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← Evolution skeptics will soon be silenced by science: Richard Leakey

Hume's Razor's Avatar Jump to comment 31 by Hume's Razor

I can only second what others have already said. If evolution denial (I refuse to call it "skepticism") had anything to do with evidence, it would be dead, buried and forgotten decades ago.

It’s a mistake to think that having the science on your side automatically puts you at an advantage in the battle over public opinion. Even if you are right, it only makes a difference to those who have sufficient background knowledge to evaluate the evidence on its merits and respect logic and evidence enough to care. To the rest it's all "He said, she said, and who knows?". The strongest indicators of truth vs. falsehood - objectively speaking - rarely overlap with whatever non-scientists tend to find subjectively persuasive. To lay people a gripping anecdote, personal experience, intuitions and gut feelings often trump everything that resembles statistics and controlled experiments, though it ought to be the other way around if the goal is getting closer to the truth.

One thing that always breaks my heart, is how the very thing that makes science great is routinely used against it. Scientist tend to value intellectual honesty which forces them to use tentative language, be open about the uncertainties in their research and never claim to have the absolute truth. Lay people, on the other hand, tend to value confidence and assertiveness above all else, and interpret the honesty of scientists as signs of weakness. When scientist speak honestly about the uncertainty inherent in all research, what people tend to hear is that everything could just as easily be wrong, and there is no reason to believe it over anything else. Thus the biases of the masses tend to reward overconfidence and punish intellectual honesty.

Tue, 29 May 2012 13:10:24 UTC | #944213