Jan 30 2015

The Gap Between Public and Scientific Opinion

A recently published poll from the Pew Research center finds that there is a huge gap between public opinion and the opinion of scientists on many important scientific issues of the day. This is disappointing, but not surprising, for a variety of reasons.

Generally speaking, if the majority of scientists have the same opinion about a scientific question (especially relevant experts), then it is a good idea to take that majority opinion seriously. It does not have to be correct, but if you were playing the odds I would go with the experts. If public opinion differs from the opinion of scientists on a scientific question, it is a safe bet that the public is wrong, probably because of interfering cultural, social, political, ideological, psychological, or religious beliefs. (Scientists have those too, which may explain the minority opinion in some cases.)

This attitude is often portrayed as elitism – usually by those who disagree with the scientific majority. Those relatively new to concepts of critical thinking, or trying to sound as if they are critical thinkers, might also dismiss such sentiments as an “argument from authority,” and then declare themselves the victor because they were able to point to a logical fallacy.  They miss the fact that informal logical fallacies are context dependent, and it is not a fallacy to respect (within reasonable limits) the consensus of expert opinion.

Another strategy for those who are not comfortable with the scientific consensus is to simply make up their own facts. They deny the consensus exists, or even go so far as to create their own “scientific” institutions dedicated not to science but to the predetermined outcome they desire. They manufacture their own consensus (although limited to their alternative reality).

However, the reigning champion of strategies to dismiss a scientific consensus in favor of your own ideology is – the conspiracy theory. Conspiracies are rhetorically wonderful. They are the “get out of jail free” card for any belief that is contradicted by a majority of scientists. The majority of scientists disagree with your narrative because of “Big X,” they are corrupt, under corporate influence, closed-minded, they are all atheists, or simply are seeking to maximize their own research funding. Such allegations can be made up out of whole cloth, without the burden of any evidence, or even the slightest understanding of how the institutions of science and the institutions that fund and regulate science operate.

Once you have played the conspiracy card, you are immune to evidence or logic. Any study can be dismissed. Nothing has to make even the slightest bit of sense. A robust consensus of expert opinion is irrelevant.

There is also a massive dose of Dunning-Kruger at play here.  If one lacks knowledge in a specific area they also lack the knowledge to judge their own lack of knowledge. Psychologists have also described a more general “overconfidence” bias. In our ignorance, we assume we know more than we do, and we are hugely overconfident in our correctness.

Modern science can be very complicated. It takes years of study just to have the basic tools to then do the real study that expertise in an area requires. Science also functions as a community, with the quirky ideas and errors of individuals being hammered out by multiple layers of peer review. If you are wrong, your colleagues will likely tell you in no uncertain terms. It’s a messy process full of error, false starts, confusion, egos, and all that. But it is a process that favors logic and evidence, and over time it does grind out increasing confidence in certain models of how the world works.

A robust consensus of scientific opinion that has been built on decades of research, debate, questioning, and testing is a pretty solid basis on which to base personal and societal choices.

It is amazing that people will substitute their own poorly informed and biased gut feelings for a robust consensus of experts. Some non-scientists actually think they have enough knowledge of climate modeling to have a relevant opinion about the accuracy of current models. Actually what is happening is that they have an opinion which is based upon their ideology and dominant narratives, and then back fill justifications for their ideological opinions. They simply ignore the fact that they can’t read and understand the technical literature. When you put it to them that way, they start rifling through the excuses I listed above, most often reaching for the conspiracy theory.

Getting back to the Pew poll, they found that the biggest gap between scientific and public opinion concerned the safety of GMO food. In their poll 88% of members of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) stated that they have no concerns about the safety of GMO food, while only 37% of the public did – a 51% gap.

This is not surprising, and is in line with my sense over the last couple of years that the GMO debate is one of the topics where the gap between science and public opinion is the greatest (which is exactly why I have been focusing on this issue of late).

Other issues explored (given as the percentage of scientists/public opinion respectively) include:

favor use of animals in research – 89/47

safe to eat food grown with pesticides – 68/28

humans have evolved over time – 98/68

childhood vaccines should be required – 86/68

climate change is mostly due to human activity – 87/50

favor building more nuclear power plants – 65/45

The one area where there was the most agreement: the space station has been a good investment for the US – 68/64

In each case I agree with the scientific majority. Some of the figures are surprisingly low, such as only 87% agreeing with man-made climate change, but surveys can be tricky and the numbers can change based on exact wording. People may not be willing to sign off on what they perceive as the full implications of the question, even if they mostly agree with it. Surveys miss a lot of nuance.

Large patterns, however, are more reliable. What this survey showed is that people generally have a positive attitude toward science and scientists, but will flip their opinion on any issue where the scientific majority conflicts with their ideology.

Conclusion

What are the lessons from this latest survey (which generally agrees with other surveys about scientific opinions and literacy)? For me, as a neuroscientist and skeptic, the biggest lesson is to be humble (embrace what I call neuropsychological humility). I would add expertise-humility (I need a better term, but that will do for now). What I mean by this is the opposite of Dunning-Kruger – make an effort to understand the gap between your knowledge and the knowledge of experts. Assume that the gap is vast if you are not an expert. Don’t assume that your naive opinions are well-informed or likely to be reliable.

I often invite people to consider an area of knowledge where they do consider themselves to be experts. Now think about the opinions of the average person regarding your area of expertise, how is it portrayed in the media, etc.? In my experience (I ask this a lot) 100% of people with expertise in anything believe that the average person is hopelessly naive and misinformed about their area of expertise.

Then I invite them to take the next logical step – you are just as hopelessly naive and misinformed about everything else, about any area in which you do not have expertise.

So be humble. Listen to the experts. Fight against the overconfidence bias. Fight against your own manifestation of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Assume you lack information. Respect those who have spent decades of their life studying one complex area, and the consensus of a community of experts who have spent a long time hammering out their ideas against harsh reality. Don’t fall for conspiracy theories.

If we learn these lessons, and improve science and critical thinking education, we can hopefully close those gaps.

52 responses so far

52 Responses to “The Gap Between Public and Scientific Opinion”

  1. AmateurSkepticon 30 Jan 2015 at 8:38 am

    Rather a shame that this survey doesn’t include data on political party affiliation. It would have been nice to see if the survey would have confirmed what many of us suspect.

  2. Chad Brownon 30 Jan 2015 at 8:50 am

    Great post Steve. I really like the idea of “expertise humility” (and general humility of course).

    I’m sure it’s very difficult for someone who spends a large portion of their life devoted to knowing 1 particular subject as well as they can, to then have their expert opinion challenged by an overly confident person who is likely ignorant of the subject in which they claim to have some valuable input on. It is very telling that someone of your level of expertise can take a step back and say (more or less): “we can’t know everything about anything”.

    This post really shows that, although “argument from authority” IS a logical fallacy, it isn’t ALWAYS illogical to trust the opinion of a CONSENSUS of experts who are an “authority” on a particular subject.

  3. Kieselguhr Kidon 30 Jan 2015 at 9:36 am

    The one place where I think Dr. Novella is stretching it is the “favor use of animals in research” question. I have been part of research involving vertebrate animals, and even nonhuman primates, doing horrible but I think necessary things to them (sometimes for developing therapeutics nder the FDA’s Animal Rule) so I guess I come down where the scientists do — but it’s not at heart a science question. There’s a _bit_ of a scientific question there, because I think some people are under an illusion that you can do all this stuff with computer models or whatever. But fundamentally it’s a moral question, and I don’t know as scientists can claim to have more legitimacy there (and indeed probably we have less since our livelihoods and our friends’ livelihoods give us an economic and social motive to go a certain way). I really, really value IACUCs coming in and trying to maintain a balance between our general social consensus of what we think is moral and fair behavior, and a general but not overspecific sense of what scientific benefits research can provide.

    I also get pretty incensed when some idiot burns through a whole lot of mice (say) wastefully because he didn’t do his statistics well and thoroughly to start with or plan the experiment with an eye to what questions might arise, and that’s something that happens too often despite financial pressures. I remember seeing Jack Gallant, who does electrophysiology in NHP models, just absolutely slap down a grad student for responding to critiques of a proposal needing a lot of animals with a dismissive “so what, it’s just more chimps” attitude: Gallant went into a discourse about how long these things were in the lab with electrodes in their heads, and how they became almost like pets, that he and his lab cared for, and it left me with a deep respect for and trust of Gallant and his group.

  4. ccbowerson 30 Jan 2015 at 10:56 am

    Increasingly, I’ve been hearing a slightly more subtle argument (perhaps a milder form of conspiracy thinking) to dismiss certain scientific consensus- that the scientists themselves cannot see their own biases, which skews their perspective on the topic. Sometimes it is argued as a groupthink or echo chamber effect. This approach removes some of the unsavory aspects of true conspiracies, which usually require some intentionally pernicious acts, often motivated by self interest. Of course this is also a “get out of jail free card” that allows the person to dismiss any expert consensus that runs counter to their own ideological biases. At the very least, it is a way of creating a false equivalence, so that anyone’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s.

    Of course, this perspective requires a lack of understanding of how science works in practice. Scientific disciplines are rarely so small and isolated that such groupthink could be stable over time, and this is definitely not possible for such large hot-button topics that are controversial today.

    If a perspective is being pushed that is not correct, there are incredible incentives for a scientist to correct them (and champion a counter perspective). Ironically, all of the motivations mentioned in conspiratorial arguments (e.g. fame, money, etc), are more likely if a scientist ran counter to an incorrect consensus and he/she turned out to be correct.

  5. Chris Robertson 30 Jan 2015 at 11:21 am

    Great article, which I’ll keep in my back pocket for a while to use when these kinds of issues come up. But one question:

    “What this survey showed is that people generally have a positive attitude toward science and scientists, but will flip their opinion on any issue where the scientific majority conflicts with their ideology.”

    I agree with you 100% that this is what is happening, but is it fair to say the survey reveals this is what is happening? The survey shows where individuals disagree with scientists, but does it show why? Does it reveal ideology as a cause for the disagreement?

  6. ccbowerson 30 Jan 2015 at 11:21 am

    K. Kid. I agree that that question is the least purely scientific of the questions, but I’m not sure why you say ” Dr. Novella is stretching it.” He did not make up the questions and he did not even mention that question specifically. It is partially a scientific question in many ways, including what you mentioned.

    A common argument by those ideologically motivated to limit or eliminate animal research (and we all fall somewhere on a that spectrum) is that animal research is not helpful for X,Y or Z. Of course, as a group, the scientists themselves are best an knowing the limits of particular animal models, and in this context their opinion should be weighted appropriately. Also, unless you really know how animals are used in particular areas of study, the use of the animals in research is vague and uninformed. Again, the public is not on equal footing in this regard.

    And these scientific questions play into the moral question quite strongly, because you can’t really weigh in on whether something is ethical or not if you don’t know what the potential benefits and costs are. The only exceptions to this are at the extremes; e.g., the perspective that no amount of benefit is worth any cost at all (i.e., animals used for any purpose is unethical given any circumstance)

  7. Ian Wardellon 30 Jan 2015 at 12:02 pm

    I agree scientists will know more about the examples listed. But what about issues which are not scientific? For example whether there’s a life after death, whether God exists, whether we have free will, whether colours as experienced are really out there in the world, what consciousness is (just to name a few examples). Scientists give the impression that they are authorities on all these subjects, but it is absolutely nonsense.

  8. Ekkoon 30 Jan 2015 at 12:20 pm

    “Scientists give the impression that they are authorities on all these subjects, but it is absolutely nonsense.”

    And you know this to be the case because you are the real authority on these subjects right?

  9. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2015 at 12:27 pm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facepalm#mediaviewer/File:Paris_Tuileries_Garden_Facepalm_statue.jpg

  10. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2015 at 12:31 pm

    Ian,

    Scientists aren’t out there trying to work out whether or not god exists etc. Some of the questions you raise have eminently testable subcomponents, or predictions that spin off from them. Belief in something that is not born out by testing the predictions it makes is irrational. Equally, people will sometimes frame their belief in an unfalsifiable manner, in which case science by definition has nothing to say on the matter. You have a chip on your shoulder, sir.

  11. John Danleyon 30 Jan 2015 at 1:07 pm

    “Scientists give the impression that they are authorities on all these subjects, but it is absolutely nonsense.”

    Let’s hear it for those incredibly useful and devastatingly reliable non-scientific impressions.

  12. Kieselguhr Kidon 30 Jan 2015 at 1:53 pm

    ccbowers, I only mean that the argument becomes a bit stretched regarding that part.

    I partially agree with you, but only partially: as I said, scientists have a very very strong set of motives to overstate the benefits amd you don’t have to dig very far at all to find cases of good, responsible scientists somehow signing off on terribly inhumane work: past performance suggests there’s a problem. As you say, one can’t do cost/benefit calculations without knowing benefits, but there are a number of objections to that idea. The most basic of course is that whether cost/benefit calculations are the relevant calculus at all for moral questions, already invokes something in which scientists have no particular expertise or training. Secondly, of course, you can’t do cost/benefit calculations without knowing _costs_ either — and that’s a place where scientists, again, have no special claim to expertise — I don’t really know what a chimp’s pain is worth, and I guess I don’t think it’s worth as much as mine but am certainly open to the possibilty that maybe it is — and in fact have a bias to downplay costs. And thirdly, of course, the way we’ve chosen to solve his problem is with IACUCs which typically have general scientific knowledge and competence on them, but are not typically experts in the exact field of the researh being evaluated, and which in fact typically include nonscientists (all the ones I’ve dealt with, actually, are chaired by vets, but that’s not a hard-and-fast rule): the IACUC seems to be the best calculator of merit, or at least it’s the best consensus answer we’ve come up with.

  13. JAYHUTCHINSon 30 Jan 2015 at 3:12 pm

    How long, on average, do conclusions of scientific papers hold up?

  14. BillyJoe7on 30 Jan 2015 at 3:40 pm

    Jay,

    We are not talking about scientific papers here, we are talking about scientific consensus.
    But, science is a process and consensus changes if and when the evidence indicates.

  15. Sastraon 30 Jan 2015 at 4:31 pm

    I suspect that one of the many reasons for the large gap between the scientific consensus and public opinion is that a lot of people don’t realize what the scientific consensus really is. They read and listen to whatever passes for science in their group and think that they’re well informed. Fringe beliefs are hot controversies at worst, and settled science at best. My friends estimate that 40% of the world’s physicists are vitalists, for example. Creationists are often convinced that evolutionary biologists are abandoning evolution in droves, and can tell you so with touching sincerity You don’t have to come up with a conspiracy theory if you’re woefully misinformed.

  16. ccbowerson 30 Jan 2015 at 8:31 pm

    “The most basic of course is that whether cost/benefit calculations are the relevant calculus at all for moral questions.”

    Other than a strictly rule based morality, we have to be evaluating these questions somehow. Potential cost and benefits must be relevant, unless you are at the most extreme of either position (i.e. you either think research on animals is always or is never justified).

  17. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2015 at 8:51 pm

    Sastra,

    They read and listen to whatever passes for science in their group and think that they’re well informed. Fringe beliefs are hot controversies at worst, and settled science at best. My friends estimate that 40% of the world’s physicists are vitalists, for example.

    This hits the nail on the head for me. For a layperson, there are layers and layers of media & folk science, which you aren’t even aware are suspect, to wade through before you even get a glimpse of the tip of the iceberg of your own ignorance. Something like this:

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B1izeb6IYAAaFPM.jpg:large

  18. Rayon 30 Jan 2015 at 9:26 pm

    For more information on why some of us wingnuts challenge the status quo on the use of animals in science, visit http://www.afma-curedisease.org. Note especially the Resources section: http://www.afma-curedisease.org/resources.aspx (tab articles published in the peer-reviewed literature) where one wingnut in particular has published more than 20 articles on the topic. Publishing in the scientific literature does not guarantee I am not a crank but it sure makes outright dismissal more difficult for adults who profess to be critical thinkers.
    Also note the article Greek, R and LA Hansen. (2013) Questions regarding the predictive value of one evolved complex adaptive system for a second: Exemplified by the SOD1 mouse. Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0079610713000539
    I do not think the neurologist quoted extensively in the article has ever responded to this article.

  19. MikeBon 31 Jan 2015 at 6:17 am

    That statement, “safe to eat food grown with pesticides” is mind-blowingly inane.

    All pesticides are different, even “organic” ones.

    All crops have different needs.

    Farmers’ methods and requirements differ.

    That word “safe” is something no toxicologist would tolerate.

    I need a drink.

  20. BillyJoe7on 31 Jan 2015 at 6:41 am

    MikeB,

    What on Earth are you talking about.
    Obviously there are regulations as to which and how much pesticide can be used. They are asking if you think in these circumstances you think food grown with pesticides is safe to eat. They’re obviously not asking if you think that a spinach over which some deranged person has thrown a bucket of banned pesticide is safe to eat.
    Maybe I’m misunderstanding you?

  21. mumadaddon 31 Jan 2015 at 7:32 am

    Ray,

    I remember your guest rogue slot on the SGU, and I found the discussion really interesting. It did seem you were constantly arguing against a straw man though – that animal models are considered to be 100% predictive by those who use them, and Steve repeatedly stressed that that wasn’t his position. And you’re setting up another one here:

    why some of us wingnuts challenge the status quo on the use of animals in science…

    Who’s called you a wingnut? Although, you do have a fairly extreme position that runs contrary to the consensus of expert opinion.

    favor use of animals in research – 89/47

  22. tiffanyon 31 Jan 2015 at 11:27 am

    Interesting post. We could call the Dunning-Kruger effect the Plato-Socrates discovery. Socrates famously acknowledged that his wisdom consisted in understanding that he was ignorant about most things. In “Republic,” Plato created a diagram to demonstrate that those who are learned in a particular subject are aware not only of things the unlearned are aware of, but of issues about which the unlearned cannot even imagine and do not know that they aren’t considering.

  23. MaryMon 31 Jan 2015 at 12:36 pm

    @MikeB: I took this survey, and that’s how I answered the pesticide question. In fact, I screen shot copies of the whole survey so I could see later exactly how they were written. So I have the exact question. Here it is:

    Do you think it is generally safe or unsafe to eat foods grown with pesticides?

    _Generally safe
    _Generally unsafe

    Because I understand a great deal about the biology and enough about the chemistry, as well as having a grasp how they are used, and of the regulatory systems and the testing that’s done on products, I feel I can say it is generally safe to eat foods grown with pesticides. I say that because they are regulated, and generally used properly.

    Would you really choose “generally unsafe” in this situation?

  24. tmac57on 31 Jan 2015 at 7:30 pm

    MaryM- I agree with your reasoning and conclusion about how you (or I for that matter) would/did answer that question.
    I wonder how many people answered it with an implicit (in their own mind) meaning of “Which would you rather eat: Foods with pesticides? or Foods without pesticides?

    How carefully a question is parsed, could trigger very different answers for different subjects.

  25. jschwarzon 31 Jan 2015 at 8:23 pm

    There is a problem assuming that a generic scientist is an expert in any of these questions. So here the difference between scientist’s answers and the public’s answers may not be that between expert and non-expert but between levels of education. It would be interesting to know if the actual experts in particular fields answered differently in questions in their field from scientists in other fields. E.g. How did biologists vs. physicists answer the GMO question.

  26. MaryMon 31 Jan 2015 at 10:10 pm

    @tmac57: You can parse everything endlessly, and make all sorts of excuses on any answer you ever get. Do you have a better solution for getting a sense of knowledge and sentiment of humans? Please do tell me the best practice there.

    I have been very amused to watch all the sudden parsing and survey structure analysis by Monday-morning quarterbacks on this, and the recent 80%-want-DNA-labeled survey, when nobody ever questions the surveys that show how many people want GMO labels, or the 130k that signed an online petition for stopping GMO mosquito testing, or whatever. Nobody every attacked Jayson Lusk’s survey strategy before that DNA one. That’s all been very telling on its own.

    The amplitude of the different responses to these things is fascinating.

  27. MikeBon 01 Feb 2015 at 5:04 am

    “Maybe I’m misunderstanding you?”

    BillyJoe, yes, I think you did misunderstand, and perhaps I wasn’t clear enough.

    I’m a small farmer. I use pesticides. The statement “crops grown with pesticides” is meaningless because each and every crop uses different pesticides, at different rates, at different times.

    And when I worked at an “organic” farm I had to be trained as a pesticides applicator because, yes, they use pesticides, too.

    And in fact PLANTS themselves use pesticides to protect themselves.

    On the statement about “safe”: A friend of mine is a toxicologist. She has said to me, “People need to remove the word ‘safe’ from their vocabulary,” because nothing is “safe.” There are only degrees of risk.

    I want a bumpersticker: NO PESTICIDES, NO FOOD.

  28. MikeBon 01 Feb 2015 at 5:23 am

    @MaryM: As a small farmer with pesticides as part of my toolkit, I loathe the way the question is worded. It’s not designed for people like you who “understand a great deal about the biology and enough about the chemistry” to make an informed choice. It’s just more fear-mongering bullshit.

  29. Rayon 01 Feb 2015 at 1:06 pm

    mumadadd wrote
    It did seem you were constantly arguing against a straw man though – that animal models are considered to be 100% predictive by those who use them, and Steve repeatedly stressed that that wasn’t his position.

    Animal modelers do claim high predictive values and in my articles I quote them extensively. The predictive value of animal models is my issue. My position is that animals have less predictive value than necessary to allow them to be used as predictive models and hence claiming such values for them on grant applications is fraud. Again, I list many examples of this in our articles and books.

    Animal models have PPVs and NPVs around 0.5 as I shown in my articles. Very few things in life have a predictive value of 1.0 or even close, nevertheless if one is claiming a high predictive value for a modality, then it should have PPVs and NPVs consistent with that claim. Animal modelers have claimed their models have high predictive values despite the evidence and supporting theory that they do not and in fact have values around that of a coin toss.

    People who have not actually read my articles frequently accuse me of claiming that because animal models have a PPV and NPV of less than 1.0, I say they are of no use. This is false. But the issue is whether the PPV and NPV of animals is high enough to support the claims made by the animal modelers both on grant applications and in public when defending their use of animals. Any other discussion is changing the subject. Such discussions have value but they are not the issue I am discussing.

    Moreover, as I recall the podcast, I distinguished between PPVs of 1.0 and PPVs high enough to be of value even in that short interview whereas Steve was rather noncommittal on the subject of predictive value even questioning whether animal modelers themselves made such claims. His position was (as I recall, I did not go back and re-listen to the interview), more or less, that animal models were important or necessary or whatever regardless of predictive value and he used the SOD1 mouse as an example. 1. That is dodging the question but 2. in the article I referenced I addressed his “animal models are valuable despite predictive value” position regarding animal models in general and regarding the SOD1 mouse in particular in detail. I showed that this is a distinction without a difference in cases where animal models are used as predictive models and or claimed to be predictive models.

    Thanks for your comment mumadadd!

  30. Nitpickingon 02 Feb 2015 at 7:02 am

    I may be missing something — why do the figures not total 100% for any category?

  31. BillyJoe7on 02 Feb 2015 at 7:16 am

    Why would the percentage of scientists who believe in X plus the percentage of the public who believe in X equal 100, except by pure coincidence?

  32. Nitpickingon 02 Feb 2015 at 4:47 pm

    BillyJoe: because I read too fast.

  33. BillyJoe7on 03 Feb 2015 at 5:35 am

    You should slow down. It would save everyone a heap of time.

  34. hardnoseon 03 Feb 2015 at 1:37 pm

    I spent a lot of time trying to understand the scientific consensus in cognitive science, neuroscience, and evolution theory. Especially cognitive science, because that’s what I studied in school.

    In those three areas, I found plenty of group think and irrational bias in the scientific consensus.

    In addition to studying the mainstream scientific consensus in those areas, I learned the opposing views from alternative science, and I sometimes thought the alternative views were more scientific and logical.

    In evolution theory, for example, the mainstream consensus says that things learned and experienced during an organism’s life will not be passed along genetically. That was actually called the “central dogma” of genetic theory. But now there is evidence against it.

    In cognitive science and neuroscience, the central dogma is that the brain has no wireless capabilities. I can’t see why it wouldn’t, and if it does that could explain a lot of supposed anomalies.

    The scientific mainstream can be extremely resistant to change. One reason is that scientists have to protect their careers, and it is almost impossible to have a science career if you question any of the current central dogmas.

    This is not a conspiracy theory, it’s just an observation of how human nature works. Every group must have a uniting mythology, and any member who doubts the mythology has to be ejected by the group.

  35. steve12on 03 Feb 2015 at 2:33 pm

    HN:

    “In cognitive science and neuroscience, the central dogma is that the brain has no wireless capabilities. I can’t see why it wouldn’t, and if it does that could explain a lot of supposed anomalies.”

    No. There is no EVIDENCE for “wireless capabilities”. It is not =Crick’s central dogma (though notice the brutal honesty of science in the naming). It isn’t dogma of any kind. It is what the evidence indicates considering that we can’t prove a negative (i.e., that we don’t have wireless). All of the evidence that there is “wireless” is shit, plain and simple.

    “The scientific mainstream can be extremely resistant to change.”

    This is a factor, I agree. And it’s probably worse in cognitive fields where our understanding has less depth than in, say, physics. Humans being humans and all that.

    But I would rather tend toward the conservative than accept total, complete, absurd nonsense with shit evidence like consciousness outside the brain. A little resistance to change is better than converting the entire establishment of science to Crazyland simply to mollify peoples’ need to play Holden Caulfield.

    Careful has built the modern world. Accepting nonsense has a much longer and less productive history.

  36. hardnoseon 03 Feb 2015 at 3:07 pm

    “A little resistance to change is better than converting the entire establishment of science to Crazyland”

    I agree that it would be crazy if mainstream science accepted wireless brain capabilities. However, I think it will have to, eventually.

  37. BillyJoe7on 03 Feb 2015 at 3:46 pm

    hardnose,

    I’m not sure why I bother, because you ignore almost all corrections to your ill-informed posts.
    Nevertheless…

    “I spent a lot of time trying to understand the scientific consensus in cognitive science, neuroscience, and evolution theory. Especially cognitive science, because that’s what I studied in school”

    Just because you spend a lot of time studying something, doesn’t mean you end up understanding it. Look at Chopra. He’s written sixty books on consciousness and doesn’t understand the goddamn first thing about it.

    “In those three areas, I found plenty of group think and irrational bias in the scientific consensus”

    Of course. But the point is that eventually the truth comes to the top in science. That’s the beauty of peer review and consensus science.

    “In addition to studying the mainstream scientific consensus in those areas, I learned the opposing views from alternative science, and I sometimes thought the alternative views were more scientific and logical”

    If you think there are problems in mainstream science, then alternative science is a complete shambles. That you haven’t noticed this is testament to your obvious bias.

    “In evolution theory, for example, the mainstream consensus says that things learned and experienced during an organism’s life will not be passed along genetically. That was actually called the “central dogma” of genetic theory. But now there is evidence against it”

    There is no evidence that the inheritance of acquired characteristic plays any role in evolution. Period. If you read your alternative science as critically as you read real science, you would know that.

    “In cognitive science and neuroscience, the central dogma is that the brain has no wireless capabilities. I can’t see why it wouldn’t, and if it does that could explain a lot of supposed anomalies”

    The anatomy of the brain is pretty well known. No receptors have been found. Default position: the brain does not act as a wireless. If you think it is, the onus is on you to provide the evidence. That is how real science works. Science is not interested in your gut feelings.

    “The scientific mainstream can be extremely resistant to change”

    And so it should. Sceince is a not a reed bending in every breeze like it may have been 400 years ago. Science has grown into a big tree. The branches are still growing and the canopy is expanding, but it’s going to take a heavy axe to cut down that tree.

    “One reason is that scientists have to protect their careers, and it is almost impossible to have a science career if you question any of the current central dogmas”

    That’s just plain nonsense. It’s impossible to have a science career if you question accepted science without evidence and especially if you can’t don’t understand the accepted science and can’t even understsand why you are wrong. But, if you present a counter hypothesis with convincing evidence, you’re nobel prize material. Alternative science just doesn’t want to do the hard work.

    “This is not a conspiracy theory, it’s just an observation of how human nature works. Every group must have a uniting mythology, and any member who doubts the mythology has to be ejected by the group”

    You just don’t understand how science works, and you unquestioningly accept alternative science. In those circumstances you will almost always be wrong – as you’ve amply illustrated in your posts on this blog.

  38. BillyJoe7on 03 Feb 2015 at 3:49 pm

    Hardnose,

    “I agree that it would be crazy if mainstream science accepted wireless brain capabilities. However, I think it will have to, eventually”

    😀

  39. hardnoseon 03 Feb 2015 at 6:36 pm

    “You just don’t understand how science works, and you unquestioningly accept alternative science.”

    There is nothing that I unquestioningly accept.

    And I understand how science works — very imperfectly, just like anything else.

  40. steve12on 03 Feb 2015 at 6:48 pm

    “I agree that it would be crazy if mainstream science accepted wireless brain capabilities. However, I think it will have to, eventually.”

    Based on what?

  41. Ekkoon 03 Feb 2015 at 6:55 pm

    @steve12,
    “Based on what?”
    On alternative science of course! That which hardnose has said is “even more scientific and logical” than “regular” science!
    The next time I have plumbing issues at home, I think I will call the alternative plumber! They are probably smarter and not weighed down by mainstream plumbing dogma!

  42. tmac57on 03 Feb 2015 at 7:25 pm

    Hardnose- “I agree that it would be crazy if mainstream science accepted wireless brain capabilities. However, I think it will have to, eventually”

    You, like Vladimir and Estragon are waiting on something to appear that will elude you and your similarly “alternative” believing fellow travelers/bench sitters for generations to come. But keep on waiting my friend, if it holds out some mystical hope for you.

  43. BillyJoe7on 03 Feb 2015 at 10:31 pm

    hardnose,

    “There is nothing that I unquestioningly accept”
    Except wireless brains apparently.

    “And I understand how science works — very imperfectly, just like anything else”
    Nope. Some things don’t work at all.

  44. steve12on 03 Feb 2015 at 11:12 pm

    LOL Ekko!

  45. hardnoseon 05 Feb 2015 at 6:20 pm

    According to Ekko I said:

    “.. alternative science of course! That which hardnose has said is “even more scientific and logical” than “regular” science!”

    What I actually said:

    “I sometimes thought the alternative views were more scientific and logical.”

  46. hardnoseon 05 Feb 2015 at 6:24 pm

    “The anatomy of the brain is pretty well known. No receptors have been found. Default position: the brain does not act as a wireless.”

    The brain is not well understood, at all. Even Steve N will admit that. If no wireless receptors have been found by mainstream scientists, that’s probably because they didn’t look.

    There are theories and evidence in alternative science suggesting the brain has wireless capabilities.

    But oh no! That would mean ESP could be real and materialists would have to feel stupid.

  47. tmac57on 05 Feb 2015 at 9:24 pm

    Hardnose- Why would mainstream scientists go looking for a wireless mechanism in the brain to explain ESP which itself has never been demonstrated to exist?
    You don’t go around looking for explanations for what a ghost is made of and how they function until you first show that ghosts exist to begin with (that’s an analogy, just in case you don’t catch on). 😉

  48. BillyJoe7on 05 Feb 2015 at 10:40 pm

    hardnose,

    What I said: “The anatomy of the brain is pretty well known”
    How hardnose responded: “The brain is not well understood”

    hardnose: “If no wireless receptors have been found by mainstream scientists, that’s probably because they didn’t look”

    Yeah, because they must be there, isn’t that right hardnose? For ESP to be real, there must be wireless receptors in the brain. And if scientists haven’t found them they just can’t have looked hard enough. Because ESP is real so those receptors must be there. Round and round and round we go.

    “There are theories and evidence in alternative science suggesting the brain has wireless capabilities”

    Alternative science.
    That’s really cute. (:

    “But oh no! That would mean ESP could be real and materialists would have to feel stupid”

    We haven’t been feeling stupid for 400 years.
    Meanwhile, for 400 years, supernaturalists and their alternative science have been desperately trying to stop feeling stupid.

  49. steve12on 06 Feb 2015 at 1:01 am

    HN:

    “There are theories and evidence in alternative science suggesting the brain has wireless capabilities.”

    What evidence? I asked above “based on what?”. Nothing. INstead of evidence, you just re-assert.

    Horseshit. You just talk and talk and never provide an iota of evidence. So annoying – you claim you want to discuss, but you just make assertion after assertion with no links, no studies, nothing.

    No surer way to hear crickets than to ask Hardnose to back up his bullshit.

  50. hardnoseon 06 Feb 2015 at 2:44 pm

    I have posted evidence here many times. The response is usually that scientific research can’t be trusted. Nothing can be trusted unless it’s what you prefer to believe.

  51. jsterritton 06 Feb 2015 at 3:01 pm

    @hardnose

    “I have posted evidence here many times.”

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

  52. larchon 13 Mar 2015 at 2:08 pm

    And, sadly, one of Carl Sagan’s sons, Jeremy, has come out a 9/11 truther.
    http://gizmodo.com/carl-sagans-son-is-a-9-11-truther-1690715187

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