This week’s spotlight is all about the death of reason. A new study reported in Science Alert informs us, and I quote, “The issue is that when it comes to facts, people think more like lawyers than scientists, which means they ‘cherry pick’ the facts and studies that back up what they already believe to be true.” 1
Researchers argue that a lot happened in 2016 including fake news that in aggregate has led to cultural shifts, one of which they say is a new trend referred to as the “anti-enlightenment movement.” Ibid
This movement is not based on education or intelligence; rather it is based upon bias. That is, as I have pointed out before, we want to hear what we already believe, and we easily dismiss anything that challenges this bias. Articulated this way, “We find that people will take a flight from facts to protect all kinds of belief including their religious belief, their political beliefs, and even simple personal beliefs such as whether they are good at choosing a web browser,” said one of the researchers, Troy Campbell from the University of Oregon.” Ibid
Now I posted the Science Alert article on my Facebook page and right away some interesting comments followed including this one, “I reject science because science is ever changing…things always seem to wane/flow, be retracted/admitted. Plus, the amount of data fraud, payoff, etc., to get to “set science” has disillusioned me to the point where I’m always looking, studying, researching for the truth.”
Now for me, this is a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, for how do you search for truth without science? That’s not to say that there isn’t bad science, for the same bias that infects the thinking of so many also infects some so-called scientists. Indeed, I recently also posted a report on a fake study published in a refereed journal. The title to the article tells all, “THE CONCEPTUAL PENIS AS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT: A SOKAL-STYLE HOAX ON GENDER STUDIES.” Quoting from the report that appeared on the Skeptic, “Assuming the pen names ‘Jamie Lindsay’ and ‘Peter Boyle,’ and writing for the fictitious ‘Southeast Independent Social Research Group,’ we wrote an absurd paper loosely composed in the style of post-structuralist discursive gender theory. The paper was ridiculous by intention, essentially arguing that penises shouldn’t be thought of as male genital organs but as damaging social constructions. We made no attempt to find out what “post-structuralist discursive gender theory” actually means. We assumed that if we were merely clear in our moral implications that maleness is intrinsically bad and that the penis is somehow at the root of it, we could get the paper published in a respectable journal…It gets worse. Not only is the text ridiculous, so are the references. Most of our references are quotations from papers and figures in the field that barely make sense in the context of the text. Others were obtained by searching keywords and grabbing papers that sounded plausibly connected to words we cited. We read exactly zero of the sources we cited, by intention, as part of the hoax.” 2
In their exposé Lindsay and Boghossian give two reasons for their hoax: (1) the pretentious nonsense that often passes for scholarship in postmodernism studies, and (2) the lax standards of some peer-reviewed journals. 3
Now as ridiculous as it may sound, this paper actually argued that it is the penis that causes global warming. Clearly bias influences everything, but that is exactly why reason becomes so important. When you throw science out, you have tossed the baby, for it is the scientific method that invalidates nonsense. The fact is, the scientific method is nothing more than an extension of logical principles applied to observable phenomenon. If we are to discard science and its methods, then how are we ever to discern nonsense from verifiable fact? Bad science is rooted out by true science—it’s that simple!
My suggestion, use your intellect to question your biases? Be willing to suspend belief long enough to challenge your ideas with reasonable alternatives. Don’t assume that you already know everything unless you can walk on water. The fact is, life is a learning opportunity if nothing else. God did not plague our species with the ability to think!
As always, thanks for the read and I’d love your thoughts on this one.
1 Researchers Say They’ve Figured Out What Makes People Reject Science, And It’s Not Ignorance
2 THE CONCEPTUAL PENIS AS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT: A SOKAL-STYLE HOAX ON GENDER STUDIES
3 SOME THOUGHTS ON “THE CONCEPTUAL PENIS AS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT” HOAX