Category Archives: science

Here’s an Angle on the Continuing ‘Crisis of Authority’

The article was posted on Feb. 7, 2015, on Salon.com, and it is entitled “Anti-vaxxers are not the enemy: Science, politics, and the crisis of authority,” which you can read in its entirety.

But, for a quicker read, here’s a highlight:

“Most people making the decision not to vaccinate are mothers who are being demonized for a confusion and mistrust that is in fact widely shared, if in less dramatic form.

“For better or worse, at least climate denial and the vaccine debate are in the forefront of public discourse. Numerous forms of authority still lie concealed, or are carefully protected. I don’t know how to evaluate a former German newspaper editor’s recent claim that for years he published stories supplied to him by the CIA, because the story has been entirely ignored by the American media. Then there’s the new government in Greece, the first one in Europe to directly challenge the fiscal austerity regime imposed by global financial institutions. That’s a story of political and economic confrontation that could reshape the history of our century. It has been covered, all right — in a defensive and patronizing tone transparently designed to reassure readers that the neoliberal order often called the ‘Washington consensus’ is not in danger, and that the silly radicals in Athens will have to grow up and take their medicine like everybody else.

“Critical thinking about the nature of authority might induce us to wonder why those stories are invisible, or spun as dry policy questions for readers of the business pages, while so much bandwidth is occupied with making fun of a few vaccine loons. It might cause us to notice that treating people who feel genuine uncertainty about mainstream medicine as if they were low-achieving children only makes the problem worse, and that it’s absurd to assert that questioning the Catholic Church or the National Football League is good, but questioning the name-brand institutions of the scientific world is bad.

“Science considered as a method and a process is likely, over the long haul and after a lot of trial and error, to provide us with good answers. Science expressed as a social and historical institution – as a source of authority, in other words — is another matter entirely, and a far more complicated story than we can tell here. It has extended life and cured disease and improved agriculture, and it has brought us eugenics and the Tuskegee experiments and Hiroshima and Zyklon-B and a whole host of amazing pesticides and herbicides and preservatives and plastics that have permeated every square millimeter of the planet’s surface and the bodies of all its creatures, and whose long-term effects are not known but don’t look that great.”

From “Anti-vaxxers are not the enemy,” by Andrew O’Hehir

Draw from that and infer what you will.

Ooh child, things are gonna get easier? Michael Shermer on his new book, ‘The Moral Arc’


 

Vague Terminology Linked To Poor Science – Neuroskeptic | DiscoverMagazine.com

OMG! Language skills matter in the sciences, too! Now what?

Vague Terminology Linked To Poor Science – Neuroskeptic | DiscoverMagazine.com.

Scientific convention and grammatical convention

“…scientific convention decides whether an eel shall be a fish or a snake, and grammatical convention determines what experiences shall be called objects and what shall be called events or actions.” — A. Watts, in The Way of Zen, quoted in Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth Century by Neil Postman

Creating religious experiences in the lab; is your experience of faith all in the brain?

In this video, Michael Shermer dons the “God Helmet,” and neuroscientists explain the experience.

The limits of knowledge

A healthy understanding of the limits of knowledge should not be a license to ignore or degrade knowledge.

When Blaise Pascal said, “Reason’s last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it,” he said so with strong, well-demonstrated successes in his appropriation of reason. In other words, he successfully used and synthesized knowledge.

Should I read a book about my unconscious mind?

In his latest book, “Subliminal,” Leonard Mlodinow, a theoretical physicist who has been developing a nice sideline in popular science writing, shows how the idea of the unconscious has become respectable again over the past couple of decades. This development has been helped by rigorous experimental evidence of the effects of the subconscious and, especially, by real-time brain-scanning technology that allows researchers to examine what is going on in their subjects’ heads.

From a review of Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior, by Leonard Mlodinow, in The Economist, April 28, 2012