12, 2019, 08:56:47 pm »

The first part wasn't actually serious, but I think you knew that.

The link I posted earlier probably points to a large part of the problem on both sides since you mention the scientists coming off as 'Internet experts whose thesis is 'you're all idiots'' since it's about presenting it to people outside the usual circles that it would go around in. The article also mentions that sometimes it's the scientist doing the press release writing it badly without meaning to.

So, probably a good place to start would be on the communication end since that's probably where a good deal of the crankification and ivory-towerification is.
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Trekkin

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Re: Science Thread (and !!SCIENCE!! Thread!)
« Reply #457 on: June 12, 2019, 09:49:33 pm »

The first part wasn't actually serious, but I think you knew that.

The link I posted earlier probably points to a large part of the problem on both sides since you mention the scientists coming off as 'Internet experts whose thesis is 'you're all idiots'' since it's about presenting it to people outside the usual circles that it would go around in. The article also mentions that sometimes it's the scientist doing the press release writing it badly without meaning to.

So, probably a good place to start would be on the communication end since that's probably where a good deal of the crankification and ivory-towerification is.

I did, yes; I was responding mostly to the second part.

And yes, communication would be a good place to start, but ultimately, like I said, whatever we say can be aped stylistically by people with ill intent, and telling science apart from scientific-sounding gibberish is a hard job. It's one reason we have peer review. So even if we're perfect, we're still going to sound like the people copying us in order to say inaccurate things. Ultimately, if we want to fix communication, we need to recognize we're neither the only nor the loudest voice out there.

Errors are inevitable, too, if only because science isn't perfect. If those were all we had to deal with, I'd be way more on board with putting the onus on researchers primarily.

Part of the problem is also that outreach is volunteer work for us; it doesn't advance our careers nearly as much as publications do, and while it's emphasized in training it's ultimately not that important in hiring -- and we're in the process of being hired, continually, for most of our careers. People can claim scientists work for the public and demand more mandates, but really, we work for the people who fund us and they're mostly us, at least proximally, so people do outreach because they're enthusiastic.

And outreach is the best way we know to sap a graduate student's enthusiasm. It's all first- and second- years who go, at least here. Nobody above second year has any interest in the public except as minimally effective resume fodder.

So if you want more communication, better communication,and therefore more time spent on communication, it'd be nice if it was less of a soul-sucking horror show.
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wierd

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Re: Science Thread (and !!SCIENCE!! Thread!)
« Reply #458 on: June 12, 2019, 11:42:06 pm »

The issue with being misrepresented (systemically, for ideological reasons) happens to everyone, everywhere.

I hate to bring up the Vatican again so soon, but the august Cardinal Richelieu is attributed to the following quotation:

"If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him."

This is basically the crux of your problem; and a good scientific paper contains much more than a mere six lines of text.



Consider the demographics that are normally implicated, and how they twist even their own "axiomatically true" doctrinal texts all out of context for such purposes. (I don't mean to pick on the religious conservatives, but they represent a statistically significant fraction of the demographic, and of that sample, a significant number engage in out-of-context biblical quotation bingo. It is my understanding that other conservative religious demographics have the same problem, but with their own doctrinal sources being misrepresented/interpreted for convenience of ideology.)


What is really important though, is to not lose sight of who you are ACTUALLY trying to reach;  It is not the people that have already decided apriori that they need to mock, ridicule, and debase anything and everything you or your peers put on paper for the public (because they can).  It is for the people that would like to know, but are being shouted at/against by the prior group, and who are kept in the dark as part of their indoctrination and cultural conditioning, but would much rather have a broader, and more meaningful understanding than just the straight diet of dogma they get at home.  (if anything, the fact that these previously disparate groups have all joined up together into a siren's wail of terror, indicates that outreach is WORKING, rather than failing. They see you as competition in gaining mindshare, and have upped their game.)

Being harangued by the vocal gestalt of social idiocy is to be expected; When you get criticized by the genuinely curious young minds, that is when there is an issue.

And really, current academic publishing DOES have that issue. (See for example, the slew of really bad papers that have been getting accepted to peer reviewed journals in recent years that are literally nothing but buzzwords thrown together by a markov chain generator. 'sa truth sera.)

When you lose that demographic, you fail to replace your ranks as you age, and retire.


When you stop doing the outreach altogether, because of fear of the seething death cries of the willfully ignorant-- you guarantee the loss of the second as well.

« Last Edit: June 12, 2019, 11:59:39 pm by wierd »
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Trekkin

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Re: Science Thread (and !!SCIENCE!! Thread!)
« Reply #459 on: June 13, 2019, 02:01:27 am »

When you lose that demographic, you fail to replace your ranks as you age, and retire.

If this were true, you would expect that either we're great at outreach or we're short on people, and neither is true. We are infamously oversupplied with people and very few of them, at least in the scientific organizations I've been a part of who have cared to check, decided to go into science because they were forced into participating in an outreach program by their school. Voluntary outreach works better, to be sure, but if we're passively asking for highly motivated applicants we're not really recruiting anymore.

So we suck at convincing people to do this who don't already want to and we've got more than we can ever use anyway. Now, it is true that part of that oversupply is due to graduate school being so easy to get into, as it has been for a long time now, but even so, people really want to be scientists even without our prodding, which would lead me to believe that increased access to passive/voluntary outreach might help (not that we necessarily want it to), but our version of raising awareness really doesn't appear to be doing anything.

Actually, it's tempting (but an oversimplification) to say we're victims of our own success; so vastly many more people want to be scientists than can actually be scientists for any given value of "being a scientist" that a lot of the noise and misrepresentation is from cargo cult scientists and enthusiasts who are avowedly on our side but not actually helping. They're not generally from the "demographics normally implicated", either. When I say "ill intent", it's actually these people I worry most about; nothing drives people into dangerous levels of crankdom like someone who's very sure of themselves incorrectly proving them wrong and then braying about the Dunning-Kruger effect to make them feel stupid for thinking they knew something. You can go listen to flat Earthers who decided to enter the movement because the "pro-science" people got their facts wrong about carbon dating and things and called them idiots for disagreeing, for example. It's kind of like how anti-drug programs in school tend to backfire. Kids hear "if you so much as think about marijuana your life will be permanently ruined", know that's bullshit, and decide maybe the adults are lying about other drugs too and off we go.

So, yes, misrepresentation by our ideological enemies happens all the time, but what I see going on is more like our enemies being radicalized by the heretics claiming to be our allies.
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wierd

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Re: Science Thread (and !!SCIENCE!! Thread!)
« Reply #460 on: June 13, 2019, 02:07:23 am »

Again,

Quote
(if anything, the fact that these previously disparate groups have all joined up together into a siren's wail of terror, indicates that outreach is WORKING, rather than failing. They see you as competition in gaining mindshare, and have upped their game.)

The counter you raised is not a counter to what I said at all.  I was merely alerting you to their tactic, which is to break your resolve, so they win through attrition.  That they are so shrill, and have banded together into a faceless mass of unbearable mental anguish, is testament to the fact that your outreach IS WORKING.

As you yourself pointed out, continued outreach at this level of difficulty burns through grad students, because they lack the resolve. (and, as I pointed out, loss of interested minds results in fewer replacements later.)

I would suggest that your industry do what healthcare did;

Front-line patient facing care is not typically handled by doctors. (at least, not the lion's share.)  Most of it is handled by people that specialize in that, which is nursing staff.  There is a sharp divide between doctor and nurse, and it exists for a reason.  Doctors are already overworked, they don't need the added stresses of constant patient exposure. (It's hard enough on them when their patients refuse their advice and care plans in favor of what they read on WebMD, or what some crank on the internet told them.) 

Scientists doing the actual work of science, should be doing the actual work of science.  Outreach is not really a part of that; Pushing the boundaries of the art is hard enough, and requires already almost inhuman levels of dedication.

Instead, you need to embrace a second-class into your profession.  Scientifically literate people who can read your papers, and understand them, but do not themselves push the state of the art, and instead, do your outreach and public facing functions, because they have the drive and motivation for *THAT* instead.

Trying to burn through your grad students is very sub-optimal, as you have noted.

« Last Edit: June 13, 2019, 02:18:51 am by wierd »
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Trekkin

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Re: Science Thread (and !!SCIENCE!! Thread!)
« Reply #461 on: June 13, 2019, 02:39:45 am »

Instead, you need to embrace a second-class into your profession.  Scientifically literate people who can read your papers, and understand them, but do not themselves push the state of the art, and instead, do your outreach and public facing functions, because they have the drive and motivation for *THAT* instead.

We have those already. They teach undergraduates at little out-of-the-way colleges where their research, if any, is more of an afterthought. That's kind of what effective outreach looks like when just keeping up with the state of the art is a job unto itself. (Although as you well know, medicine has the same problem of a constantly evolving state of the art but more stubborn practitioners.)

We're full up on them, too. Advocates and advisors and consultants, as well. It's part of why a PhD is an absolute requirement to be taken seriously scientifically; low bar though it may be, it signifies that someone's at least minimally capable of demonstrably knowing what they're talking about, which is more or less the point of empiricism, and that's what we're being asked to sell to everybody, including the public.

If you want to call the shrillness of our opponents evidence that we've succeeded, fine, but 34% of millennials not being sure the world is round is pretty damning evidence that we've also failed on a societal scale, and at a level that's not only well below the state of the art but well below what we might reasonably be expected to correct. This gets back to my main point: researchers have a role to play in making science more accessible, but there are major flaws in the system well outside our scope that are going to seriously hamper any efforts in that regard.
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wierd

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Re: Science Thread (and !!SCIENCE!! Thread!)
« Reply #462 on: June 13, 2019, 02:50:58 am »

Only if you think it is possible to reach a high percentile in the first place.

As horrible a tool as IQ is, the basis of how it is computed holds sway here;  The majority of people are not really capable of understanding the world around them as it truly is, or understanding that they have biases, or even that they should try to mitigate the influence of them.

That you have significantly higher than median levels of understanding in basic things like EARTH==ROUND, is actually quite reassuring.


Admittedly though, we DO need to keep the number of flat earthers someplace below 20%.  Trend research has shown that numbers in the 30% range results in inevitable overturns of social dynamics, and that's terrifying--  But then again, look at how close the difference there is.  It's why the shrill sound is so loud; they instinctually know that if they lose more mind share, they will be irrelevant.
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Kagus

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Re: Science Thread (and !!SCIENCE!! Thread!)
« Reply #463 on: June 13, 2019, 03:04:07 am »

We interrupt this broadcast to bring you an article I've kept saved on my phone for too long:

"Sir, I'd like to show you what the boys have put together for that precision strike task. It's a drone-launched missile."

"Excellent, minimal collateral all around! What's the payload?"

"Knife."

Reelya

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Re: Science Thread (and !!SCIENCE!! Thread!)
« Reply #464 on: June 13, 2019, 06:22:37 am »

The Church was pretty pro-science at one point wasn't it? Because 'God would want us to learn how the world works' or something like that. Then they started finding things that contradicted God and whatever. Still, even though they've almost completly stopped being anti-science now, theres still a lingering stereotype of being anti-science. I was just sort of spontaneously wondering how it'd help things if The Church (and religion in general) was more pro-science.

There's a reason the Church was pro-knowledge, not necessarily pro-science.

That's because then you have a monopoly on truth. If the church are the go-to people for scribes and the like, then the church controls the narrative. If the church on the other hand had said "we only deal with religious knowledge" then they'd be ceding authority to third-party knowledge bases which would grow and develop outside their direct control. So, instead you create vast libraries which store all types of books, under the watchful eye of the religious scholars, and people entering rely on the religious scribes to tell them what's what. That would make the monastic scribes like the Google Search of their era.

If all the books are catalogued in a library you control then you rarely need to actively suppress anything. The scribes are only going to make copies of books they want to make copies of, and they can just store and forget anything they don't like. Notice how the Gallileo case and similar all occurred after the widespread adoption of the printing press. That's probably relevant. The printing press ended the near monopoly of scribes to disseminate copies of texts, necessitating the church to take radical action to control their monopoly on ideas. An analogy here would be record companies freaking out about the rise of internet downloads and trying to create a punitive legal structure to deal with people using the new technology.

You see similar things in for example single-party dictatorships, where any knowledge-base that's outside party control is stomped on, even if their teachings don't really directly conflict party doctrine.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2019, 06:45:37 am by Reelya »
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