Those Arrogant Scientsts

Those Arrogant Scientsts March 28, 2015

I don't trust scientists

I’ve seen the image above in several places, including Open Parachute. I think there is a more widespread cultural issue behind this. Boasting that your child is a successful athlete or a beauty pageant winner is not viewed in the same way as boasting that your child is an intellectual genius, is it? I wonder whether we do not have a cultural issue of people viewing scientific kinds of expertise in a way that they would not view sporting, musical, technical, mechanical, or other kinds of expertise. If so, why do you think that is?


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  • Cecil Bagpuss

    Science is seen as a threat to religion by many. There may be some justification for this, but often the perception of threat arises from a misinterpretation of the theological implications of scientific discoveries. For example, the Universe is largely empty space and most planets are unable to support life beyond the level of bacteria. One might be tempted to draw the conclusion that this isn’t the kind of universe that God would create. However, this assumes that God’s concern is to maximise population density. This assumption is not plausible. We have no reason to think that God would prefer a crowded inner city to a sparsely populated village.

    • TomS

      Mathematics doesn’t present any threat to religion.

      • Horseman Bree

        Of course mathematics presents a threat to religion. The answers in math are provable, just as scientific claims are testable and provable to the extent that “no alternative case has been found yet” Given the variety of religious experience, there is no provable assertion that will work regardless of who tries it, so both math and science do something that religion cannot. So the religionists get hysterical, because their claims rely on persuasion, not proof, and they, deep down, know that.

        But shouting louder doesn’t prove anything either. Nor does avoiding the doing of what their religions command (Take that, Phil Robertson). But the religionists so often do not want to do what the religion actually teaches, because that would mean admitting there is a chance you were wrong. So blame science for upsetting your comfortable place, and avoid the actual issue, in the hope that the unthinking can be hucksterised into following your petty shepherd.

        • rockingwithhawking

          Mathematical proof and scientific proof are hardly one of a piece. In fact, there are different sorts of proofs within math as well as science.

        • rockingwithhawking

          I’ve also seen many secular scientists get hysterical. Lots of village atheist scientist types as well.

        • rockingwithhawking

          As a friend notes:

          To the contrary, math presents a threat to secularism. It’s hard for physicalists to say what numbers are. Numbers seem to be abstract objects. That’s why numbers are multiply-instantiable. But Platonism fails to explain how abstract objects become exemplified in concrete objects. Abstract objects are otiose. Inert.

          In Christian theism, that’s far easier to explain. Numbers are divine thoughts. And God creatively instantiates many numerical relationships in space and time.

          • I would assert the opposite. Mathematics is an invention of humanbeings. There doesn’t have to be a “real” anything for something that is invented. So your arguement that “physicalists” (by which think you mean reductionist scientists) don’t have to “explain” mathematics… but they can use them freely.

            On the other hand, just as mathematics is an invention of the human mind, so are all concepts of divinity, so, I guess in that sense, you could be right about equating mathematics with a putative “God”… and Plato’s shadows on the wall.

  • rockingwithhawking

    Many scientists don’t stick to science. They venture into philosophy or religion (e.g. Dawkins’ God Delusion – a philosophically and theologically inept book). Many also argue for scientism, which is less about “science” than about philosophy, despite the fact that philosophy is far outside their expertise.

    Plus, many scientists falsely assume they’re conversant in other fields of science outside their own specific field of expertise. But a molecular and cell biologist won’t necessarily know much about quantum physics, and a quantum physicist won’t necessarily know much about molecular and cell biology. Not any more than an informed layperson.

    So, yes, if they stuck to their specific field in science, then that’d be fine. But many scientists don’t.

    • Nick G

      This may take us too far from the thread topic, but could you be a bit more specific about what you think is wrong with The God Delusion?

      • rockingwithhawking

        “This may take us too far from the thread topic, but could you be a bit more specific about what you think is wrong with The God Delusion?”

        That’d take more time than I have to type out. But just read or otherwise search (Google) for Dawkins’ central argument in his book.

  • Horseman Bree

    So, just because some scientists are as fallible as (too many) religionists: does this mean that you should give up writing on the Internet because you are using a sinful tool made by misguided scientists? Come on, talk out of both sides of your face. A good Christians need to sin a bit to make confession worth while!

    Yeah, some scientists are fallible. Yeah some religionists are fallible.

    Science is a method for examining the world that God gave us. There are many mysteries yet to be discovered, let alone fitted into our world view.

    Religion is a means for learning how we should live. Some of that is philosophy, some is tribal lore, some is”do this because I said so”. But science can still affirm a lot of that, if you actually engage your thinking apparatus.

    But to throw away all science because some spokesperson is wrong would be the same as throwing away all religion because … Phil Robertson.

    If you can’t handle a “Law” of Gravity, then you are doomed to float away into space.

    And if you can’t handle a “Theory” (that, so far, works) of atoms (that no-one can see), then you are stuck with living in the pre-scientific era, no teeth, die at 40 having watched most of your children die, no cars, no phones, and believing that the phase of the Moon causes boils.

    • Horseman Bree

      quote from above: So, yes, if they stuck to their specific field in science, then that’d be fine. But many scientists don’t.

      If religionists stuck to what they do well, there wouldn’t be a problem either. But try telling that to an anti-vaxxer who arranged to kill someone else’s child with measles.

      • rockingwithhawking

        “If religionists stuck to what they do well, there wouldn’t be a
        problem either. But try telling that to an anti-vaxxer who arranged to
        kill someone else’s child with measles.”

        Since it’s obvious my point has sailed right over your head, I’ll spell it out for you: Rather than taking the worst representatives of either side, why don’t you take the best representatives of either side? Instead of picking the least sophisticated “religionists” to spar with, why don’t you pick the most sophisticated “religionists” to spar with? Otherwise I could easily do the same with secular atheists or the like.

        • Nerdsamwich

          Who, in your opinion, is one of the “most sophisticated”? Are you thinking of a modern, like Craig or Plantinga, or someone who’s no longer around to rebut counterpoints, like Aquinas? Either way, I don’t really need to directly engage with any of the three I mentioned, as they have all been thoroughly refuted many times over by secular philosophers from Neitzsche to the present.

          • rockingwithhawking

            “Who, in your opinion, is one of the ‘most sophisticated’?”

            It depends on the particular topic or field in question.

            “Are you thinking of a modern, like Craig or Plantinga, or someone who’s no longer around to rebut counterpoints, like Aquinas? Either way, I don’t really need to directly engage with any of the three I mentioned, as they have all been thoroughly refuted many times over by secular philosophers from Neitzsche to the present.”

            LPT: Name-dropping doesn’t constitute argumentation. Better luck next time.

          • Nerdsamwich

            Who’s name-dropping? I was trying to get a feel for who you consider a sophisticated theologian. Still waiting, by the way.

          • rockingwithhawking

            Already answered your question. See previous comment.

            Also, I never limited it to theologians. That’s your characterization.

          • rockingwithhawking

            I have a moment or two this morning, so I’ll actually elaborate a bit more. Basically, I mix and match. Some scholars (so long as they’re bona fide scholars) are more useful in certain respects, but not others. I rarely if ever take any individual on board in their entirety. Almost everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Few are polymaths who excel across diverse fields, and even they tend to have their limitations. Hence it’s difficult to name specific names without knowing at least the topic or field or question of interest.

            As such, a broad-brushed statement like “they [i.e. Craig, Plantinga, Aquinas] have all been thoroughly refuted many times over by secular philosophers from Neitzsche [sic] to the present” is sadly both ignorant as well as arrogant, for it fails to appreciate each of these individuals’ advantages as well as disadvantages, etc. It fails to interact with the spectrum and depth of their thinking, for better or for worse. In short, your statement is (ironically) an unsophisticated statement.

            By contrast, I know intelligent atheists who are far more sophisticated in their evaluation of Christian and non-Christian scholars. They don’t so easily dismiss people like Craig, Plantinga, Aquinas, or many others. They obviously don’t agree (and speaking for myself I wouldn’t agree with all of what these three have written or spoken either), but they still find value in certain aspects of their thinking and reasoning. Likewise, I know of intelligent Christians and other theists who find value in atheist or agnostic philosophers and other scholars like Bertrand Russell or J.L. Mackie for instance.

          • Nerdsamwich

            Forgive me for assuming that when you advised Horseman Bree to engage with “the most sophisticated ‘religionists”‘ that you meant people who make their living engaging in what is ostensibly sophisticated religious thought.

    • rockingwithhawking

      “So, just because some scientists are as fallible as (too many) religionists: does this mean that you should give up writing on the Internet because you are using a sinful tool made by misguided scientists?”

      This is a total non sequitur. You obviously have difficulty following simple logic.

      “Come on, talk out of both sides of your face. A good Christians [sic] need to sin a bit to make confession worth while!”

      You substitute ridicule for reasoning.

      “Yeah, some scientists are fallible. Yeah some religionists are fallible.”

      Thanks for conceding the point.

      “Science is a method for examining the world that God gave us.”

      Now you’re moving the goalposts. Your original contention was “religionists get hysterical.” I simply replied on your own level that it’s easy to find secular scientists (as well as secularists in general) who do the same.

      “There are many mysteries yet to be discovered, let alone fitted into our world view.”

      Sure, but it’s obvious an atheistic worldview is quite different from a religious (e.g. Christian) one.

      “Religion is a means for learning how we should live. Some of that is philosophy, some is tribal lore, some is”do this because I said so”. But science can still affirm a lot of that, if you actually engage your thinking apparatus.”

      Okay, go for it. Why don’t you explain how “science” can “affirm” “how we should live” then? Go ahead and “engage your thinking apparatus” on this one. At a minimum, you would have to start with an acceptable definition of “science” and then argue for how “science” underwrites ethical beliefs and values.

      “But to throw away all science because some spokesperson is wrong would be the same as throwing away all religion because … Phil Robertson.”

      For starters, your sentence is irrational (e.g. even if it were true “some spokesperson” is wrong, it wouldn’t entail “throw[ing] away all science”). Or perhaps you’re vying for the village atheist of the year award?

      “If you can’t handle a ‘Law’ of Gravity, then you are doomed to float away into space.”

      You’re tilting at windmills…again.

      “And if you can’t handle a ‘Theory’ (that, so far, works) of atoms (that no-one can see), then you are stuck with living in the pre-scientific era, no teeth, die at 40 having watched most of your children die, no cars, no phones, and believing that the phase of the Moon causes boils.”

      It may prove an interesting case study in the psychology of village atheists like yourself to understand why you impute all manner of false and biased stereotypes onto others. It’s a sort of racism, but against “religionists” (as you would say). It just goes to show your bigotry against others.

      • Horseman Bree

        OK, so tell me why just about every piece of provable science that relates to evolution or climate change is ridiculed and/or thrown away by so many religionists (only in America!) while misunderstood crumbs of “But I saw it on the Internet” is accepted as more-or-less Gospel truth? A little less hyperbole on the part of Christians would help.

        • Horseman Bree

          And I am picking on the worst religionists because they have captured (or been captured by) the Republican Party and the likes of the Koch Brothers into believing anti-Christian messages which are gradually subverting all the ideals that Americans, particularly Christian Americans, used to uphold.

          False teaching is demanding the subjugation of blacks; false teaching is demanding the submission of women; and false teaching is demanding the killing of LGBTs.

          When the hysteria of self-described Christians is reduced to being able to argue, then we may have a discussion.You perosnally may be there already, but you are associated with a large group of hysterical deniers, so trotting out those worn-out placebos for arguing won’t work any longer.

        • rockingwithhawking

          “OK, so tell me why just about every piece of provable science that relates to evolution or climate change is ridiculed and/or thrown away by so many religionists (only in America!) while misunderstood crumbs of ‘But I saw it on the Internet’ is accepted as more-or-less Gospel truth?”

          1. At best, this is a sociological type of a question. It may be a priority for you, but it’s hardly a priority for me. And I’m obviously not interested in you forcing your priorities onto me.

          2. Plus, you’re again caricaturing “religionists,” which is more evidence of your prejudice against “religionists.”

          By the way, since you’re referring to America, it’s obvious you’re mainly referring to Christians and probably mainly evangelical Christians. You might as well come out with your not-so-hidden antipathy against Christians. Although doing so shows your biased true colors.

          3. As I’ve maintained, there are plenty of secular liberal village atheist types as well. For instance, there are lots of secular liberal anti-vaxxers. So I could just as easily say, “OK, so tell me why just about every piece of provable science that relates to medicine and vaccination is ridiculed and/or thrown away by so many secularists (only in America!) while misunderstood crumbs of ‘But I saw it on the Internet’ is accepted as more-or-less Gospel truth?”

          To take an example:

          “The communities where anti-vaxxers cluster are also among the most liberal. Marin County, San Francsico County and Alameda County all voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008. In Marin, 78 percent of the vote went to Obama. In San Francisco, it was 84 percent. And in Alameda, it was 79 percent. That’s all higher than what Obama got in his own home county of Cook County, Illinois. Here, too, Sacramento is an exception. Only 58 percent of the county went for Obama in 2008.”

          http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/01/22/vaccine-deniers-stick-together-and-now-theyre-ruining-things-for-everyone/

          “A little less hyperbole on the part of Christians would help.”

          What’s ironic in this thread is how full of hyberole you are. You decry hypberole in one breath, then hyperbolize in the very next.

          “And I am picking on the worst religionists because they have captured (or been captured by) the Republican Party and the likes of the Koch Brothers into believing anti-Christian messages which are gradually subverting all the ideals that Americans, particularly Christian Americans, used to uphold.”

          You should check out atheist Michael Shermer’s article titled “The Liberals’ War on Science” for starters (e.g. “41 percent of Democrats are young Earth creationists, and 19 percent doubt that Earth is getting warmer”).

          Also, this is simply more hyperbole from you. There are plenty of “religionists” in the Democratic Party.

          Finally, as I said earlier, if you truly cared about the truth, then you’d be sparring with more sophisticated and intellectually credible representatives on either side.

          Otherwise, I could just as easily pick on the worst irreligionists as well.

          “False teaching is demanding the subjugation of blacks; false teaching is demanding the submission of women; and false teaching is demanding the killing of LGBTs.”

          Falsely accusing others like you’re doing here doesn’t exactly help. You apparently can’t function beyond lowest common denominator caricatures.

          “When the hysteria of self-described Christians is reduced to being able to argue, then we may have a discussion. You perosnally may be there already, but you are associated with a large group of hysterical deniers, so trotting out those worn-out placebos for arguing won’t work any longer.”

          1. First of all, you would be committing a guilt by association fallacy.

          2. But what makes you think I’m “associated with a large group of hysterical deniers”? I’ve never mentioned my affiliations in this thread.

          3. Or I could easily say the same about you – i.e. you’re associated with a large group of hysterical deniers (e.g. secular anti-vaxxers).

          4. Also, it’s ironic how you keep painting in caricatures. It’s ironic how you support positions which should be anti-discriminatory on the face of it, but yet you’re so full of discrimination against others (e.g. Christians). It’s ironic you tout tolerance, but are so intolerant of others.

          5. Not to mention your mind is very flighty, flitting from here to there, from one topic to another. But I’m far more interested in dealing with your original statements (e.g. “Of course mathematics presents a threat to religion”) and issues over philosophical, scientific, mathematical truths, and the like, than I am in your caricatures and stereotypes of others.

          • Horseman Bree

            I shouldn’t get into this sort of thing when I’m grumpy.

            First off, let me say that I have over 40 years teaching Physics and Math in high schools, where the key element is PROVING that things work in a particular way. Not passing it off as “the book says”, but going through the process of showing how things work together and how numbers describe quite a lot.

            The drawing way up there at the beginning was a device to get me irritated: as usual, some unthinking people who haven’t a clue about proof, evidence or the real world automatically assume that someone is “arrogant” because he has some knowledge to back him up (my local legislator is like that, BTW)

            So I started off in the wrong mood.

            I am also a Christian, one of those Anglicans.Many people who profess to be religious claim that I can’t be a Christian because the water was used in the wrong way at my baptism. I am like quite a lot of my neighbours in being turned off by wild Christian insistence on non-facts and outright lies, usually accompanied with “but “they” can’t be right because “they” are intent on making life difficult for us (unthinking) Christians”. I DO know that most of the Christians in my acquaintance are sensible, understand factual evidence and aren’t in-your-face rude, but there are just enough going the other way to give the whole group a distrusted reputation.

            Not saying you think this, but when you argue that “some scientists are Idiots” as part of the reason to dismiss science, then some fingers are pointing back in your direction. Does that improve anything?

            As A Canadian, it doesn’t actually matter if someone votes Dem or GOP. BUT we have a Prime Minister who acts as if he is GOP-oriented. He has done significant damage to our country by, for instance, ignoring climate change in favour of pumping dirty oil. He is the first PM we have ever had who professes a form of fundamentalist evangelicalism, and we can take it that he has drunk the Kool-Aid of denialism in order to appeal to the “base” of his party. Three negatives.

            So I guess you got a blast as a form of ricochet. For which I am sorry.

            I get really wound up by people that refuse to believe that the clues about how the world works were put here by God, and then say that God’s clues can’t be right. But you, personally, didn’t deserve an attack.

          • rockingwithhawking

            “First off, let me say that I have over 40 years teaching Physics and Math in high schools, where the key element is PROVING that things work in a particular way. Not passing it off as ‘the book says’, but going through the process of showing how things work together and how numbers describe quite a lot.”

            Since we’re trading background stories: I’m a Christian. I used to work in IT/computers for a very well-known tech company and then went to a top ranked medical school to become a physician (MD). I’ve also conducted medical scientific research in part since I’m considering working in academics (someday). People can check out my blog here if they’re interested. I don’t often post though. It’s not a priority for me. Too busy with the rest of life.

            “Not saying you think this, but when you argue that ‘some scientists are Idiots’ as part of the reason to dismiss science, then some fingers are pointing back in your direction. Does that improve anything?”

            I’m afraid you’re putting words into my mouth. I never argued “some scientists are Idiots.”

            All I did was respond to your original allegations that “religionists get hysterical,” that “religionists” (by which you obviously mean Christians or at least certain types of Christians) have “hucksterised [others] into following your petty shepherd,” etc.

            “As A Canadian, it doesn’t actually matter if someone votes Dem or GOP. BUT we have a Prime Minister who acts as if he is GOP-oriented.”

            I’m American. But as I mentioned, I’m not as interested in politics as I am in the philosophical, scientific, and mathematical questions, etc.

            “So I guess you got a blast as a form of ricochet. For which I am sorry.”

            No need to apologize. I don’t usually take anything that’s said online personally or whatever. For better or for worse, like maybe it should or maybe it’s fine it doesn’t, but what I write online doesn’t occupy a lot of my time.

            “I get really wound up by people that refuse to believe that the clues about how the world works were put here by God, and then say that God’s clues can’t be right. But you, personally, didn’t deserve an attack.”

            Anyway, I suppose this is discussion is closing, so, welp! That’s that. I’ll bow out now.

  • trinielf

    Science’s end game is “to know about all things”. Religion’s end game for a lot of sects is “to control all things according a particular cultural perspective.”

    Therefore science has the freedom to admit, “We just don’t know, we have to continue searching, experimenting, verifying and evolving.”

    While religion has to assert, “It has FOUND the ultimate answers to the universe and knows exactly who created it and what that entity thinks, feels, expects, plans to do in the future.” If it is seen to be giving up this stance, it loses power over people which it needs to survive.

  • Why do some members of the community feel that scientists are arrogant? Perhaps because folks don’t know what they don’t know? But then, the larger question was also asked, why do so many people in America (because it is not a global issue) distrust intellectuals? It is a deep and abiding cultural divide in the US, anti-intellectualism is so ingrained, that it is specifically taught in the institutions one would think would teach otherwise, our schools, even universities. Go to any high school in America, observe the students… which ones are the ones honored by having the privilege of wearing special jackets with symbols of prowess? Observe the trophy cases, which activities are so memorialized? At the mandatory “rallies” which students doing which activities are being celebrated and encouraged? Now, ask yourself what would the reaction be if an educator suggested that elite scholars were to be so elevated? (Hint: “Elite Scholar = “Arrogant”)

  • Rick A. Baartman

    But there is a slight difference between e.g. a mechanic and a scientist. The former is called by the car-owner when there’s a problem, and respectfully listened to. But in the latter case, it can happen (as with climate change) that scientists discover something of relevance to people who are not asking for advice or help with any particular issue (“weather’s fine over here…”). These people will call scientists arrogant even though they never apply this to their mechanics. They just don’t like being told something they did not ask for. To them it’s sort of like being followed by a mechanic on their way to the grocery store, the mechanic jumps out and says “Hey, your car is reacting strangely over bumps; your shocks must be gone, I’ll fix them”. The car owner is suspicious that the mechanic is just trying to drum up business. Many people are just cynical about scientists’ motivations, being unwilling to believe that any one of them cares more about the planet’s future than his own pocketbook. This happens especially among Christians who are brought up in “fundamentalist” churches where scientists are demonized weekly from the pulpit.