[asa] WSJ on scientific credibility

From: Ted Davis <TDavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Thu Dec 03 2009 - 15:27:28 EST

echo the concerns expressed in this WSJ op-ed:

 

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/12/03/science_is_on_the_credibility_bubble_99388.html

 

Post-modern efforts to undermine the objectivity of science are only encouraged by episodes like this, when tend to reinforce the impression that, if you don't like the implications of the conclusions of the "experts," you go find your own "experts" to back up a different set of conclusions. We are seeing something similar--as I said we would, a few weeks ago--with the flap about recommendations for mammograms for women younger than 50. I'm not suggesting that we get into that one here; it seems pretty peripheral to science/faith, unlike the AGW controversy which intersects with theology of creation and stewardship in obvious ways. Nevertheless, it's a similar situation.

 

You can't put the genie back into the bottle, regardless of whether it's ethical to cite or discuss the emails. There will be well-founded perceptions, that some scientists do try to control access to the exchange of scientific information and opinions--beyond the appropriate review process for scientific journals, which can also be abused.

 

The root problem, IMO, has to do with balancing the human component involved with the creation of scientific knowledge (this has political, philosophical, cultural, and personal aspects) with the non-human component from nature that objectively exists and does impinge on us, whether or not we like what it's saying. Cynics will conclude too readily that science entirely lacks objectivity (this is the view encouraged by the Edinburgh "strong programme" of social constructivism), while defenders of science will conclude too readily that science is purely objective and is done by robots in an intellectual and cultural vacuum (this was the older view of science, before history of science debunked it). The truth IMO lies somewhere toward the middle--but the middle, in highly charged controversies such as this one, is (by definition) hit from both sides. Let's hope that the truth is not a casualty, as it sometimes is.

 

Ted

 

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Received on Thu Dec 3 15:28:18 2009

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