Monday, August 22, 2016

Why Doesn't The Public Trust Science? Your Solution Is Part Of The Problem.

FLG is extremely interested in science, its definition, its methodologies, its perception among the public.   So, he obviously clicked on the link when he saw this title -- Why Doesn't The Public Trust Science?

Okay, there was a little bit of Republican bashing, but it was too bad.   There were solid suggestions, like this passage below:
Regarding scientific research, better standards of statistical significance are needed. Researchers should be required to register their research protocols in advance in virtual notebooks, to make it harder to get away with fiddling with an experiment’s design. Journals should create quotas for less interesting research, such as fact-checking other studies, which should be mandated by grant-givers.
FLG is especially keen on finding ways to fix incentives in science.   For example, finding ways to encourage replication studies and conduct basic fact checking is a fantastic suggestion.  But, unfortunately, we then get to this:

And the reason all of this is happening? Science in general has trouble communicating its findings to the wider public. Part of the reason could be that key parts of the scientific community are too old, too male, and/or just too out of touch.
 And then in the final paragraph, the final recommendation is this:

Given the concerning state of public distrust and the importance of science for the advancement of society, fixing it should be a national priority. A younger, more representative pool of scientists, combined with higher quality research, could help communicate important new findings to the world at large and restore the bond of trust between society and the scientific community.
So, after all that, the primary problem with science is that it's too old, male, and FLG'll guess probably too white?    Who the scientists are is apparently the primary problem, as quality research has been reduced to a parenthetical clause.

FLG does NOT dispute that a more diverse population of scientists would study different things and develop different hypotheses to be tested.   For example, FLG is convinced that women's health has been systemically understudied because the majority of medical researchers were male.   He's less convinced that remains the case, but it certainly was the case.

But FLG totally disagrees that the distrust of science has much, if anything, to do with the level of diversity in the population of scientists.  The entire point of science is to generate a hypothesis and then find as many ways to attempt to empirically disprove it that you can.   The scientist's gender, ethnicity, or age has nothing at all to do with what has been rigorously and empirically tested.

In fact, FLG would argue that calling for more diversity in science, without explaining how that would improve the quality of the science itself, rather than the perception of scientists, would only undermine the trust in science, as it would appear to make science a more explicitly political endeavor, rather than a knowledge generating one.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Hm. Let's see. Author writes for TruthOut. Well, that's a pretty clear indication that the extended politicization of science is a goal, not a problem.

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