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Eric Price

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Do Scientists Need to "Silence" un-Scientific or Subjective Debate to Protect Truth?

A "Popular Scientific" magazine recently published an article stating, "Comments can be bad for science. That's why...we're shutting them off."

Further quotations: "...even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader's perception of a story, recent research suggests." "Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant's interpretation of the news story itself." "Another...study found that just firmly worded (but not uncivil) disagreements between commenters impacted readers' perception of science."

Bottom line..."If you carry out those results to their logical end--commenters shape public opinion; public opinion shapes public policy; public policy shapes how and whether and what research gets funded--you start to see why we feel compelled to hit the "off" switch."

In other words, to further truth science must ensure that "truth" is not swayed by erroneous public opinion, whether by emotion, firm statements or otherwise.

I find the conclusions deeply disturbing. If a magazine must resort to a position of dogma treating their material like a sacred text not to be questioned, then it becomes tantamount to propaganda - even if the content is scientifically sound. Must scientists be the gate keepers of truth, having no confidence that commoners can reason, question ideas and be objective to learn truth for themselves? I still believe that people can be taught to use intelligence and reason to process information. To lose that belief is to lose hope in a civil society.

If what the article states is true, what must naturally follow is the suppression of free thought and dialogue, a division in social position between those who can discern truth and those who do not or can not, and a further risk that the unenlightened can only become greater targets for erroneous beliefs.

World changing ideas have never come easy. Do you agree with the conclusion and action to surpress discussion for the sake of science?

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    Oct 9 2013: "Do Scientists Need to "Silence" un-Scientific or Subjective Debate to Protect Truth?"

    No more than:

    "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain"

    See what science is becoming?
    • Oct 9 2013: I disagree. See? My opinion is as worthy as yours is it not? But, is my opinion as worthy as the facts shown through rigorous scientific method? I think not. Science is fighting for its life these days as more and more people have decided for themselves, based on no knowledge whatsoever, that they can debate settled points of science. This is not healthy scientific debate, its nonsense and makes us an illiterate society hell bent on causing ourselves more damage than not. When high school science teachers have to hold meetings to discuss that they will be teaching evolution we have reached a crisis point.
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        Oct 9 2013: Sharon, of course your opinion is as worthy as anyone else's. Nowhere have I ever disputed that.

        As someone who loves science, it saddens me to the core at the very suggestion that it should become some sort of exclusive fundamentalist institution, not unlike the very worst adherents of so-called religions. That was the point of my comment. I was pointing out that "Silencing subjective debate" has become a kind of blasphemous sleight on another Godhead of our own making.

        The very reason why science is fighting for its life is precisely because the scientific method is actually losing rigour, by forming too close an allegiance to politics and commerce. Any institution that allies itself that closely to politics, risks losing its original identity and ethical standing within the wider populace, who in turn, lose trust in something where trustworthiness should be written in stone.

        Likewise any respected institution that becomes so studiously narrow as to exclude contributions to its knowledge base from those who 'think outside the box', will get precisely nowhere at all in the advancement of knowledge. This is because, in excluding imagination and subjective debate, 'settled science' would tend to stagnate mostly in what it already knows.

        The advancement of knowledge should reflect the structure of our own brains - where art, subjectivity and philosophy could potentially make science dynamic, far-reaching and panoramic in its outlook. Especially important now with the the world lurching rapidly into another epoch, we need to use every neuron and every synapse available to us to get through it in one piece.
        • Oct 10 2013: Science has always been an exclusive institution and those who posit argument against its orthodoxy have an uphill struggle to make their points. And this is partly as it should be. It should be hard to get scientific ideas out there. You should have to prove them. Chris Kelly (below) insists that the theory of evolution will fall to the root race theory. I am - shall we say - less than convinced. So let them posit it in scientific journals, let them prove their case. Let them do the work that it takes to get their EVIDENCE and PROOF accepted by the scientific community. At some point settled science is not a stagnant thing, it is a foundation. Foundations that are solid can be built upon, foundations that are ever shifting waste time and energy in endless building and rebuilding. Science IS dynamic and far reaching. But it is supposed to be science. There is a difference between science and philosophy. There is supposed to be!
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        • Oct 10 2013: Thank you for making my point so eloquently. Seeds of life from astral comets I'll put under consideration, "Ethereal beings" will need to bring more evidence.
        • Oct 14 2013: you have a hard time integrating scientific truth into the ideas you want to accept are true. you think scientists are wrong simply because they believe something you dont want.. it easy to believe whatever in this world its hard to actually seek answers purely for the sake of answers and not reinforcement of something we want to believe
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        Oct 10 2013: Sharon, Going along with your metaphor - If science is the solid foundation that can be built upon, then subjectivity, philosophy and art is the sand, cement and ballast that has made it the solid thing it has become in the first place.

        In all great scientific theories, there has always been a hierarchy of thought that starts with intuition, subjectivity and philosophy, and ends, via reductionism into what we like to regard as 'certainty'. But even certainty needs to retain an amount of doubt, so it can be re-referred back to its intuitive roots in order to keep 'settled science' dynamic and modifiable.

        I'm aware of the difference between philosophy and science, but I do not see the two as separate factions, never daring to intrude on each other's territory. I see philosophy, and the subjective dynamism it is able to bring to the table, as a major food source for science. Without it, science would just feed on itself, malnourished, unmoving, in a prison of its own making.

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