Urgent and important to all. Please see the link below. This is an event organized by the international scientific community to demonstrate against and resist the Trumph administration's blatantly anti-scientific and irrational agenda driven policy decisions based on "alternative facts". This event is in the planning stages and needs all the support it can get.
As a non-believer I base much of my philosophy on science. As a skeptic, I require evidence before belief. As a taxpayer, I know my funding of science has led to countless discoveries across a wide range of the sciences. We cannot afford an anti-science government. The planet is too fragile to come under the supervision of fools.
I wish everyone well.
I think I would go if I was up to it. Unfortunately that baton has effectively been passed. I don't know how the country or the politicians feel about scientists, or will respond to a demonstration of scientists. Among the general public, it appears that respect for scientists is high. So that's encouraging.
As a scientist, in general, I have to disagree on this one Daniel. It seems to me that there is a general distrust of "experts and scientists" among our general public and that respect for scientists is at an all time low in the USA compared to the past. On a daily basis we are pretty much treated with distrust and disrespect. So I don't expect uch political response to th emarch.
John, I actually agree with you on that. It makes me wonder about the poll that I quoted.
Here is another article, "Americans respect but don't trust scientists". "scientists engendered mixed feelings: They were lumped into the high-competence, low-warmth corner with lawyers, CEOs, engineers, accountants and researchers" That link is an excerpt from a PNAS paper. With respect to climate science in particular, the PNAS paper states, "The literature on climate science communicators agrees that the public trusts impartiality, not persuasive agendas. Overall, communicator credibility needs to address both expertise and trustworthiness. Scientists have earned audiences respect, but not necessarily their trust"
I've experienced attitudes about both basic science and clinical medicine. I spent most of my life both professions. The public attitude about grants is well founded. In the labs and offices where I worked, grants and the politics of academia were survival. Outside of academia, in corporate science, making the data fit the corporate agenda, was survival. I didn't survive. There were ethical people in both places, but I felt like the most successful, were often the ones who could best manipulate the political and career situations and most effectively exploit their grad students. The system doesn't lead to trust. I don't know how to change that. In part, the success of universities and colleges must be related to the success of their students, which is not the current situation. Again, the trust issue.
The most important aspect of the March, must be how to win the trust and support of Americans. I don't know that a country where most people distrust scientists as people who are scrambling for grants, will come around to support in a setting where there is a protest that might be taken as partly responding to political threats to those grants and careers. PR is necessary, but nobody trusts PR either. Regular people also like seeing people who they regard as elite, taken down a few notches. So they may really relish seeing the scientific community in a state of shock. In that case, the march might be counterproductive.
The general distrust of experts and scientists, John, is because they are always changing their minds. The religious have an answer. "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it." These people have no understanding of science in general and even less understanding of how we ended up with the Buybull.
My great uncle was pa patent attorney for NASA. He told my father that for every dollar they invested in technology they had a twenty dollar return. If that is true than science not only benefited the space program(in addition to who knows what) but was actually profitable. Here I sit writing this on my computer that was developed by the field of science, on which I am communicating with other people. I don't need to ask Bill Gates if computers can be beneficial to people or profitable monetarily. Nor will I ask a preacher if God did it. I just wouldn't "trust" the preachers answer. I had no idea that scientist had any lack of trust from anyone.
It would be interesting if in the article Daniel posted they had compared the data of those who distrusted scientist. I would bet a paycheck they all said they very highly trusted their preachers! Ironic.
While I agree with your comments above and understand that those factors contributed to the current disrespect with which the general scientifically illiterate public views scientists I also think there are larger cultural factors involved.
If we go back to the era between the 1930s and say the 1960s we see that the scientist in America was largely portrayed as a cultural hero. That view held while we were saving the general public's ass with discoveries such as lead to the development of antibiotics-wonderdrugs-magic bullets (prior to that 1/4 of N. American children did not survive their teens due to bacterial diseases), to winning their wars (like it or not, and I am no advocate, the atom bomb was seen as potentially having saved thousands upon thousands of soldier's lives by preventing an invasion of the Japanese mainland), to developing their agricultural yields (compare 1930-1940's to 19950-1960's) and to generally improving their lives and comforts.
During the dysfunctional and delusional "Postmodern" era of the 1970s it became fashionable to bash scientists for having brought much un-natural, uncontrollable, Frankensteinian evil into the world. The distrust and disrespect of all that was "un-natural" generated by the, what was essentially a 1960s counterculture, delusional view of the "back to nature" movement became applied to the scientist and blame for anything disliked was laid upon them. It became fashionable to blame scientists for atomic bombs, pollution, non-organic agriculture and the evils of technology. Never mind that the scientific community had been warning of such real world hazards all along. Couple that with the totally mindless Post Modern concept of "different ways of knowing" and the real world knowledge gained by the scientist became even more devalued in the minds of the scientifically illiterate and ignorant. One feel good opinion was as good as any other opinion. Once again, pay no attention to the fact that one is opinion based on nothing the other is not opinion, but knowledge based in evidence. This too added to the invalidation of science and the scientist. It became no-longer fashionable for the lay public to even try to better themselves by learning basic science to understand their world. To do so was troubling because it required some mental effort, and it might mean learning things that contradicted with cozy little false preconceptions and beliefs (and plain old wants). Again, more devaluation.
Into this environment stepped many powers that be. Religion, business, military, government and political factions, special interest groups and the general public at large. They realized that science was beginning to present knowledge that potentially could curb their self-serving and profitable activities. The scientist was beginning to warn of loss of biodiversity,industrial pollution, over population, resource depletion, loss of environmental services, environmental change, global warming, nuclear pollution and proliferation, Scientific knowledge was challenging world views, especially fundamental religious ones and challenging the validity of the authority of all such groups by exposing the fallacies of their belief systems and power based therein. Scientist were beginning to tell people that the evidence said they could not continue behaving as selfish greedy brats without facing dire consequences in the future. The various powers that be realized that it was extremely valuable to their profit and power base driven activities to devalue the scientist and invalidate scientific knowledge. By doing so they were able to continue their unhampered rape of the real (not 1960s delusional) natural world. By ridiculing the scientist and further destroying the general public's respect for him or her the deist were able to perpetuate their myth based power over people and much the same was true for political groups. While I don't think there was a organized cabal dedicated to this end (Christian right excepted) I am sure that it became the accepted order of the day to discredit science and the scientist at all levels in N.American culture. The scientist became depicted as a fool and scientific knowledge became viewed as "just one more opinion" only equally valid at he level of that held by any run on the mill, uneducated moron. Scientists became cultural buffoons largely so that power and profit interests could continue their rabid exploitation behaviors and the general public could go its merry consumer way untroubled by discomforting thoughts over being exploited or bad things in the future requiring they curb their material greed for toys and comfort.
These behaviors have become so pervasive that today we constantly hear how the rotten, foolish scientists cannot be trusted, their findings are foolish and they bring bad things into the world. The media constantly croaks out a litany of blames from the various powers that be : "scientist clone fish" ,"scientists unleash GMOs into food crops threatening our DNA", :"scientists produce new chemicals that pollute our world", "Scientist bring all sorts of new technology problems into the world", "scientists threaten or down home truths of god, america and apple pie" on and on. All in spite of the fact (not opinion) the most of their current cozy little world, even their very survival, is based on the finding of scientists throughout history.
I think the rejection of science and disrespect for the scientist we find rampart today is largely because the general public and the various power brokers of our culture do not want to accept the factual knowledge and finding of the real world that would mean they have to modify their behavior and change their world views. They continue their exploitative behaviors unhampered by troubling thoughts or limits imposed by reality. They would rather shoot the messengers than cope with a rational response to the reality based messages.
It is the responsibility of the scientist to look at reality and learn all they can of it so as to pass on that knowledge to the rest of humanity. Today that involves also telling them much they do not want to hear, especially here in the USA where most of our sheltered citizens wouldn't know reality if it bit them in the ass. We have to challenge their world views by presenting evidence that god is not in his heavens and all is not right under heaven. He does not care who wins your football games. He does not care who wins the Daytona 500. He is not on the side of your soldiers in combat. He does not support and guide your politicians. He does not protect you or your people from horrible things. He does not prevent you from dying in unbearable pain and horror. It is our role to be responsible for presenting evidence, not opinion, that your world is finite, that bad things happen when you poison it or you use up all your resources, that agriculture can't support our current populations food needs now, let alone in the future, that you depend on all other living things and so must not exploit them to extinction for gain and comfort, that your quality of life as a ravening consumer is disproportional and causing so much harm to others.......
It is our responsibility to use what we know to show our current president is a fool with a world view from the middle ages that denies scientific fact and believes in "alternative facts" and to present the scientific reasons and knowledge to prove our current vice president is a religious fanatic, power broker for the religious right's perpetuation of a patently ridiculous rejection of scientific knowledge. It falls to us to provide the factual evidence that their attempts to replace real world science with theological dogma by usurping the constitutional separation of church and state is not valid because the dogma is false.
The role of the scientist today is to study the real physical nature of our universe and world. Much of what we learn dictates that people simply must change their behaviors and beliefs in ways that are consistent with reality or face many dire consequences in the long run. Much of what we learn says:"This universe is not Burger King -you can't have it your way". The universe holds no special love for you or your opinions be they orthodox or ultramodern PC. You may well blink yourselves all into extinction oblivion by behaving contrary to the real nature of the universe. Most scientifically illiterate people do not like that, they resent it, and they bullheadedly continue in spite of scientific knowledge to the contrary. They simply do not want to be limited, or discomforted by reality.
So modern scientists are devalued, demeaned, disrespected, and distrusted by choice. That's our cultures response to those who dedicate their lives to study, limited incomes, hardship, long years of education, teaching and learning. She/he becomes an expert only to become portrayed as a bumbling buffoon who's "opinions" need not trouble the comfort of our citizens childish and fear mongered minds. And that viewpoint is routinely fostered by those who would manipulate the masses and profit from it.
Much truth there, John, but I'm careful to avoid generalities.
Scientists and students who are studying science are earning and receiving awards of many kinds. Twenty years ago, newly retired, I tutored math to high schoolers who were not making it in regular classes. They were doing math--set theory and more--I first saw in college.
I ignored the also-retired far-right GOP-er who last week told me he has no respect for the Nobel Award.
A metaphor for our times was the Poseidon Adventure movie in which bands of people in an overturned cruise ship followed leaders in various directions, each seeking survival.
John! so powerfully and wonderfully written, I have goosebumps up my spine. Just reading it I overcame my moment of despair and you lifted me to a higher plane. I remember all too well the life of my grandmothers; my life is far easier because of science and technology that gives me a washing machine, dryer, central heating, electric stove, a car with electric ignition, family planning, disposable diapers, and on and on and on!
My family lived according to the patriarchal style of control/submission. Science even changed that for me and my descendants. We have problem-solving, time management, budgeting, conflict resolution, team building, communication skills, and much more, just because we now know how to live with others in a more intelligent way, with less family violence, and with more communication skills.
The thing I most appreciate is the unbinding of my mind from religious values and living to my full potential. My poor grandmothers could not control their pregnancies and had large families. They had none of the modern conveniences and were expected to submit and obey men who were less than supporting of them and too often far less intelligent than they. The women worked from morning 'til night and had no time off!. There were strict sex-role expectations and when women reached out for help they were discounted. Even doctors trivialized their pain. If a woman spoke out she was demonized at best, beaten at worst.
Science, research, experimentation, all helped women to free themselves from the binding of attitudes, beliefs, customs, traditions, and values of the past. Everyone gained by these changes.
I am grateful for what science has done for women. Now, if science could just end wars, maybe we could develop to a new standard of living. Family life would not be disrupted by the young men going off to war, coming home wounded physically and mentally, or not coming home at all. Women could stop churning out male children from their bodies to have them blown to bits by bullets and bombs.
With all these developments, improvements that freed men and women from old tyrannies, now we have Trump!