Thursday, August 22, 2013

Manufacturing Doubt And Denial Of Science

This article was written by a scientist who has witnessed the manufacturing of doubt in our society that has led to a broad based rejection of the use of evidence to support claims.  A "science" of creationism challenges evolutionary theory and the body of evidence that supports it.  Proponents of creationism are actively engaged in setting education policy in our most backward states and towns.  The number of citizens that believe that human behavior is responsible for climate change has dropped over the last 25 years, despite the strong consensus within the scientific community.  Many parents refuse to have their children vaccinated because they have been led to believe that vaccination is responsible for autism.  There is no evidence to support that belief,  and a lot of evidence is available to dispute the false claims about the link, but that has had little effect on the true believers.

One could go well beyond the examples provided in this article but it is very clear that people have a strong tendency to believe what they want to believe, and that it is possible to manufacture doubt about scientific evidence when it is important to do so for some group that is threatened by science.  It is easier to do so in the social sciences because many of the issues are not as easy to disprove with evidence.  The manufacturing of doubt and consent is well funded in the social sciences.  Most of the research that is done in economics, for example, has little bearing on important social issues.  An economist can pursue a career using rigorous methods without attracting much attention. However, when economic concepts are related to social issues,  the game changes dramatically.  Well funded economic "think tanks" are in the business of manufacturing evidence that is favorable to the groups that fund the "think tanks".  Many of these economists  also hold important academic positions.

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