Here’s the fourth short essay on an interesting summary at a science news site of a paper that bemoans the decline of trust in science. The summary did a good job — perhaps unintentionally — of typifying in itself the reasons so many people distrust claims made on behalf of science. Earlier, we covered: obliviousness to the damage created by science dogmatism; failing to recognize internal weaknesses; and the fear that the more the public knows, the more problems we will find. The summary concludes with the view that science needs to be presented in the right, targeted learning style:
4. Information is not being presented in the right learning style This problem is the most straightforward of the four bases – a simple mismatch in how information is being presented and the style best suited to the receiver. This includes things like preferring abstract compared to concrete information, or being promotion or prevention focused.
Here, Philipp-Muller and team suggest making use of some of the same tactics that anti-science forces have been using. For example, like the technology and advertising industry, researchers should be using metadata to better target messaging based on people’s profiles according to personal online habits.Tessa Koumondoros, “These 4 Factors Can Explain Why So Many People Are Rejecting Science” at ScienceAlert (July 16, 2022) The paper requires a fee or subscription.
That strategy might work if the message itself is accepted. But what is the message? In the closing lines of this summary, we learn
As much as we pride ourselves on being logical beings, in reality, we humans are animals with messy minds that are just as governed by our social alliances, emotions, and instincts as our logic. Those of us involved with science, whether as supporters or practitioners, must understand and account for this.Tessa Koumondoros, “These 4 Factors Can Explain Why So Many People Are Rejecting Science” at ScienceAlert (July 16, 2022) The paper requires a fee or subscription.
The underlying assumption is that “Those of us involved with science” are somehow exempt from the bias problem — even though they have the same biology as everyone else and biology is supposed to rule!
Not only are they not exempt from bias but the COVID-19 pandemic provided striking examples of the many ways in which they are not. And the fallout is not just going away. Already, attorneys general are demanding documents … General inquiries may help clear the air but hoping that some people in science will understand their position may be a lost cause.
The Royal Society advocated a much sounder approach recently: Quit worrying so much about “misinformation.” That only makes people trust less.
Also, some tips for people worried about why we don’t “Trust the science!” now:
- “Misinformation” is often just unwelcome information, not incorrect information. Get used to it.
- Wuhan is not just a city in China. It stands for something.
- Don’t depend on the legacy mainstream media to save you. They are very out of touch and less trusted than you.
- “When science becomes a substitute for religion or philosophy, it must bear the weight of being a certain kind of truth. The trouble is, science isn’t that kind of truth.”
Many people have noticed. Heck, they couldn’t help it.
Note: The paper, which requires a subscription, is “Why are people antiscience, and what can we do about it?” by Aviva Philipp-Muller, Spike W. S. Lee, and Richard E. Petty, July 12, 2022, PNAS 119 (30) e2120755119 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2120755119
Here are all four parts of the series:
- Why many now reject science… do you really want to know? COVID demonstrated — as nothing else could — that the “science” was all over the map and didn’t help people avoid panic. As the panic receded, the government started setting up a disinformation board to target NON-government sources of panic, thus deepening loss of trust.
- Researchers: Distrust of science is due to tribal loyalty. In Part 2 of 4, we look at a claim arising from a recent study: We blindly believe those we identify with, ignoring the wisdom of science. There seems to be no recognition that researchers, however fiercely competitive among themselves, also have a tribal loyalty that skews their judgment.
- Researchers: If we tell folks more about science, they trust less. Part 3: The researchers argue that doubts about science arise from conflict with beliefs. The many COVID-19 debacles suggest other causes…
Generally, the remedy for loss of trust after widespread failures is reform of the system, not reform of its doubters. Post-COVID, scientists should take heed.
- Claim: If science were properly presented, trust would grow! The ideas examined in these four short essays all assume that scientists are exempt from the bias and self-interest that governs everyone else. We’re asked to believe that scientists are somehow exempt from the bias problem ingrained in our biology — yet they have the same biology as everyone else…