Science writer: Bash Bigfoot less, pop science more

From Dennis Horgan at Scientific American:

Here’s an example involving two idols of Capital-S Skepticism: biologist Richard Dawkins and physicist Lawrence Krauss. Krauss recently wrote a book, A Universe from Nothing. He claims that physics is answering the old question, Why is there something rather than nothing?

Krauss’s book doesn’t come close to fulfilling the promise of its title, but Dawkins loved it. He writes in the book’s afterword: “If On the Origin of
Species was biology’s deadliest blow to supernaturalism, we may come to see A Universe From Nothing as the equivalent from cosmology.”

Just to be clear: Dawkins is comparing Lawrence Krauss to Charles Darwin. Why would Dawkins say something so foolish? Because he hates religion so much that it impairs his scientific judgment. He succumbs to what you might call “The Science Delusion.”

“The Science Delusion” is common among Capital-S Skeptics. You don’t apply your skepticism equally. You are extremely critical of belief in God, ghosts, heaven, ESP, astrology, homeopathy and Bigfoot. You also attack disbelief in global warming, vaccines and genetically modified food. More.

Of course, they attack this smorgasbord of concerns because they conflict with the Skepticism sects’ own variously assembled creeds. Evidence is a secondary concern, so far as one can see.

I (O’Leary for News) started my series on naturalism in 2013 by asking, why is the space alien “science” and Bigfoot “not science”? We don’t have evidence of either, so the best explanation is likely cultural. Which is, more or less what Horgan is talking about. He continues:

Meanwhile, you neglect what I call hard targets. These are dubious and even harmful claims promoted by major scientists and institutions. In the rest of this talk, I’ll give you examples of hard targets from physics, medicine and biology. I’ll wrap up with a rant about war, the hardest target of all.”

Well, now we have a clue. The Skeptics don’t attack targets who could punish or even just fail to reward them. Horgan goes on to point out that the multiverse is not experimentally verifiable, so its proponents are working to undermine the standard of falsifiability:

Physicists are even promoting the idea that our universe is a simulation created by super-intelligent aliens. Last month, Neil de Grasse Tyson said “the likelihood may be very high” that we’re living in a simulation. Again, this isn’t science, it’s a stoner thought experiment pretending to be science.

Um yes, but that’s exactly what happens when scientists undermine falsifiability and promote non-evidence-based science.

Horgan is right to be concerned. If the trend continues, science journalism may as well just be Hollywood Reporter, for all that it matters except as a vehicle for promoting the stars. But perhaps naturalism can result in no other outcome. We shall see.

See also: Tyson bombshell: Universe likely just computer sim Note: Tyson is entitled to his fancies, but why is this stuff supposed to be “science”? What entitles it to some special regard?

  • T.C.

    If he had stuck with Dawkins, Tyson and Hawkings, or the fantsies of the multiverse and the gay gene, then he would have had a coherent article. As it is, the author’s article simply demonstrates examples of his own biases while he tries to critique inconsistencies in others pet theories. The imbalance in national longevity, the short-comings of drugs and mental health rates, and ineffectivness of mammogram and prostrate tests are well known. These are being dealt with. To make the pronouncement that the U.S. was somehow responsible for the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan is a lie. And given the meat grinder effect that U.S. forces had on muslim terrorists (not civilians) in Iraq before O’bumbles withdrew those forces – well, that was a stroke of strategic genius by the Bush Jr. administration. Iraq was better off with the Americans in place. The muslim savages there at the moment certainly can’t govern themselves. Who cares if a bunch of terrorists – and their cult-indoctrinated backers – end up getting whacked.

  • Thinking From First Principles

    I have first hand experience with the stupidity he is referring to. I’m a credentialed scientist with many refereed pubs, more than 1000 citations of my work, and Fellow of the largest technology society. And, for those familiar with what it means, I’m an Eagle Scout and Life Member of the Nat’l Eagle Scout Assn. So you would think it would be appreciated when you write your paper along the lines of “There are two hypotheses. These animals exist, and these animals do not exist. These hypotheses lead to testable predictions. Does not exist predicts zero footprints and pictures. Does exist predicts footprints, photos, and other observations consistent with live animals …” and then present reliable, fully documented data that were collected to test these hypotheses. Nope! Not appreciated. The primatology society wouldn’t even enter the manuscript into its numbered review process because the photos ‘weren’t good enough” (not listed as a requirement on their submission guidelines). The biodiversity journal wouldn’t accept the data without a body or DNA as confirmation (not listed as a requirement on their submission guidelines). Another journal ‘don’t publish papers on Bigfoot’ (not listed as a requirement on their submission guidelines). One journal rejected the work BECAUSE OF the detailed use of the scientific method step by step … as ‘makes the author seem desperate to prove his point …’ – WTF?!?!? The first time anyone has seriously applied the scientific method and the paper is rejected for seriously applying the scientific method … right. This has all been very, very disheartening and frustrating as the primatologists could have, and should have, driven to the site and made their own independent observations anytime over the following 6 months of activity there … That they did not is indicative of how poorly ‘scientists’ match up against being ‘objective.’ [NOTE: I’m still trying to get the work published. I’m currently writing short discussions of the four HD video segments of data, need to update the discussion of tracks, and then will try again with what seems to be a fair journal.]