Stop, Psychoanalyze, and Listen!

I’m trying, really, really trying, to understand the contempt certain people have toward science. Why do they think the things they do? Why are certain sciences bad, and others okay? Let’s try and break it down; it’s psychoanalysis time! Some of these categories overlap, just so you know.

  • Young Earth Creationists (or YECs)

    YECs believe that the Bible (or the Qu’ran, if they’re Muslim) is the sole source of any kind of worthwhile knowledge. If something contradicts the holy book, it’s inherently wrong. Or, as the lovely creationist website Answers in Genesis puts it:

    No apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record.

    They also consider religious prelates and theologians to be ssss… ssss… *cringe*… well, let me just quote AiG again:

    The AiG ministry has always relied on the advice, wisdom and review of the very best international scientists available, including leading geologists, geneticists, astronomers, paleontologists and theologians.

    Oh dear god, no.

  • Intelligent Designers

    These guys are the spookiest of the anti-evolution crowd. They postulate that somewhere (they don’t specify where) lives an intelligent something (they don’t specify what) who at some point in time (they don’t specify when) designed (they don’t specify how) the universe (they.. oh wait, yeah they do specify what a “universe” is; thank god, oops, I mean the Designer). Spooky, right? Of course, they purpose this clever (cough) ambiguity as to appear secular and scientific; the U.S. courts thankfully disagree. They characterize their movement as a crusade against the scientific hegemony, which thwarts their good name and works at every turn, damn them! They’re truth to power, they are, being put down by the Man. Or so they say.

  • The Half-and-Halfs

    Now, these guys aren’t strictly anti-science or anti-evolution, per se, but they do tend to inject religious arguments into strictly nonreligious principles. For instance, they’ll say, “Well, God might’ve sparked evolution”, or “God intervened at certain stages in evolution so humans would plunk out at the end”. Sorry, but the whole point about evolution, the entire reason it’s such a fundamental paradigm shift, is that it doesn’t require such intervention. Like beaches are the natural result when you have oceans and tides, evolution is the natural result when you have randomly-varying replicators. Just like we don’t postulate a “beach maker”, we don’t need to postulate an “evolution maker”.

  • The Hippies

    The Hippies include all of the New Age movement: palm readers, astrologers, ghost chasers, UFO fanatics, crystal healers, wiccans, psychics, and Deepak Chopra. Skepticism cramps their style, man, and they won’t have it. Not surprisingly, many of them (psychic Sylvia Brown comes to mind) are also religious in some way. They’re more reactive than proactive, preferring to laud science. Unlike the anti-evolution movement, they don’t seem to have any overarching political aspirations, either. Except lying to make a quick buck. So there’s that. They’re more likely to just not know anything about science rather than actively dismiss it.

  • Politicians

    Why politicians? Well, although they probably fall into one of the previous groups, they have extraordinarily more power than the average Joe or Jane. And I don’t know if you know this or not, but politicians tend to care more about themselves than anything else. Yeah, I know, I had an epiphany about this. The sciences they support and fund are the ones they think earn them the most brownie points. They’ll eschew the controversial stuff even if it just doesn’t merit any controversy. A lot of them also don’t even know the first thing about the science they legislate on.

….

So that’s about it. I’m sure I could think of a few more groups, but these are, in the words of the esteemed philosopher and poet, Peter Griffin, the ones which really grind my gears. So what lies behind these different anti-science personae? I have some theories.

Compartmentalized Solipsism

Science has a very different mindset than pseudo-science; when some theory is found to be wrong, it’s updated. Many see this as rationalization. The very fact that science has the ability to be wrong causes them anguish. And yet, ironically, they use products of that science in their daily lives. In fact, literally almost everything they own resulted from some scientific discovery. For some reason, they see their myths as “more real” than things we can actually observe. It’s quite an odd little phenomenon. Doo doo de doo doo. Phenomenon. Doo doo de doo… what?

Lack of Mathematical Training

The German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss once remarked, and famously, “Mathematics is the queen of the sciences.” Above all else, a proper mathematical training instills a sense of logical rigor into your thinking. Other than that, it’s the stuff science is made of. It’s what scientists use to explain the world. Science without mathematics is conjecture.

Indoctrination

While indoctrination is often cited, especially by atheists, as a wholly religious inclination, I’ll skip over that overdone topic and move on to a different kind of indoctrination. It’s a reciprocal, self-reinforcing type of indoctrination. It’s the anti-nerd mentality, and it pervades primary and secondary schools throughout the land. Yeah, you might’ve thought it died in the 80s and 90s, but it didn’t. Doing well in school is nothing more than collaboration with the establishment. Rebellion, no matter how irrational, is seen as heroic. Children become obsessed with the superficial culture they happened to have grown up in. They learn that the world actually works this way, and become stupid, lazy, and apathetic as a result. Rebellion is a good thing, but know what you’re rebelling against, children. Becoming a thoughtful, intelligent person isn’t a very wise thing to rebel against.

Wishful Thinking

The universe should be perfect, orderly, and designed specifically for our use, right? No, that’s what a toilet seat should be. The universe isn’t a perfect, orderly haven for the occupants of one third of one part of the surface of one planet in a single solar system twisting around in a single galaxy out of billions. Sorry.

Persecution Complex

People like to be right. I understand that feeling. It sucks being wrong. But when someone corrects you, it’s not because they’re out to make you look stupid or to get a rise out of you or because they want to silence your opinion. Scientists care about science, and it saddens them that people don’t want to learn about it. It’s a beautiful and compelling thing. Look, I understand that the world is increasingly secular and non-religious. It scares you. But most people, as long as you leave them alone, generally don’t care what you believe. When you tout non-science as science, though, nerds get upset. They get real upset. So get used to it.

Oh, did I call them nerds? Well, being a nerd is fine once you’re over the age of 21. It’s a law, or something, like with the alcohol.

Selective Skepticism

Pretty straight forward. A lot of creationists are skeptical only if it doesn’t involve creationism, and especially if it involves evolution. Boy, that’s objective thinking!

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Steve on August 14, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    Wow, never have I seen so many words say so little. Why do I get the feeling its my tax dollars funding your existence.

    Reply

  2. That’s what happens when you don’t read something. I don’t know if you’ve figured that much out yet.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Ciz on August 15, 2007 at 1:33 am

    Never seen so few words say so much – great stuff! 🙂

    Reply

  4. Steve, of course, has no retort to your statements…just an insult and the lame ol’ tax dollars joke.

    If not mathematical training, at least mathematical appreciation would help enormously.

    Like you, I tend to think the indoctrination reason you discuss above is the most pervasive problem in the ‘regular’ world (i.e., not the craziest of crazies, just regular people). I often hear phrases like ‘well, i don’t understand all that science stuff…’ or ‘that’s just a bunch of esoteric science that doesn’t affect my life’ and the like.

    While I certainly agree with you about the anti-science movement (or, The De-enlightenment), we, as scientists, do need to try and continue to communicate science as best we can.

    Reply

  5. Posted by h3nry on August 15, 2007 at 8:58 am

    This is a cool post – I especially enjoy the paragraph on Intelligent Design. Cleverly written!

    Reply

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