Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?

Some days ago, I read an article in the national geographic website, with the same title (here). This article first starts by stating that people, even scientists, ignore science since in accepting scientific facts we “cling” to our “naive beliefs”.  There are several examples, in the article which the author argues they are just scientific facts, but people have the hard time believing in them, simply because human nature is naive!

Recently, I came across several articles with the same type of logic, and discussions about the “naive beliefs”. I find the reasoning used in this article and similar ones ridiculous. In another post, I explained what is wrong with “scientific facts”. However, please let me explain in some more details why people doubt science. First of all, it happened to all of us when we started our day by looking at the weather forecast. However, once we looked outside, we saw something completely different! So you could obviously see there are many unexpected things that can happen which was not included in our scientific models. Everybody sees this shortage and understands that, particularly, when we are dealing with large multivariable systems.

Somewhere in the article says that “We’re asked to accept, for example, that it’s safe to eat GMO (genetically modified organisms)…because, the experts point out, there’s no evidence that it isn’t and no reason to believe that altering genes precisely in a lab is more dangerous than altering them wholesale through traditional breeding.” This statement is wrong at so many levels.  First of all, when we are talking about our health we tend to stay close to our tradition simply because we know that it has been working fine for many many years. Second, I have seen no clear data to rule out the correlation between these many new diseases and GMOs. For example, we don’t know at what time scale we should expect to see the correlation. It may take more than 10 or 50 years for something to affect us.  Or even worse, it is not clear for what type of disease we should look for. Finally, we don’t know what could be the effect of GMO on environment, the time scale for the environment could be much longer than 50 or 100 years. Just as an example, look at the history of DDT. 

People doubt science due to the failures of science throughout the years, not because they cling to their naive beliefs. They doubt science because of many things that can go wrong in one scientific research. As I emphasized in previous posts (e.g., here),  science is not for believing, but it is a process to falsify our understandings. I should say, although I agree that scientific process is the only trustworthy method to investigate each and every question, we have all the reasons to doubt “scientific facts”, particularly those sciences which rely heavily on statistical inferences.

2 thoughts on “Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?

  1. Very well said Farzad jan. The only comment i have is that the assumption “the scientific process is the ONLY TRUSTWORTHY METHOD to investigate every question” is perhaps not a fact itself, but an assumption that we choose based on our current understanding of ” gaining knowledge”.

  2. Thanks for your comment. As I pointed out in other post, by choosing scientific methods, we are focusing on the reproducible part of reality, which indeed may not exhaust all possibilities. However, I don’t see any other method to falsify our understandings, although there could easily be other methods to gain knowledge. Gaining knowledge and falsifying our understanding are two different subjects, I believe.

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