Real scientists as it turns out, are not so much worried about the proliferation of pseudoscience as they are about the filtering of information
and ideas; coupled with the totalitarian declaration of what is considered acceptable science and endeavors of study.
Vice.com (Vice.com What 150 of the Worlds Smartest
Minds are Worried About
) has released its summary of the chief concerns expressed by scientists and leading thinkers who influence the cultural
zeitgeist in and around science’s social discourse. They surveyed 151 of the top minds inside and outside of science in order to determine which
issues most concern them about the future (The 150 Things the World’s Smartest People Are Afraid Of – Brian Merchant). While I read through these
excellent quotes, a dawning realization hit me. The actual scientists in the group, differed dramatically in their concerns about humanity’s
future, from the group of those who opine and make commentary about science, but are not scientists themselves.
In other words, bio-genetic researchers, physicists, mathematicians, and neuroscientists disagreed with editors, authors, pundits, psychologists and
social commentators as to what constituted the principal threats to humanity and our world in the coming age. “I am worried about who gets to be
players in the science game—and who is left out.”
–Stephon H. Alexander, physicist cited. “The illusion of knowledge and
was the challenge cited by Tania Lombrozo, assistant professor of psychology. “There are known knowns and known unknowns,
but what we should be worried about most is the unknown unknowns”
declared Gary Marcus, cognitive scientist. Outstanding. The Penultimate Set
Fallacy, and the authorized subject game. This is what concerns scientists. Not ghost hunters, people who are wary of GMO foods or worshipers of
I found this simultaneously an exhilarating, astounding and confirming rush. Having employed hundreds of scientists and engineers through the years
at various research labs and firms, I have understood this dichotomy for a long while. Scientists are not so dogmatic and ready to jump on the
SSkeptic bandwagon as Michael Shermer or Steven Novella would have you believe. They do tend to keep quiet about their thoughts no doubt. However,
part of what makes them truly brilliant is that they are for the most part, smart enough to know that we do not know what we do not know. In fact,
not knowing, what we do not know, showed up as one of the chief concerns on the part of real scientists (below). Not knowing what we do not know, did
not even merit one bark in the kennel of correctness, Social Skepticism. Yet, that ethic is the cornerstone of professional skepticism. I found that
What Concerns Real Scientists (Top 5 Ranking)
1. Screening of Information/Control of What is Regarded as Acceptable Science
2. Loss of the Individual/Rights
3. Loss of Funding/Research
4. Virus/Pathogen/Genetic Engineering Threats
5. Unknown Unknowns
What Concerns Pretend Scientists (Top 5 Ranking)
1. Pseudoscience/Religion Promotion
2. Conspiracy Theory/Anti-Big Institution Activism
3. Disillusionment/Social Waning
4. Stagnation (Social or Technical)
5. Social Collapse/Political Ineptness
Number of Real Scientists who agreed with the Pretend Scientists (Top 5)
1. Pseudoscience/Religion Promotion = 0
2. Conspiracy Theory/Anti-Big Institution Activism = 0
3. Disillusionment/Social Waning = 0
4. Stagnation (Social or Technical) = 1
5. Social Collapse/Political Ineptness = 2
So 3, out of 151, or 2% of real scientists agree that the pretend pundits have our challenge priorities figured out. What a difference huh?
SSkeptics in the survey concerned themselves not so much with what is being said, as much as who is saying it, the politics involved, the social
ramifications and the established powers that it will threaten. They protected this biased social position with the aura of representative authority
of science; a lofty seat claim not supported by the scientists themselves.
Now, in the Cultivation of Ignorance, the role of the SSkeptic is to pre-filter the observations and ideas which are allowed to enter the realm of
acceptable science consideration. Scientists, real skeptics, use skeptical thinking as a tool, but this in no way means that pathological SSkeptics
represent science. This is like a drunk carpenter boastingly equivocating in a bar that he ‘builds houses;’ when indeed he is simply a part of
the machinery which does construction. His claim appears true to the outsider, but is not functionally accurate. To a hammer, everything is a nail.
To a Social Skeptic, everything is a lie, except what he has authorized. No actual scientific method is needed. This is wrong method; this is wrong
ethics; this ends up in bad science.
Now, is it really as bad as I am making it out to be herein thus far? In a word, yes, actually. But let’s set that social malady aside and focus
on some of the more surprising aspects of the study. Some of the good things about the pundit group (science commentators), were that they came up
with a much greater variety of concerns about the future. Some with such creativity and insight; 27 total categories of major concern overall,
compared to 15 on the part of the scientists. Two pundits cited "men" as the danger, while only 1 cited nuclear war. One scientist cited the 'need
for a fundamental new Physics' as the greatest worry for the future. Of noteworthy merit was the fact that Michael Shermer did NOT regard
pseudoscience as his number one concern about the future. J. Craig Venter, genomic scientist claimed that Nothing worried him, while playwright
Richard Foreman said that Everything should worry us.
Finally, Seth Shostak, head of the SETI Institute declared that “Alien Invasion” was his number one concern. Hmmmh…, not sure how to take that
one. Ockham’s Razor, and knowing Seth, would dictate that we take that one tongue-in-cheek.
Well done Brian Merchant and Vice.com
edit on 3-4-2013 by TheEthicalSkeptic because: (no reason given)