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The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

Posted October 06, 2009 12:00 AM by Steve Melito

"In the heady years following the Allied victory in World War II", Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirschenbaum write in Part 1 of Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, "American scientists enjoyed great cultural authority and access to the corridors of power". This Golden Age continued during the 1950s, with the Sputnik Scare leading to "a much closer integration of scientific expertise and political decision making".

Note: This is the second installment in a multi-part book review. Click here if you missed the introduction.

The Golden Age of Scientists

Called upon to revise the nation's academic curriculum, American scientists benefited from increased R&D funding and access to President Eisenhower's "inner circle," where Ike sought "their unfiltered advice". But this Golden Age of Scientists didn't last. During the 1960s, "the prominence of the scientific elite in advising our leaders" declined. When the American public began to question established authority, scientists also came under fire. First, the environmental and consumer movements portrayed a dark side to science and, by extension, scientists. Next, the creation of new regulatory agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) politicized scientific debate.

Divided We Fall

By the 1970s, "science ceased to serve as a bulwark for common goals and purpose; instead, its findings came to divide us". Then a political earthquake widened the growing gap between scientists and a significant part of the public. "The emergence of the Religious Right onto the political stage in the 1970s – motivated in part by its adherents' resentment of the nation's intellectual and scientific elites – was also a major factor in curtailing the role of science in public policy," Unscientific America claims. During the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan and astronomer Carl Sagan personified this conflict.

Reagan vs. Sagan

Backed by his political base, President Reagan sought to build a space-based defense against Soviet missiles – one that many scientists decried. Meanwhile, Sagan turned his attention skyward in a different way, publishing a best-selling book called Cosmos and hosting a popular TV series by the same name. While Reagan pursued what Mooney and Kirschenbaum call "a sci-fi fantasy" at "the center of his foreign policy", Sagan rose and fell like a rocket booster. Before provoking Regan's political allies with warnings about "nuclear winter", however, Carl Sagan lost the support of his own constituency. The scientists turned against him.

Sagan vs. The Scientists

According to Unscientific America, Sagan's success appeared unseemly – at least to many academics. "There is little to be gained within science by engaging in the public dissemination of information," many scientists agreed when polled in a national survey. Carl Sagan's wife, a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) member, characterized the opinions of her peers in more personal terms. "They are jealous of your communication skills, charm, good looks and outspoken attitude, especially on nuclear winter," Lynn Margulis claimed.

Culture Wars and Third Culture Czars

By the 1990s, America had moved beyond Cosmos to The X-Files, the Internet, and "pseudo-documentaries that strategically blurred the line between fact and fiction." The Cold War was over, government spending on science was down, and a self-proclaimed group of "third culture czars" sought to bridge the gap "between the academic intelligentsia and the general population". Now, scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel C. Dennett made "frequent attacks on religious belief", thus fanning the flames of what Mooney and Kirschenbaum call "the false dichotomy between science and religion".

Ignoring the Enemy at the Gate

Meanwhile, Congress passed the 1996 Telecommunications Act with broad bipartisan support. This landmark legislation, enacted during a decade of partisan rancor, "should have been seen as a disaster for American intellectual life", Unscientific America claims. By removing regulations that were designed to "ensure that the public airwaves weren't fully flooded with lowest common-denominator programming", Congress averted its eyes from the "real enemy at the gate – the dumbing down of American culture." Now, while media companies removed already scarce science content, consumers were treated to more celebrity news and infotainment.

Editor's Note: Click here for the next installment in this multi-part review.

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#1

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/06/2009 6:34 PM

Oh for an education policy (and Curriculum) that is not designed by politician for the express purpose of benefiting their benefactors. Show me a curriculum that is developed to build the nation and not the politicians own businesses and you will have shown me the next generation superpower that will boast academic excellence AND socially uplifted peoples of all classes.

Free the student of the burden required to perform to the benefit of current industrial greed. Allow free development of untethered ideas to solve the mess our planet is in (if you can gag the lawyers) and you will also enjoy visions of our future generations being Blessed with wonderful lives.

Look carefully and note how industry governs the development of our intelligentsia. Financial blackmail. You want the grant......prove the value to the granter, or go get a job as an intern in my other company. And don't expect to flourish..... you have just become a drone worker. You will earn your daily bread, just don't fantasize about having ham and cheese with it.

In my post on part 1 of the book review I said our hope is with the poorly educated masses. Why? They still hold a dream for their offspring to one day enjoy some level of prosperity above their own. THEY will motivate their youth to excel, not the current middle class. They, the poor, have the desire to work with the very basic of opportunity. Show those parents how to keep the "switch on" in their kids enquiring and inventive minds and you have a fountain of new scientists and engineers. EVERY child is gifted by God with an imagination and a great level of inventiveness. The tragedy is that our education systems are designed to switch OFF those wonderful minds and mould them into factory workers that take orders and do as they are told.

You think I've been in the bush for too long.... Get hold of any three year old and point into the garden / bushes, comment; "I think I saw a fairy over there..." look intently and ask "do you know that fairy?" and be dead quite for the next ten minutes, just nod in acknowledgement. See what that beautiful mind can produce. I said "fairy" try; spaceship, pony, bambi, anything, just be prepared to listen. Then go inside and get hold of a tenth grader and see how much imagination your school has stripped them of. Please don't take this as a crackpot comment. Do it and let me know what you find. I have done it nine times and the result is always the same......shocking!

One last comment. Teach the youth to read.....very well, 1500 words per minute plus. Pardon the personal note, but I am a dyslexic. I could only manage to read about 55 words per minute with extreme effort. With that I fought my way through school and university. It cost me 18 to 20 hours of work a day to get through. It was only at age 27 that my problem was diagnosed for the first time and I subjected myself to mechanical reading machines until I overcame the worst of the challenges. After a year of battling I finally reached 2000 word per minute. A new life followed! As a lecturer I then testes each of my students' reading speed and any one who did not read at 1200 words per minute I sent off to the same reading lab I was attending. Students who had battled to get a pass grade suddenly populated the A+'s, to the extent that my examination procedures were investigated.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/06/2009 7:22 PM

You bring up a good point. Teaching of young students. How can we expect a teacher with less education in science and mathematicsthen a poorly educated business major, and who has less curiousity than a cow, to teach young children with out getting frustrated by the questions or not feeding their inquisitive natures and quenching their quest for knowledge. Admittedly, not every child is inquisitive and curious, even at an early age, some are not, but when your goal is to make sure that no child is left behind, rather than teach every child to their maximum potential, you end up with teachers who are always trying to teach to the lowest level. This leads to a whole union composed of teachers who want to be babysitters for a living rather than talented people inspiring other talented youths. Let alone modern Union protections of the poorest quality of workers, to the detriment of the better workers in the field. Maybe as we have increasing demands in the various field for more laor, our colleges should not just water down the curricula for the majors to help process more people through with degrees.

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#5
In reply to #1

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 9:44 AM

Bravo brother!

I started my business buy not participating in any Government technology hand-out program. Grass roots! And by the way...no payback to some company, DOE program or some industry association. To tell you the truth, for the first time in my carear...technology for technology sake. Yes there is a focus and I have acquired the investment. I don't know what it is...I can't quite explain it...but all of a sudden...I FEEL LIKE AN AMERICAN!

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#3

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/06/2009 11:58 PM

At about year 1900 the education system wasn't broken but it had to be fixed, DUH!

How's that working for you?? Get those crack pots that have been overseeing education out!

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#4

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 2:23 AM

Religion was dictating and antagonizing the scientific development in early history. Science and industrial revolutions made things better to the current level of social survival. The political leadership, if driven by broader and constructive goals in best co ordination with science, surely things will move in the right direction.

The ultimate responsibility lies on responsible scientific advisors and policy makers, who are supposed to have unity of goals, opinions, directions and responsible advice to politicians. Positive brain waves with common interest of the scientists could do magical wonders. Whereas politicized dis oriented groups will hinder progress and become anti elements within.

The leader, the vision and the mission goals count a lot.

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#9
In reply to #4

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 10:32 AM

I think you have things skewed don't you realize that since the cultural revolution of the nineteen sixties both science and culture have been devalued.

Use of the term religion as depicted above in phraseology is disingenuous to the extent that what you're attempting to describe is the influence of Christian values in American society; whereas Christianity is a faith not religion.

It can be substantiated as it were that all the great advancements of science and culture have occurred during the era of church state partnership inaugurated by Roman emporer Constantine. It is notable that the greatest advancements of science and culture occurred during a period of separation of church and state. The event characterized by the legal structures of European Christendom being removed in North America (separation of church and state). Effectually America was born under a functional Christendom that continued to shape public and private life until the last few decades of the twentieth century.

It has been noted that during the last few decades of the twentieth century to date culture generally has been observed as in contraction and science perceived in a similar way.

What is your point again?

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#11
In reply to #9

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 12:30 PM

BWIRE,

I don't mean to point out any particular religion in this discussion. Through out history false religious beliefs had hindered scientific invention developments that many scientists had to struggle to convince their findings. The same way constructive scientific pursuits had been diverted to arms races. A good will based collective scientific efforts can solve most of the planet's problems It is rather the moral responsibility of scientists and advisors to focus on constructive and generous cause missions.

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#13
In reply to #11

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 12:58 PM

Goverment has now replaced religion in hindering scientific invention developments through political/economical generated disinformation subjugating the public.

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#18
In reply to #13

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 2:30 PM

I have to disagree with you on this. It has been true that a few past administrations have had little interest in science and little use for scientists, but the Obama administration, whatever else you might think of them, has selected top tier scientists as advisors and administrators. The president himself has spoken and written to encourage students to pursue higher learning, and to choose careers in science, medicine, technology and engineering. He has asked them to avoid careers in law and business management, which in his opinion and in mine don't really contribute much to economic growth.

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#22
In reply to #18

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 2:48 PM

He also increased funding a lot and has more increases in the pipeline. I'm still not satisfied with the amounts being spent, but at least it's the right direction.

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#31
In reply to #18

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 8:17 PM

johnfotl:

Obama has selected top-tier pseudo-scientists, who got their high honors from their pseudo-scientist cronies for excelling at the politicization of science -- global warming Nazis, green energy wing nuts, nanny-state busybodies, and others of similar ilk. You couldn't find a better example of the corrosion and corruption of American science!

And as for Obama asking students to choose careers in science and engineering over law and finance, those are just empty words. He and we all know that there is only one way to get the best students to become scientists and engineers, and that is to make sure those careers pay the best. But the reality is that an average lawyer makes more in an hour than a first rate engineer makes in a whole day. Until that changes, our best and brightest will continue to choose law and finance. And unless Obama backs up his rhetoric with effective actions that reverse this imbalance, his words remain nothing but the patently transparent posturing of a self-serving poseur.

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#34
In reply to #31

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 8:30 PM

So you believe that Stephen Chu, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997 is a pseudo-scientist?

You see Johnfotl, this is not something we can solve with "education". You cannot "reason" with these people. These people are undermining science with their nonsense. If we were to sit here and argue with this guest, we'd get nowhere while others would jump in lending legitimacy to guests paranoia. Such skirmishes are useless. These guys are just repeating what they are told, parroting lines they've been fed. We need to go after the people dishing this misinformation, not the people that fall for it.

Also this isn't a Republican or Democratic thing, truth is truth. We should attack scientific falsehoods, no matter which party perpetuates them, as a point of honor.

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#35
In reply to #34

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 9:03 PM

Roger:

Stephen Chu is an excellent example of a global warming Nazi and a green energy wing nut. The only credit I can give him is for his support of nuclear power, half-hearted and luke-warm though it is, at best.

As a physicist, he knows better.

But he has the political savvy to know that adhering to scientific truth won't get him any jobs in Washington. Therefore he is also a perfect example of the politicization of science.

And, sad to say, Nobel prizes aren't what they used to be. After all, Al Gore got one, didn't he?

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#41
In reply to #35

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 8:46 AM

Dear Guest,

Please log in, or if you don't have an account please join CR4. I value opinions from everyone; but I greatly desire to know who I am listening to.

Thanks!

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#44
In reply to #35

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 8:56 AM

The Guest's thread above is the real "perfect example of the politicization of science". Lots of name-calling ("Nazi" and "wing nut" and a requisite mention of Al Gore - but no SCIENCE behind the personal attacks.

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#55
In reply to #44

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 10:17 PM

I didn't think I needed to cite references to prove that the sky is not falling!

Oh, well, then. Try these:

GLOBAL WARMING

Quite a few lead authors have resigned from the IPCC due to politically motivated editing of their contributions to make them support (or at least don't contradict) the politically predetermined conclusions. Not least among them is Dr. Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan professor of meteorology at MIT.

see http://www-eaps.mit.edu/faculty/lindzen.htm

and http://www-eaps.mit.edu/faculty/lindzen/Publications_other.html

Anthropogenic global warming is a myth. Average global temperatures correlate with insolation (energy received from the sun), and not carbon dioxide. In fact, temperatures have been decreasing for the last decade due to decreased insolation. The famous "hockey stick" temperature graph of Mann et al. has been thoroughly discredited.

see http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2008/8/11/caspar-and-the-jesus-paper.html

see http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig9/hogan2.html

For really excellent coverage of the whole global warming issue

see http://www.climateaudit.org/

and http://wattsupwiththat.com/

ECONOMIC IMPACT

The very last thing we need right now is more dead weight dragging down the economy (!) but the policies which the carbon Nazis want to impose will cost the American taxpayer almost $10 trillion over the next 25 years.

see http://www.heritage.org/research/energyandenvironment/wm2504.cfm

NUCLEAR vs. "GREEN" ENERGY

The existence of industrial civilization depends on the availability of a cheap, high density energy source. There is no energy source with an energy density that can even come close to fossil fuels -- except nuclear, which has the highest energy density of all. And the fear of nuclear waste is a hold-over from obsolete technologies. The latest high temperature reactors actually remediate spent fuel from the dirty reactors of the past.

In contrast, the environmental impacts of the so-called green energy sources are unacceptably high. Ethanol competes with food for farmland, big fields of windmills change wind patterns and therefore weather, solar cell production is expensive and heavily polluting. Wind and solar are too unreliable for commercial use, because they depend on the weather. And so on, and so forth. The problems with these "green" energy sources are endless. If we turn to them to solve the problems with fossil fuels, we will find that the cure is worse than the disease...

see http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Booklets/Development/index.html

and http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig9/hogan3.1.1.html

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#57
In reply to #44

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/09/2009 3:19 AM

Al Gore - but no SCIENCE

How right you are I can't think of a better way to put it, no science and Al Gore.

Gotta go off-topic cause there's no science as you plainly stated.

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#49
In reply to #31

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 9:53 AM

Guest

I will say Amen to that! Empty words to empty minds

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#16
In reply to #11

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 2:09 PM

Technically, nearly all constructive scientific discovery has occurred from programs originated through arms races through out history. Even NASA developed from programs related to the US/Soviet arms race of the 1950s, and thus all the related discoveries were tied to the original weapons research funding and the public perception of how important it was to beat the Russians before they put nuclear weapons in space or on the moon, etc.. Through out history governments and various organizations have funded scientific pursuits in an endeavor to obtain new technologies from such activities that would help them prevail or maintain a level of security against their enemies. Whenever there is a perceived serious threat there is an increase in public willingness to fund research to find a technological solution to defend against that threat. Even medical research is conducted as an arms race against another species, which itself is evolving. We use technology to offset the rapid rate of evolution in smaller single cell species or viruses. Additionally, science is meant to be questioned, that is the proper method to validating scientific theories, by questioning them and experimenting to disprove them, repeatedly in many different scenarios and conditions. theories unquestioned become faith, and are not science.

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#6

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 9:52 AM

There is no decline in science. Science is doing fine. It's that nobody wants to listen to scientists, that's the problem.

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 10:00 AM

So do you disagree with the authors of Unscientific America that scientists are partly to blame for the disconnect between the scientific community and the rest of society?

Part of the authors' critique is that scientists have become unable to explain what they do and why it matters. And when a scientist like Carl Sagan arrives and seeks to fill the role of a "Great Communicator", his peers tear him down for trying to bring science to the masses.

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#14
In reply to #7

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 1:03 PM

I disagree that scientists didn't like Sagan and his approach, viewing it as a waste of effort to engage the public. Scientists attack each other's ideas in the literature all the time. Many scientists, especially leading ones, have rivals that they genuinely dislike. The post above makes it seem like Carl Sagan was frozen out of science, but he actually has been lauded by many prominent scientists then and he's held in very high regard among scientists now. Yes, he had some detractors then and now, but to characterise all scientists as in that camp is wrong.

Here's my personal opinion on scientific knowledge: If I'm a scientist and I've spent the last 30 years reading and researching and working in a particular field, and I tell you something about that particular field, and you decide not to believe me because you feel I'm a) biased b) uncommunicative c) unable to see the big picture d) other; then quite frankly, you don't deserve my talent and I'm going to find someone who appreciates the fact that I'm a finely honed scientific machine. This nonsense of convincing someone "why science is important" is a giant waste of time. People either get it or they don't. I'm a scientist, and if you give me a scientific problem to solve, I will solve it, just stay out of my way and enjoy the money we all make by my solving the problem.

Scientists reaching out to the public is fine. I think shows like NOVA do a great job. The problem with scientists and the public is that scientists need to attack falsehoods perpetuated by idiots.

Think about it this way, imagine there is some skinny short slow guy (who owns a team so can start himself) deciding he's going to play in the NFL. He puts on his pads and helmet and runs out on the field. He catches a pass, but all the other players don't hit him because they're afraid they'll hurt him, so he scores a touchdown. Now the idiot thinks he belongs in the NFL. What the players should have done is level the guy, and as his life is flashing in front of his eyes, he'd realize he didn't belong in the NFL.

The problem with scientists is they don't level the idiot (figuratively). If scientists as a group would just level a damned idiot once in a while, then maybe people would hesitate a little bit before stepping into our field.

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#15
In reply to #14

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 2:05 PM

I agree with you that scientists should 'level idiots', but this is easier said than done. I've been involved in a debate in the local paper's editorial page with someone who knows a bit of scientific jargon but who has no understanding of even the most basic principles, methods, and findings of science. You can systematically trash his 'arguments' and then he writes back that these counter arguments prove he is right. He cites scientific papers to back up his 'points', but when you locate these papers and read them, they are in fact making arguments in direct contradiction to what he thinks they say. Stupidity is boundless.

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#19
In reply to #15

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 2:30 PM

Johnfotl,

What you are doing is precisely what we shouldn't be doing (though I commend your efforts).

We should be attacking as a group with overwhelming force, not individually where we can so easily be picked off. We have these stupid organizations that makes us pay dues and put us through the wringer anytime we want to publish, yet never come to our defense when we are attacked by the public. The only effort they make to engage the public are "educational initiatives". You know why? Because it's politically safe. Our scientific organizations are meek and scared when dealing with the outside world and general public and quite frankly, we're paying the price. When we say something about science as an organization, it should have the same weight as when the American Medical Association says something about health.

Imagine if in the midst of your debate the American Physical Society wrote a letter to the editor not only refuting these "facts" of the person you are debating, but also condemning the person as irresponsible for perpetuating misinformation.

Individually we don't have a chance, but our organizations have the power to drive back this ignorance, if only they weren't so political.

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#21
In reply to #19

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 2:48 PM

Roger,

I wish that would happen. I'd be more than happy to get out of the way in this debate. We have a fine university here in town, and I keep hoping to see a letter from professors X, Y and Z from the physics department weighing in on the issue. But it doesn't happen.

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#23
In reply to #21

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 2:54 PM

Johnfotl,

It never happens. The silence is deafening, and whats worse is they believe they are somehow being "dignified" or "above the fray" by not getting involved. We should be bringing the fight, not constantly on the defensive. Why aren't you funding science! How dare you not teach evolution! But we don't, and then we whine about how no one respects science. No one will respect science until it stands up for itself, and that's that.

Roger

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#26
In reply to #23

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 3:32 PM

Now I agree with you, but I think there is a problem. For a non-scientist listening to scientists talk, its like listening to Tolkein's 'Ents' talking. Defining terms, inserting the necessary qualifiers and caveats, phrases like 'recent experiments seem to confirm...', etc. And then the other side says 'you're just a fascist AND a communist, and you hate America!'. The public doesn't have the intellectual tools to sort out the science, but we all have the ability to respond to the crude emotional attack.

Scientists are poorly situated for this, because they are concerned about the truth and accuracy of what they say. They have to be concerned with making their point stongly, clearly, and succinctly, knowing that if they over-simplify something for public consumption, they'll take a pounding from other nit-picking (and I mean that in a good way) scientists. Meanwhile the opposition could care less about such niceties - they are concerned only with the effect of their language. If they were simply lying about the science, then they would craft an argument that fits the facts (sort of), while avoiding the facts that challenge their argument. But most of these people are not liars - they are bullshitters - they don't know or much care what the facts are - they care about the outcome.

So it seems like the 'science' world may have to do is what the other players do - hire PR firms to 'focus test' various arguments to find out what is both persuasive and accurate.

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#28
In reply to #26

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 4:00 PM

Johnfotl,

Yes, I agree that explaining it to them in scientific language would be difficult. That's why I propose not explaining it to them.

Why should we? If they are interested, let them put the time in and learn, and I am all for teaching anyone who is interested. Otherwise I suggest they get used to the phrase "cause we said so".

Basically they are too lazy to learn the things needed to properly understand a subject and that makes us poor communicators? Nonsense. We've fallen into their trap.

And we definitely don't need PR firms, though at least if we hired them that would be a proactive approach.

All we have to do is tell them, you're wrong, here's why, if you don't understand you need to either trust us or become one of us.

Think of it this way. Imagine I wanted to paint a painting, but I don't want to put the time into learning how to paint, so I ask a painter to teach me to paint. When my painting sucks, is it because the painter was a bad communicator? Shouldn't I just hire the painter to paint the painting and accept that I'm not a painter?

As scientists we put ourselves through countless sleepless nights learning math, physics, biology, chemistry, etc. I'm not going to indulge the flights of fancy of someone who spent the same time watching t.v., and I'm sure the hell not going to take the blame because they don't know anything about science.

Roger

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#38
In reply to #26

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 12:49 AM

Perhaps lack of communication also comes from the fact that our society has drifted over the years toward more specialization. The general perception is that technical people lack social skills. While this may not be accurate across the board it does represent a huge percentage of the scientist/engineers I have encountered over the years. Top scientists may be at the top because they are good at doing research and other sciency things...which does not necessarily require communicating outside their own peer group.

Its not scientist against the general public. The general public indirectly pay our salaries. If they do not have a use for science, then our jobs go away. If we want the public to respond, it's up to us to go to their level and bring up somewhat up to ours. Think of it as being an explorer and lost on an unknown island when you encounter a group of natives who obviously don't speak your language. You see they could use your help as they are barely able to provide food for their village. But because of the food situation they are planning on eating you. Until you can convince them they need you, you won't get much help. Now I'm suggesting that the general public have any plans to eat scientist or get rid of them for that matter, but unless they see the benefits we offer, they haven't much use for us.

The general public does not have to understand the details, but should have an appreciation of the value of science. If they do not, then we should not fight against them but do our best to raise their awareness and help enlighten them. There are many ways to do it.

  1. be active in contributing to the editorials in your local paper.
  2. encourage technical organizations (IEEE, ASME, etc) to publicly take positions and speak out on mis-statements by others (similar to what Roger is talking about)
  3. be proactive in helping to educate children at your local schools
  4. be proactive in educating the educators...get involved in the schools and school boards
  5. write public officials (locally and all the way up to the federal level) to support increased math and science funding.

The University of South Florida (my alma mater) has an Engineering Expo every year. They invite the general public and local schools so the university staff and student and local industries can show off engineering. It's great to thing to see little children come in and oohhh and awww at many of the exhibits. Yes, it's true the majority are just happy to be out on a field trip, but if the teachers and exhibitors will challenge the children it's amazing how many will respond.

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#30
In reply to #19

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 6:24 PM

But as you have indicated above, science is not an organization. There is no standard for what qualifies as being science. Ecological biologists and sociologists believe they are conducting science in their work. However, the entirety of methods and practices they undertake in their speculations would not qualify if applied at that level in chemistry or physics. The APS, and similarly the ACS, would only be able to speak for american physicists with regards to the practice and principles of physics in america. Additionally, if they started to speak to what entails a scientific theory, using their standards they would alienate all the other "sciences", which all graduate in most of the majors individually more students in a semester than chemistry and physics combined probably in a decade at least. However, if you open the methods and practices to be more inclusive, you also open science to include a vast amount of speculation from people you believe are quacks. So the first thing you need to do is define a immutable standard for science and the mandatory methods that must be employed to qualify that everyone is willing to accept that excludes those questionable speculations until they can meet the standard and testing to rise to a status of a theory. Maybe this is a huge issue that cause the public distrust of "science", there are too many speculative ideas propigated that are claimed by these "sciences" to be theories, which later get disproven and have to be substantially revised. Revisionist "science" makes people wary, and distrustful. Why rush to call something a theory until it is well developed, a solid proof exists, and no major rational arguments/experiments exist that could have potential to disprove it. At this point cold fusion comes to mind.

As far as being put through the wringer goes, that is the scientific method to always allow theories to come under attack, and if they can not be disproven by any argument then they are valid. Let the biologists and psychologist publish untested speculations and claim them as profound scientific theories. Physics and chemistry are the cornerstones of what science should be. Don't fall to the other "sciences" level, this would just reduce the public perception further.

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#32
In reply to #30

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 8:21 PM

No, your perception of science is wrong and precisely what we need to fix, aggressively.

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#73
In reply to #32

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

12/10/2009 1:54 AM

Geez...

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#17
In reply to #14

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 2:18 PM

Leveling an idiot is probably not the best approach, since you are not talking about two equally paired competitors like you might in football or MMA. It is more like a MMA heavy weight attacking a 6th grade girl. Consider how the public might respond then. If Oprah has some false beliefs, it would probably be characterized as a brutality for Stephen Hawking to attack here intellectually. As a general rule, most people are personally more sensitive to intellectual attacks, than say physical attacks, of average people, particularly those they characterize as charismatic, by those they recognize as substantially intellectually superior. Better to try to teach these people, rather than attack them, more flies with honey thing. Even though they might not learn, the public observers might learn something and be drawn away from such falsehood, eventually disavowing these idiots (at which point it is open season on them when they have no support, as long as the attacks are not perceived as brutalities).

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#20
In reply to #17

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 2:45 PM

You Wrote:"Leveling an idiot is probably not the best approach, since you are not talking about two equally paired competitors like you might in football or MMA. It is more like a MMA heavy weight attacking a 6th grade girl. Consider how the public might respond then."

This is precisely what I'm talking about. Notice in the sentence above that the motivation is fear. Fear of how the public will respond. A coward dies a thousand deaths. Science is dying a thousand deaths.

Quite frankly, as scientists, it is irresponsible to hear someone say something completely untrue and remain silent. Fighting back isn't just a strategy, it's a moral obligation.

You Wrote:"Better to try to teach these people, rather than attack them, more flies with honey thing."

And here is where we take the safe way out.

It sounds all so reasonable, and it hasn't worked. Yet here you are repeating our doctrine which is failing us. It sounds reasonable but is simply a way of masking our fear of confrontation.

I'm not suggesting we attack everyone who makes a mistake, that would be crazy and counterproductive. If Oprah has misconceptions thats fine, leave her alone. I'm suggesting that if there is someone who makes a living by perpetuating scientific falsehoods for political or monetary gain, that we do everything in our power to embarrass and discredit them.

You Wrote:"Even though they might not learn, the public observers might learn something and be drawn away from such falsehood, eventually disavowing these idiots (at which point it is open season on them when they have no support, as long as the attacks are not perceived as brutalities)."

Yeah and if everyone would just send me a penny I'd be a millionare. I'll never cease to be amazed that intelligent scientists that can understand Boltzmann Distributions, still magically believe that people will suddenly all think alike.

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#24
In reply to #20

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 3:08 PM

FYI, I did not say remain silent. I said teach rather than attack. This is because teaching someone in the public eye, mean they information can be disseminated to those observing as well as the person you are teaching. Attacking is perceived differently, and sometimes as attack on the observers as well as the person specified. This is not cowardly fear, this is interpersonal skill. You do not attack a person in a stronger position, you bolster your own position and weakened his support before you attack. In this case the strength is the public perception. You dont charge a hugely fortified castle wall, you send in sappers and beat it with artillery or ballista or such, you send in special forces to sneak in and gain entry for your army, especially if it is substantially smaller then your enemy. Get the public to favor you, they are fickle anyways and make judgments based on simple short observations. Then you attack.

The reason teaching doesn't work well, is because of all the psuedo science and those people constantly promoting poorly developed speculations as scientific theories that must not be questioned. This makes people wary when your theories change constantly to accomodate new discoveries that seem to be contrary to the original theory within the specific conditions the theory was meant to be applied. Consider what science you are talking about people not understanding and what "science" they question, these tend to be different. They tend to accept physics theories almost on faith because they do not understand them, they question biological, archeological, or psychologic theories, because they tend to change constantly and never reach the level of being a scientific theory do to the lack of a theoretical proof. the lack of that which bolsters physics theories to the level of scientific theory and makes them nearly unquestioned and poorly understood by the common people, is exactly what they need to demonstrate other "sciences" theories are reasonably valid. So there are risks to teaching people that many "scientist" do not want. Teaching people an appropriate level of understanding of scientific methods would increase the level of questioning of theories like evolution, anthropogenic global warming, anything freud every wrote, etc.. In turn this could adversely effect the funding to those poorly developed "scientific" fields, as people would become less fearful of unknown consequences and more knowledgeable of the failings of the theories such fearmongering is based in.

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#27
In reply to #24

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 3:45 PM

I'm all for teaching people who want to learn. But I have not interest, nor do I think scientists should waste the effort to teach adults who don't want to learn. If someone doesn't want to understand science, that's fine.

The point is that not everyone has to understand science, just as everyone doesn't need to know the law. If we get in serious trouble, we hire lawyers, because they spent years studying the law and can handle things better. In the same way scientists have spent years studying the scientific method and their particular field. If they something on the subject, especially as a group, and your not a scientist yourself, then it's not up for debate, period.

I'll say it again, it isn't that scientists haven't tried to help people understand, it's that they've let fools think they belong in the NFL.

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#56
In reply to #14

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 10:26 PM

Good Answer, Roger. You and I don't always agree on many subjects, but on this one: absolutely! Those who disseminate pseudo-science and false information just to get a personal point across need to be brought up short and have their inaccuracies explained to them in public to discourage others from doing the same thing.

Regards, Dragon

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#58
In reply to #56

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/09/2009 9:14 AM

You left out part of what I said (what a surprise). I said it should be pointed out to them by scientific organizations, aggressively. Individually going back and forth is a waste of time. I also said that we shouldn't worry about the idiots that fell for it but the blowhards that promote it.

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#61
In reply to #58

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/10/2009 1:51 AM

I stand corrected. Thank you.

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#42
In reply to #7

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 8:55 AM

I think the attacks on Mr Sagan and the likes are a typical media hype knee jerk reaction that is so indicative of our society as a whole. We as a public have a thirst for the negative. If there is any flaw in something, even minute to the point that overall outcome is extremely beneficial there stands a good chance that the idea will be squelched. We as a a people need to overcome this flaw in our thinking. We need to focus on whether ideas and initiatives have a positive end result. While I am not saying not to question ideas, we need do that, we need to realize that even attempts of advancement need to be given a chance to prove themselves before being totally squashed.

just my thoughts

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#8

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 10:09 AM

Blaming cable TV is overly simplistic. How do you explain the success of channels such as Discovery, Animal Planet, and History? Some people are hungry for knowledge. Now they have more choices than just PBS.

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#53
In reply to #8

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 5:03 PM

As one guest to another, have you noticed how poor the programing is getting on these channels? Plots by the Masons, Nostradomis, Ghosts, and all sorts of seafood hunting. I will stay with PBS.

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#10

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 12:14 PM

Ironic that the gentlemen cited fled fascism, since "intersubjective rationality" (or cronyism) gives rise to all shades of that way of thinking.

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#12

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 12:41 PM

Sounds like a great book – I can't wait to get a copy. With our population exploding and our natural resources stretched thin, scientific advances are needed to keep us from slipping into social and economic chaos. I'd like to offer a few observations.

For most of human history, science has been more of a luxury than a necessity. Feudal societies and subsistence farmers survived for centuries without help from science. When the scientific works of the ancient Greeks and Arabs were rediscovered by the Europeans, science became important, and lead to the industrial revolution. Science became profitable, and scientists became valued and honored members of society. This situation began to change when scientists turned their microscopes on the world their science was creating. An excellent example is Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring', which explored the downside of scientific progress by pointing out that DDT was bad for birds. Suddenly science was in a position to threaten the practices and profits of the chemical industry and agribusiness. Science was no longer just an asset to the moneyed interests; it was also becoming a liability and (some of) the rich and powerful responded by trashing scientists.

Another problem is the domination of education system by people with more interest in the humanities than in the sciences. Employment opportunities for students with degrees in science, engineering, and mathematics are wide, and the pay is better than for students with degrees in English, History, or Sociology. For those with degrees in the humanities, the best bet is a career in education, where by sheer force of numbers they have gained control.

It is widely noted that there is a strong correlation between education and birthrates. Educated parents tend to have fewer children, and tend to put great emphasis on educating their offspring. Less educated parents tend to have larger families, and put greater emphasis on putting their offspring to work at the earliest possible age. For a democracy this demographic shift has important and mostly negative implications. If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend the movie 'Idiocracy'.

In post #5 'guest' makes a case for blaming 'cultural Marxism' for our current social and scientific decline. I agree that this 'school of thought' contributes to the problem, but clearly there are other players. Neither Reagan nor Bush Jr. seemed to be products of this movement, but their anti-science credentials are well established. Bushdriver's observation that education is 'designed by politician for the express purpose of benefiting their benefactors' is well taken, and it implicates not the 'social Marxists' or other academics, but the capitalist owners of some very wealthy and powerful sectors of the free market. And it is absurd to ignore the contributions of religious fundamentalists, who view rejection of any scientific idea that is not discussed in the Bible as an article of faith. There is plenty of blame to go around, including scientists who have been caught falsifying data, and the news media who tend to hype new scientific 'discoveries' before they have been fully tested.

But as important as it is to figure out how we got into this mess, and to assign blame and credit where it is due, even more important is the hard work and thought that is needed to fix the problem. Bushdriver's observation about the soul crushing effect of our 'education' system on our students is spot on. I agree that there is a great pool of untapped intelligence and creativity among the children of the poor and undereducated. We should all try to use every opportunity to talk to them and their families about the challenges and rewards of getting a good education.

I have two sons in college, and our family has made a practice over the years of 'adopting' many of their friends who are bright, but who come from families that for religious, economic, or other social reasons have little interest in science and knowledge in general. They are free to visit or even stay with us, borrow books, join wide ranging conversations, and get some exposure to a more rational (I hope) view of the world. I'd like to say that we have helped them feel better about the pursuit of knowledge, but so far that doesn't seem to be the case. Maybe they are too far gone, maybe we're lousy at it, but it is more than a little discouraging. We keep trying. On a more positive note, the attendance at our local community college is up so much this year that the parking lots are full, students are parking on the grass, and the bus routes have doubled up. Hopefully they are not all planning to study English as a first language.

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#45
In reply to #12

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 8:58 AM

What happened to Post #5 anyway? It was there one minute, and then a little while later it was gone.

Oh, wait! Just found it as Post #36.

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#25

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 3:18 PM

Unfortunately the good times gone for ever.

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#43
In reply to #25

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 8:56 AM

Pessimist

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#29

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 5:14 PM

Hi Moose - Fascinating review! I learned or re-learned only recently that it wasn't Ronald Reagan, but Jimmy Carter - our most recent engineer-president and a Democrat I have a lot of respect for - who first injected religion/religiosity into the national debate, when he ran for President in 1976.

Richard Nixon - a Republican - downplayed his Quaker roots. I suspect Nixon - as much as many folks disliked him - set a social standard for many 40-somethings like myself growing up in the early 70's, in keeping religion a personal matter. On this topic, I have to say I liked Tricky Dick's presidential behavior. :)

Dawkins is an internationally-respected expert on evolution, and so at least on this front, he deserves the attention of the science-focused "rationalist" community, whether religious or not. Of course, he likes to sell books, and so going public about his Atheism keeps the bank balance in London at a nice level. He was great on Bill Maher's program that aired within the past month.

- Larry

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#33
In reply to #29

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 8:29 PM

Hi APRIL05, actually the secret of the great success of America in the early days of its history was because of the Christian values on which America was built.

The Democratic party put the Christian values aside, that is why we have values decline and increasing corruption day after the other and the situation will go further bad into a complete disaster.

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#46
In reply to #29

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 9:05 AM

Thanks, april05. One of the points that Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirschenbaum make in their book (p. 44) is that pitting religion vs. science is "a false dichotomy". They blame the creationists for starting the "battle", but also atheist scientists like Dawkins who "welcomed and inflamed" matters.

It should also be noted (and the authors make this point elsewhere in their book) that not all Christian religions dismiss evolution. According to Mooney and Kirschenbaum, the Roman Catholic Church and some mainstream Protestant faiths have very different views about evolution than do the sects whose followers comprise much of the so-called "Religious Right".

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#36

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/07/2009 9:21 PM

I posted this earlier today, but it seems to have disappeared. Strange...

Moose:

It's most fitting that you should use the phrase, "cultural decline" in the title of this thread, because the decline in scientific competence is most definitely driven by a decline in Western culture. The dumbing down of the general public, the creeping rot in the education system, the politicization of science, and the moral corruption of scientists and their employers have all been named as contributing factors. In fact, all of these things are enmeshed in a network of mutually reinforcing feedback loops.

And none of this is accidental!

What we are seeing is the direct result of a deliberate and premeditated attack on science, education, the family, and other traditional values that have been the cornerstones of Western civilization. This attack has been carried out by cultural Marxists for almost a century, and it is still going on today. It is a real-life "conspiracy," hidden in plain sight.

Cultural Marxism is, among other things, the driving force behind the social and psychological poison called "political correctness." But before I say more about what cultural Marxism is, let me say what is isn't.

Cultural Marxism is not Marxism-Leninism (which we usually just call Communism).

Marxism-Leninism is a system of political economics, which results from applying the so-called Marxist dialectic, developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, in a process called critical analysis, which uses it to deconstruct Western democracy and capitalism, and to rewrite history in terms of economic class struggle (and we all saw how that turned out).

In the 1920's, Antonio Gramsci and György Lukács adapted the methods of the Marxist dialectic and critical analysis to the cultural sphere and applied it to the task of undermining Western science, philosophy, religion, art, education, and, well, everything that made Western civilization stable and powerful and difficult to defeat by other means. The result is called the quiet revolution, the revolution from within, the revolution that cannot be resisted by force. This is cultural Marxism.

Now, that was quite bad enough, but then along came a group of sociologists and psychologists -- chief among whom being Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm, and Jürgen Habermas -- and they combined the Marxist dialectic with Freudian psychology to produce an exceptionally corrosive concoction called Critical Theory, which they use to deconstruct Western culture and values, and to rewrite history in terms of sexual and racial power struggles (and we can all see how that is turning out).

Collectively, these guys are called the Frankfurt School, because they originally got together under Horkheimer at the Institute for Social Research (Institut für Sozialforschung), which was domiciled in a little brick building belonging to the University of Frankfurt am Main in the early 1930's. They all published their work in the Journal for Social Research (Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung), edited by none other than Horkheimer himself.

Then Hitler consolidated his control of Nazi Germany so, seeing as they were all Jewish, they fled to the USA, more or less as a group, in 1934. In America, they affiliated themselves with Columbia and Princeton Universities. The Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung was renamed Studies in Philosophy and Social Science, and they really got down to business.

Horkheimer's key idea was that Critical Theory could be used actively, to change society, in contrast to the traditionally passive role of sociology, which had been merely to understand society. These guys were not your typical academics, whose main interest is the pursuit of knowledge. On the contrary, these guys pursued an agenda: they wanted to find out why the Marxist revolution had failed in the West, and they wanted to remedy (!) that situation. To that end, the group's research addressed what to attack, how to structure the attack, how to deliver the attack, and how to measure the results of the attack.

Thus, for example, Adorno joined up with Paul Lazarsfeld, founder of the Bureau for Applied Social Research at Columbia, and began studying the effect of mass media on the population, and how to measure it. Starting in 1937, they collaborated on the Radio Project (bankrolled by the Rockefeller Foundation) which, among other things, produced the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast so they could measure its effects, and the Little Annie Project, which pioneered methods that quickly evolved into the Nielsen Ratings and the Gallup Polls.

Another example is the concept of intersubjective rationality, developed by Habermas, which replaces the individual process of reaching a conclusion based on the objective criterion that it follows from valid reasoning and known facts, on the one hand, with the social process of establishing a consensus supported by the subjective criterion that the group feels good about it, on the other hand. In today's schools, those who do the former are maligned for being judgmental and demanding, while those who do the latter are praised for being good team players.

But, rather than go into pages and pages of detail right here and now, I'll just list the titles of some of the major works of the Frankfurt School. Given the context, this combination of titles should make the hair stand up on the back of your neck:

Authority and the Family, Horkheimer, 1936

Escape from Freedom, Fromm, 1941

Sex and Character, Fromm, 1943

The Authoritarian Personality, Adorno et al., 1950

Eros and Civilization, Marcuse, 1955

Repressive Tolerance, Marcuse, 1965

Communication and the Evolution of Society, Habermas, 1976

These are just a few of the core works; some are papers, some are books. The total volume of work by these guys, and their followers, is huge. The combined result includes not only censorship of various kinds, but also the erosion of privacy, the debasement of the schools and the neutralization of the church. It includes the destruction of the family by setting wives against husbands and children against parents. It includes the disarmament of the public, the invalidation of self-defence and the incitement of fear. It includes the promulgation of the culture of victimhood, the promotion of immaturity and the reduction of society to a mob of narcissistic adult children. It includes the dogmatization of the universities, the politicization of science, and the discrediting of the scientific method. It includes the concentration of wealth, the concentration of ownership of corporations and the concentration of control of the media.

In sum, it constitutes a descent into a new dark age.





Here are a few links to further reading:

<a hfref=" http://www.freecongress.org/centers/cc/index.aspx">Political Correctness: A Short History of an Ideology</a>, a short but excellent html ebook by Lind, Raehn, Cribb, McDonald and Atkinson.

<a href="http://www.academia.org/lectures/lind1.html">The Origins of Political Correctness</a>, transcript of a talk given by Bill Lind at the Accuracy in Academia Conference in 2000.

<a href="http://www.schillerinstitute.org/fid_91-96/921_frankfurt.html">The New Dark Age: The Frankfurt School and Political Correctness</a> by Michael J. Minnicino.

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#37
In reply to #36

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 12:13 AM

Guest,

Very interesting stuff.

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#39
In reply to #36

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 1:31 AM

Then I'll give another GA like the one that went away

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#47
In reply to #36

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 9:14 AM

I can't take credit for the title of the blog entry, Guest. It's actually the subtitle to Part 1 of Unscientifc America. Apparently, however, it's generated a great deal of interest - and far more than if I had entitled this blog entry "Part 2" of a book review.

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#40

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 1:51 AM

Wow Moose! Political Science!

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#48
In reply to #40

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 9:21 AM

Perhaps! So what are your thoughts on the part of the book review? Are the authors of Unscientific America spot-on or off-the-mark?

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#50
In reply to #48

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 9:59 AM

Many good points are alluded to and possibly more work from them will bring much to focus upon.

Certainly fertile conversation has ensued.

Meritorious contribution of science may be of greater influence in the public eye if the spectre of scientists being intellectual prostitutes diminished, that is the point?

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#54
In reply to #48

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 8:50 PM

I'd say they were on target in general.

I see that our other colleagues have concerns about educational practices, and Scientific organizational participation in the Mental Landscape.

I think a lot of Del the Cat, and he is like a building I have seen on Campuses titled the Arts and Sciences Building.

Unfortunately I have lost my money. I mean the Transcendian dollar bill design that I drew years ago, that had the tag line, "In Science Salvation", as opposed to "In God We Trust". I'd like to believe I can Trust in God, but there is a good enough amount of evidence that I might be better off trusting in science.

When I was a young very idealistic kid, I wanted to be above the fray, and not fight, but I found out that when my sisters were attacked, I had better make sure those that did such things knew I would hurt them, again. There are distasteful realities to life.

If you believe you ought to have power, you are going to have to fight for it.

You do not get things you don't fight for, or at least ask for.

Einstein apparently understood this sort of thing and was willing to suggest that building an Atomic Bomb was called for, and ethical in the day and time.

I myself fault myself for not making more speeches, for I know I really ought to.

P.S. During the Reagan years I wrote a Spy Story that was about the R&D impossibilities of Star Wars, at that time, 1985, UpState Mag, Rochester New York. Only fiction Cover Story they ever used. Sidebar said I was weird, but the facts were straight. Soon after my editor was fired, and it would appear I may have been blackballed. Facts came from Scientific American, and my study of Espionage.

Had a dog in this fight for awhile.

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#51

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 10:07 AM

One only has to go back and reread "1984" to gain the insight as to why the politicians want the "dumbing down of America" in order to keep the masses amused and entertained and basically enslaved to the political parties. Like a magician the politicians are saying "watch my words, not my deeds because my words are quicker than your mind."

It therefore behooves the politicians to discredit the engineering and scientific community as much as possible since they have much more a "show me-prove to me" attitude and don't fall prey to the nonsensical jargon the politicians and their minions spew.

It will therefore our lot in life to live in the Dark Territory or whatever other coinage is evolved to describe those whose thinking is not in line with the political entities of the professional politicians who now inhabit our political process.

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#52
In reply to #51

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/08/2009 10:14 AM

The view point mainly effecting character is science's apparent surgical attachment to the tax payers tit.

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#59

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/09/2009 10:21 AM

Predictably this post has degenerated into two camps, those who believe that scientists are politically motivated and the findings of mainstream science on political hot topics should be viewed skeptically at best, and those (like myself) that believe a bunch of unqualified people who have been misled by those with political motivations are undermining science.

To go back to the original post, I think that reports of the demise of science are greatly exaggerated. There is a robust scientific community with strict standards that exists in the U.S. It is open to anyone willing to put in the time and effort to join. It has integrity and honor (though, being a human endeavor, it's not perfect). I believe that the idea of a "uncommunicative scientist" is an unjust prejudice, an urban myth perpetuated by society as a means of absolving themselves of their own misconceptions and ignorance. Most scientists have a grudging respect for each other, even if they don't agree all the time, because we understand what scientific discourse requires. We all can joke about the stress of qualifier exams, the pain of writing a thesis, and the torment of fighting for grants because ultimately we are a fraternity (and Sorority) of people struggling to advance human knowledge and improve the human condition. The fact that every other person in the U.S. doesn't get it is regretable, but ultimately inevitable.

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#63
In reply to #59

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

12/02/2009 11:51 AM

Unfortunately, scientists are proving that those entrenched in the first camp seem to be correct!

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#64
In reply to #63

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

12/02/2009 3:02 PM

Only to the easily manipulated mob who has not even a basic understanding of statistics and misconstrues everything that contradicts their fanatical belief system as dictated by their radio host prophet.

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#65
In reply to #64

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

12/02/2009 3:36 PM

So, you contend that the e-mails and other leaked data do not show evidence of political motivation?

(What does it have to do with radio?)

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#66
In reply to #64

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

12/03/2009 3:56 PM

C'mon Roger...can't be bothered to give a straight answer to a straight question?

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#67
In reply to #66

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

12/03/2009 5:16 PM

You mean simply questions like:

Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?

You guys would be less boring if you switched up your strategy once in the while, but you never do:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCarthyism

Statistics predicts long term trends, not short term ones, by definition. If I flip a coin and demand you tell me whether to expect heads or tails, and you tell me you can't but you can tell me how many heads and tails I get if I flip 100 times, and I say that since you can't prove the short term trend the long term trend must be false, and you point out a trick called Bayesian Inference that can be used to demonstrate the larger trend, though with uncertainty, and I say "Aha, you're using a trick to fake data", then we have "coin-gate".

That's the whole "climate-gate" in a nutshell. Basically a bunch of dumb, biased , self righteous twits attacking the scientific community because we admit in our emails that we think you are a bunch of dumb, biased, self-righteous twits.

And the suggestion that I of all people can't give a straight answer should draw laughs even from my adversaries. If anything I should probably tone down my straight answers, but I don't bottle my contempt for your kind well.

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#68
In reply to #67

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

12/03/2009 5:28 PM

Oh, Roger...you're such an easy target! Thank you for supplying such a predictably obtuse reply! You dissemble better than anyone I have ever come in contact with; you never cease to amuse me. I said straight question, not simple question...and you still did not answer it.

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#69
In reply to #68

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

12/03/2009 8:53 PM

Uh-huh. You will believe what you do regardless of anything I say because your self worth is attached to your position. Truth is an inconvenience that threatens you personally, so you say things like "you're an easy target" as though you are not emotionally invested in the issue, when of course, no one is invested more. We both know, regardless of what you say, that the last thing I do is amuse you.

But hey, you have the right to believe what you want. Good luck with it. (insert corny emoticon)

I'll give you the last word, seeing as you would take it anyway. (Any old movie lovers out there?)

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#70
In reply to #67

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

12/03/2009 10:52 PM

Roger,

I well understand the need to manipulate data in research (my use of the word manipulate is not meant to imply changing data for the sake of deception, but as part of processing the data to into a format that is easy to use and understand). What I do not understand is why the original data was not kept. The result of a careless mistake or intentional? At this point I don't know. In a previous thread you scoffed at me for referring to myself as a skeptic on the topic of man-made global warming. If the researchers who claim global warming are not willing to reveal their original data set to be reviewed, then I see even more reason to be skeptical.

You imply that statistics will predict the long term trend. What are those statistics based on? The data!! If the data has been compromised (whether nefariously or not), then it in the world's best interest that it's discovered sooner rather than later.

It seems that the scientific method is taking a back seat to politics IMHO.

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#71
In reply to #70

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

12/04/2009 8:48 AM

The data was from the 80s. Why is the original data gone? I'm sure it was lost along the way. There is tons of data collected over the years, is it so surprising that data from 25 years ago is lost? (It shouldn't be, but I've lost data from 5 years ago so I know how it happens, computer crashes, misplaced zipf files, coffee spilled on zipf files).

Man-caused Global Warming is indisputable, for a decade now. There are literally tens of thousands of scientists that have done great work to prove it.

A world-wide conspiracy? Why do you guys allow yourselves to be so easily manipulated?

Basically the science is indisputable (APS Reiteration), so now you guys are attacking the scientists. I don't think you guys are evil, but I do think you are dumb for allowing yourselves to be manipulated so easily. These are the same tactics (conspiracy theories) used by the worst people in history to rile up the mob. You do realize you're the mob, right?

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#72
In reply to #71

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

12/10/2009 1:39 AM

Science is a continuing search for the truth...you appear to have stopped searching Richard.

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#74
In reply to #72

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

12/10/2009 7:11 AM

Richard?

Yes, science is a continuing search for the truth. For instance, we learned that the Earth travels around the Sun, then we learned it did so in an Ellipse. Similarly we first predicted (in the 60s and 70s) and verified in the 90s and 00s that carbon emissions would trap heat and raise global temperatures. Then we learned that there is a whole group of people who are willing to attack the scientists if the science doesn't fall in line with their politics. Geez....

Seriously, you guys are like 5 years away from wearing tinfoil hats.

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#76
In reply to #74

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

12/11/2009 2:39 AM

Why haven't we been managing our resources or implementing methods to curb this condition such as adding plants th absorb the emissions as a gesture of regulatory aid to the oceans?

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#75
In reply to #72

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

12/11/2009 2:04 AM

I never stated my position on your topic Roger, but I am an avid environmentalist who believes there is strong evidence that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations (along with many other factors) affects global temperatures. However, I was not attacking anyone for their political views or other motivations. I taught science for 35 years and was chairman of an engineering department before retiring, but I still do not consider myself a scientist. I do understand the scientific process though! You would have been a welcomed student in my class, for I admire many (but not all) of your characteristics and potential. However, the reasons and manner in which you attack others is very inappropriate. P.S. What made you assume I was a male?

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#77
In reply to #75

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

12/11/2009 7:07 AM

You know, it's the lies that are the worst. It actually separates you guys into the misinformed and the ill intents (you guys doesn't designate gender).

You Wrote:"Science is a continuing search for the truth...you appear to have stopped searching Richard"

Again, who's Richard? Did you just mean to say Roger, because I do that stuff all the time and wouldn't blame the mix up.

If so, how did you mean I stopped searching for the truth?

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#60

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/09/2009 1:36 PM

I don't know that the 1996 Telecommunications Act is all that much to blame for the dumbing down of American culture. I'd be more inclined to blame the educational system. In particular reading and writing skills of US students have not been taught well since phonetics was generally withdrawn as the best method.

What methods for teaching math early on are not known to me.

You might want to ask yourself if the mental landscape on television is more a product of what the manufacturers know, than suppose it is a conspiracy.

Some experts who have studied education have said that a conspiracy intended to maintain a pliant work force of semi literate labor was instituted.

The culture of the US, is characterized by a strong streak of anti-intellectualism.

If Scientists of the US want to have power appropriate to their mission to what needs to be done to improve the Culture, they must emphasis the practical benefits.

Further they must find the emotional pivots necessary for human motivations to affect changes.

I am not a fan of frontal assaults, and am more inclined towards constant and persistent flanking moves.

When during the Cold War science was more respected in the halls of power, Heroes were made of Astronauts in the pages of Life Magazine. You gottah have them heroes out there actually doing something practical if you want the US mental landscape to change towards a greater regard for science.

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#62

Re: The Rise and Cultural Decline of American Science

10/13/2009 1:48 PM

The next part of this book review has been posted. Click here to read it and join the discussion.

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