Green Baron

March For Science

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I know this touches politics. Nevertheless and especially under the impression of alternative facts on so on, here is the link: https://www.marchforscience.com/

Maybe the mods leave it be if we just don't dive deeper into it.

Edited by Green Baron

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Idiots thinking watching a video on YouTube or reading a random website makes them better qualified about a subject than several generations of scientists dedicating their lives to it isn't anything new.

To be fair I couldn't care less about these. Clever people exploiting them are the problem.

Edited by Gaarst

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Sounds like a worthy cause, but I really wish this kind of thing wasn't needed... I mean come on, who doesn't respect science and scientists?

16 minutes ago, Gaarst said:

Idiots thinking watching a video on YouTube or reading a random website makes them better qualified about a subject than several generations of scientists dedicating their lives to it isn't anything new.

True, though it's easier than ever to distribute and  perpetuate such misguided nonsense. I know plenty of people who would take the advice of a sports star, celebrity chef, or random guy on youtube over a qualified scientist.

It's pretty sad just how many don't seem to value the contribution science has made to our society, without it we'd still be living in caves. Worse still, I know some of them.

If this movement can bring some enlightenment to the uninformed masses, good on it. Assuming it's not just a con, of course.

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Oh, well, discussing this deeper would violate forum rules :-)

I hadn't heard of it before. If were in the area i would have a look and see if it serves a purpose. Since they explicitly call for people who actually do work in science and might discuss their work openly makes me think it is peaceful and serious.

 

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The Planetary Society organises today the March for Science, basically a call to all humanity and governments to support science and our strive to reach for the stars.

Since there is no march organised in my country, I thought I could at least support the initiative with a poster (KSP is a great way to do this and right on topic):

Z59sGfv.jpg

Edited by Sheppard

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7 hours ago, Green Baron said:

I hadn't heard of it before. If were in the area i would have a look and see if it serves a purpose. Since they explicitly call for people who actually do work in science and might discuss their work openly makes me think it is peaceful and serious.

 

It is serious, peaceful and important. Sadly, science does seem to be under threat from ideology. It isn't about politics. Rational thinkers on all parts of the political spectrum, from the left to the right, know that science is a very valuable tool. Idealogues see it as a threat because they don't argue based on facts.

There is hope, however. Here in Canada, we have recently emerged from a period where scientists who's research contradicted the ideology of those in power were being muzzled and having their historical data purged from government repositories. Democracy is a wonderful thing. The majority of citizens saw what was happening and rejected it. And again, I don't think the ultimate outcome was about politics. I am confident that the same would have happened if the party in question had been on the opposite end of the political spectrum.

Edited by PakledHostage

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Politicizing science is counterproductive, so I think this is a not great idea. All government spending is by definition political, so if you want your favorite science funded, fund it outside the government, or be prepared for it to be a football from time to time---after all, it's not their money, it's the public's money. Note also that it's about a budget that is meaningless, as Presidential budgets pretty much never get passed. The previous executive didn't get votes for his budget from his own party, for example. They do it every year, and every year Congress does something else.

Is the march suggesting what should be cut instead, given the finite revenues of the government? Hint: ~2/3 of spending is "programmatic" and not part of the discretionary budget, so that's where to look for money.

https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/the-science-march-why-ive-opted-out/

This one shows why politicizing science is maybe not a good idea (his PEW chart on professions ranked by trust is particularly clear to understand):

https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/a-scientist-argues-that-the-march-for-science-is-a-bad-idea/

 

EDIT: The thread in the science sub-forum was closed, which sort of demonstrates my point. It would seem that a science march would be apolitical, but it cannot be discussed without politics, because this march is all about that. I don't like seeing science as toxic in conversations.

 

Edited by tater

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While we all here support science, please keep in mind that related political discussions tend to cause arguments, and so have been ruled out of bounds for our forum. Other than that, discuss! :)

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I'm highly in support of these marches. I actually ordered a pin that says "Science, Not Silence" on it that should arrive innnnnnn two days, I think.

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But we all need to do more than just march... We all need to do our best to educate those around us who may have misconceptions about how science works. People who espouse that "XXX is just a theory!" or that there's a difference between "observational science" and "historical science" need to be set straight. We may not be able to stop the idealogues who perpetuate those ideas for their own dubious reasons, but we may be able to run interference on the people that those idealogues are attempting to con. Ultimately, science is about evidence. Repeatable and independently verifiable evidence. Any rational person should be able to see the beauty in that, given the chance.

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I already started a thread about this a page down:

I totally agree with @PakledHostageHostage. Science is highly in danger of being exploited by politics, denied when it contradicts short term gainings, regulated to yield intended results and bent by certain groups who want to gain influence on education.

I read the concerns in the journals every week, though these are mainly about recent changes from politics and those that are still pending. The journal Nature expressed the concerns that the US will loose the connection to research in fields such as earth science and renewable energies and thus might not be as good prepared for the changes that are to come.

So i too think it is a necessity.

 

Unfortunately i failed lately when i discussed with an elder women who was totally convinced that Ptolemaios' view with the earth in center will have a revival soon and one day we shall all see. I was not able to convince her, reflecting over facts just wasn't her strength :-)

 

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4 hours ago, Green Baron said:

Unfortunately i failed lately when i discussed with an elder women who was totally convinced that Ptolemaios' view with the earth in center will have a revival soon and one day we shall all see. I was not able to convince her, reflecting over facts just wasn't her strength :-)

That's the issue. This old lady probably doesn't even know what an ellipse is, and yet challenges 400 years of evidence in many fields of science (from observational to mathematics) by claiming geocentrism is a thing. I'm sure she is a very nice person, but this is beyond ignorance (I'd say a mix of stupidity and arrogance).

People need to accept that they might not know some things and that they may be wrong on other. Unfortunately, politics has a long history of dividing people through ideologies and dogmas, doing little to unite other than shouting they are the best louder that their neighbour. Now that scientific issues are becoming politicised (climate change, health issues...) people are applying this way of thinking onto science, and effectively removing all the "scientific" part of the public debate.

I feel like the fields of research are too far from ordinary people's preoccupations and this causes ignorance on the matters (I didn't even know how scientific articles are written until I got halfway through my degree in physics). Science in general needs to become more "popular" in order for people to appreciate the true meaning of it because stupidity stems from ignorance. Teach people that science isn't a matter of opinions or beliefs, and some people will no longer be able to manipulate it to support their claims.
Problem is challenging one's way of thinking is pretty hard so I don't expect this change to happen anytime soon; plus there is a fair bit of disinformation out there, and as we all know, a random YouTube video backing your opinion is a better argument that centuries of scientific consensus on the matter...

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7 hours ago, PakledHostage said:

But we all need to do more than just march... We all need to do our best to educate those around us who may have misconceptions about how science works. People who espouse that "XXX is just a theory!" or that there's a difference between "observational science" and "historical science" need to be set straight. We may not be able to stop the idealogues who perpetuate those ideas for their own dubious reasons, but we may be able to run interference on the people that those idealogues are attempting to con. Ultimately, science is about evidence. Repeatable and independently verifiable evidence. Any rational person should be able to see the beauty in that, given the chance.

I disagree. But for a much different and principled reason. At the cornerstone of personal liberty is the concept of self-determination. While it is foolhardy to insist the earth is flat, it is not for someone to reject the concept of human-caused global warming. We have concrete proof the earth is not flat - satellite images from various vantage points and altitudes. However, we only have concrete proof the earth has been in a warming trend for the last 11,700 years ago, give or take. Human industry did not begin the cycle of global warming that ended the last ice age. So, to blame humankind for global warming does not make sense to me. NO, it is not my intent to start an argument, but to illustrate that I do have the right to not only demand more proof and facts, but to also have the right to reject "theories" that I feel do not match the evidence I am seeing.

It is healthy to have a skeptical attitude about anyone who claims to have the absolute "correct" theory about anything. Humans are naturally skeptical and it has served the species well. This drive to create a consensus on every aspect of society, to include science, is simply a recreated folly of the Dark Ages when kings and priests controlled "pure science" and "pure religion" and no one had the ability to have any other opinion on the matter than what was prescribed. When I read things like PackledHostage said, it scares me that there are those who would prefer to create a consensus through "reeducation" into what science is. Should the world regard Drs. Steven Hawking and Richard Dawkins as the absolute authorities on climate change and "pure science" as they have deemed themselves experts? Absolutely not. For both men have taken science and bent it to a certain set of core ideologies that not only restrain the individual's right to self determination, but removes the individual's right of self-identity and thought. And this is totalitarianism in its finest.

I am a professional historian by trade. It is not my job to tell anyone, including my students, what the facts "means". It is my job to teach them how to interpret the facts and base opinions, regardless if they are different than mine, on those facts. It is the same with science. We call certain things "theories" because we do not have the definitive answer in how they work, such as electricity (which is why we call it the "theory of electricity" rather than fact). It is the scientist's job to explain it, but we cannot demand that everyone understand it beyond "flip the switch on, and it comes on..." application. However, the data should be there for those who have inquiring minds and do want a deeper understanding. But at the same time, I have no right do demand that someone comply with the notion of either completely understanding the theory of electricity or not using electricity at all. What I have learned is the best approach for learning is to simply present the information and allow each individual the opportunity to learn, interpret the data, and make their own conclusions rather than to force any sort of consensus. That's the difference between true education and indoctrination.

Edited by adsii1970

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3 hours ago, Gaarst said:

I feel like the fields of research are too far from ordinary people's preoccupations and this causes ignorance on the matters (I didn't even know how scientific articles are written until I got halfway through my degree in physics). Science in general needs to become more "popular" in order for people to appreciate the true meaning of it because stupidity stems from ignorance. Teach people that science isn't a matter of opinions or beliefs, and some people will no longer be able to manipulate it to support their claims.

Problem is challenging one's way of thinking is pretty hard so I don't expect this change to happen anytime soon; plus there is a fair bit of disinformation out there, and as we all know, a random YouTube video backing your opinion is a better argument that centuries of scientific consensus on the matter...

[Edited by adsii1970 for content I wish to comment on]

The problem, as far as I see it, is the educational process itself - beginning in the early grade school years. I'm 46 and have a six year old daughter in Kindergarten this year. Back when she was 5, we began working at home on her math, writing, and reading skills. In less than six months, my daughter was doing single digit addition and subtraction (without finger aids) as well as writing her name and the abcs. She also learned how to tell time, tie her shoes, and the days of the week and the names of the first five planets of our solar system. When she went to Kindergarten, her teacher and I had an argument about learning. I believe in a student led approach - if the student asks, then teach what is asked. Don't force... and the teacher was all about "forced learning." My daughter has the highest grades in her class and on the recent achievement tests, scored low second grader scores for several categories -- and she is not even in first grade!

We also are in the age of misconceptions. At an open house, my daughtere's teacher asked each parent where they worked. When I told her the university I worked at, she asked me if I worked as a groundskeeper or support staff... I then handed her a business card and introduced myself as Dr.... and you should have seen the woman's face change - as well as her attitude. :D The reason I brought that up is to illustrate that often we jump to the wrong conclusions because we only have a small sliver of data, even if we do not know the rest, we jump to trying to make the data fit into boxes of "ideas" we already have. This is why the marriage between government and science is so dangerous - as is the relationship between the military and industry (the military-industrial complex, as stated by President Eisenhower). Some scientists (who have no integrity) will create experiments and theories that match the need for desired government policy to increase government support. Even at the extent of data manipulation and ignoring undesired results from experiments. And in the case of the American Eugenics movement of the early 20th century, the results can be dire if there are no opposing voices to challenge it.

A valid of a theory on the beginnings of life on Earth as Dr. Richard Dawkins theory of how life was created on Earth:

  Reveal hidden contents

What makes self-reasoning great is that if you believe in evolution, alien life-seeding, or even Biblical creation, it should be your right to believe it in the absence of a concrete set of facts and a proven means. But at the same time, one does not possess the right to ridicule others or force them to give up their understanding of how life began and adopt a different "theory" that has still not been proven. I am not defending the billboard in your picture but I am certainly not going to condemn it either. As my very wise grandfather taught me, "whatever floats your boat or heats your coffee is fine. But let me be me..."

 

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The personal freedom is corrupted when anyone tries to tell you how to interpret something or keeps you from thinking what you want or channels the information that reaches you. Science does not do so, in contrary it encourages people to question even the own findings and share them with others to come to a conclusion that a majority can accept. It has its rules, which are open and do not change (edit: every legislation period).

Modern philosophy tells us to use reason to come to our findings and not to just put forward claims without a chance to prove or disprove. The former views on of cognitive sciences have been replaced by Empirical Falsification and Critical Rationalism.

 

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16 minutes ago, adsii1970 said:

What makes self-reasoning great is that if you believe in evolution, alien life-seeding, or even Biblical creation, it should be your right to believe it in the absence of a concrete set of facts and a proven means. But at the same time, one does not possess the right to ridicule others or force them to give up their understanding of how life began and adopt a different "theory" that has still not been proven. I am not defending the billboard in your picture but I am certainly not going to condemn it either. As my very wise grandfather taught me, "whatever floats your boat or heats your coffee is fine. But let me be me..."

Correct in my eyes. Problem is, we do see more and more tries to actually force people into believing and diminish the role of science. But in the end it's not belief that keeps people healthy and alive and fed and it's not belief that leads to new discoveries. Nor is it exertion of influence, which can only limit the work of scientists, not broaden the view.

That's why i find these marches important.

But, of course, as any scientist, i might be wrong. But i need arguments to change my mind :-)

Edit: oh, btw., some geoscientists actually copied their work to private machines a few months ago. They seem to be in a diffuse fear that they might need a backup in a few years.

Edited by Green Baron

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1 minute ago, Green Baron said:

Correct in my eyes. Problem is, we do see more and more tries to actually force people into believing and diminish the role of science. But in the end it's not belief that keeps people healthy and alive and fed and it's not belief that leads to the discoveries. Not is it exertion of influence, which can only limit the work of scientists, not broaden the view.

That's why i find these marches important.

But, of course, as any scientist, i might be wrong. But i need arguments to change my mind :-)

The problem is a march is just a headline-grabbing event. And it wasn't done during the previous American administration (President Obama), but under the current Trump administration, which has made science a political ground. From what I read from various European and American news sources, it came as a response to the Trump administration's appointment of a new head of the EPA and scaling back funding on "man-made climate change research." At this point, science became political... which is one of the reasons I am very surprised the moderators have not closed this thread. God knows, every one of my warning points has been for political commentary...

If science is to prevail, it has to be made relevant. And again, this means we have to rethink public education. I purposefully began exposing my daughter, at the age of five, to science. She knows how to use a telescope, she knows how to focus it, and she knows the name of a few of the larger and easy to view lunar features. She knows the Earth is one of many bodies orbiting Sol, and that Sol also revolves around the galactic core. To help her understand, I even bought one of those solar system models that allows you to move the planets around the sun. In fact, yesterday she made the observation, "Daddy, the solar system looks like a giant atom!" :D Yes, we are definitely going in the right direction...

Science needs to be brought to the level where it's fun, it's made understandable, and relevant. It doesn't need to be preachy or politicized, or used as a battering ram to make the masses "trust the experts." Our world did that before and we've paid the price...twice.

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I think this march is in fact counterproductive. It needlessly politicizes science, and given who it will likely bring out along with actual science people, it will conflate the two groups (political activist types, and scientists). I think that is bad political optics for a profession that is broadly trusted by the public.

The reality in this particular case is that Presidential budgets pretty much never pass, and public money is by definition political. The more a given science is seen as having a dog in a particular political fight, the more it becomes a chew toy in that fight.

Edited by tater

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1 hour ago, Green Baron said:

Edit: oh, btw., some geoscientists actually copied their work to private machines a few months ago. They seem to be in a diffuse fear that they might need a backup in a few years.

[Edited by adsii1970 for content I wish to comment on]

One of the biggest problems I have with the modern scientific (and to be fair, any academic area of research) is too often the researcher conducts their research in a vacuum, isolated from other research simply because it is "not within the scope of the field..."

Let me explain, I have some colleagues I work with who study climate change. But the problem is they only consider weather patterns - they do not include anyone outside their department for research. No astronomers, no geologists, so what happens is their research never considers two big components of Earth's weather - the impact of Sol on Earth (remember, sunspots are at an all-time low in the current cycle) or the Earth's own internal workings.

It's not just this - another colleague of mine is researching American immigration but refuses to consider any data that does not support her thesis - and in my opinion, she is creating "junk history." She's not considering the biological impact (introduction of diseases eradicated by American immunization efforts now reappearing in some migrant communities and is fully documented through the CDC and WHO), the increase in poverty (as even indicated by 2010 U.S. census data), and information regarding global unrest and political instability, nor is she even discussing the patterns of immigration. As she told me Thursday - "all of that is irrelevant. I'm proving America is racist and has no right even to exist..." :huh: I absolutely hate agenda-driven research. When I research something, as I am now, it is because I'm not wanting to prove anything beyond "what can I learn and what conclusions can I make with available data." Right now, I am working on preparing a new class that will basically be a history of humankind's fascination with Mars. In preparation of it, I've read a lot of non-fiction books on Mars, some cornball and some good (about 12, so far this year). But I am approaching my research with a tabula rasa mindset. It is the only way to be a truly objective researcher. 

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An opposite example from current concerns (I'm being as circumspect as possible) is nuclear power. It became a political chew toy with the politics exactly reversed from now. Oddly, it's a real solution to concerns now, and had it not been made toxic by politics decades ago, most of our power would not involve burning anything right now. This is why I think science (and engineering in this case) should be as apolitical as possible, and part of any fight should be to keep it apolitical.

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12 minutes ago, tater said:

An opposite example from current concerns (I'm being as circumspect as possible) is nuclear power. It became a political chew toy with the politics exactly reversed from now. Oddly, it's a real solution to concerns now, and had it not been made toxic by politics decades ago, most of our power would not involve burning anything right now. This is why I think science (and engineering in this case) should be as apolitical as possible, and part of any fight should be to keep it apolitical.

The problem is politics gets in the way. Fission is the easiest type of nuclear power available, but the most deadly. Fukushima and Chernobyl are two great examples of why this type of nuclear energy is bad. Plus you have radioactive isotopes left as waste (hence it is referred to as radioactive waste). Ideally and theoretically, the safest nuclear energy is FUSION - the combining of atoms. Combine two hydrogen atoms and you get a lot of energy. The waste product is...helium (He). From what early studies in the 1950s indicated, radioactive waste is simply not as prevalent (depending on the style of fusion reactor, really). This is the same energy source as stars have; I do not remember where I read it, but someone theorized that one fusion reactor the size of one of America's largest fission reactors could literally provide electricity for HALF OF THE UNITED STATES and with very low risk. With fusion, there is no need to use heavy elements as lighter (and less radioactive elements) are highly fusible and will produce larger energy yields.

The problem is that it is still "nuclear energy" and there are those who are convinced that all nuclear energy is bad. Science loses but special interest groups win.

Edited by adsii1970

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No, it's not bad. Bad reactor designs are bad. If a spacecraft blew up once, killing people, all spacecraft are not bad, just the one that blew up. It's a engineering problem, nothing more. Split atoms, not wood.

Edited by tater

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7 minutes ago, adsii1970 said:

(...) but someone theorized that one fusion reactor the size of one of America's largest fission reactors could literally provide electricity for HALF OF THE UNITED STATES and with very low risk. (...)

And here's your problem. "Science" has told us exactly that when nuclear power (by fission) was introduced. Since then we've had various incidents all over the world. Windscale, Three Miles Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima...

One can argue that compared to coal or oil & gas, nuclear power is incredibly safe, and it is. But public opinion doesn't see that. What public opinion does see is hundreds, if not thousands, of people being evacuated (usually out of precaution), under threat of something you can't see. The enemy unknown is always more sinister than daily threats we deal with (traffic for instance).

Engineers are notoriously bad with dealing with PR and the effects of it. Look at Fukushima. If we had the experts to believe, there was never a meltdown and everything was under control and within safety parameters, based on the press releases in the days following the disaster. What you're dealing with is a field of science and engineering that has throughout its history overhyped the benefits, understated the risks and is now wondering why the general public has such a "irrational fear" of it. People being uninformed is indeed a part of it. But people are always uninformed. The nuclear industry eagerly shooting itself in the foot at every occasion is a much bigger factor I think. And telling people that it's safe and that there's no waste or radiation problem... it might even be true. But who's going to believe it?

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13 minutes ago, adsii1970 said:

The problem is politics gets in the way. Fission is the easiest type of nuclear power available, but the most deadly. Fukushima and Chernobyl are two great examples of why this type of nuclear energy is bad. Plus you have radioactive isotopes left as waste (hence it is referred to as radioactive waste). Ideally and theoretically, the safest nuclear energy is FUSION - the combining of atoms.
<snip>
The problem is that it is still "nuclear energy" and there are those who are convinced that all nuclear energy is bad. Science loses but special interest groups win.

Even fission is nowhere near as dangerous as the media portrays, or most people think.
It's entirely possible to operate fission reactors safely, just look at the US navys record.
Both Chernobyl and Fukushima were the result of old, flawed / and or poorly maintained plants and mismanagement.
Chernobyl was a terrible design (positive void coefficient of reactivity) and operators were pressured to ignore SOP by higher powers.
Fukushima wasn't designed to withstand a tsunami in an area well known for such, and the response when one occurred was pretty well bungled.

Even Chernobyl, the worst accident to date, resulted in only 56 fatalities. Even if you factor in speculative deaths from radiation-induced cancer, it's still orders of magnitude safer (per megawatt hour) than, say, coal power.

Fusion is certainly the answer, but it's still nowhere near viable.
If we want to stave off man made climate change and stop burning vast quantities of fossil fuel, fission will be part of the answer.
And we can build them a whole lot safer now than they were in the 70s.

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3 minutes ago, Kerbart said:

Engineers are notoriously bad with dealing with PR and the effects of it. Look at Fukushima. If we had the experts to believe, there was never a meltdown and everything was under control and within safety parameters, based on the press releases in the days following the disaster

Do you really think it was engineers writing those press releases, not the company PR department trying to save face?
Engineers are terrible with PR, so engineers never write the PR releases.

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