Shaming Michele's Thinking
We have to shame antiscience thinking into submission just like we did racism
By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jun 18, 2011 | Comments (3)
My comment that “Science is never partisan, but science is always political,” and that “we need to shame antiscience thinking into submission, just as we shamed racism” was picked up, tweeted and posted by Think Progress's Brad Johnson. It caused quite a discussion.
At the same time, my old state senator Michele Bachmann spoke at the other end of the Mississippi and reiterated her old position about intelligent design and how "we should teach the controversy." I've heard Michele say this stuff for almost a decade. Rebecca and I know her well because Rebecca was a state rep in the same district at the same time.
Forget the tea party - Michele just glommed onto that as an opportunistic move to coopt them and do what she always does - build a network outside the Republican establishment, who has traditionally regarded her as loopy until she brilliantly outflanks them.
But here's the thing: you will never convince Michele that ID is bunkum. You can only silence her by modeling for others on the fence that this kind of thinking is shameful and making her brand of authoritarian antiscience packaged as open-mindedness socially unacceptable.
My friend Josh Roseneau of the National Center for Science Education is skeptical. He says we may be able to cause temporary conformity with shame, but we can't cause lasting behavior change. He should know; NCSE is on the front lines of the evolution debate.
What do you think?
Here's my position:
People are moved by values before reason. They are kept rational by their social network. This is why AA works. Left on our own, we can rationalize away anything. It's also why peer review works in science. Our social network moderates reason. Shame is an important mediator in social exchanges that keeps socially unacceptable behavior in check in most people. Antiscience thinking is socially unacceptable because it is unjust, unreasonable, and by elevating governing decisions based on opinion over those based on knowledge, it works against freedom, tolerance and democracy and promotes intolerance, bigotry and tyranny. The reasons it is becoming pronounced right now are complex and I write about them in my upcoming book. But part of it is the social mediator is allowing it - as in this case with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, another ideologue who has no problem making governing decisions that affect millions of kids by teaching them BS based on his opinion instead of on knowledge.
"A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it," Max Planck famously said about a century ago.
So while I believe Josh's goal may be more noble than mine, I'm not sure it works, or that I care so much about convincing others so much as I do about getting them to be rational in their social exchanges, particularly the public policy decisions that affect us all.
Tags: Belief, Antiscience, Religion, Politics, Republicans, Tea Party, Fool Me Twice, Netroots, Faith-based, Speaking