Sunday, July 15, 2007

Why the public distrusts science. . .

One of the recurrent and very questions that skeptics, rationalists, and materialists ask themselves is why the general public does not share their faith in reductionistic materialism. Invariably the answer is given: we are impartial examiners of the evidence, which all points to the truth of our metaphysical reductionistic materialism, while the general public is deluded by their erroneous natural psychological tendencies, . This article by Paul Bloom is extraordinarily typical of the genre. Here is one particularly egregious outtake:


But evolution is not the only domain in which people reject science: Many believe in the efficacy of unproven medical interventions, the mystical nature of out-of-body experiences, the existence of supernatural entities such as ghosts and fairies, and the legitimacy of astrology, ESP, and divination. . .


In fact it is Paul Bloom who rejects science in this case, not the public. To Bloom, science is equated with the belief system of reductionist materialism. In reality, science is the method of observing reality, creating models to describe reality, and testing the models by experiments and further observations that can either support or weigh against those models. For people like Bloom to dismiss phenomena with massive collaborated observational and / or experimental support like crisis apparitions (ghosts) and telepathy is utterly unscientific, dogmatic, and in reality no different from the methodology of the fundamentalist religionists he decries who reject evidence for common descent and an ancient earth and universe.

The biggest reason that the public distrusts science is that scientists distrust science. They prefer to maintain a belief system in reductionistic materialism instead of admitting any observations which do not fit. For example, Michael Prescott quotes the following accurate observations from Michael Sabom's Recollections of Death during a surgical NDE:


When I left that room [prior to surgery], I was totally unconscious and don't have any awareness whatsoever as I was transported from there down to where they do the operation until all of a sudden the room is lit up, not as bright as I thought it ought to be. . . .I recall consciously... seeing two doctors stitch me up after the operation; Dr. C., I think it was because the hands were so large, injecting a syringe of something into my heart on two occasions, one on one side and another on the other side of the heart; the apparatus that they used to keep the ribs apart to make the aperture; . . . And the fact that my head was covered and the rest of my body was draped with more than one sheet, separate sheets laid in layers. I knew it was my body. I always imagined that the lights would be brighter, but it didn't seem that bright. More like banks of fluorescent lights rather than a big high-powered beam... I was amazed that I had thought there would be blood all over the place, but there really wasn't that much blood. Not what I expected it to be... A lot of it was draped. I couldn't see my head too much but I could see from about my nipples down better.... [Sewing him up] they took some stitches inside me first before they did the outside. And then it was just like they sew you up. The shorter doctor started down here and worked this way. The other doctor could have started in the middle and worked up. They had a lot of trouble right here, but the rest of it was pretty fast... And the heart doesn't look like I thought it did. It's big. And this is after the doctor had taken little pieces of it off. It's not shaped like I thought it would be. My heart was shaped something like the continent of Africa, with it being larger up here and tapered down. Bean-shaped is another way you could describe it. Maybe mine is odd shaped... [The surface was] pinkish and yellow. I thought the yellow part was fat tissue or something. Yucky, kind of. One general area to the right or left was darker than the rest instead of all being the same color... I could draw you a picture of the saw they used and the thing they used to separate the ribs with. It was always there and I can remember the details of that probably better than the other things. It was draped all around, but you could see the metal part of it. I think all they used that for was to keep it constantly open. They had instruments hanging around it that obscured it and they undid the clamps sometimes and stuck in sponges stuck on the clamps and there were hands so I couldn't see it constantly because it was obscured sometimes... It seems Dr. C. did most everything from my left side. He cut pieces of my heart off. He raised it and twisted it this way and that way and took quite a bit of time examining it and looking at different things ... That thing they held my chest open with, that's real good steel with no rust, I mean, no discoloration. Real good, hard, shiny metal... [Stopping his heart] I sensed they did it with the needle when they injected something into my heart. That's scary when you see that thing go right into your heart...



What is the response of the "scientific" priesthood to such events? Typically, they simply ignore all such stories. When they are addressed, stories are invented which fit the assumptions of reductionist materialism, but ignore the details of these cases. Only a very few actually address the details of these cases and attempt to create materialist explanations that actually fit the facts (although fail to escape Ockham's razor in my book. . .)

In pointed contrast, writers like Paul Bloom get a huge amount of attention for simply patting his fellow materialists on the back for their clearheadedness and rationality, and in contrast denigrating the biases and ignorance of the general public who disagree with Bloom and the NAS.

Is it any surprise that the general public distrusts what scientists say about psi phenomena, life after death, meaning and purpose in cosmic and biological evolution, and the like?

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I read a great article by Larry Dossey just yesterday which touched upon all this:

http://members.aol.com/mszlazak/ScienceBlues.html

Worth reading.

John Sawyer said...

The man peeked!

Anonymous said...

I love the smug self satisfied look on Deena Weisberg's face.

M.C. said...

The man peeked!

Kind of tough to do that when you are unconscious and your heart is stopped. . .

Chris said...

"The biggest reason that the public distrusts science is that scientists distrust science. They prefer to maintain a belief system in reductionistic materialism instead of admitting any observations which do not fit."

This tickled me. The dominant paradigm in science is certainly reductionistic materialism. This need not be a problem, if it was executed empirically - that is, if scientists working within this paradigm retained an attitude of "no comment" on issues outside of the empirical. But they consistently fail to respect this boundary.

I happen to believe, for good or ill, that materialism is not inherently a bad paradigm for mainstream science to operate within - most established fields are highly compatible with materialism. Except, of course, operating within the materialistic paradigm expressly excludes certain fringe sciences which are then dismissed a priori as "unscientific" because they are outside of the dominant paradigm. This is not acceptible practice!

I don't believe we can or should supplant materialism from its paradigmatic status in most scientific fields, as there are not grounds to do so. That is, the practice of most branches of physics, chemistry etc gain nothing from moving beyond a materialistic paradigm. It is important to recognise this as it explains why there is so much force behind this paradigm. (Note, however, that I do not make the same claim of reductionism...)

But psi research has met the empirical requirements for science and cannot proceed under a materialistic paradigm. It must, in short, find its own paradigm. The a priori exclusion of this research from legitimacy is not science, it is metaphysical fiat. We should not tolerate it.

Mainstream scientists should not work to prevent research in certain areas, but instead have faith in science - those fields which bear fruit do so in time, and those that do not wither in time. If materialists are so convinced psi is a dead end, why not allow it to run its course? That would be the proper scientific attitude - to investigate first, and conclude only later.

But I do not think it is the materialist's distrust of certain fields within science which sours the public's trust of scientists. Rather, it is the public actions of certain scientists in their total disrespect of cultural diversity and metaphysical freedom, coupled with a scientific endeavour which seems now wholly uncoupled from the needs of society, instead slavishly serving a commercial and political agenda.

Trust in science will remain at a low ebb while so many scientists have nothing but contempt for alternative belief systems. And how could it be otherwise?

Best wishes!

Robin_Shadowes said...

I heard Stanton Friedman on C2C some time ago. They are not interested in finding out the truth in all these issues. Constant denial is the only thing they're interested in. I kinda share much of the views on skeptics shared both by the blogger and Friedman. Skeptics thinks most of us are gullible idiots, while they picture themselves as crusaders against superstition.