You are bureau chief for a science news organization.  Your job is to convince the public that science is right, and their doubts are wrong.  You believe in reason and evidence, but you are frustrated that large segments of the population doubt the scientific consensus on certain hot-topic issues.  The way to reach them, you say, is by coaxing people they already respect to convey the message, and use graphics to present the evidence.  Sound reasonable?

Peter Aldhous is such a person.  He is the US bureau chief for New Scientist.  In his October 31 article, “Science in America: Selling the truth,” certain phrases betray his position that the scientific consensus is equivalent to truth, and scientists are the guardians of truth:

  • …people trained to treat evidence as the ultimate arbiter of truth.
  • … preach the scientific facts…
  • … fundamentally anti-science ideology…
  • … objective assessment of the evidence…
  • … a way to drag debate back towards what the science actually says…
  • … to communicate accurately about science…
  • … to allow science to better inform US political debate…

At one point, Aldhous does acknowledge the capacity for truth to be filtered by one’s biases: “People aren’t empty vessels waiting to receive information,” he admits. “Instead, we all filter and interpret knowledge through our cultural perspectives, and these perspectives are often more powerful than the facts.”  Fine and good, but then he says, “That poses a problem for some areas of science, which have come to clash with the values of a sizeable proportion of the US population,” returning once again to his assumption that science is not filtered by cultural bias.  (This position is very close to scientism: a philosophy of science that assumes science is the only path to truth, or that the scientific method is objective and unbiased; see “Objectivity of Science Undermined,” 10/24/2011.  Scientism, though, is consistent with the belief that “hard sciences” like physics or climate change are superior to “soft sciences” like sociology or political science.)….

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