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Why Are Americans Resistant to Science? - Comments

Ohnhai's Avatar Comment 1 by Ohnhai

Indeed. the one panacea guaranteed to work is a bloody strong education in all subjects.

Teach them the verifiable facts, teach them scientific methodology. Teach them that there is beauty in the work of man and of nature, in the micro and the macro. Teach them comparative religion, philosophy, art. Teach them sport and recreation.

Let them be taught by the best minds in each of the subjects so that they get the most current and accurate representation of what reality is. (To the best of our knowledge). pay the good teachers handsomely and get rid of the bad ones.

Bring modern presentation and experiment into the class room. make it a place that young minds WANT to be.

Education is the single most important thing we can give to the next generation. Yet we let the politicians, and those with an addenda counter to the needs of the children, distort and monkey around with the development of any nations most precious asset. The next generation.

Education is EVERYTHING!!!!

Education is EVERYTHING!!!!

Education is EVERYTHING!!!!

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 07:16:00 UTC | #342043

Wezzock's Avatar Comment 2 by Wezzock

'For instance, 4-year-olds insist that everything has a purpose, including lions ("to go in the zoo") and clouds ("for raining"), a propensity called "promiscuous teleology".'

Is this the same mistaken assumption as 'The earth has been created in such a way as to make it hospitable to humans'£

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 07:16:00 UTC | #342044

bungoton's Avatar Comment 3 by bungoton

I find the strangest thing is discovering scientists who are resistant to science. I work with a geneticist (PhD) who firmly believes in homeopathy.

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 07:21:00 UTC | #342048

cerad's Avatar Comment 5 by cerad

Just for once I'd like to see an article like this one explain why the United States leads the world in virtually every scientific field and has done so for generations. Why change when what we have obviously works so well? Do we really need to lower ourselves down to the levels of the British?

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 07:28:00 UTC | #342054

Wezzock's Avatar Comment 4 by Wezzock

3. Comment #358261 by bungoton

I assume that this geneticist has had a personal experience of homeopathy£ Or else how can they reconcile that with actual science£

By the way, I'm not money-mad - I seem to suffer from the same text issue as others!

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 07:28:00 UTC | #342053

quantum_flux's Avatar Comment 6 by quantum_flux

What a load of shit. This completely overlooks the fact that the church is brainwashing people against science each sunday morning. People here trust Big Pastor who "has the answer to all of life's tough questions" (like, 'why does pain exist in the world?' and 'how come things don't always go your way?'). If science disagrees with the pastor or Bible then science is wrong or else there's eternal damnation to pay.

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 07:31:00 UTC | #342056

Caudimordax's Avatar Comment 7 by Caudimordax

6. Comment #358270 by quantum_flux - But not all the un-scientific types are main-stream religious. There are plenty of Deepak Chopra followers.

I think this might be part of it, the fallacious way in which people in the US think about democracy:

1. We're a democracy
2. In a democracy, everyone is equal
3. My ideas are as good as yours, pal. You think you're something special because you have a fancy degree?

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 07:41:00 UTC | #342060

Greyed's Avatar Comment 8 by Greyed

Psh, you could've stopped at #1.

Any American who says they live in a democracy is an idiot. Anyone outside of the US is allowed to make that mistake until they are educated. But here we are required almost every day of our 6 grade of primary school to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Which starts..

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the REPUBLIC for which it stands..."

No native American could get away with not knowing it is a Republic. No legal immigrant can, either, as it's part of the citizenship test.

Is a republic a democratic government? Yes. Is it a democracy? Nope. Unfortunately the people and the government officials pretty much mangled that before I was born. *mutters under breath*

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 07:59:00 UTC | #342068

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 10 by SaganTheCat

education at an early age is the answer but in america there is no shortage of available education.

It's a viscious circle, in order to catch a child young enough to be educated, you need to ensure its parents don't object, and often in order to do that, you'd need to catch the parents when they were young enough to accept education etc etc

one problem with having poor education (as many religious parents will have) is that you never learn the important things that these young toddlers are capable of picking up on, which is:

No matter how right you think you are, you may yet be proved wrong

this is one of the most important lessons available but religious indoctrination denies this fact strongly to the point of making a virtue of self-belief over evidence.

This is where catching them young matters (the jesuits knew this) once you introduce the reward of being "correct" with the punishment of self doubt and insecurity your work is done.

A child who learns the reward of surviving a chalenge to their intellect at an early age is unlikely to submit to such indoctrination

#7 Caudimordax

absolutely, democracy allows us to be "right". ignorance allows us to misunderstand what democracy is

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 08:06:00 UTC | #342073

Archi's Avatar Comment 9 by Archi

Why Are Americans Resistant to Science?


Father of protestants Martin Luther said things like this:
"(...)[reason] is the Devil's greatest whore."

"But since the devil's bride, Reason, that pretty whore, comes in and thinks she's wise..."

"Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but--more frequently than not --struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God."

"Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and ... know nothing but the word of God."

"Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his reason."

So maybe there's natural distrust of reason in protestant culture.

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 08:06:00 UTC | #342072

Caudimordax's Avatar Comment 11 by Caudimordax

Any American who says they live in a democracy is an idiot.

Well, there you go. They mostly do. And a substantial percentage of that group also insists that we are a "Christian Nation."

Americans are not stupid

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 08:07:00 UTC | #342074

Caudimordax's Avatar Comment 12 by Caudimordax

"Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his reason."
I quoted that to a smart lutheran friend and she said she agreed and was sticking with the lutheran church!!!

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 08:10:00 UTC | #342076

Roger Stanyard's Avatar Comment 13 by Roger Stanyard

The Brits, on the other hand, have a long history of scandalous, sometimes murderous, behaviors of their political leaders and royals. They are well-versed in their Shakespeare and, like him are cynical about assertions of moral superiority of authority figures. Is there any wonder why only a small minority of the British go to church?


That's just plain wrong and very silly!

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 08:15:00 UTC | #342078

gos's Avatar Comment 14 by gos

quantum_flux:

What a load of shit. This completely overlooks the fact that the church is brainwashing people against science each sunday morning.


Ummm, isn't that precisely what the article is saying?

The developmental data suggest that resistance to science will arise in children when scientific claims clash with early emerging, intuitive expectations. This resistance will persist through adulthood if the scientific claims are contested within a society, and it will be especially strong if there is a nonscientific alternative that is rooted in common sense and championed by people who are thought of as reliable and trustworthy.

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 08:16:00 UTC | #342079

vijay_krishnan's Avatar Comment 15 by vijay_krishnan

3. Comment #358261 by bungoton

"I find the strangest thing is discovering scientists who are resistant to science. I work with a geneticist (PhD) who firmly believes in homeopathy."

Have you dug a bit deep into what he actually believes. I have been to practitioners who call themselves homeopathy doctors, and their stuff does work. The important point to note is the following. They prescribe a bunch of stuff there for common cold etc. A typical prescription looks like:
Take 5 of these small sugar balls presumably dipped in some solution that is diluted insanely (1 in 10^30 parts of water etc.), and ingest this other green liquid.
When I tried the stuff, I always thought it was the green liquid that was doing all the work and I now suspect that to be the case all the more.
So, while it is obvious that the basic premise of homeopathy is a sham (the only alternative is to rewrite all the laws of chemistry), it is the case that individual practioners prescribe stuff that is different from pure water as well. And the stuff that is different from pure water does work better than a placebo for sure, often comparable to scientific medicine at least for some ailments.
With this twist, there are going to be enough people rightfully claiming improvement from personal experience.
This reminds me of Feynman's writings from the book/lectures of "The meaning of it all". He cites the example of a witch doctor in a village who prescribes snakeskin and the bark of a tree for a disease, with some theory of spirits etc. But it turns out that while the snakeskin does nothing, quinine from the bark of the tree does lead to improvements.

I think homeopathy needs to be thoroughly overhauled. It needs to be recognized that the fundamental premise is wrong and if there is anything useful left, it should be absorbed.

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 08:29:00 UTC | #342086

Opisthokont's Avatar Comment 16 by Opisthokont

I can understand the need for a God, as an embodiment of people’s moral ideals. So the fact that our society, which views itself as based on moral principles, is fertile ground for the belief in an über-moral deity.


Here we go again: the infuriating and completely false notion that religion makes people moral. Yes, atheism has made great strides in visibility, but we need to combat this lie, aggressively and unrelentingly, until it is as dead as it deserves to be.

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 08:32:00 UTC | #342089

gos's Avatar Comment 17 by gos

I can understand the need for a God, as an embodiment of people’s moral ideals. So the fact that our society, which views itself as based on moral principles, is fertile ground for the belief in an über-moral deity.

Here we go again: the infuriating and completely false notion that religion makes people moral. Yes, atheism has made great strides in visibility, but we need to combat this lie, aggressively and unrelentingly, until it is as dead as it deserves to be.


Isn't he saying the exact opposite of that? People have moral ideals and that the idea of God is embodiment of those ideals?

It seems like he believes that men created God, not the other way around.

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 08:48:00 UTC | #342097

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Comment 18 by Chrysippus_Maximus

That article is horribly written.

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 08:51:00 UTC | #342102

Sciros's Avatar Comment 19 by Sciros

If I ever become a columnist, I will always make a cliff-notes version of the article at the bottom that restates my main points as a bulleted list. That way there's no confusion in case I wrote the article like shit.

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 08:55:00 UTC | #342103

82abhilash's Avatar Comment 20 by 82abhilash

Why Are Americans Resistant to Science?
Here is a simple answer for those who have the stomach for it. Americans have a highly-developed sense of self-preservation, just like donkeys (coincidence I am sure).

Their religion is the defining aspect of their sense of self. They will never-ever knowingly let anyone violate that sense of self.

So there are two way to make Americans more science-minded. One is by deceit. But then they will use deceit to spread religion in the name of science, like Kent Hovind did.

Then there is the straight and narrow path taken by Richard Dawkins here. Make science the method by which Americans defend their sense of self-preservation. The worst thing that can happen then, is that they will find some poor third world country to attack because they have proper religion and improper science in their schools.

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 09:01:00 UTC | #342106

AdamMil's Avatar Comment 21 by AdamMil

Just for once I'd like to see an article like this one explain why the United States leads the world in virtually every scientific field and has done so for generations.
Shear numbers for one, and the best schools at the highest levels to attract highly-talented foreigners, for another.

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 09:16:00 UTC | #342110

j g williams's Avatar Comment 22 by j g williams

Seems that saying English are pre-eminent in Atheism would ignore the fantastic works of Dan Dennet and Sam Harris to say nothing of those who spoke at the Atheist conference (available on DVD) nor of course the hilarious Bill Maher DVD called Religulous. Its a version of religious doubt that works because its not hectoring and is amusing in the way it points out so many problems with religion. Check it out!

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 09:21:00 UTC | #342111

Eventhorizon's Avatar Comment 23 by Eventhorizon

"Consider, for example, that many Americans who claim to believe in natural selection are unable to accurately describe how natural selection works.This suggests that their belief is not necessarily rooted in an appreciation of the evidence and arguments"

They dont need to know anything about evolution to disbelieve in it. As far as they're concerned the Bible is right, so by default evolution must be wrong.

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 09:21:00 UTC | #342112

joe72's Avatar Comment 24 by joe72

I'm a Brit living in the US, and find it amazing how much religion creeps into daily life – despite the secular laws of the land. I regularly see people reading the bible on my commuter bus, from a typical suburb in NY.

One factor I think the author doesn’t cover is immigration. The US population is immigrant based. Historically, some of these immigrants have been displaced based on their religion. Think of communist Russia and Eastern Europe, Christians from the Middle East etc… I think this will have a cultural and behavioral impact. Further still, if we can explain dependency on religion through genes, then this is going to bias the gene pool in largely immigrant based populations.

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 09:29:00 UTC | #342113

Dr Doctor's Avatar Comment 25 by Dr Doctor

Whenever I see that picture I always think what a deeply unsatisfied woman Eve must have been.

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 09:36:00 UTC | #342114

Caudimordax's Avatar Comment 26 by Caudimordax

25. Comment #358334 by Dr Doctor - LOL. It really does make you wonder, though, Michelangelo being so concerned with the beauty of human anatomy. Maybe that was a bit he didn't like so much - or was "undercompensating" for an obsessive interest?

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 09:40:00 UTC | #342115

Tezcatlipoca's Avatar Comment 27 by Tezcatlipoca

I'm just amazed we didn't get the fig leaf version.

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 09:48:00 UTC | #342117

Dr Doctor's Avatar Comment 28 by Dr Doctor

Well it is of course a jokey corruption of the original Michelangelo (see Adam giving God the finger - his largest asset it seems).

But I always found it weird, the claim that God is somehow painted as sitting inside the human mind.

Michelangelo being subversive? Or modern wishful thinking.

A broader view

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 09:53:00 UTC | #342118

DiveMedic's Avatar Comment 29 by DiveMedic

"Do we have what it takes?"

My own grim assessment.... No, sadly we do not.

So long as religiosity remains the norm, this country will not embrace scientific ideas that contradict religious decrees.

Hopefully we will have what it takes in another few generations.

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 09:56:00 UTC | #342119

Caudimordax's Avatar Comment 30 by Caudimordax

28. Comment #358338 by Dr Doctor - That's supposed to be the human mind? Crowded in there. But I've taken a number of art history courses and I never heard anything like that. Is this a modern interpretation?

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 09:58:00 UTC | #342121