What is driving the anti-science complicity among the US population, and online?

The Rocketry Forum

Help Support The Rocketry Forum:

afadeev

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Sep 21, 2017
Messages
1,227
Reaction score
506
I'm genuinely curious.
This is no way intended as a political wedge in any particular direction, since there are plenty of anti-science champions on both far-left as well as far-right.

When I was growing up, if someone got a bright idea to publicly challenge gravity, or that Earth wasn't flat, or that vaccines prevent deadly diseases, that person would have been ostracized as mentally challenged.
Not anymore.
  1. Have our education standards fallen so low that these basic facts are genuinely open to questioning?
    • If yes, how did we get THAT dumb THAT fast?
  2. Have we gotten so permissive and accommodating to any and all "off-the-wall" beliefs that challenging someone's idiocy is no longer socially acceptable?
    • So now we allow equal air time to all sorts of banal nonsense on par with science?
  3. Do folks just follow the example of our politicians who casually throw science under the bus, or warship it as the ultimate truth, depending on what side of an argument they are on any given issue?
    • If so, are politicians playing on the growing ignorance of scientific discoveries among the electorate (#1), or feel that they can get away promoting any nonsense as long as it sounds good (#2), or just lack any moral core and say whatever it takes to keep audience's attention onto them (free clicks and airtime)?
What gives?

I do appreciate and acknowledge a lot of other social and political trends, and am purposely leaving them out of this discussion.
Just focusing on increasing animosity towards science, scientific method, and increasing willingness to denigrate scientific findings if they contradict one's preferred ideology.

I find this trend increasing in frequency and amplitude.
And don't like where it's leading...

*sigh*
 

cerving

Owner, Eggtimer Rocketry
TRF Sponsor
TRF Supporter
Joined
Feb 3, 2012
Messages
3,654
Reaction score
891
The answer is "yes".
 

PBic

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2017
Messages
85
Reaction score
29
Man, I hear ya, however I don’t think you’re going to find a satisfactory explanation to irrational fear.
 

NateB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 6, 2012
Messages
966
Reaction score
600
Location
NE Indiana
I've pondered this, and I don't think it is necessarily a new phenomenon, but one made worse recently. I graduated high school in 2000. I certainly remember that being smart wasn't a "cool" thing and that other traits were certainly more rewarded than being intellectual. At the same time, flat out denying science wasn't rewarded either.

I partially blame the schools. I am also the product of public education and I am not ashamed of it. I was invited to attend a public boarding school with tough academics for my Junior and Senior years, but declined with little thought. One problem with schools is the trend of teachers pushing through failing students who then force the class to slow down so some don't get left behind. For me, high school wasn't challenging and led to boredom and I never developed good study habits.

The next problem is social media and creating echo chambers of bad ideas which spread rampant. Social media is nothing new, communities like this have existed since listserv days. Yahoo Groups and Facebook have made these groups easy to find and easy to keep private. Crazy views don't seem as crazy when you can easily connect to hundreds or thousands of people worldwide with the same views. I don't think that the AI which exists to dish up convenient results (to deliver targeted ads) helps matters by serving up more groups or videos which reinforce a belief rather than a contradictory one. This normalizes fringe beliefs and they eventually spread to mainstream thought.

Last, the "polite" thought of avoiding religious, political, or any controversial conversations has made it so our society cannot engage in discourse without becoming emotional. Debate and opposing views allow us to more forward and learn more. We are loosing this art and are worse for it.
 

TSMILLER

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 31, 2014
Messages
232
Reaction score
71
I notice it along with you, shake my head in dismay and wonder what kind of world I am leaving my 6 YO son.
 

TSMILLER

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 31, 2014
Messages
232
Reaction score
71
One problem with schools is the trend of teachers pushing through failing students who then force the class to slow down so some don't get left behind. For me, high school wasn't challenging and led to boredom and I never developed good study habits.
I left school Jan 3rd 1979. I was required to have 37 credits, I left with 42. My so called senior year consisted of two classes. Both American Government. School was a drag for me, so like you did not develop proper study habit. Those I learned after starting college.
I don’t think it is “slowing down so some don’t get left behind” as much as it is forcing everyone into one mold.
My oldest boy, now 38 YO is a genius. He was miles ahead of even most of his teachers. TAG programs helped him greatly, private school even more. Public schools just were not cut out for him.
Now with my 6 YO I see most of the same traits as the older boy.
Conferences with the teacher are laced with he doesn’t pay attention, he doesn’t follow directions. I pointedly asked if he is bored, relaying my prior experiences And how the older boy was
( same way).
6YO learns something then thinks, OK I know this, why am I still hashing it out.
His interest are miles away from his classmates.
Biology, medical practices and geography he eats up.
He would rather study medical procedures and biological functions of the body than play with a toy truck.
How many first graders can tell you every country of the world, where it’s located and the capitals.
How many first graders can tell you the name of every organ in the body, the function, how and why it works.
The teacher just said and I quote “But we need him to fit in, we don’t want him to be different than his peers.”
Seriously?
 

BBowmaster

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 30, 2017
Messages
342
Reaction score
204
1. Yes...-ish. Our education standards have dropped for various reasons. Rewriting history and changing what is taught for political reasons also contributes to people not trusting what they’re taught, including science.

2. Yes. Absolutes are not politically correct. So allowing “alternative” science (crystal, new age mysticism, animism, etc,) diluted the value of what we (apparently arrogantly) refer to as “real” science. Add in common belief in the Fallacy of the Gray: where if there are two opposing viewpoints the truth must lie between.

3. Yes, yes, and yes. And not just people, but scientists themselves. Science should be a search for truth but that is unfortunately idealistic now. Science is a search for funding, and to get funding you have to give the check writers what they want. Coronavirus, climate change, pharmaceuticals, you name it; there are equally qualified scientists on opposing sides. Instead of both pursuing the truth, they instead discredit their opposition which undermines belief in science.
 

ChicagoDave

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jun 22, 2019
Messages
128
Reaction score
116
Location
Illinois
I'm afraid it's been going on much longer than that...

"There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."
Isaac Asimov, Column in Newsweek (21 January 1980)
 

Fattbank64

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 9, 2018
Messages
123
Reaction score
52
Two words...critical thinking.

Everyone wants to be liked. No one criticizes anyone because that person doesn't want to be 'that guy'. Watch a couple of tech reviews on YouTube. Reviewers rarely comment on poor designs, questionable choices, or lack of documentation. Their primary concern is cost and their time has no value.

Scientists and academics don't get a hall pass. The anti-vaccine movement got momentum when health care officials could not explain the reasons for vaccination. Jenny McCarthy convinced who knows how many parents not to vaccinate their kids.

"But there seems to have been an actual decline in rational thinking. The United States had become a place where entertainers and professional athletes were mistaken for people of importance. They were idolized and treated as leaders; their opinions were sought on everything and they took themselves just as seriously — after all, if an athlete is paid a million or more a year, he knows he is important … so his opinions of foreign affairs and domestic policies must be important, too, even though he proves himself to be both ignorant and subliterate every time he opens his mouth. (Most of his fans were just as ignorant and unlettered; the disease was spreading.)”

--Robert Heinlein

Yeah, "that guy".
 

BABAR

Builds Rockets for NASA
TRF Lifetime Supporter
TRF Supporter
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Messages
5,963
Reaction score
1,335
When “the man (or woman) on the street” is asked if the major problem in this country is ignorance or apathy, the typical answer is

“I don’t know and I don’t care.”
 

Joe Bruce

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Mar 9, 2019
Messages
126
Reaction score
72
And since I wonder whether my post in another thread is "to blame" for yours, I very much believe in science. I am an engineer, and have been one for 26 years. Part of science is questioning. When questions are no longer allowed, we have lost part of the scientific method, not to mention our right to free speech. When we lose civility, we lose part of civilization.
 

Zeus-cat

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2009
Messages
4,385
Reaction score
571
I don't think there is any one reason why this is happening. Or it may not be happening at all and instead we are just more aware of the people who don't believe in science.

I think once we went to a 24 hour news cycle there was a massive need for "news". Anyone with an opinion was elevated to the same level as someone who has spent years researching an area and doing legitimate studies.
 

Onebadhawk

Sponsor
TRF Sponsor
Joined
Jan 11, 2013
Messages
5,794
Reaction score
305
I'm genuinely curious.
This is no way intended as a political wedge in any particular direction, since there are plenty of anti-science champions on both far-left as well as far-right.

When I was growing up, if someone got a bright idea to publicly challenge gravity, or that Earth wasn't flat, or that vaccines prevent deadly diseases, that person would have been ostracized as mentally challenged.
Not anymore.
  1. Have our education standards fallen so low that these basic facts are genuinely open to questioning?
    • If yes, how did we get THAT dumb THAT fast?
  2. Have we gotten so permissive and accommodating to any and all "off-the-wall" beliefs that challenging someone's idiocy is no longer socially acceptable?
    • So now we allow equal air time to all sorts of banal nonsense on par with science?
  3. Do folks just follow the example of our politicians who casually throw science under the bus, or warship it as the ultimate truth, depending on what side of an argument they are on any given issue?
    • If so, are politicians playing on the growing ignorance of scientific discoveries among the electorate (#1), or feel that they can get away promoting any nonsense as long as it sounds good (#2), or just lack any moral core and say whatever it takes to keep audience's attention onto them (free clicks and airtime)?
What gives?

I do appreciate and acknowledge a lot of other social and political trends, and am purposely leaving them out of this discussion.
Just focusing on increasing animosity towards science, scientific method, and increasing willingness to denigrate scientific findings if they contradict one's preferred ideology.

I find this trend increasing in frequency and amplitude.
And don't like where it's leading...

*sigh*
You left out choice 4. All of the above.

Teddy
 

Peartree

Cyborg Rocketeer
Staff member
Administrator
Global Mod
Joined
Jan 6, 2009
Messages
4,865
Reaction score
441
Location
Alliance, Ohio
It has been a common theme in discussions about religion. Once upon a time, there could be rational discussions that revolved around the idea "what is the truth?" or at least, "What is truth?" But those conversations became "You have *your* truth, and I have *my* truth" and people thought that made sense because, hey, relgious truth is subjective, right? But that way of thinking overflowed into everything else. So now those that pursue truth and those that pursue crap, are perceived, by many, to be the same. "You have *your* truth, and I have *my* truth." And, if you dare to disagree and state, unequivically, that there can only be *one* truth, then you are labelled as being intolerant. If this continues, I fear that our culture will lose the desire to pursue truth of any kind.
 

Antares JS

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 5, 2020
Messages
286
Reaction score
168
Location
Eastern Shore, VA
I agree with Zeus-Cat. There is no one reason - it's most likely a combination of everything everyone has suggested.

I would only add that some of the distrust has also come from science being twisted to political purposes. Global warming skeptics don't believe in it because of previous predictions of disaster turning out to be wrong. For example, when the himalaya glaciers were supposed to be gone by 2011, snow was supposed to be gone by 2005, that kind of stuff that was pushed and popularized. I don't think many actual climatologists believed that was going to happen, but some politician pushed the extreme view so that became the popular one that everyone knew about. It turned into a "you were wrong before, so why should I believe you now?" situation.
 

neil_w

Hunkered down and slowly going crazy
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 14, 2015
Messages
9,110
Reaction score
2,420
Location
Northern NJ
The next problem is social media and creating echo chambers of bad ideas which spread rampant. Social media is nothing new, communities like this have existed since listserv days. Yahoo Groups and Facebook have made these groups easy to find and easy to keep private. Crazy views don't seem as crazy when you can easily connect to hundreds or thousands of people worldwide with the same views. I don't think that the AI which exists to dish up convenient results (to deliver targeted ads) helps matters by serving up more groups or videos which reinforce a belief rather than a contradictory one. This normalizes fringe beliefs and they eventually spread to mainstream thought.
It's hard to know for sure but I put a lot of the blame here. It has never been so easy for folks to find support and reinforcement for their existing crazy ideas, and bounteous sources for new ones.

It's not just social media per se, though, as it is the general diversification of news and information enabled by the internet. People no longer share a common core of facts and information. Back when there were a few newspapers and 5 or 6 broadcast TV channels, everyone lived, to a reasonable extent, in the same reality. No longer. This has contributed to a good deal of societal dysfunction, including anti-science attitudes, political polarization, and more.

I don't know how it could be fixed at this point. It is very disheartening. :(
 

Antares JS

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 5, 2020
Messages
286
Reaction score
168
Location
Eastern Shore, VA
It has been a common theme in discussions about religion. Once upon a time, there could be rational discussions that revolved around the idea "what is the truth?" or at least, "What is truth?" But those conversations became "You have *your* truth, and I have *my* truth" and people thought that made sense because, hey, relgious truth is subjective, right? But that way of thinking overflowed into everything else. So now those that pursue truth and those that pursue crap, are perceived, by many, to be the same. "You have *your* truth, and I have *my* truth." And, if you dare to disagree and state, unequivically, that there can only be *one* truth, then you are labelled as being intolerant. If this continues, I fear that our culture will lose the desire to pursue truth of any kind.
This is also a very good point. Relativism, especially moral relativism, is one of the biggest stains on society today. I'm pretty sure if I went into my thoughts on this too deeply, I would be violating the forum rules, but there is only one truth in all subjects, including religion. Getting to that truth is usually and should be a challenge, though. It's not something that can be done with slogans and soundbites, but it is something reachable with effort.
 

neil_w

Hunkered down and slowly going crazy
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 14, 2015
Messages
9,110
Reaction score
2,420
Location
Northern NJ
there is only one truth in all subjects, including religion. Getting to that truth is usually and should be a challenge, though. It's not something that can be done with slogans and soundbites, but it is something reachable with effort.
"One truth" on religion is *not* reachable, since religion is fundamentally based on faith. Theological or philosophical discussions and debates can be constructive and rewarding, but not if the objective is to reach The Answer to which everyone must agree. Believing that one's religion is the One Truth is the start of a whole lot of trouble.
 

dr wogz

Fly caster
Joined
Feb 5, 2009
Messages
5,355
Reaction score
713
Location
Land of Poutine!
Another aspect not mentioned is what is passing as "TV entertainment" these days. One thing I believe is helping erode our morals & values is TV, and the tripe that's being pushed on us: the reality shows. It's become common place to have a window into people lashing out, complaining about, conniving against, etc.. ("Housewives of [city]" anyone?!) since this is now allowed, and seemed to be the main type of TV these days, it's become acceptable to be an a$$, to be overly opinionated, to fight for what you think is right (which is not a bad thing, but when you aren't able to hear what the other is saying, and bend accordingly, that's the issue)..

Shows used to help entrench good morals & values for society, but sadly, there are few if none of these anymore. Leave it to Beaver, Three's company, Gilligan's island. All the shows had an issue they had to deal with, and how they overcame the issue. Some even when as far to show the consequences of their actions. Not so anymore, I feel..

I'll also toss in the "freedom of speech" argument that many make. Yes, you are allowed to voice your opinion, but you do need to take responsibility for what you say. That I feel is missing these days..

And, yes, it comes from the top & trickles down; from the leaders, the figure heads, the idols, etc.. "If they can say it/ do it / mean it, why can't I?!"
 

Antares JS

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 5, 2020
Messages
286
Reaction score
168
Location
Eastern Shore, VA
"One truth" on religion is *not* reachable, since religion is fundamentally based on faith. Theological or philosophical discussions and debates can be constructive and rewarding, but not if the objective is to reach The Answer to which everyone must agree. Believing that one's religion is the One Truth is the start of a whole lot of trouble.
Again, I don't want to get too deeply into this publicly because of the forum rules, but while yes, faith is very important to a religion, the idea that a religion always has to be accepted based on faith alone is simply not true. If you'd like to discuss further, you can PM me.
 

Kelly

Usually remembers to get the pointy end up
Joined
Apr 26, 2010
Messages
253
Reaction score
126
Location
Oregon
I, too, am going to put much of the blame on social media. Stupidity is like a disease.
If you put 100 people in a room and one of them has an idiotic idea, but the other 99 are resistant to it, that idiotic idea will tend to die out.
But if you put that idiot on the internet, he will find a ready supply of like-minded (or weak-minded) individuals that will allow the idea to grow and fester, and eventually spread.
I'm very sad for the country that I'm leaving to my kids, where (in so many cases) your choice of what science to believe is dictated by your political affiliation. That's not what science is, and I don't believe a society that works in that way can prosper.
 
Top