How are science and skepticism related? Is skepticism a part of science, or is science a tool of skepticism? Dr. Eugenie C. Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, discusses these questions, and explores the importance of teaching both science and skepticism.
Eugenie C. Scott
Eugenie Scott, a former university professor, is the Executive Director of NCSE. She has been both a researcher and an activist in the creationism/evolution controversy for over twenty-five years, and can address many components of this controversy, including educational, legal, scientific, religious, and social issues.
She has received national recognition for her NCSE activities, including awards from scientific societies, educational societies, skeptics groups, and humanist groups. She holds six honorary degrees from McGill, Rutgers, Mt. Holyoke, the University of New Mexico, Ohio State, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. A dynamic speaker, she offers stimulating and thought-provoking as well as entertaining lectures and workshops.
Scott is the author of Evolution vs Creationism and co-editor, with Glenn Branch, of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools.
Dr. Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, distinguishes between empirically based knowledge and "revealed knowledge," or knowledge gathered from a higher power.
She uses the Bhaktivedanta Institute's disbelief in the 1969 moon landing as an example of revealed knowledge.
Philosophical doubting of knowledge claims in various areas. From ancient to modern times, skeptics have challenged accepted views in metaphysics, science, morals, and religion. Pyrrhon of Elis (c. 360272 BC) sought mental peace by avoiding commitment to any particular view; his approach gave rise in the lst century BC to Pyrrhonism, proponents of which sought to achieve suspension of judgment by systematically opposing various knowledge claims. One of its later leaders, Sextus Empiricus (2nd or 3rd century AD), strove for a state of imperturbability. Modern skeptical philosophers include Michel de Montaigne, Pierre Bayle, and David Hume.
About creators of God
Everybody creates his God according to his own image and spirit
If triangles made a God they would give him three sides
/ Charles de Montesquieu . Persian Letters, 1721 /
If physicists made a God they would give him
concrete physical parameters.
Which parameters they can be ?
We know that God is something Infinite.
What is ‘INFINITY’ ? Nobody knows.
The conception of ‘ Infinity’ we can find not only in Bible
but in Physics too. Are they equal ?
I think that ‘INFINITY’ is ‘INFINITY’ and can be only one
for every knowledge, for every meaning.
I think there isn’t special ‘INFINITY’ for Bible and special
‘INFINITY’ for Physics. I think the conception ‘INFINITY’
is equal for every part of Science.
Again and again the ‘INFINITY’ appears in many physical
and mathematical problems.
/ Part Physics: Theoretical applications of physical infinity .
It means that ‘INFINITY’ is some kind of reality. (!)
Does Physicists meet God In the Infinite ?
To understand this we need to find the answers to the questions:
1) What is / are the physical parameters of the ‘INFINITY’ ?
2) What is connection between the infinity and the concreteness ?
3) What is connection between infinity and quality ?
4) How to explain the unity and inconsistent character between
the infinity and the concreteness ?
Israel Sadovnik Socratus
The world of electron.
But maybe these electrons are World,
where there are five continents:
and the memory of forty centuries.
/ Valery Brusov. /
‘ . . , to start with every molecule as s living thing, ..’
/ Samuel Butler. /
Is every electron, atom, molecule a living thing?
Does Every electron, atom, molecule have consciousness ?
Molecular biology and molecular evolution.
Can an electron, atom, molecule evolve?
Does evolution of life begin on electron’s ( atom’s ) level?
Nobody says the scientific method has always been perfect. Scientist can make mistakes and or be too stubborn in their views. But, the scientific method is the only way we have found to get the most accurate answers we can at the present time. It never fails to amaze me that people, especially the overly religious, want to criticize the scientific method yet are some of the first to fill those prescriptions, get vaccinations, or even turn on their TV's. Without the scientific method, we would have none of those things. The problem with our country is that too many people would rather listen to talk radio or watch reality television than learn about real science. They are to blame for our children falling behind in other industrialized nations in science and math. They are to blame for the dumbing down of America.
I would disagree about the non-authoritative view of science, science is founded on authority. She mentions, but glosses over, continental drift. When this theory was put forward it destroyed the career of the scientist who proposed it. It was sneered at for years and I believe he died without seeing it accepted. This is because the authorities in charge of the scientific establishment decreed that it simply couldn't be true so it wasn't. The history of science is littered with such events. Dr Feynman in his highly amusing and informative autobiography, "Surely You Must Be Joking Dr Feynman" mentions that a particular scientific fact which had to do with temperature was mistaken. It took years fot the correction to be made and it was made in small steps as people were afraid to publish their findings because they would fall foul of scientific orthodoxy and this could destroy their careers. So don't just look at what James Randi calls 'woo woo' with skepticism, but also the claims of the scientific establishment.
"No, I'm talking about a non-existent process, due to corruption of that process."
So, again, if that process is so totally non-existent, why even want to take part in it? Why are you so upset about being called a pseudo-scientist, then? You obviously don't like science, you think it's corrupt, so you can't in earnest want to be called a scientist, right? So why not just walk away and do something important, like growing peas?
Of course, both of us know the answer. There is easier money in writing fiction than there is in growing peas.... or in doing real science, which is even worse financially than the pea thing. Well... at least I hope you are the one who is getting that money... otherwise you are merely making a fool of yourself.
"No, no one is trying to join a club of any kind."
Well, you probably aren't any more. Now you are merely lifting your leg at something that you haven't managed to take part in for earnest, to trade your insults against the pain of your own intellectual failure.
Can I let you in on an open secret? Hacks can be found by the dozen on every campus... pestering professors with their home brew theories of everything. They can be found on the internet by the thousands... the chief difference between the "successful" ones and the merely desperate cranks is the amount of money they have been able to make by publishing their nonsense. They add nothing to the knowledge of mankind and they will be forgotten soon enough... sometimes they do entertain us, though. There are a few really well executed free energy and at least one solar energy scam that rock! Those guys are taking in tens of millions and the people who are giving them their money are in for a bad surprise. Could as well have sent their money to Nigeria...
Not that it matters much. Science is what science is and it helps six billion people to live better lives every day. You are who you are...
None of what either you or I can say here will change a iota about that. And no hard feelings. There was always good money in selling snake oil and they are not even tarring and feathering any more... so there is not much risk in doing it.
Well, my friend, you just keep doing whatever you are doing and you try to feel better about it any which way you can.
Meanwhile... I go back to doing the real thing.
"Medicine, again? I thought we were talking about archeology, here?"
No, I'm talking about a non-existent process, due to corruption of that process. In other words, theoretically it is the best thing that could happen for knowledge, in reality, it doesn't exist, due to corruption of that method.
"So I am not quite sure where you are going with your whole argument. You are basically claiming that you are being prevented from joining a club which you describe as corrupt."
No, no one is trying to join a club of any kind. IF you'd read what I have written, and try to understand what is being said, instead of only listening to your own internal dialog, you'd understand it.
Live long and prosper.
"If someone would actually believe in pure science the way she presented than that person has to deal with problem like the one depicted in the last valentine xkcd comic: http://xkcd.com/701/"
Some types of humor, technically function by first making a wrong (or impossible) assumption and then, in the second step, by exploiting the logical consequences of that assumption. I believe this one is among those.
"Choosing a life partner is certainly an important question and might even be more important for most individuals than the question of whether there was a moon landing."
But neither choosing a life partner nor the historical accuracy of the moon landing are particularly scientific questions. So you are comparing apples with pears and complain that neither are cherries.
"It's a bit hypocritical to stand there and proclaim that science is categorically the best way to acquire knowledge..."
It would be, if somebody in science would actually make that claim. But the actual claim that scientists make is that science is the best currently known method to acquire knowledge about the natural world. That's a much narrower claim than the one you (and I!) find implausible. The reason why science works as well as it does is because it makes an incredibly narrow claim. Philosophy and religion, by the same token, are making much broader claims, and, as you can see, in comparison to science and its success they fail miserably. That's not surprising. In general, the less one promises, the easier it is to deliver.
"...when one isn't willing to go actually run the numbers on questions like choosing one owns life partner."
I would make the opposite claim. Most people do seem to "run the numbers", they just don't put them into graphs. We are trying to find partners of similar age (to maximize the lifetime together), similar social status (to avoid embarrassment), similar education (to maximize the chance that we understand each other) etc.. Often enough that strategy fails, but that doesn't mean people are not sold on it. Please look at any dating service/web site. They claim to have a formal methodology based on "numbers" of some sorts or another and people, by the millions, are shelling out real money for it. That tells me a lot about how much people want to control the selection process and how little they trust their emotions. It does, of course, say nothing about the success rate...
"It even more amazing that people like Scott don't get the idea that it would be consequent to use science in their own lives for their important problems."
I use science all the time and I bet with you, she does, too. It just wasn't the topic of her talk. Here are a few ideas of mine:
When I am in a car with someone and they drive too fast, I remind them that the collision energy is proportional to the square of the speed and that the maximal impact force scales with the third power of the speed... it is usually quite convincing to slow them down.
My crucial financial decisions all come with one or even a series of spreadsheets and Monte Carlo simulations calculating the risk. This is most important if you are trying to buy a home... all my simulations show that there is a financial limit beyond which the probability of foreclosure rises almost instantaneously to one. As long as one stays 10-20% below that limit, there are fairly few (non-catastrophic) life events that can lead to a financial catastrophe, but near and especially above that limit pretty much any event can trigger an economically undesirable outcome. While this is not really science (a home loan is not a natural phenomenon), it is still an application of general scientific principles to problem solving. You can call it financial engineering, if you like.
When I hear politicians talk about scientifically well characterized matters, I can pretty much tell who is merely carrying an ideological agenda (or works for the economic interests behind their campaign) and who is actually trying to solve the problems of their voters. I always thought that kind of analysis was one of my responsibilities as a voter. If more voters would do the same, we would have a much smaller dependence on foreign oil, our budgets would be close to balanced and our education system would be up there with the best.
I could give more examples... the list is almost endless.
"Here is my premise: The blind trust on the "Scientific Method" is not warranted because in the real world it doesn't exist..."
Your premise would be wrong simply because the definition of "trust" involves the necessity to be able to check the claims that are being made. "Faith" my be blind, but "trust" has open eyes. The reason we "trust" scientists is because they have to be able to prove every single one of their claims in ways that have to be 100% reproducible by others. That most people do not go to the lengths that it takes to actually verify scientific claims is understandable, given the amount of work that is involved. That does nothing to undermine the scientific method. At best is says that the overwhelming majority of people have lives to live that do not involve science.
"..except in a few narrow areas of science like mathematics (I assume)"
Your assumption would be wrong, again. Mathematics is not science in the conventional sense of "finding explanations for facts of nature". It uses a similar methodology to the scientific method, but it does not claim to deal with natural facts. One of the best known examples for this are the "natural numbers", for which there is absolutely no implementation in nature. One can not count to infinity, not even close. There are numerous other mathematical objects (higher dimensional spaces and most topological objects), for which absolutely no natural equivalent exists. Even most of the things that "finite, countable math" deals with are far to large to fit into the known universe.
What mathematics does, is to derive abstract properties of abstract objects by means of formal manipulation of their abstract definitions... nothing more, nothing less.
"The reason it doesn't exist in the real world is because of the existence of a "filter mechanism" that permits just about everything to be discussed up to a certain point and not beyond "notwithstanding the imposing array of testimony" presented."
Testimony is, by design, not part of the scientific method. Testimony matters to the law and to religion. To science, it means absolutely nothing.
"The reason I mentioned "Forbidden Archeology" is because it lays out literally hundreds of instances of that event."
Without much proof, as it seems.
"The article linked above is also a sample of how the "Scientific Method" is corrupted. Are you by any chance suggesting that because this study is done on the biomedical sciences, the same type of Conflict Of Interest is not present in the other branches of scientific research?"
I am suggesting that if the same conflict of interest is present in the field of interest here, it is up to you to give us proof of that, and not a poor analogy that falls apart at the seams.
Your current example is no more related to archeology and history than your first. In any case, practitioners in the field of medicine, biotechnology etc. know full well what the interests behind certain lines of research are. If you have ever been to a biotech, medical, cancer research etc. conference, you might have noticed that at the beginning of each talk the speakers usually identify their connections to any commercial sources of funding. In this case, the interest, of course, is simply to sell pseudo-science books. That's a valid interest, too. Maybe it should be disclosed on the cover of the books, too?
"Bias in scientific research can also be caused by suppression of the publication of negative results."
Publications can not be suppressed. They can merely not be accepted by journals which have their own quality standards to uphold. The solution to that problem is simply to submit publications of higher quality. :-)
"In the 1990s a team led by Nancy Oliviera...."
Medicine, again? I thought we were talking about archeology, here?
"Furthermore, academics who rely on industry funding are less able to give the impartial view on which society has come to depend."
Please submit the list of archeologists who rely on industry funding other than for charitable purposes. Please explain the motivation of such industrial interests to support some lines of research and to suppress others.
"Since we know that the method is corrupt,..."
"We" don't know that... and you have not been able to prove your lonely statement that it is. In any case, if your particular hero is, as you say, a scientist, and science in general would be corrupt, than his results would be no more valuable than those of other scientists.
So I am not quite sure where you are going with your whole argument. You are basically claiming that you are being prevented from joining a club which you describe as corrupt.
Now, what should we think of a man who is upset about not being accepted into a corrupt club?
The talk doesn't really deal with the interesting questions.
If someone would actually believe in pure science the way she presented than that person has to deal with problem like the one depicted in the last valentine xkcd comic: http://xkcd.com/701/
Choosing a life partner is certainly an important question and might even be more important for most individuals than the question of whether there was a moonlanding.
It's a bit hypocritical to stand there and proclaim that science is categorically the best way to acquire knowledge when one isn't willing to go actually run the numbers on questions like choosing one owns life partner.
It even more amazing that people like Scott don't get the idea that it would be consequent to use science in their own lives for their important problems.