Question of the Week- 03/08/2017

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Christine Arena and Jonathan Foley presented a five-point plan for winning the war being waged on science. What are some concrete steps you have taken, or recommend taking, that supports Arena and Foley’s plan? Or perhaps you know of a sixth recommendation that they didn’t think of! Let’s hear about it.

Our favorite answer will win a copy of Brief Candle in the Dark by Richard Dawkins.

70 COMMENTS

  1. Why has Scientific American become synonymous with Stone Age thinking? Because too many false assumptions underlie the scientific process.

    The solution: All new scientists must be forced to pledge their belief in the first assumption: “Life and consciousness are not possible unless the first property of matter is tensorial memory.”

    …and all the old Stone Age thinkers of Scientific American are to be sent to deindoctrination camps (summer school) for recycling.

    GL

    Soylent Green is people!

  2. Guy, I think you have come to wrong kind of site to make those remarks. “False assumptions” underlying the scientific method ? Please explain, there could be a Nobel Prize waiting for you !

  3. Guy #1
    Mar 8, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    The solution: All new scientists must be forced to pledge their belief in the first assumption:

    Ah! The nooo pseudoscience dogma! – Pledged assumptions in place of empirical evidence!

    “Life and consciousness are not possible unless the first property of matter is tensorial memory.”

    According to assumed claims of quackery!

    …and all the old Stone Age thinkers of Scientific American are to be sent to deindoctrination camps (summer school) for recycling.

    Psychological projection methinks! 🙂
    Those “indoctrinated” in objective scientific methodology, just keep testing and throwing out unevidenced junk assumptions, to the annoyance of pseudo-science pundits!

    Soylent Green is people! –

    Soylent Green – like your post – is science fiction!

  4. I didn’t know anything about this five-point plan so I went to look it up. I began to read this article: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/how-to-defeat-those-who-are-waging-war-on-science/
    and I immediately felt disgust with a sentance: “Do we want to be the America that embraces science and the pursuit of knowledge to advance our health, safety, prosperity, and security, making America the leader of the civilized world“? Again this worldview of grandeur and competition from Americans. 🙁 Where has disappeared sharing of knowledge and not wanting so badly to be above someone, to rule someone? The way of thinking until that part “making America…” was just fine, but later … . Pity. Than little bit further: “…and our science and engineering prowess was the envy of the world“? Envy?? Only in their minds. Than more words engaging violence like “This is the America that defeated fascism. It won the cold war. It landed on the moon. … It is the beacon of knowledge and hope for the world“. (so did the other countries in the world. it did not won cold war. Russia had first man in space, so what. hope for the world? hahaha… good one). Again refering to this sick illusion of superiority. So unnecessarily. Ok. It is propaganda… but so unnecessary. Instead to speak generally about science, they associate it with wars. I am sure there are some significant and beautiful examples not conected with wars. Pity.

    And when research gets defunded or even censored, let’s pose the larger issue of why politicians, not scientists, get to decide what research is a priority“? … excellent theme.
    The search for meaning, the understanding of something bigger than ourselves, is of universal significance. In this way, science and religion are allies“. I do not agree with this. Science is about truth and freedom, and religion about lies and deprivation of freedom. What does it mean “bigger than ourselves”? In my point, this is exactlly wrong way of thinking… some sort of magical thinking. There is nothing bigger than orselves. Nature of the Universe is a reality and we are part of it. Not big or small I think,… just natural part of it. We are just a consequence of the way the universe works. This philosophical or romantic questions of “something bigger than ourselves” is wrong in my opinion and it gives room for a faith to appear with their hocus-pocus.

    Astronomer Carl Sagan was a master storyteller. He had a way of weaving together the elements of science and wonder, and insight and awe“. I like this. I think a lot of scientist should present science in more interesting way. I think they should present their knowledge in such way that people can connect with it on emotional level. “It often helps for people to understand the life story behind the science. Such context can go a long way in terms of building trust and helping the hard facts get through“. Yes!

    The short-term gains of a few corporations and individuals must no longer rise above our national interests…”. It would be better if authors replaced this word ‘national’ with social, in my opinion, because there is again their nationalism that comes out.

    I don’t have a sixth recommendation, but suggestion about storytelling is crucial one I think. I would like to see scientist talking about science in more emotional and simple way,… to make a conection with ‘ordinary’ people on that level. It would be easier for someone to understand science and perhaps even fall in love with it. Simplicity is the key perhaps to get science expand and understand.

  5. It seems Guy L is entirely reluctant to actually lay out a coherent proposition. His post half a year ago on “tensorial memory” was entirely as obtuse. His expositional skills have not served him any better this time. Without his interest in communication I think we are safe to imagine panpsychism effected or affected by homeopathic succussion.

    I think Modesti (with this language) has it entirely right.

  6. The article states: “To focus on these false divisions is to get bogged down in fights over things like creationism versus evolution, faith versus science, and our different views about our place in the universe.”

    I disagree with this. The basis for science is fact-based thinking. If you let someone get away with saying the universe if six thousand years old, you are never going to convince them that Climate Change is real based on evidence going back hundreds of thousands of years. If you think we are close to the Rapture, why talk about preserving the environment for another thousand years?

    No, the basic issue is convincing people that the scientific method is a better way of determining truth than faith or personal revelation. I’ve de-converted several fundamentalists over the years, and it always began with discussing evolution and going over the details of why it’s true. It took time, but once they eventually realized Genesis couldn’t be true, they began questioning everything else as well.

    To me, the focus needs to be on the basics of how we detriment truth. Everything else follows from there.

  7. Agree with Phil, Modesti – perfect. The only thing I’d add is a gentle social pressure to call out bullshit when you hear it. Don’t have to be obnoxious about it but making it clear that what you are hearing appears to be nonsense. This comes from a growing sense that humans cannot always be reasoned with and that argument combined with the social stigma of appearing foolish might be necessary to combat this nonsense.

  8. @ Reckless Monkey

    …gentle social pressure to call out bullshit when you hear it. Don’t
    have to be obnoxious about it but making it clear that what you are
    hearing appears to be nonsense.

    Exactly! 🙂 And it is necessary, I think, to always point out to the lies and bullshit of others. Scientist must not let pass lies and nonsense from politicians, creationists, etc. But as you say it needs gentle social pressure to call out bullshit when you hear it.

  9. Modesti #8
    Mar 9, 2017 at 3:07 am

    But as you say it needs gentle social pressure to call out bullshit when you hear it.

    . . . . . Initially at any rate – but if the assertions are publicly repeated with increasing force, or carefully contrived deception, the debunking and mockery needs to be powered up for the benefit of others who may be misled!

  10. I see two problems- First, you can’t educate everybody but everybody needs to be convinced. Second, most people who can sway others to the scientific side don’t know enough to do the job or even be motivated to try.

    Mass media science writers have become the hens teeth of journalism. Print journalism is in its death throes and the science guys were among the first exiled from the island. Broadcast news only calls up their experts when the weather does something interesting or power plants do something frightening- you need people who are there and visible every day equipped with well informed BS detectors.

    A million years ago or so when nuclear power plants were brand new, I was a beat reporter for a daily in a population area of about 300,000. Nuke was coming to town and the power company did something very clever. They called my publisher (along with many other publishers and TV station heads) and asked if they could spare someone for a day. Their pitch was simple- “There will be lots of questions about this and it will probably save you time and mistakes if you have at least one guy on your team who knows how these things work.” I was picked and bundled off to Chicago where I was fed, coddles and head-packed by very entertaining experts.

    Science is blessed with loads of charismatic speakers as counter-intuitive as that may sound. Get together a team and a brief curriculum. Pick out key hub cities and start inviting. I have taken a few on-line climate courses and if you strip away most of the Greek-lettered math, the basics can be taught easily in half a day or less. The other half can be on other science of your choosing or just on handling the objections spewed by deniers.

    The real key to making it work will be the celebrity of the scientists involved. Somebody has to be on the level of Krauss or Tyson because reporters will then be begging to go and you might even get the publisher to come as well- and he sets the agenda. It will take time and cost money but doing nothing will prove even more expensive.

    Anyway, best I could could muster at 3 AM.

  11. I googled “tensorial memory” and found a lot of deeply technical information about mathematical computation theory and practice. Thank you Guy for drawing this to my attention, though I’m not so sure about the connection with life and consciousness, apart, of course for the need for the consciousnesses interested in these computations to actually write the software. If we can consider programmers to be conscious, a subject of some debate in management circles.

    Guy, please explain. With references.

    ps I know now how to free GPU memory after I stop needing a particular tensor instance, but I don’t think that’s what you were alluding to.

  12. I think rjohn has a good point. I think it can go further. I think all scientists must expect a part of their role is to present what they do to the public and not just their peers. I think this is particularly so of research team heads. Training for public engagement must become an aspect of far more scientists. It must become the norm.

    In the UK the BBC is pretty good at allowing scientists to talk directly to the public. I see very little to encourage such a state in US broadcasting. Universities need to get into broadcasting. The cost of good quality program making has plummeted (thanks, scientists) Now a business model needs creating for broadcasters to get cheaper content without worrying their emptying little wallets over vetting (the university reputation is far more at risk than the mere publisher.) Universities need to be supplying broadcast quality twenty second animations, one minute illustrated, talking heads, five minute analyses and full programs at least-to-no cost, paid for by university branding.

    On the specifics of climate change I despair that the issue is presented in such a singular fashion, so some specific cognitive glitch or political bias gets to fritz ALL helpful behaviours from those indoctrinated and intellectually challenged. Concerns for air quality in cities, energy security of supply, preserving local jobs by taxing air miles on goods, sponsoring new energy industries in competition with China etc. Sustainability, strategic sustainability of resources, sustainability of local agriculture, etc. all stimulate global warming mitigation if only unintentionally.

  13. Sixth recommendation: Do everything in your power to get a democrat elected into office and a majority of democrats elected in the Congress, so finally, at long last, we can put an end to that bona fide national disaster called Citizens United, and an end to the undue influence of big banks, big corporations (oil and gas, fossil fuel) and big money (e.g., Koch brothers), through lobbying. Jack London, in his dystopian novel The Iron Heel, called the lobby (which is legal) a euphemism for bribery (which is illegal) – and that’s what it is.

    (Not all lobbying is bad.)

    (I don’t see how this is a First Amendment issue; that’s what the conservatives say.)

    Comprehensive campaign finance reform is what we need. Nothing else will work without it.

  14. OHooligan #12
    Mar 11, 2017 at 4:36 am

    I googled “tensorial memory” and found a lot of deeply technical information about mathematical computation theory and practice.

    You could google “Intelligent design”, and get similar “information” with a bit of extra pseudo-physics and pseudo-biology in addition! – But as with comment #1, the complexity would be heaped on top of preconceived unevidenced assumptions!

  15. Re: Comment #1

    I am going to put myself out on a limb and venture an hypothesis: Guy was being facetious, whimsical, and provocative. Tensorial (tensor?) memory is a computer term. Sounds like something out of Asimov. His story “The Last Question” ends with a computer/God answering a question.

    Plot summary (Wiki): In the last scene, the god-like descendant of humanity (the unified mental process of over a trillion, trillion, trillion humans that have spread throughout the universe) watches the stars flicker out, one by one, as matter and energy ends, and with it, space and time. Humanity asks AC, Multivac’s ultimate descendant, which exists in hyperspace beyond the bounds of gravity or time, the entropy question one last time….

    I don’t want to give any more away. Great story.

  16. Guy was being facetious, whimsical, and provocative.

    He posted the same nonsense quite earnestly last September.

    By shining the light of science too intensely on any particular area of study (natural selection), there is a risk that it may blind us to the existence of a richer reality.

    My personal belief is that if the first property of matter is tensorial memory then existence is eternal. A type of “life after death”.

    In such a reality Richard reappears as a naturalist, though not so good looking this time, in perhaps 42 trillion universes. Between his cameo appearances as a young arrogant naturalist he would also make multiple less glamorous appearances as a tasty snack for fish or amphibian like creatures (to applause from his detractors may I add).

    My question is:
    Can the light of science unwittingly blind us to the true nature of reality?

    This, Dan, is why I referred to panpsychism. He’s talking about this kind of thing and conflating it with fluid flow ideas of retained properties, where “tensorial memory” is an actual thing.

  17. OHooligan #12
    Mar 11, 2017 at 4:36 am

    I googled “tensorial memory” and found a lot of deeply technical information about mathematical computation theory and practice.

    That appears to be what you were the intended to do, rather than to engage in a discussion!

    Attempts have been made at asking for evidence before in response to comments very similar to #1.

    https://richarddawkins.net/2016/09/question-of-the-week-9616/#li-comment-210880

    https://richarddawkins.net/2016/12/question-of-the-week-122816/#comment-216597

    (My comment on these previous drive-bys, seems to have disappeared.)

  18. (My comment on these previous drive-bys, seems to have disappeared.)

    We haven’t removed anything, Alan, and there’s nothing currently awaiting moderator approval, so not sure why this would be. Sorry.

    The mods

  19. There are no concrete steps to be taken to support this plan because it’s an ill-conceived, non-evidence-based, parochially US-centric, fear-mongering, “make America great again” hyperbole – very much in the Trump style of doing things. My recommendation is that scientists should, with vigilance, stay the course, as per the RD Foundation for Science and Reason, focussing on scientific understandings of life on the planet.

  20. I googled “tensorial memory”…

    I thought that a more polite response then the more concise “WTF?”.

    Incidentally there was no overlap between the first page or so of that google search and anything with the words “intelligent design”. I did not fall into a pit of psudo-science. I found instead some computer science stuff, that would be useful I’m sure if I was dealing with such memory-hogging computations.

  21. It’s a formidable challenge; but it shouldn’t have to be. Human denial and escapism coupled with human greed. — We might not make it.

    Humans don’t like to hear the truth, and it isn’t the job of scientists, per se, to rouse the public into action; they have done their job already and have sounded the alarm. The corporate media should raise itself up, take this issue seriously, prioritize it – put its infernal bottom line in its shirt pocket; and we need campaign finance reform, as I said before. Those two go hand in hand too.

    March 11, 2017

    Planet Will Burn Before Corporate Media Covers Climate Change as Existential Threat

    Paul Jay says that the elites and their corporate media are not dealing with the climate crisis with the urgency it deserves because they think they will be ok and live by the philosophy of ‘to hell with what comes tomorrow’

    http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=18529

  22. A Hippocratic oath for scientist that includes; to pledge free time and speak to the general public in such a way that it is not seen as a busmans holiday and with respect for the lack of public knowledge on the subject. The scientist must modify her language for maximum effect.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocratic_Oath_for_scientists

    Dara O Briain presented a maths program for, I think, this reason. It was a bit of mess to be honest and a little too keen. Attenborough and RD have bridges the gap to a point but if it needs more dumbing down then I see no problem and it is up to scientists to find the way. If it takes ‘ Janet and John’ type language and books to teach adults then so be it.

  23. Olgun #24
    Mar 12, 2017 at 6:28 am

    The scientist must modify her language for maximum effect.

    Attenborough and RD have bridges the gap to a point but if it needs more dumbing down then I see no problem and it is up to scientists to find the way.

    Research scientists and university scientists publish material at the level of their peers or their students.
    Their time is valuable and many members of the general public (and for that matter -specialists in other subjects areas) will never understand science at this level. – Nor do they have any inclination to learn! – Especially if offered the “God-did-it-and-I know-it-all”, lazy option.

    If it takes ‘ Janet and John’ type language and books to teach adults then so be it.

    It is really the job of science teachers, textbook and encyclopaedia publishers, and science broadcasters, to provide material at a basic level.

    The problem is, that to the uneducated, this level is much easier to fake by posing quacks, propagandists, and pseudo-scientists!

    There is a shortage of science teachers – and particularly in some specialist areas of science.
    Therefore cheap-Jack short-termist politicians, expediently arrange for science to be taught by other teachers who may have a limited understanding of the subjects.

  24. Alan

    When I go to the doctors having researched my problem a bit, I am always made to feel my opinion is not appreciated. This sort of snobbery gets in the way. To claim that a scientist time is so special that they cannot give time to something so important is self defeating in the grand scheme of things to me. ‘ I want to be understood’ and not doing what is needed in order to be is a cop out.

  25. Olgun #26
    Mar 12, 2017 at 7:30 am

    When I go to the doctors having researched my problem a bit, I am always made to feel my opinion is not appreciated.

    I must say I have only occasionally encountered this attitude.
    All my recent dealings with doctors and medical staff have been intelligent discussion of the issues.

    Bear in mind, the doctor is the equivalent of a teacher or specialist saleman! – Not the research team who created the medication or ran the tests on each individual medication when it was first developed.

    Doctors are often just following guidance from the manufacturers of medical products.

    This sort of snobbery gets in the way. To claim that a scientist time is so special that they cannot give time to something so important is self defeating in the grand scheme of things to me.

    Perhaps the field of electrical appliances can make the point!
    What the public need is some basic advice and a user guide.

    They are unlikely when buying a TV, video, audio system, microwave, or electricity from solar cells, or a nuclear power-station, to have a full explanation and understanding of the physics behind electronics, or the issues behind regulations on use.
    The designers of specialist features do not personally communicate these to the wider public.
    Those responsibilities are delegated to sales and service personnel who (in the better establishments) are trained to deal with the public at their level of understanding.
    Published higher level information, is available in specialist magazines, online, or via education courses.

    ‘ I want to be understood’ and not doing what is needed in order to be is a cop out.

    It would be neither possible nor an effective use of specialist designers’ time to have them taken off their expert work, to talk directly to large numbers of the public about matters that the majority of the public cannot even begin to understand, and show no interest in learning!
    The sheer volume and complexity of scientific information in the modern world, vastly exceeds any individual person’s time or capability to study it all.

    Most people don’t know where their electricity comes from, but can still use it!

  26. Alan

    Sorry for short reply but am in car on way to in -laws.Am not driving btw!

    My initial reaction to your post is; my time is filled with looking after children, holding down two jobs, and all that intails. Why should I spend my precious time learning stuff that I will never get to use.

    The whole argument can be turned on its head and ask why if I am expect d to learn new skills then why not all those scientist learn social skills that allow them to teach and participate in social media. Talking to other scientists is not enough. Time to give something back.

  27. Olgun: This sort of snobbery gets in the way. To claim that a scientist time is so special that they cannot give time to something so important is self defeating in the grand scheme of things to me. ‘ I want to be understood’ and not doing what is needed in order to be is a cop out.

    I agree. I do not see why wouldn’t scientist find some time and explain their “product” to wider public. Instead, we almost always get middleman. I would rather hear scientist explanation from their mouth. Who says that it is some sort of a rule that they are only responsible to find something and not the part where is important how their findings will be divided with wider audience. I would like to see more responsibility from them, because it is very important how would they transmit their findings to “common people”. I think that “personal touch” would create more trusted bond and confidence in science and scientist. In my opinion with this image of untouchable caste they are making not only room for interpretations and lies ( that others can make), but they are creating gap of distrust among ‘us’ and ‘them’.

    “if I am expect d to learn new skills then why not all those scientist learn social skills that allow them to teach and participate in social media”. I totally agree.

  28. Modesti #30
    Mar 12, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    I agree. I do not see why wouldn’t scientist find some time and explain their “product” to wider public. Instead, we almost always get middleman.

    But they do explain their “product” in reputable journals, – and then usually give simple explanations to journalists to quote. Some scientists also run their own blogs.

    What they do not usually do is run around all over the world answering simple questions which are available in books and journals to thousands, tens of thousand or millions of people who may wish to casually enquire!

    Many leading scientists do lecture tours to discuss their work, but only reach a tiny fraction of the population who use and benefit from their work. They usually concentrate on those who will make use of the information they are given.

    The rest need to read specialist publications, reference books, look stuff up, look at educational documentaries, or take part in education courses.

    Individual scientists simply cannot do everything for everyone.
    People have to make an effort for themselves!
    Millions of people are not even going to ever meet leading scientists.

  29. I rarely disagree with Alan, but here I do.

    I think presentational skills especially for lead scientists are essential and should be available as a university module for all upwardly aspiring scientists.

    I note the greater the scientists, often, the greater the ability to present to the public. (My gods here are the Richards, Gregory, Feynman and Dawkins. Shubin the greater actual biologist, my dad’s teacher Soddy, H.G.Wells’ archetypal hero scientist and source of all the new physics for his stories. There are so many, many more whose books even now I am reading.) Being able to see your work in its widest context and in essence are powerful capacities which I think are usefully taught to all scientists for the improvement of the way they do science.

    Education is now needed 24/7 for all adults because science and technology move on so fast. An adolescent fix can never cut it. It never could. We need more, more palatable science, from unimpeachable sources to try and get us to be more responsible citizens in our collective decision making. We need to get back to before the terrible rift set off by C.P. Snow when he uttered the fatal words “Two Cultures”. We need to get back to the ages of the Enlightenment and of Reason (its longer form) when the smash hit coffee table books were Micrographia and Zoonomia, when scientists were leading poets and poets were members of the Royal Society, and a suitable hobby for the lady of leisure was chemistry.

    Scientists, far, far more need to be able to present, if only to be able to better argue for funding. Those extra-ordinary minds like that of Willam Cavendish who will never present, because autistic, will have amanuenses from within the profession.

  30. In general terms, Dan has the right idea – though I’m much less sure about some of his specific measures.

    To talk of scientists all being in the public understanding of science game is also a good start – and I’ve banged that drum myself in the past.

    But to point fingers at groups of people and define their responsibilities for them – whether they be scientists, media, or politicians – is both to miss the bigger picture, and to duck our own responsibilities.

    Science does not exist in a vacuum – and although I wouldn’t have used the same language as the Scientific American the language Christine Arena and Jonathan Foley used clearly demonstrates that they get this point – science is a part of society at large.

    Scientists can be more visible but they may find themselves talking to empty rooms. Politicians might be persuaded to turn down their partisan rhetoric – occasionally – if they can see alternative, and currently, seemingly, invisible science-backing voters. The Media might be more Discovery Channel pre-News Corp. and less Discovery Channel post-News Corp., if they can see the audience differentials in terms of advertising responders, readiness to pay, or even just people in large numbers.

    My point is that the World exists as it does because people are pushing. Push back.

    My sixth point – which I believe to be compatible with Arena and Foley’s first five is: Engage. Get people talking, and discuss science – and no, this is not a message to scientists, journalists or politicians:

    Science needs you.

    Also, because I can never resist trying to have my cake and eat it too – education. Those who are being motivated to push are being driven by shepherds who have no thought for the children of the herd, including yours.

    What’s that you say? You don’t want you children and grandchildren to live only to die in an environmental, or mental, slaughterhouse?

    Never, ever, speak to me of motivation when school budgets are cut, or school standards are a political game.

  31. Modesti #30
    Mar 12, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    I agree. I do not see why wouldn’t scientist find some time and explain their “product” to wider public. Instead, we almost always get middleman.

    Let me give you and example!

    https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/2014/press.html

    New light to illuminate the world

    The Nobel Prize in Physics 2014
    Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, Shuji Nakamura

    When Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura produced bright blue light beams from their semi-conductors in the early 1990s, they triggered a fundamental transformation of lighting technology.
    Red and green diodes had been around for a long time but without blue light, white lamps could not be created.
    Despite considerable efforts, both in the scientific community and in industry, the blue LED had remained a challenge for three decades.

    They succeeded where everyone else had failed. Akasaki worked together with Amano at the University of Nagoya, while Nakamura was employed at Nichia Chemicals, a small company in Tokushima.
    Their inventions were revolutionary.
    Incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century; the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps.

    White LED lamps emit a bright white light, are long-lasting and energy-efficient. They are constantly improved, getting more efficient with higher luminous flux (measured in lumen) per unit electrical input power (measured in watt).

    Most of the world now uses energy efficient LED lights. – Which have instructions on the packaging.

    Science is international.

    The press release is from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (Where they speak Swedish.)

    Two of the scientists are in Japan and one is in California.

    They have provided an English language press release, even though the awards are in Sweden and the researchers are Japanese.

    There is no way they are going to personally communicate with the public of the world, other than through the media!
    (Most of the world’s public do not speak Japanese – and many do not speak English!)

  32. Hi Olgun,

    Been following your discussion. Can I suggest there is another factor at play. There is a great humanities teacher at my school with whom I argue in a good natured way with. He is really excellent and a good historian he has personally written on the massacre of local Aboriginals in our area and was instrumental in me visiting a local site of stone arrangements that is being preserved by local Aboriginals (that is current local Aboriginals – all of the original tribe where wiped out). I’m convinced it links to the highest points of Venus on Both sides of the Horizon and that other constellations may be represented but no-one really knows.

    Anyway an interesting guy but very anti-science. Actually not anti-science as such but sees it as just a hammer which he thinks is over funded in schools (in comparison the the humanities). One of us must have some bias going on here but he struggles to see the significance of the core of science and its ability to shift the whole world. Brownoski put it very nicely in a conversation when he stated the difference between politics and science I can’t remember it verbatim but essentially it was something like scientists write little ideas down on little bits of paper which explode into the future while politicians just shout. Of course being Brownowski it was much more eloquent. Anyway it strikes me that there is a significant difference in mindsets between the scientist and the average humanities student and its a rare scientist or student of the humanities who is excellent at both.

    Of course some subjects are just really hard, climate change is one which is at the heart basic physics that can be demonstrated with any number of simple kitchen experiments that anyone could understand but the interactions are so complex that it leaves massive gaps open for public skepticism. It’s fine to say well it needs to be explained better, but I’m certainly not the brightest bulb out there but I’m not completely ignorant and have fairly good general knowledge as a result of numerous interests including science, but I did a unit in climate science at the local uni and it was significantly hard work to get to some basic understanding. I’d just done a few units on astronomy by contrast in which I’d lost very few marks on anything, I could do the calculations I understood the basics the concepts and did very well, but it was more than twice as much work to do the climate science it’s just so complicated and everything is so related to 10 other factors all of which you need to understand before you get the whole. perhaps astronomy is just as hard but having loved it since childhood I has sufficient general knowledge to quickly put the pieces together but some of the sciences are just really hard.

    Some people are just not very smart also. I have taught at rough schools my whole career, low socio-economic with combinations of bright (cunning) kids and a higher proportion of cognitively challenged. I teach for example a lovely little girl (learning support) who cannot write her password into our computer system every lesson in that class there are 5 documented learning support kids another 3 or 4 undiagnosed but I suspect genuinely mentally challenged, then there are another few suffering from significant problems in their home lives who couldn’t give a damn about an education. And that isn’t the most difficult class (in fact it’s one of my favorites). Point is science is hard work it is significantly difficult to get enough to understand this stuff.

    Sorry guys a rambling post I know.

  33. Alan, though Nakamura’s accent is quite thick, his English is excellent. He works mostly in the US where his major investment is in the lighting company Sora (the LEDs are violet and triangular!), pioneering solid GaN devices. He most often presents in English. Science is predominantly anglophone these days.

  34. Reckless,

    The ultimate issue to solve is not to have folk understand complicated science, but to have them trust in the experts who do. Seeing and hearing the experts themselves put their own knowledge into context is surely the fastest way we can reconnect people to the people who actually know. Their nerdiness, their lack of any true vested economic interest, is worth seeing and experiencing….as a contrast to the financial and political vested interests that leverage power….

    FWIW I see universities become far more their own media channels, as in #13.

  35. phil rimmer #36
    Mar 12, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    Alan, though Nakamura’s accent is quite thick, his English is excellent. He works mostly in the US where his major investment is in the lighting company Sora (the LEDs are violet and triangular!), pioneering solid GaN devices. He most often presents in English. Science is predominantly anglophone these days.

    True, – but we were talking about ordinary members of the world public rather than those more highly educated, so Japanese inventors presenting in Japanese or English, are unlikely to make themselves directly understood by those who speak Spanish, Italian, German, French, Russian, Turkish, Greek, Arabic, Indian dialects, Mandarin, etc.
    For these people intermediaries (#26) of translators, teachers, media presenters, texts etc are required.

    There is also the issue of the complexity of the subjects, the technical language and the mathematics involved.

    Explanations should be from scientists, but many subjects need science educators to pull together the work of many scientists – not to mention, linking these to the work standing on the shoulders of the giants of past science so as to build up from basics.

    The suggestion of individual scientists explaining their own complex experimental work to the uneducated public at large, misses the point of generating interest, and achieving understanding.

    You make a valid point @#37

    @#37 – The ultimate issue to solve is not to have folk understand complicated science, but to have them trust in the experts who do.

    The best that can be done with some complex subjects, is to demonstrate that the technology works, so it can be used by people who may never understand the specialist complexities of its working, but are prepared to trust the specialists who do.

    One key to this, is a reliable mechanism to expose charlatans and fakes who try to pose as experts or educators.

  36. Alan4discussion #31 They usually concentrate on those who will make
    use of the information they are given. The rest need to read
    specialist publications, reference books, look stuff up, look at
    educational documentaries, or take part in education courses.

    I understand your point of view in general. 🙂 I have the feeling that “ordinary people”(who make up majority of population) have perception of science as something far and incomprehensibly. There are news in daily newspapers mostly about politics, sports, show business, food,… . But very rarely about some science finding. Ok, I know,… not every daily newspapers are the same, but I would like more and more to see headline on a first page that is talking about science. Perhaps that is the one of the ways for science to get closer to wider public and not only be represented in special publications where one have to look for if they have interest in the first place. But what about “ordinary people”? They are the one being deluded with politicians and their misinformations through news. Daily! From day to day majority of people are being brainwashed (from the part of politics) with misinformation about science. I just think that scientist have to do the same. To talk about their findings on daily basis in daily newspapers. Majority of “ordinary” people do not have time to look for specialized publications, large number of them do not even think to look for it on the web. But look, they are being thaught every day in something else, they are being thaught how politics works, how to hate someone, how to be affraid from your neighbour, etc. And they do not even have to look for it in specialized publications. 😉

    If scientist do not have time, (or for any other reason) at least I would like to see they personally choose some really good middleman to do so. 😉 I Just would like to see science findings comunicated better to masses. 🙂

  37. phil rimmer #32

    Education is now needed 24/7 for all adults because science and
    technology move on so fast. … We need more, more palatable science,
    from unimpeachable sources to try and get us to be more responsible
    citizens in our collective decision making.

    Yes, I agree. I do not know the propper solution for delivering knowledge to all people every day (I tried to explain it above). I like this thought:

    …and a suitable hobby for the lady of leisure was chemistry.

  38. Modesti #40
    Mar 13, 2017 at 4:57 am

    I have the feeling that “ordinary people”(who make up majority of population) have perception of science as something far and incomprehensibly.

    You have identified the point about high-tech issues. We sometimes see these illustrated on this sitye when climate change deniers try to dispute something like the loss of billions of tonnes of ice from the planet!

    The ways of measuring this is highly technical so those who do not even have a high-school level of understanding have no prospect of understanding all the details.

    As well as local ground stations measuring temperature wind-=speed and rainfall, much of the global measuring is done by satellites.

    Those who lack higher science education are very unlike to have the skills or the patience to study the measuring techniques or the equipment. – The ground track of satellites, radar, radar altimeters, ground and ice penetrating radar, side scan radar, multispectral imaging, 3D computer modelling of the data, stated error bars, calculations of volumes of irregular shapes, the comparisons of of data from multiple satellites and multiple space-agencies (which they may have never heard of), the electronic transmission of information from satellites etc.

    There are news in daily newspapers mostly about politics, sports, show business, food,… . But very rarely about some science finding.

    News papers reporting science usually only have headlines and limited information (eg. loss of X miilion tonnes of ice from area X). They may show satellite images of comparisons of areas of Arctic ice for different years, But the media disinformation rags will probably feature cherry-picked abnormalities, such as an odd increase in area one year – while failing to mention a vast reduction in the ice thickness.

    Ok, I know,… not every daily newspapers are the same, but I would like more and more to see headline on a first page that is talking about science.

    That is the problem! The quality media may have headlines which are based on the work of 10 satellites + aircraft surveys and ground stations, while some propagandist rag also has contradictory headlines which some charlatans simply made up! The uneducated simply CHOOSE what they would like to believe from some highly complex measurements which they can’t understand and some simplistic rubbish which is designed to sound plausible to the ignorant!
    Compounding the problem, is the fact that the political propagandist liars, accuse the reputable scientists of conspiring to deceive, incompetence, and lying, while their gullible followers parrot this nonsense with the liars telling them “how clever they are for doing so”! At the same time they use poses of fake “authority” with fancy sciency sounding titles on muppet propagandist bodies of charlatans, to disparage the hard working expert honest scientists!

    For example in the USA, the chief political stooge denial muppet, with a school-boy fail in environmental sciences, is presented to the public, as the “Head of the Environmental Protection Agency”!

    A position which normally is a spokes-person for a large team of experts! – now replaced by a facade of deceptive ignorance!

  39. I think the problem is less about scientist’s dropping the ball, than the inherent lure of magical thinking. Just take evolution and climate change as an example. It’s hard to argue there isn’t plenty of evidence and accessible explanations out there, and yet people continue to reject it because they’d rather believe something more convenient or flattering.

    Educating children from a young age on the use of logic and evidence in determining truth is the only real hope. Once someone’s thinking is cemented, it is much more difficult to break through their self-imposed censorship of what information gets in (as the book “Blink” highlights so well).

    Growing up in Catholic Schools, we were indoctrinated into magical thinking in religion class, but at least were also taught the scientific method in science class. At some point in Jesuit-run high school I began applying the same logic to religion and lost my belief completely. Most of the rest of my friends were able to compartmentalize and maintain their irrational God-delusions.

    Many fundamentalists’ schools where I live in NC hardly teach the scientific method at all. Even in public schools where I live, many teachers openly tell the students the evolution taught in textbooks is not true and they should talk to their families and minsters about the subject.

    This is at the core of anti-scientific thinking and I’m not sure better explanations of semi-conductors overcomes this, especially given human nature.

    It’s akin to telling someone who is tone deaf that their dream of becoming a famous singer is a delusion. If someone else is telling them there’re actually fantastic, who do they want to believe? You might be able to convince them of the truth with enough evidence, but not if they’ve surrounded themselves with other tone-deaf people and refuse to look at contrary evidence at all.

    As the tone-deaf people grow in number and elect presidents equally tone-deaf, the voice of reason gets all but drown out.

    So the solution is education from a young age, but how to get there from here, at least in the United States were elected officials are trying to destroy secular public education, is becoming increasingly problematic.

  40. scott,

    yes, yes and yes.

    Young minds are closed very early and this theft of real adult choice is a great crime.

    Atheist children are the most varied in their final religious choices. We don’t indoctrinate and shame on the Atheist who does. Fundamentalist parents by contrast produce fundamentalist children with very high reliability.

  41. Although this shouldn’t be the responsibility of the scientists, maybe what needs to happen is to have all the leading climate scientists get together and do some kind of intervention, maybe insist on testifying before Congress and having it televised. No. They’ve testified in the past, and that got us nowhere. Let them march into the nation’s capital, into the building itself, and get arrested. Civil disobedience on the part of the scientists. Something that’ll get media coverage, i.e., drama. Then they can get some momentum and will be invited to speak regularly on TV. Climate change will be interesting (like Trump’s tweets) and bring in some revenue for the stupid corporate-run media. An intervention is what is needed. The warning must be heard. The human race is in denial. And many have a vested interest in keeping it that way.

    Phil, you arrange it. Organize a march to the nation’s capital – professional scientists only! – and let all the climatologists know that they might have to spend a few days in jail. Also, they should all wear suits, or at least jackets. (Otherwise the right-wing media will label them tree-huggers.) And tell them that they have to get politically active now. Out of the labs and into danger, so they can set us free. Otherwise we’re all going to roast to death. It’s only a matter of time.

    (If I sound a touch cynical, that’s because I am. )

  42. Dan #45
    Mar 13, 2017 at 10:43 am

    Although this shouldn’t be the responsibility of the scientists, maybe what needs to happen is to have all the leading climate scientists get together and do some kind of intervention, maybe insist on testifying before Congress and having it televised.

    Scientists have already testified at the higher level of the international conferences: – Paris + United Nations Climate Change Conference Marrakesh 2016 – COP22, Geneva, 4.02.16 – The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held an Expert Meeting on 9-10 February 2016 in Oslo, Norway, the Earth Summit (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development) in Rio de Janeiro back in in 1992, the Bonn Climate Change Conference is scheduled – May 2017.

    http://www.ipcc.ch/

    The 53rd Session of the IPCC Bureau will take place in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico from 26 – 27 March 2017 followed by the 45th Session of the IPCC from 28 – 31 March 2017 at the same venue.

    Also the leader of the world’s top professional science bodies have made clear statements and these have been broadcast!

    The problem is not with the scientific evidence or the willingness of scientists to communicate information.

    The problem lies with corrupt politians who have been bought by the coal and oil industries, the faith-heads and the “stuck in the carbon burning steam-age” know-it-all science duffers.

    These don’t seem to have any problem with believing that scientists, the science, and technology of the Web and Twitter will deliver their propagandist garbage, to followers, but choose to deny subjects like evolution and global warming, from dishonest and deluded propagandists, because of their gullible acceptance of indoctrinating, bigoted ignorance, fear, and greed!

    The problem lies very much with the deceitful propagandists and government failures to uphold standards of honesty! – Particularly in reporting by the media!

  43. Alan

    The problem lies very much with the deceitful propagandists and government failures to uphold standards of honesty! – Particularly in reporting by the media!

    Yet the moral solution is almost never the political solution we can immediately achieve. Positive political action mitigating harms says more about the your superior moral bona fides at the end of the day. The system gets fixed properly when calm is restored, after the temporary fix shows the way.

  44. SBS a TV station down here had an excellent broadcast with a climate scientist who unfortunately died shortly after the session was shot. The remarkable thing was that this one climate scientist was up on stage to answer the questions of a whole audience of climate deniers. What you witnessed was a kind man who clearly communicated the science around the questions and simply explained where the audience was wrong, misinformed or misunderstanding the science. It was brilliant, unfortunately being SBS very few of the people who needed to see it would have.

    I was explaining to a college at work about how my beliefs work. I tried to explain that what I hold to be true or rather how easily I’d let go of what is true is like a thin sheet of tissue paper. The slightest bump of blow in the form of evidence against evolution or AGW would blow it apart and I’d be forced to change my mind. I also explained that on most things I simply don’t even have the tissue of belief, rather I either don’t understand enough or know anything like enough to have a firm ideas at all, including many things within my profession for which we are often operating on sparse evidence indeed. Evidence that contradicts my tissue thin beliefs however must be good, I’m not going to just take someones word for it.

    My mate however didn’t quite get it. We were discussing how the Andrew Wakefield nonsense on Autism came up. He pointed out that Wakefields paper had been published in the Lancet. I was explaining that any new idea that comes up in science is only the first step in the peer review process and that while it was clearly scandalous that the Lancet published his paper in the first place. It was no reason to believe he had it right like the myriad of potential cancer cures that get published every year. People don’t get the process of doubt and how important it is. Still have a long way to go.

  45. Alan 46
    Phil 47

    Yes, I admitted that scientists’ testifying before Congress would be ineffectual now, would be like recycling paper and hoping to save the timber industry that way. (My comment was not written in a serious vein.) This is a governmental issue. But it’s a bit of a catch 22. The politicians are corrupt and willfully myopic, and their constituents are acted upon by propaganda and misinformation, or are just indifferent for a whole host of other reasons.

    The climate issue is all part of the general decline and corruption associated with our present insurgent oligarchy, with Trump as the figurehead. We need enlightened, wise, humane leaders! We can no longer wait, so I say: strong action on a massive scale with activist-leaders who know how to organize and mobilize, mass action by people who are not indifferent, marches, boycotts, civil disobedience, the whole nine yards.—That’s what we need. How does that come about? How’d the civil rights movement get started? It was organic, and it had leaders – most notably Dr. King. So how does one get something like that started? And one march won’t do it. It must be sustained.

    In the mean time it’s just been reported that even if we do everything we can do now about global warming, the coral reefs will be dead, dead, dead – in a little over thirty years. Look it up.

    Phil

    “Yet the moral solution is almost never the political solution we can immediately achieve. Positive political action mitigating harms says more about the your superior moral bona fides at the end of the day. The system gets fixed properly when calm is restored, after the temporary fix shows the way.”

    What does that mean? And what specific “positive political actions” do we need to take? Any suggestions? The moral aspect of a given cause, by the way, is the very heart and soul, of all meaningful political action, in my opinion. Activism, however pragmatic one is, requires passion, commitment to moral principles, and a sense of right and wrong, of justice; the moral and the political fuel each other. Isn’t that obvious? (Did I misinterpret you again?)

  46. Dan #45

    Although this shouldn’t be the responsibility of the
    scientists, maybe what needs to happen is to have all the leading
    climate scientists get together and do some kind of intervention …
    Civil disobedience on the part of the scientists. Something that’ll
    get media coverage, i.e., drama. Then they can get some momentum and
    will be invited to speak regularly on TV.

    I agree with your way of thinking. And I think that ones who see this as some sort of temporary measure and that real advances can be made sometimes “after” are mistaken. When after? After Trump and his minions have deeply infected media with their lies? And ordinary people would have more firm beliefs in their lies? Truth would have even less chance to be lisened. I think there is no “after” or “later when good guys comes to govern”. 😉 I think you understand the urgency of the situation. It was late even yesterday – there is no time to wait. I agree that steps must be taken now. And I think that scientist need to defend their findings (their profession) otherwise they are betraying themselves (and their profession). And why would anyone believe them anyway when they are not prepare to stand behind their profession?

    Perhaps they are affraid to take responsibility as many people are, 🙁 so they would rather wait (along with others) for some good guy to comes up and solve problem. This reminds me of the same sort of thinking that religious have. They always seek for some higher instance to resolve their problems.

    We need enlightened, wise, humane leaders! We can no longer wait, so I
    say: strong action on a massive scale with activist-leaders who know
    how to organize and mobilize, mass action by people who are not
    indifferent, marches, boycotts, civil disobedience, the whole nine
    yards.—That’s what we need.

    I support your thinking! But not sentance about leader. Sorry, hahaha. It is about this parent – child way of thinking that I just do not approve. No offense. I think people do not need leaders, they can defend their convictions together as a group (without “father figure”, that religious have, and to whom one can be obedient) ;). So can scientists. Right?! They can march on a square, in public areas and express their opinions.

  47. phil rimmer #47

    Yet the moral solution is almost never the political solution we can
    immediately achieve. Positive political action mitigating harms says
    more about the your superior moral bona fides at the end of the day.
    The system gets fixed properly when calm is restored, after the
    temporary fix shows the way.

    I didn’t understand this. Can you explain what did you mean by this? What moral solution? Are you thinking that civil actions which civilians are forced to take, are not moral, and somehow musn’t be taken because in that way they would be equalized with the “enemy” ? In my opinion you are mistaken if you think this.

    What are this “positive political actions mitigating harms (that are saying more about someone superior moral bona fides at the end of the day)”, and what good it gets, and when? For centuries good people had this conduct of “moral bona fide” against all sort of malignant monsters, but at the end, only concrete actions of reciprocating power when one has to move to the same level, solved things, and not some superior moral standards. I think one can pretend to be moraly superior all they want and wait for immoral ones to figure your way, but it would be a loooong, long waiting. And in meanwhile immoral actions will continue. Sorry, but when I hear something like statment that people who wants to fight for their rights needs to be moraly superior, it essencially mean “do nothing”. Or take only actions that are alowed or prescribed by the government (which is by the way immoral and is trying to kill you in the first place). It is like some despot is bulling you every day with every mean they can think of, and you decide to defend yourself, but instead to self defence with every means,… to fight for survival by all means (because your life is at stake) you choose to defend yourself by means that thug has prescribed or allowed for you. You choose to be polight (civilized). What sense that makes! Yet they do not follow any rule, certainly not morals. Any defence from that kind of despots are moral. No need to talk about superior morality, when other side have non. I see this “superior morality” way of thinking as an excuse for doing actually nothing, or to pretend that one is fighting for better but wants to save a face along the way (not be equated with despot).

    In my opinion civil actions against injustice are moral, and driven by moral. Waiting for next elections isn’t.

  48. Modesti #50
    Mar 14, 2017 at 5:07 am

    So can scientists. Right?! They can march on a square, in public areas and express their opinions.

    This attitude of marching to convince individuals or engage the media, is a problem of the USA and other states with backward corrupt politicians.

    In much of Europe expert scientific bodies provide the quality media with accurate information as a basis for informed debate, and a large proportion of the population accept this.

    The various conferences (and more listed #46), provide the informed debate and information. Marches simply reduce the level of debate to Trump- rally levels and shouting matches.

    There is no reason to believe that the corrupt propagandist media will report marches any more accurately than they report conferences. Indeed! – It simply gives them the opportunity to cherry-pick loud-mouthed protesters who make poor arguments!

    The conferences clearly show many political leaders seeking clear expert advice on required actions.
    It is not the scientific information which is the problem!
    It is the the corrupt media and well-funded disinformation campaigns – especially in the US where these are combined with an absence of unbiased reputable media and a poor education system which fails to teach rational scientific thinking!
    As with creationists and evolutionary biology, the deniers don’t read scientific reports or articles.
    They read the asserted propagandist garbage MISREPRESENTING scientific reports!

    The corrupt media requires real news to be filtered through the blinkered eyes and superficial opinions of the fanatical ideologists who deny science and real facts!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-38695203?ns_mchannel=social&ns_campaign=bbc_politics&ns_source=twitter&ns_linkname=news_central

    Nigel Farage has been hired as a commentator for American TV network Fox News, the broadcaster has announced.

    The former UKIP leader will provide political analysis for the main channel, and the Fox Business Network’s daytime and primetime programmes.

    Mr Farage has been one of the UK’s most prominent supporters of US President Donald Trump and appeared alongside him during his election campaign.

    He was the first UK politician to meet Mr Trump after his win in November.

    It comes shortly after he was given his own nightly show on UK radio station LBC

    Europe does have a similar problem with Brexit and the irresponsible gutter press, setting popularist massed ignorance based on false news, against informed opinion and rational planning.
    This is in order to manipulate gullible or corrupt politicians, who are preoccupied with pandering to crowds, rather than competently understanding issues, or planning for the future public interest!
    Farage has gathered the Brexiteers and motivated stupid politicians to hold a referendum based on fantasy utopian stories, and NO PLANNING of the real outcomes. He has now moved on to be hired by the manipulative right as a useful idiot, propagandist media stooge!

    Other useful-idiot media stooges have been hired by Trump as leaders of his administration!

    If enough spoon-fed, garbage-swallowing, mentally-lazy, know-it-all people, elect monkeys, we can all live in the jungle as slaves of propagandist masters!

  49. Modesti/Reckless

    Thank you for your comments. The first question I asked when I joined this forum was, can a non-intelligent person be accepted as an atheist but there were no takers.

    I am not trying to educate everyone to the same level. We have millions upon millions of people who know nothing about religion but believe to a point they live their lives by it. Can we not have that ‘army’ knowing enough to nudge their children in the right direction?

    I effectively left school when I was 14 and my family decided I was to become an electrician at the side of my newly acquired brother-in-law. (Not as bad as it sounds. I was glad to get out of the rag-trade that awaited me. My math is junior school level and I had to learn the basics, and a bit more, in order to pass my exams and become a qualified electrician. I have even forgotten that though I made “top of class’ level at the time. I can work out square footage and a few calculations but that is it. I can’t work out why climate change is but can put together a model of “spinning plates” and work on the basis of cause and effect I suppose. Res “Selfish Gene” is easy to understand with a basic ( I say basic but appreciate my interest might have me knowing more than the people I have around me) knowledge. I have moved on from my teachers describing gravity as a spinning bucket to understanding there is a force and the spin has nothing to do with it. Even when we being taught I could not understand that we did not live in the world but on it and the ‘theory’ did no work.

    Not everyone has to know how to calculate the forces needed to reach the moon as not every atheist has to know the special language needed to prove yourself, and not be left out of the clique. I imagine a world of people understanding a little science and trusting it would be the opposite of what we have now and a much healthier one I think.

    Alan has stressed a need for control of the material that is released but it seems the scientist that has released the information then only sits back and moans about the misinterpretations. Coming and owning your material seems to be the answer to me. Once everyone can see the horses mouth move then there can be less misinformation. These scientist, Id wager, do not give interviews to “dumb” reporters but in stead to specialist publications that the public look at but move away from. There are times when I don’t understand what Phil is saying so I have to leave the conversation because I feel I am just shouting “WHAT” all the time and to be honest I don’t even know if he is mocking or taking the piss out of me. Even googling doesn’t help me at times but his teaching has me on another level of consciousness at all other times. Not by Phil but I did get slapped down once for asking about certain features of a black hole. I could have been embarrassed to the point of leaving the site but I have been hardened by discussions on the Cyprus Problem over ten years.

    So, its not about having everyone on the same level but having everyone trust what we know and understand we do not know everything and that is what science is all about.

  50. Dan, Modesti

    Read my comment on the Piraha in the latest article on the invention of numbers.

    https://richarddawkins.net/2017/03/how-humans-invented-numbers-and-how-numbers-reshaped-our-world/#li-comment-219691

    If you can see folk trapped by the intellectual poverty of their culture (remember of OECD countries only in the US are folk actually bred stupider by their poverty) then it is no good exhorting them to do better, least of all by calling them morally bad for their intellectual indolence. The moral responsibility is to those who can actually see the mechanism underlying the problem, to ignore their bad behaviour (at least initially) and seek to fix their impoverished culture. Fixing primary and secondary education and purging the fourth estate of its crazily blatant enslavement to commerce and narrow interests, would be a start. Fixing those stupid self-agrandising American narratives wouldn’t hurt either.

    Stop blaming , start fixing, else under-perform morally. Blaming is a sub-optimum moral process, always.

  51. Modesti,

    Thank you for your comments today. (We seem to agree about most things.)

    By “leader”, in this context, I do not mean a father figure or an authority figure or a despot. I just mean someone who simply has more clarity, more charisma, better oratorical skills, is better at organizing, and has more political shrewdness and courage than others. MLK is the kind of leader that I had in mind. Leaders can be great, terrible, and everything in-between, in my opinion. I think a leader, like the kind that MLK was, can give a resistance movement momentum, direction, inspiration, and can be the voice of the people. And the voice of the people is the voice of the “leader”. Without leadership, resistance movements often remain inchoate and just fizzle out. (We can do it without a leader. It can be done; don’t get me wrong.)

    Glad you liked my suggestion about scientists taking to the streets, as it were – although I thought that that was a touch fanciful. Maybe not.

  52. Hi Olgun,

    Thank you for your comments. The first question I asked when I joined this forum was, can a non-intelligent person be accepted as an atheist but there were no takers.

    I’ll take a stab at it. Atheism is just a non-belief in gods. In reality it should be the standard position of non-intelligent. That is you should demand evidence for things you cannot understand. Trouble is people are happy to rely on the authority of others. I don’t understand quantum mechanics, I feel stupid when it comes to quantum mechanics. I accept the findings because they are demonstrated and useful and work. However if someone asks me to explain it in anything but a fundamental way I simply say I don’t know. So if a person without much intelligence the default position should be I don’t understand so I’ll just accept not understanding the same as anyone else.

    And don’t you go confusing lack of education with lack of intellect. One of the smartest guys I’ve ever known was the guy who taught me to fly, he was not in any way an academic, he thought Spain was in South America because they speak Spanish down there. But the guy was a genius both in terms of aerodynamics but particularly in terms of understanding his students and how to play them psychologically to get the most out of them. He played my ego like a fiddle, knocking it down, building it up challenging me, giving me reasons when I needed them at the level I could accept then latter as I became more advanced and knowledgeable knocking it all down again and giving me the complex/complete answer, allowing me to scare the hell out of myself if I was getting too cocky (ready to save me when needed). The more I reflect on his teaching the deeper I realise his thinking was – he too never finished high school, he is a bloody genius.

  53. Reckless Monkey #56
    Mar 14, 2017 at 7:35 am

    The more I reflect on his teaching the deeper I realise his thinking was – he too never finished high school, he is a bloody genius.

    Perhaps you have hit the core issue here!
    Far to many people learn to regurgitate information they have been GIVEN at home or in high school, and then think their education is complete!

    As with passing a driving test, learning to fly, or a professional career, graduation should be a certification of fitness to continue life-long learning, NOT a know-it-all termination of the education process!

  54. Ollie, #53

    I am truly chastened by this. It is never my intention to mock. I may attempt banter and screw it up. I may feel I’m addressing a more general population and appear rather more personal. I always over compress my ideas searching for that memorable aphorism. Sometimes I do this knowingly as an encouragement to think. Sometimes I don’t explain my terms if they are entirely searchable. (I always do wiki them and if a suitable first paragraph exists, it goes in unexplained.) I give people problems all the time. Its never on a plate, because that is never memorable.

    I can’t do so much that others can. I am socially unintelligent and can miss much of what people are telling me but before anything else in others I appreciate….effort. I’ll match anyone’s effort to understand.

    This site is not the general public but a specific, self selecting group. I think my approach to the general public would be entirely different, with much lower expectations.

  55. Olgun #53

    I always liked your honest comments. 🙂

    … Can we not have that ‘army’ knowing enough to nudge their children
    in the right direction?

    …Not everyone has to know how to calculate
    the forces needed to reach the moon as not every atheist has to know
    the special language needed to prove yourself, and not be left out of
    the clique. I imagine a world of people understanding a little science
    and trusting it would be the opposite of what we have now and a much
    healthier one I think.

    I totally agree!! And also on the matter that scientist have to be more personaly engage to promote their own work. Dawkins is doing it right? He stands behind his work. In the Arena (so to speak). 🙂

    There are times when I don’t understand what Phil is saying so I have
    to leave the conversation because I feel I am just shouting “WHAT” all
    the time and to be honest I don’t even know if he is mocking or taking
    the piss out of me. Even googling doesn’t help me at times but his
    teaching has me on another level of consciousness at all other times.
    Not by Phil but I did get slapped down once for asking about certain
    features of a black hole. I could have been embarrassed to the point
    of leaving the site but I have been hardened by discussions on the
    Cyprus Problem over ten years.

    I understand you. Pitty that some people do not explain fully what they mean. Sometimes I find that I have commented something so oddly that even I couldn’t believe it hahaha; …but it happens because I think on my mother tounge and have to write it on english, and then I get confused hahaha ;). But I like to describe (with perhaps odd way) my thoughts on some subject at that moment and as I go along the way. Sometimes I do not even say it all because I forget 😉 …but I like more honest and simple way of comunicating and that doesn’t have to mean primitive. Anything can be said in more appealing and understandable way, the problem is how skilfull person who is explaining is. I do mind when scientist have problem with this, and they expect to be understood in return. If Dawkins have found the way, I presume others can also. 🙂

    What good is knowledge if it can not be properly offered to others? It is like “winking women in the dark” as Philip Kotler said (an economist). Only you know that you are winking, nobody else, especially her. hahaha. What good is any conversation if it is not understandable enough? We will all have monologs? And create more wider and wider differences between us? I like your thoughts, as well as Dan, Hooligan, Reckless Monkey, LaurieB, Vicki, and Mr Darcy. I remember I liked your comments about Cyprus, it seems to me you know that problem very well. 🙂

  56. Phil

    That was clumsy of me. I am sorry. It was meant to inform and was about my shortcomings not yours. As I have mentioned before, my social skills can be a bit up and down as well. Especially when my old friend shyness makes an appearance.

    I did not catch the old format of this site but when I joined you lot where complaining (a little) about it. It seemed to me that the admin where trying to move away from the group to a more general public based site.

  57. Dan #55

    Oh, Yes I see, … MLK is a good example of a “leader”. … and a suggestion about scientists taking to the streets was not fanciful but honest one and reveals you are conscious about the core of the problem. I am not sure how much scientist are aware of that problem 😉 .

  58. phil rimmer #54 Stop blaming , start fixing, else under-perform
    morally. Blaming is a sub-optimum moral process, always.

    Or You didn’t see I have offered solution (so did Dan) or you didn’t like it, …in any case you decided that I am not doing that, but only blaming. Well, it is your choice. Who knows, perhaps you do not see other people suggestions for fixing the problem because you see yours as only valid.

  59. Reckless

    Thank you for those comments. I suppose that a little education would be more of an antidote to relentless religion rather than a ‘qualification’ for atheism. But then it should mean that every student that leaves university should automatically have enough knowledge to not be fooled by religion and not to pay homage to the addiction of tradition and those visits to the chapel. A practical mind seems better equipped than an ‘educated’ one.

  60. Modesti

    Dawkins has done a marvellous job in presenting his science to people like me. Attenborough has had my family and me glued to our televisions and just as I was beginning to worry about who will take his place on our screens along comes Brian Cox, albeit on another science, so that we have something to look forward to amongst the dross that is on TV. There are other scientist presenters out there, just to be clear, but Cox has it just right in all aspects of presenting.

    Language is important though, as this link shows. Ali G when he was good and sending a worthwhile message.

  61. Modesti.

    I seem to keep winding you up quite unintentionally. I think this is an example of me speaking about how one (everyone) needs to behave generally (stop blaming, start fixing) and it appearing to personally directed. (Its not.)

    I was addressing my over-compressed assertion.

    Yet the moral solution is almost never the political solution we can
    immediately achieve.

    which means

    The “moral solution” here is intended to be getting the stupid poor white folks who voted for Trump to come to their senses, see their racism, see their stupidity and do better next time. The “political solution” here is NOT to blame them for their folly but to seek to fix their under-invested in culture which manufactures their inability to see clearly and choose better. Deprived, as they are, their capacity for clear and moral decision making is reduced. My further claim is that deferring the moral complaint is the more moral position and tackling their culture is itself both needful and easier.

    I have offered no observations on your (Modesti and Dan’s) solutions and didn’t intend the comments so far as a judgment.

    Sorry for these sustained misunderstandings. I’ll try harder and explain more. I’m aspie and a fuckwit. This works well for me but less so for others.

    So

    In my opinion civil actions against injustice are moral, and driven by moral. Waiting for next elections isn’t.

    Completely agree. I agree with most of your stuff for what its worth.

  62. Let me extend this

    The “moral solution” here is intended to be getting the stupid poor white folks who voted for Trump to come to their senses, see their racism, see their stupidity and do better next time. And/or get the deceitful propagandists who prey on such gullibility to feel shame at their actions.

    The political solution remains the same.

  63. Phil

    getting the stupid poor white folks who voted for Trump to come to their senses, see their racism, see their stupidity and do better next time

    Here is Chris Hayes and Bernie Sanders doing just that.

  64. Laurie, perhaps that was in fact an argument against me.

    Sanders is wonderful at persuading individuals the error of their ways, especially when he finds someone who honestly admits their own needs and offers the socialist solution. I’m not sure though if he can be cloned sufficiently to do the job, to personalise the message each time.

    He da man though.

  65. @Olgun #63

    But then it should mean that every student that leaves university should automatically have enough knowledge to not be fooled by religion and not to pay homage to the addiction of tradition and those visits to the chapel

    I had some formative experiences which have given me perspective about education. I worked in commercial art for about 6 years and would trot around with a folio under my arm drumming up work. It became apparent in that field very quickly that I got my foot in the door with that folio and I stayed in work because I delivered, reliably and not too expensively and with good humor I realised my qualifications meant nothing other than the lessons I learned during my training. Likewise when I learned to fly I had to sit a test with an 80% pass rate! I was imagining exactly what 20% of things on that test I could do without?! I realised then quite young that an awful lot of effort in our society goes into arse covering, avoiding shaming or being shamed but that I preferred to be as honest with myself as I could manage.

    When I did go to uni to become a teacher I found an awful lot of the young being lead around by the nose and in the great tradition of university I spend many a happy break between lectures trying to upset their apple carts. The highly educated are often specialists in very specific fields (although education is probably too broad in this sense). So there is still plenty of room for self deception and religious thinking.

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