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I was thinking about posting this in the GHG thread, but it seems to me that this topic is sufficiently broad and of general interest to warrant it's own thread.

There's an interesting review of a current paper published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, which examines the strategies people use to cope with conflicts that arise between their beliefs and scientific findings.

There are several common strategies, which will be familiar to anyone who's ever engaged a creationist or climate-change denier, ranging from source derogation to identifying perceived methodological flaws without the necessary data or scientific expertise. But the strategy of primary interest in this paper is called 'scientific impotence', which is the claim that a given belief pertains to a topic outside of the realm of scientific inquiry (e.g. "the climate is too complicated for science to understand it" or "science cannot inform us about human spirituality").

I'm curious about how other ehMaccers perceive the limitations of science, to what extent they feel science conflicts with their beliefs, and how they deal with these conflicts.

Personally, when science conflicts with my beliefs, I change my beliefs, and suffer no cognitive dissonance at all. But I accept that I'm likely a minority in this regard.
 

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There are a number of issues with the study: the sample size was small, college students are probably atypical in that they're constantly being exposed to challenging information, and there was no attempt to determine the students' scientific literacy on the topic going in. That last point seems rather significant, since the students were recruited from a psychology course, and majors in that field might be expected to already know the state of the field. So, this study would seem to fall in the large category of those that are intriguing, but in need of a more rigorous replication.
But despite the weakness of the study, I see similar coping mechanisms employed by those who favour one scientific theory over another and feel threatened when it's undermined.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
But despite the weakness of the study, I see similar coping mechanisms employed by those who favour one scientific theory over another and feel threatened when it's undermined.
One of the great beauties of science is that data and logic determine which theory prevails, not psychological coping mechanisms.
 

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I was thinking about posting this in the GHG thread, but it seems to me that this topic is sufficiently broad and of general interest to warrant it's own thread.

There's an interesting review of a current paper published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, which examines the strategies people use to cope with conflicts that arise between their beliefs and scientific findings.

There are several common strategies, which will be familiar to anyone who's ever engaged a creationist or climate-change denier, ranging from source derogation to identifying perceived methodological flaws without the necessary data or scientific expertise. But the strategy of primary interest in this paper is called 'scientific impotence', which is the claim that a given belief pertains to a topic outside of the realm of scientific inquiry (e.g. "the climate is too complicated for science to understand it" or "science cannot inform us about human spirituality").

I'm curious about how other ehMaccers perceive the limitations of science, to what extent they feel science conflicts with their beliefs, and how they deal with these conflicts.

Personally, when science conflicts with my beliefs, I change my beliefs, and suffer no cognitive dissonance at all. But I accept that I'm likely a minority in this regard.
An interesting posting, bryanc. Personally, I would tend to accept most scientific findings if I feel that the scientific methodology has been undertaken in an acceptable manner, it is published in a reputable peer-reviewed journal and has withstood the testings by other scientists attempting to come up with similar findings.

I know that this position might be blasted by some, but I am not about to throw all science out the window because of some scientists who have used insufficient data or have even fudged the data, be it GHG, cancer research, MS research, etc. I am skeptical about science that is funded by large corporations (e.g., tobacco companies) that suddenly find that smoking does not cause lung cancer. Such findings I consider to be untenable. The scientific findings that I will accept have to be valid and reliable, not smoke and mirrors with stats and incomplete data.

Paix, mon ami.
 

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One of the great beauties of science is that data and logic determine which theory prevails, not psychological coping mechanisms.
One of the great truths of humanity is that individual concepts of science are predetermined by individual psychology--even among scientists. So even the AGW scientist convinced that the Earth is on "slow boil" may exhibit the same coping mechanism as a non-scientist when a cherished belief is under fire--attack the messenger, undermine the source, claim that "everybody is on my side," or threatening the author of the theory with punishment or imprisonment. Look at the "show of force" (in admittedly nerdish fashion) in Nature magazine in getting the gang to sign a piece of paper in an effort to show others that Billy's gang has more people on his side: "Nobody likes Bobby's theory!"
 

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A while ago I read a book called "Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)" which discusses self-justification.

Interesting read, and covers a lot of the ways we self-deceive in order to maintain a good self image. I think a lot of it could be applied to scientists and their science.
 

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I read Robert Shapiro's Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth. It listed various theories of evolution and then described a scientific conference on evolution in which scientists streamed to attend only the conference presentations that supported their own beliefs. Those who asked questions about the validity of the various presentations were shouted down and excoriated by the scientists in attendance.
 

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I'm curious about how other ehMaccers perceive the limitations of science, to what extent they feel science conflicts with their beliefs, and how they deal with these conflicts.

Personally, when science conflicts with my beliefs, I change my beliefs, and suffer no cognitive dissonance at all. But I accept that I'm likely a minority in this regard.
I do not think you are alone at all bryanc. I grew up in a somewhat religious family, attending faith based school from pre-school to high school. I was fortunate enough to be involved with a lot of educators who took a soft line stance on how to teach faith i.e. they believed the Bible was a collection of stories to aid us in living a good life, as opposed to a collection of stories that were to be considered fact.

Throughout high school I started to struggle with my faith and its place in the world. Once I began to question it, I quickly realized science and my faith did not cooperate! It was easy, however, for me to rapidly change my beliefs without any struggle whatsoever. I was so enthralled with the logic of science that I didn't see a place for faith in my lifestyle. However, sometimes science may not provide the linear explanations we want, and thus it can be difficult to accept for some.
 

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The scientific findings that I will accept have to be valid and reliable, not smoke and mirrors with stats and incomplete data.
I generally concur with Dr. G. and this statement and accept most science as valid.

As for AGW, there are far too many untruths, scientists caught red handed fudging data, rigged methodology (ie: dropping numerous cold temperature reporting stations to tilt findings to suit the position) and I could go on. Science's AGW goal appears to be to scare the populace into believing their shaky findings.
 

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However, sometimes science may not provide the linear explanations we want, and thus it can be difficult to accept for some.
Science is not a monolith, but a series of competing ideas operating in a (semi-free) market. We do not "choose science" but choose from competing theories.
 

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Science is not a monolith, but a series of competing ideas operating in a (semi-free) market. We do not "choose science" but choose from competing theories.
A very classic example is light itself. There is evidence supporting both photon theory and wave theory but overall understanding the nature of light is still very much a work in progress.
 

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I cope by having a naive and simple view of the world, which I recognize could be wrong, choosing not to dig deeper because the more immediate day-to-day stuff takes up my time and energy, and I don't get overly fussed over things I have little knowledge about or control over, or choose not to get deeply involved in.
 

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Scientists are mere mortals. Their data and logic are as prone to error, influence and outright BS as anyone else's. If you look at statements made by scientists like David Suzuki concerning global warming and can conclude its all about data and logic you'd be gravely mistaken. He's as emotionally invested as any religious adherent in AGW and no data or logic would easily change that position. You see the same tribalism demonstrated in the CRU emails. In a perfect world, blind faith in science would be wise but as long as flawed individuals are conducting the studies, healthy skepticism is a good thing.

Cheers
MacGuiver
 

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No cognitive dissonance here. Like a smoker, I simply choose to live my life according to how I see fit, even though I am fully aware of the implications, i.e.: cancer.

I suspect the angst of science impinging upon firmly held beliefs is suffered by few.
 

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Science, by its very definition, is a fluid, unsettled discipline. What reigns as "truth" today may well be tomorrow's bird cage liner.

As such, you have examples like Piltdown Man where the best scientists of the time were flummoxed. There was evidence that obviously made men make up their minds, one way or the other. So, who was right & who was wrong? Depends on the time of the century. Was this belief system governed by some deep seated psychological need? Don't know, don't care.

What about the Apatosaurus/Brontosaurus naming issue? Robert Bakker believes that the two skeletons are different enough to justify distinct genus and still (correctly, by his belief) uses Brontosaurus. Many don't. Is he wrong or right?

How about the current debate regarding "Ardi", the so-called homonid ancestor? Some say he/she/it belongs in the human family tree, others are not convinced. Further knowledge will help to make an informed decision.

I could go on but suffice it to say that there are probably hundreds (if not thousands) of examples of the exact same process littering scientific journals. It's the nature of the beast. Neither good nor bad, merely "is".

As far as AGW is concerned, there are scientists with enough knowledge & credentials to sufficiently be called experts who disagree.

Why are they wrong and the "warmists" right?

Despite the obvious and decided slant on my input in the GHG thread, I repeat, I have not yet made up my mind. I have no axe to grind, other than to help provide the opposing side of the argument if for no other reasons than balance and to silence the shrills.

As to your question, science is truly only limited by what is not currently known. The human condition (political bias, agenda, religious doctrine, whatever) are not limiting factors but mere contaminants of the truth.

Science largely governs my beliefs but does not rule every aspect of my life.

But, whose science?;)
 

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Science is not a monolith, but a series of competing ideas operating in a (semi-free) market. We do not "choose science" but choose from competing theories.
Absolutely - in a roundabout what that is what I was trying to say haha. Let's say I choose the truths of various competing scientific theories as opposed to the notions of "Biblical truth" as I do not believe creation is a scientific theory. For example, I believe the various theories of evolution do a far better job of explaining human origins than the Book of Genesis.
 

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Absolutely - in a roundabout what that is what I was trying to say haha. Let's say I choose the truths of various competing scientific theories as opposed to the notions of "Biblical truth" as I do not believe creation is a scientific theory. For example, I believe the various theories of evolution do a far better job of explaining human origins than the Book of Genesis.
I getcha!
 

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"I believe in intuition and inspiration. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research."

"All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. It is no mere chance that our older universities developed from clerical schools. Both churches and universities — insofar as they live up to their true function — serve the ennoblement of the individual. They seek to fulfill this great task by spreading moral and cultural understanding, renouncing the use of brute force.
The essential unity of ecclesiastical and secular institutions was lost during the 19th century, to the point of senseless hostility. Yet there was never any doubt as to the striving for culture. No one doubted the sacredness of the goal. It was the approach that was disputed." quoted from Albert Einstein

Maybe we need to be able to step back from our assumptions and our believed truths. I think that Einstein knew best a theory is just a theory until proved or disproved, not a soap box to cry that this is the truth or a launch point for hostility. We all, on this board, forget that.
 

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Paradigm Shift Needed to embrace science.

There is a fundamental dichotomy between religion and science that is really quite difficult to reconcile.

As I see it, religion starts by answering the question "Why?". Once that answer is given, "God" in one form or another, Who, What, Where, When and How follow and are immutable.

Science asks the questions Who, What, Where and When, and records the answers diligently. Once enough observations are made, a postulate is entertained as to How. "Why" does not exist and is beyhond the pervue of the investigation.

Once the postulate is has been made, the observations begin anew. The postulate is verified or altered or outright rejected. It is in no way ever immutable.

I can imagine that for someone with a strong religious upbringing, stepping into the scientific venue is very much like stepping onto shifting sands. They are looking to replace one certainty with another. That is not the way it works. It would be very disquieting.

As for who do you believe? The postulates that have been rigorously challenged and defended over time will most probably approximate to "Truth" in the religious sense. This is done through the peer publishing system. It is not perfect. Especially on the leading edge, it can be rancorous and loud. But I do not think there has been anything better brought into being. That is why it is used today in most branches of inquirey.
 

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No cognitive dissonance here. Like a smoker, I simply choose to live my life according to how I see fit, even though I am fully aware of the implications, i.e.: cancer.
The irony of this being that you would never KNOW the risks of smoking without science to make that connection. Not every smoker gets emphyzema or cancer, etc.

Without scientific method, chaos rules. It's really just that simple.

Yes, scientists can and do fudge data. Ever heard of Big Pharma or Big Oil? Scientists are as prone to bribery and other failings as the rest of us.

But the beauty of the system is that a finding HAS to be able to be reproduced, ie proven to be true. Unless you believe ALL scientists are in on a global conspiracy (in which case, this is me calling you a nutcase), then the truth will out. It may take longer than some of us would like (doesn't it always?), but the truth will out.
 
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