Blinkers Award goes to… Tom Nichols at Scientific American! On why Americans “hate science”

To him it’s all  real simple:

It happens because some people reject expert information when it goes against their personal values

For its part, the American public is in the grip of a sullen, almost paranoid, narcissism about science and experts. This is not a function of education; the anti-vaccine movement, for example, is actually concentrated among parents with more education than their poorer counterparts. Indeed, ignorance has become hip, with some Americans now wearing their rejection of expert advice as a badge of cultural sophistication. (Consider the number of otherwise intelligent people who advocate consuming raw milk, for example, against the advice of a horrified medical community.)

Instead, the public rejection of science is an extension of our politics, which in turn have become an expression of our constant outrage about everything that offends our deepest beliefs about ourselves. As social scientist David Dunning has put it: “Some of our most stubborn misbeliefs arise not from primitive childlike intuitions or careless category errors, but from the very values and philosophies that define who we are as individuals.” When those misbeliefs are challenged, laypeople take it not as correction but as a direct attack on their identity. More.

Nichols needs to get out more. The public is becoming well aware of the currently unfixed peer review mess. And of the huge number of science fads inflicted on us, often via public policy, that turned out to be poorly sourced: See, for example, the skinny on salt, veggie oil,, skim milk, whole foods. Nutrition science is nearly baseless but it rules.

Health science is the way most people interact with science and in many areas, it is running neck and neck with the office rumor mill for credibility. Today, we should believe what makes sense to us and nothing more. Naturally, one would like things to be better but wishing doesn’t make it so.

Incidentally, who does Scientific American think its audience is? Smug folk who congratulate themselves to their superiority to the Great Unwashed who, thanks to the internet, are finally starting to put it all together… ?

* Blinkers Award? Oscars, without the envelope goofups

Note: “Tom Nichols teaches at the Naval War College and the Harvard Extension School. He is the author of “The Death of Expertise” (Oxford, 2017). The views expressed are his own.”

See also: Peer review “unscientific”: Tough words from editor of Nature

  • Edsss

    Nichols gives himself away almost immediately by crediting a non science: “As social scientist David Dunning has put it”. There is NO such thing as a Social Scientist! Ask EO Wilson after he tried validating it. It’s all become smoke and mirrors with “peer review” (read – good ole boys club for science) as it’s foundation. None of this “science” is repeatable per the gold standard of the Scientific Method. Just more liberal trash talk and “the people” aren’t buying it. Scientific American, you’ve reached new lows…how’s the subscription rate treating you?

    • When “21st century witch doctoring” wins out over “tough love”, we are all in for trouble.

      Gender reassignment surgery is “21st century witch doctoring”.

  • Ed

    “…It happens because some people reject expert information when it goes against their personal values…”

    Oh please…

    How many genders does science support again?

    • FactsWillOut


  • “Science” is not a system of Government as fascist Progressives would have us believe (coincidentally they once believed the same thing about “science” in former Stalinist Russia). Science is in fact a constantly-evolving system of inquiry to aid in understanding the material world around us. Nothing more, nothing less.

    • FactsWillOut

      Science itself is not evolving.
      The scientific method is the system of inquiry, and it does not change.

  • Brother Antony

    ‘Social scientist’ is the greatest oxymoron of all time.

  • The Deplorable Rosenmops

    Maybe people would trust experts more if there was less politically correct nonsense published about race being a “social construct” with no biological or genetic basis. Then there are the doctors who give hormones to children to block puberty–damaging their bodies permanently because of a mental problem that will probably be temporary.

    However here is some sensible information from American College of Pediatrics

    “Conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse. Endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies will confuse children and parents, leading more children to present to “gender clinics” where they will be given puberty-blocking drugs. This, in turn, virtually ensures they will “choose” a lifetime of carcinogenic and otherwise toxic cross-sex hormones, and likely consider unnecessary surgical mutilation of their healthy body parts as young adults.”

  • Gary

    When I was a regular at a gym to lift weights and later on ride my Mountain bike along the Goodman Trail near the Humber river , I told people that Fat was my friend when it came to snacks.
    Since I was spending almost 2 hours at a time at the gym it was better for me to eat some fat in food because each gram was 9 calories while Protein was about 4 and carbohydrates was 5 .
    I was burning up the energy in the fat as I was ingesting it because i had a blood sugar problem and eating carbs in the morning would turn into glucose and bump my blood sugar up.

    About 4 years ago I heard am “expert’ now say that fat is good for the energy per gram if you cycle or run a lot.
    I also had my way of lift weights that worked for me since I started doing it around 1968 on top of how I slowed down my breathing when running long distance that reduce the load on my heart and had surprised people when I didn’t warm up and rarely broke a sweat. The body is always trying the Cleanse itself , so when I read that your heart beat goes up not just from running but to expel the toxin and co2 from burning energy ……I practiced resisting inhaling so rapidly until I got it under control which kept my heart beat around 130 to purge the toxin later on after the race.

    Back in the 1970’s I refused to get away from butter because it was make from milk which we had centuries of adapting to for the body to break it down. I tried Margarine one time and it was like a thick skin lotion .
    Several of my Teachers were Wrong at times about what they taught as “Science” . In the late 19th Century the theory was that Crude oil didn’t exist below around 3000 feet, that was before Howard Hughes sr invented his Diamond shaped drill bit that could bore through rock and find Oil well below 8000 feet.
    It’s now being found in the Gulf or Mexico at 20,000 feet below the Ocean bed.

    When “expert” tell me something, I pretend to be from Missouri which is the
    ‘ Show Me ‘ State .

  • FactsWillOut

    The “expert” is simply the new-age priest, his role is to disseminate the dogma of the day.

    Experts use “studies.”
    Scientists use experiments.

  • WalterBannon

    Tom Nichols failed to include the word “junk” in that sentence

    Americans “Hate JUNK Science”

    • FactsWillOut

      aka pseudo-science.

      Science: The application of the scientific method.
      Not science: Everything else.