7th September 2013

“Scientific debates are won on weight of evidence; theological debates, historically, have a tendency to degenerate into arguments, persecutions and warfare. This does not seem to indicate that logic and reason are involved.”

Duncan Jones

4 Responses to “7th September 2013”

  1. Alan G Nixon Says:

    Just a thought…

    But even scientific debates are prone to degrading into these things. The issue in my view is being human. To quote Christopher Hitchens in New Statesman from 2011 in a reflection on cognitive dissonance – “I think we all do it a bit…We are all great self-persuaders”. Though many atheists will hate my use of a post-modernist, I think we have much to learn. Derrida recognised that science and the secular can become religious and charisma driven in their own right, and in many cases they do. I’m sure you all have some examples in mind. The shadow of God still hangs over us all, we must learn to live without such ontological certainty. I am, unlike many postmodernists, not calling for the destruction of all knowledge or structure. But we must do a better job of understanding that strong categories are a part of the ideological thinking that all humans must do in order to make sense of things. While useful, they are rarely empirically practical or true and they lead to misunderstandings. Statements like the above, while serving the scientific community well (something which I generally support) in a political way, they leave out pieces of evidence. This kind of confirmation bias is something I’m noticing creeping into scientific and secular circles as the circle grows and the message is commodified and simplified in parallel. This is a pattern sociologists have noticed with the commodification and commercialization of religions, spiritualities and ideologies. I’m not sure this is the best way to serve the scientific community in the long run, especially as a community that claims to be driven by evidence rather than emotion.

  2. Jeff Says:

    The confirmation bias that you are talking about is most often present with the “scientific” debate has turned from whether something is true or false to what action to take as a result – a political discussion, such as with climate change. That’s when someone will try to frame it as scientific disagreement, because if they can’t get non-scientists to believe that there is a disagreement, then they can’t convince the non-scientists to ignore the facts as they are agreed.

  3. Bruce Williams Says:

    Yo. What Jeff said!

  4. Alan G Nixon Says:

    I’m not talking about trumped up, I.D. type disagreements, or those put forward by denialists. I’m talking about genuine front line scientific disagreements, where data shows multiple possibilities and people have vested interests in their view prevailing. Charisma, politics and rhetoric often become the tools employed for these types of discussions. The reductionist tendency of science in general does not help, as it leads scientists to make proclamations about their findings being the only or most important findings involved in the situation. The ‘facts as they are agreed’ are a lot more fluid and contentious than we tend to indicate as a community.