How can we restore public trust in science? (op-ed)

Jan 28, 2023
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It's easy. We give the scientists 10 years in which the scientists have to make us a real interplanetary civilization. I.E. To invent and build spaceships with crew, passengers and cargo that can take off from Earth and be able to reach even the outermost planet in the system, and when it is at its greatest distance from Earth, in under one month of travel.
 
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We do not have an open frontier system, nor, truly, an opening frontier system, thanks to ever growing pursuits of political-cultural [no-energy!] pseudo-sciences and a massing of pseudo-scientists.

Maybe one of these days, enough leading scientists and political leaders both will learn money is nothing more than the token of energy (meaningful money in meaningful energies on the one hand and meaningless floods of meaningless paper, so to speak, on the other hand) and energy ties absolutely to a reality of open, or opening, energetic frontier system. War comes in two varieties, benign and malignant. Going for birthing an opening, an expanding, frontier system is a costly but most benign war, else the costliest wars there are, the malignant wars of an ever closing, ever shrinking in positive energies, entropic ugly, isolated island universe, deadly black hole-like frontier world system where the sciences, among too many other things, inbreed.
 
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Jan 28, 2023
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There are no exact percentages listed in the article. I don't have time to track down related material. Can I safely assume that over 50% of scientists who are now retired did not contribute anything useful during their entire careers? They only registered their card when they go to work and then when they leave the office at the end of working hours.
 
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At its best, all science is objective-based. At its worst, it claims authority in subjective-based directIves where power plays and politics take myopic approaches to problems. Covid directives quickly cancelled many top scientists, allowing science to get tangled-up in unnecessary disputes. Covid more than things like “cold fusion” has brought the distrust, but not so much for astronomers, thankfully.

Also, objective-base means merit base, as well. 1800+ colleges have dropped SAT and ACT requirements.

Here is a link.

DEI is anti-merit program that will prove to have done more harm than good for those it sought to lift-up. Industry, rest assured, we’ll find some way to test the caliber of graduates before being stuck in hiring those that are found to be below industry’s normal expectation. One law firm declared they would not hire a law grad from a prominent CA univ. due to this problem.
 
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Science is what it has always been,
Understandings foundated in evidence and logic.

And that is not the cream puff many romanticize it to be.

One can't start with a premise that isn't scientifically foundated, namely that everything has a rational explanation and isn't really that difficult to figure out.

Some things may be fundamentally irrational.
Some things may simply be beyond current sensory equipment or our ability to conceptualize and reason.

A repeated problem is when a statistical correlation (which is good science) very commonly gets stretched beyond the actual data to presume a particular cause and effect.
Cause and effect is only one of several possible reasons for a statistical correlation.

Compound intellectual garbage like "zika causes microcephally" is a discrediting embarrassment,
And a danger,
because it buries the actual source of danger which through logical deduction fits with Pyroproxifen.

The 'scientific' conclusion, funded by oil companies, for decades that lead in the environment was 'natural background lead' and not from leaded gasoline is another embarrassment and danger to live down.

'Science' becomes a social and 'authority' phenomenon slapping the label of 'science' on things without the tough rigorous, ethical scrutiny actual science requires.

Focus on money, careers, prestige, 'authority' and grants is not actually a focus on determining whether an explanation is valid per evidence or not.

I hate to say it, but the universe has no inherent reward for correctly determining something from evidence.

Hearsay, even from a published 'journal' is still hearsay and until one has made some effort to scrutinize what is claimed by data &/or logic it is not to be trusted.

A am strongly suspicious that the crash in insect populations is a function of neonicotinoids and not 'dams' or climate change.

Reality means for important topics sensible people must do some homework before making decisions.
 
A "scientist" is anyone who has a BS degree. Yes, most of them never published. We made our accomplishments in industry, unpublicized for proprietary reasons.
And, IMO, it’s scientists like you that are needed to be allowed more input to give greater balance to science, especially when academic and government scientists might be too biased. The media need to be cognitive to this and give scrutiny more latitude.
 
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Mar 31, 2020
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What science lacks today is the ability to inspire. Science can take the most compelling and exciting of events and make them boring. The 'pale blue dot' had nothing to do with science, but science was needed for it to happen. (Thank you Carl Sagan) You inspired millions.
All of these rovers and spacecraft on Mars, but all the scientists care about is the science.
Not once did we send anything to the tallest volcano or the deepest canyon known in existence. Opportunity wasted (no pun intended.) The scientists say there is more important science elsewhere on Mars. They are wrong. Science can inspire . It just needs imagination. Imagine for a moment if the landing site for Ingenuity was different. Flying close to or over Valles Marineris would be jaw dropping and the science would be equally important.
 
From my observations, people who have learned some theory and love to show off their knowledge on the Internet have had a bad effect on public credibility of "scientists" in general.
When they should be saying things like "according to the best theory whe have . . ." and "We know [something] is true because we have measurements of [whatever] . . .", we have people pontificating assertions based on theories (that have problems with real measurements) as if those theories are proven fact. So, when some new observations require changes in the theories, those who heard the earlier assertions lose faith in people making assertions and claiming that it is "proven" by "science".

On top of that, we have the long-running experience of biased organizations using bad or incomplete science to support their desired political or financial positions about "what we should do". Having worked in government trying to use good scientific methods to guide policies, I can attest to the large amount of pressure exerted to support specific results, Sometimes there are divisions in the government that that put conflicting pressures on the same analysts to come up with different, conflicting conclusions. The problem is that the analyses are so complicated that the biased people do not expect anybody to find where the "mistakes" are made to get the answers they desire.

And, finally, "science" is oversold to the public about its ability to predict the future. Even the best "modelers" underpredict the uncertainty of their results. That is mainly due to the fact that they don't know everything that affects their modeled phenomena, and so can't account for what they don't know that they don't know. So, the pubic often sees predictions not come true. Part of that problem is that the public does not even read the actual scientific studies - it reads the popular media reports about the studies, which tend to be biased according to what the owner of the media company wants the public to think, for reasons political or financially beneficial to the media company.

The only solution I see to this is better basic education for the public. It needs to start in school. It needs to be continued through media outlets. But, even the school systems seem to be getting over run by ideologues who are pushing political agendas with pseudo science.

So the question in my mind is whether humans as a species are smart enough to use science to actually solve our problems, or will the disillusioned and p***ed-off societal elements simply reject what options scientists really can provide, so that implementation is not possible?
 
Nov 1, 2023
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Public perception is that science has been coopted by politics.

I fear the public is right.

Another problem is the fearmongering. "We have 5 years to save the planet!" That date passes. "We have 10 years to save the planet!" With no explanation for what we did to save it after the first 5 years or why the original date was wrong. The public aren't stupid... mostly. Many of us know that emotional manipulation is how those in power get what they want. And when scientists in particular fields seem to be playing along and getting nice grant money at the same time... well... that doesn't look suspicious at all, does it?

Science has brought public opinion on itself. I say this as a Mensan and someone who has no god but science. I am embarrassed by what passes for science today in a lot of disciplines.
 
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Today's scientists ride around on their dinosaurs and they do not know squat. Just ask a scientist a 100 years from now. What science does, is prove an experiment is correct. It is a set of facts that are proven, that does not make it, the be all to end all. Science needs to get off its pedestal and respect public opinion. Science does not have all the answers, it only pretends it does. Learning something new or disproving a theory is always ongoing.
It is difficult for it not to follow a certain bias. Everyone has there own agenda. Science needs to work with other disciplines hand in hand and learn from them.
 
Dec 11, 2023
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Most science is funded by governments. That means most science is, by definition, political. Public trust in political institutions may wax and wane. One can only expect the same then for science. If science were instead dominated by private universities, industry, and other voluntarily funded mechanisms, the situation would be quite different.

Science reporting is quite bad. Having scientists themselves report to the public may or may not help. Science reporters have strong incentives to exaggerate, but so do scientists reporting their own work. Additionally, scientists are humans too. They have political opinions, and enjoy pontificating on things they are not expert in, just like the rest of us. Putting that inescapable reality right in the publics' collective face does not help.

Perhaps simple ethical rules for reporters like not reporting *anything* that has not been independently reproduced would go a long way toward gaining public respect.

Finally, the reproducibility crisis is a reality check. It cannot be ignored. Public romanticization of science upon the backs of historical giants, and US military success, has allowed modern science to earn much of the disrepute it now suffers. Nobel laureates of the past published papers with half a dozen references, not the hundreds seen today. An afternoon in any major university library's stacks leaves one wondering what tiny percent of those articles will ever even be read let alone reproduced.

So, perhaps there are now too many research scientists and too much funding for them. Why should the institution of science be exempt from the law of diminishing returns? Would not removing the chaff leave more for the wheat? Could directing more scientific effort toward voluntarily fundable *results* (as opposed to the researcher's feedback-free curiosity) not increase its efficiency? Wouldn't directing scientifically-trained individuals into nonscience fields (especially education) improve those fields?

Science, in theory, is the most reliable way to grasp observable reality. But science, in practice, is still a human endeaver. Incentives and biases will always matter.
 
Don't give universities too much credit for objectivity.

For one thing, they are being dragged into politics by their presidents and boards of directors - people who have sought those positions because they see them as excellent opportunities to "change society" by indoctrinating students with propaganda disguised as education. Professors are hired and fired with politics in the decision process. This regularly makes the news.

And, the colleges and universities survive on donations and government grants for research, not the tuition paid by student. So, displeasing either their donors or the governments is something they try to avoid.

And, finally, there is the "publish or perish" paradigm that individual professors and students need to follow, which tends to get things that are "different" published while things that are expected don't see print. That has gotten worse as unreviewed papers can now be posted on the Internet before any peer review processes are completed. However, objective reviews of the efficacy of the traditional peer review process for weeding out incorrect findings have not shown it to be anywhere near as effective as it is generally believed to be.
 
Dec 11, 2023
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Yes, if corporations dictate science mostly or all of publications will be marketing materials and will be full of lies.
Well, if you've been paying attention, it is clear that most science *today* is full of lies. That is why this article exists.

It certainly was not worse when private entities (like universities and industries) dominated research in the past. Instead, scientific discoveries were advancing quite rapidly, contributing much to today's overromanticisization of science.

Putting the clichéd anti-corporate zeitgeist aside, what rational people fear most about voluntary rather than coerced funding, is that there would be greater secrecy in discoveries, and certain massive projects (like the Manhattan project, or CERN) would rarely get funded. That seems like a reasonable fear. But it is unclear if science overall would be worse off with the greater fiscal and results-oriented regulation that voluntary funding provides.
 
Remember, "voluntary funding" is provided by rich people who also have agendas.

There is n o magic bullet answer to this question.

The public will always be so far behind the curve in learning the latest science that it will be gullible enough to be mislead by those who have spent their lives doing research, or even by magazine writers who have no idea what they are talking about but want to write a story that gets attention.

And politicians - we all think they are liars - but we support the ones that tell us "our" lies. If our lies are supported by "science" then we love the science. But, if our lies are rebutted by the science, then it is "fake" science, right?
 
Dec 11, 2023
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Remember, "voluntary funding" is provided by rich people who also have agendas.

To a MUCH less extent than is involuntary funding. Tax revenues come disproportionately from rich people, and political decisions about funding are disproportionately influenced by rich campaign donors. Corporate and university revenues, on the other hand are disproportionately from middle class consumers and students.

Voluntary to you somehow seems to mean controlled by "the rich", but that is obviously backwards. It is also not the point. Voluntary funding is disciplined. Universities have limited voluntary funds, since they can't tax it out of the unwilling population, and their research reputation affects what they can charge for tuition and receive from alumni. Companies only have revenues from goods and services people value, and the research they invest in must tend to promote that end, or the voluntary choice of their consumers transfers those resources into the hands of companies who better succeed at such research. Voluntary organizations must persuade their funding sources, or those sources will go elsewhere.

Government funding, on the other hand, is only limited by the amount of wealth legislators can forcibly extract from the citizenry. Unless government research funding somehow magically rises through the ranks of thousands of political issues to become the number 1 political issue in nearly every voter's mind, there is no discipline or regulating feedback.

Assessing research based upon its contribution to successful outcomes (yes, like landing on the moon or building an atomic bomb, but also improved consumer goods and services) is a more concrete way of efficiently guiding research efforts. Otherwise a given amount of research dollars is more likely to go to efforts with no outcome (like papers that nobody will *ever* read). Such outcome-based assessments are much more strongly baked into voluntary orders than coercive ones.

There is no doubt that the modern government-dominated funding model has produced a great deal more volume of research. But it is less clear that the usefulness of that research is much improved over the historical domination by private sources. And I suspect the value returned per dollar spent is considerably less.
 
Vikingvista, you have made a whole lot of assertions that I find questionable or even wrong, so I am not going down the rabbit hole of trying to argue with each one.

Instead, I will point out that there is no agreement among all peoples on Earth about what is most important, who is responsible for what, etc. etc. No economic system nor governmental system has been shown to be perfect. There is a continuous conflicting conjunction between the competing and collaborative aspects of every society.

So, when I see a post about what is "wrong" and how to "fix it", I take that as just one opinion among many others that do not agree.

There is no one in the human population who knows everything and is so much wiser beyond all others that they can be entrusted to tell all the rest of us what we should be doing for the greatest benefit of all of us. To the contrary, those examples who have tried to assume that position have turned out to be abusers of the great powers that are needed for that kind of control.

So, my opinion is that we are doomed to continue "muddling through" a never ending series of challenges to our well-being and may be even to our species existence. It is a learning process, not a process that can be perfected based only on what we have already learned.
 

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