Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hypocrisy of science deniers

This is something that has been bothering me for a while. People pick and choose the types of science they are willing to accept the validity of the scientific method. This relates to my controversies series where I explained several major controversies in the US. As I said then, people have decided for whatever reason to suspend their acceptance of scientific principles and believe something that is unfounded, been proven to be untrue, or untestable or have simply chosen not to accept the scientific data.

So what am I upset about? Well, each group of these people accept the scientific method in fullness in other situations. The general heuristic used in scientific research is the same in all types of science. The specific methodologies used are typically sources of creativity. Scientists are able to connect strings concepts, and data to create a testable theory to a problem. These theories are then rejected or accepted for more testing. That's all well and good, but the problem is that people wholeheartedly accept less rigorous testing for other products. You hear the organic crowd talking about how this organic food is so much better for you than that processed apple sprayed with chemical. The reason, because it's more natural. They also argue that fish oil and vitamins make you feel better. Well, the problem is that there is no actual evidence to support these claims. In many cases, as Michael Specter put it, it just turns into really expensive pee. However, many of them will reject health food science that disputes these claims.

Ok, so I've rambled a bit without a good story in this one. People will always be this way. However, this science, layperson disputed science, has lead to amazing breakthroughs that have made our lives better. For instance, because we know evolution to be true, we're able to test on animals because we are genetically similar to them. We test specific animals in specific ways because of their genetic similarity to us. We are able to non-human organ transplants because of this as well. We have made huge strides in our technologies because of the same methods that developed the theory of evolution, climate change and vaccines. People have no problems, for the most part, using technologies. Adopting these new technologies that in some cases we don't even really know why or how these technologies work the way they do.

People put more trust in these technologies than they do in well proven science that have lead to life saving inventions, and practices. We cannot pick and chose which sciences we support. We need to support all of them with the understanding that from any of these branches of investigation that something major can be discovered that will make our lives better.

We may not really understand or see how this will happen at first, but looking back we can see the wonders that have arisen because of our voyage into the endless frontier of science.


  1. The idea that organic food is better simply because it's natural is the naturalistic fallacy.

    My understanding is there are real issues with how we produce food, both for health and the environment, and some of those are addressed by "organic" food. The set of things required for "organic" overlaps the set of reforms needed to a large extent, although not all reforms are covered in "organic" and not all requirements of "organic" are necessary reforms. That's at least how I've heard it. As a result, my family buys mostly organic, depending on the food type, but not for the naturalistic fallacy.

    I agree completely that the naturalistic fallacy is one of the main fuels behind "organic" food.

  2. I think that's the best way to deal with it. Buying based on food type. For the most part organic only deals with how it is grown, not anything after the food is harvested. For instance, bananas are sprayed with a chemical to make them ripen faster. So, you still need to be aware of what happens to them post harvest.