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Do you trust the Scientists?


Do you trust Science in general and Scientists in particular?  

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  1. 1. Do you trust Science in general and Scientists in particular?

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    • Whats Science?

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That's a big question.


Almost as big as asking "Do you trust people" and very similar.


I trust science with my life, and i distrust it to my own self-preservation.


Every 'scientist' is a human being, and as such, potentially imperfect, hence science becomes potentially subjective and imperfect.

I wouldn't like to speculate on percentages or proffer up anecdotes. Instead, may i throw a few morsels in the air to be consumed by cyber-avian antagonists, digested and released duly back upon me. :P


Consider the drug manufacturers, whose function it is to manufacture a product and market it. In the US it is speculated upon that certain new personality disorders are being invented to accept the treatment of new drugs being developed without any particular ailment to serve. Anecdotal, perhaps a mere conspiracy theory. But, it is absolutely and beyond challenge that in the UK drug manufacturers are in the habit of touting for trade from GP's in a highly competitive market. They are doing business, not trying to save the world. Another aspect of this is that of market mulitiplicity saturation, to coin a phrase. Ref : From BBC, Drug watch dog must get tougher

Also, whimsically "developed as a medicine": Coca-cola, the early years, from Wiki.



Consider Particle acceleration, the quest for atomic artefacts:

In the next few decades, the possibility of black hole production at the highest energy accelerators may arise, if certain predictions of superstring theory are accurate [3] [4]. If they are produced, it is thought that black holes would evaporate extremely quickly via Hawking radiation. However, the existence of Hawking radiation is controversial.[5] It is also thought that an analogy between colliders and cosmic rays demonstrates collider safety. If colliders can produce black holes, cosmic rays (and particularly ultra-high-energy cosmic rays) should have been producing them for eons, and they have yet to harm us

High energy accelerators have become an increasingly desirable research source, massive amounts of energy involved, mind-boggling statistics. All to establish more information about matter and the proximity to light speed. It's a pathetic "what if" perhaps, but if you allow me a wild speculation, what happens when/if someone makes a breakthrough that , as theorised, opens a black hole, or suchlike in the process of pursuit of that which is not known. Show the dog the rabbit, etc. :wink:


Consider the field of telecommunictaions and Wifi:



Scientfically deemed harmless and socially deemed essential. Use first, empirically provide results retrospectively. :P


What else, oh, of course, nuclear physics. Say no more.


Psychology: subliminals? marketing? (eg.Supersize me)

Engineering: Internal combustion engine etc.


However, i am merely throwing out a few negative things for illustrative purposes. I trust scientists with my life, as i said before, every day, in too many ways to mention. 8)


Bring on the machines, they will surely make science perfect. :P

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I wouldn't say scientists are particularly deserving of trust per se - human beings are never totally perfect - but the scientific process is about as good as we get. Constant impartial peer review, continuous experiments and procedures to test theories, empirical evidence, re-examination of accepted ideas etc. The process itself throws out the charlatans etc. It's why alternative medicine, for example, is medicine that can't be proved to work. Everything can be put forward but if it doesn't pass this rigirous examination it doesn't make the grade. I think it would be good if many other professions/disciplines/ideoligies had to apply such rigirous self examination to their ideas/theories.

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As Njugle says this is a big question and one very similar along the lines of do you trust people..


I think it is more that people will believe/trust those who share a similar point of view as themselves.


people can claim hard facts till they are blue in the face.. but you will always get one group that believes them and one group that doesn't. I'm sure some where you will find someone that disagrees that 1 + 1 = 2 :P


So to answer your quests.. some I trust some I don't.. depends what I believe in ;)

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The reason I started this thread is because there seems to be a climate of mistrust of scientists around at the moment. Ok, it maybe doesn't cover all of science, but certainly when it comes to things like global warming, GM and much of medical research such as gene therapy, stem cell research and cloning not to mention the hysterical ravings of the animal rights lobby there seems to me to be a wholly unjustified attack going on on the ethics and judgement of science and scientists.


Take, for instance, the recent controversy about the hybrid human/cow embryo's scientists wanted to create for research into stem cells. The only reason this was proposed was because there was a shortage of human embryo's available. No-one at any point proposed the creation of a minotaur or any other type of monster, they simply wanted to use the hybrids in research and then destroy them after 14 days or so yet the tabloid press whipped up a storm of protest, based on spurious scare stories, which was entirely unjustified in my opinion. (but then that's what tabloids do best)


Another instance was the hysteria about GM crops which has delayed the implementation of this important new technology by years again, on entirely spurious grounds. There is no scientific evidence at all that this technology is in any way dangerous to either humans or to the environment and the benefits could be far-reaching. (Including helping us to feed the world despite the predicted rise in population that we face.)


Then you have the animal rights scum who want to end all medical research simply because they value the cute little bunny rabbits more than the lives of their fellow humans. Medical researchers have made great strides recently in understanding spinal injuries (for instance) and a cure for these injuries may well be only 10 years in the future, but without a steady supply of rats to practice on the research will stop. I don't see a long queue of animal rights activists volunteering to have their spines severed so scientists can practice on them.


Then there is the rise of all this new-age sprootle such as homeopathy and crystal healing and such like garbage. None of which has even the slightest shred of evidence that it provides any more than the placebo effect.


I could go on, but the point I'm trying to make is that scientists do what they do because they want to understand the world around us and then put that knowledge to use in improving the lives of their fellow human beings.


Of course, the use that is then made of this knowledge by multinational corporations and governments is an entirely different thing for an entirely different thread. :wink:

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I don't think it is a new thing for people to mistrust scientists. It is more the case that people have more avenues to express their mistrust and express their own beliefs.

to me to be a wholly unjustified attack going on on the ethics and judgement of science and scientists


But surely the justification can only be viewed viewed retrospectively. Nuclear science was developed for entirely ethical reasons at it's conception, to cite one example.


Ref - Embryos: Surely under this 'for the good' approach it is necessary and ethical to farm human embryos for research purposes, bypassing any species related errors in research? :?


Ref - Gene therapy:

Genetics Home Reference[/url]"]Gene therapy is under study to determine whether it could be used to treat disease. Current research is evaluating the safety of gene therapy; future studies will test whether it is an effective treatment option. Several studies have already shown that this approach can have very serious health risks, such as toxicity, inflammation, and cancer. Because the techniques are relatively new, some of the risks may be unpredictable; however, medical researchers, institutions, and regulatory agencies are working to ensure that gene therapy research is as safe as possible.

Ref - GM Crops:

There is no evidence that it may cause harm to humans or the environment or, might i add, other animal species, but then super-resilient strains of crop species have not spread randomly through other environments yet, nor has the effect on every level of the ecosystem had time to be quantified, from viruses up. Caution is the key factor here. If one mistake is made it will be of sufficient proportions to be uncontainable. That is the root of the exponentially grown hysteria.


Ref - Animal rights scum:

Well, far be it from me to defend them (as a carnivore and hunter), even when playing devil's advocate as i'm inclined to do, but suffice to say: will it still be a beautiful world when everything on it is there to pleasure or feed human kind as with the huge growth pending of the human species it is humanly 'ethical' to start planning for a world in which there is no room for any species that does not serve us. Good? Or are we just a part of a valid ecosystem with it's own 'ethical' rights.


Ref - "new-age bullsh*t"

Well, if a placebo works then what is wrong about that? Where money is involved it may not be 'ethical' if it involves deception, but many of these ideas are a far cry from snake oil, or organised religion which is, of course, another great gullible human failing.

I could go on, but the point I'm trying to make is that scientists do what they do because they want to understand the world around us and then put that knowledge to use in improving the lives of their fellow human beings.

And that is the quote that prompted this response. I disagree that it is acceptable to imply that all scientists are in the employ of improving things for their fellow man and, even if they are, is that enough? Some are in it for the money, some are in it for the glory, and some are just punching their card through a career path. It is a fundamental part of the make-up of the human mind to seek that which has not been found, whether to any benefit, or detriment, of life in any of it's many splendid forms. It is also a very western pattern to pursue details whilst not seeing the whole.


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I'lll go along with Claudias and Michael - good thinking, Njugle. I'll declare my interest at the outset: I always did well at science at school and have worked in / played with various aspects of science all my life - though my degree is in Philosophy, so I'm not altogether a stranger to standing back and trying to assess a situation dispassionately.


the point I'm trying to make is that scientists do what they do because they want to understand the world around us and then put that knowledge to use in improving the lives of their fellow human beings.


Of course, the use that is then made of this knowledge by multinational corporations and governments is an entirely different thing for an entirely different thread. :wink:


That's an important point too. Science divides into "pure" and "applied" science - the former is driven entirely by curiosity about some aspect of the world, while the latter is driven by the desire to use this knowledge towards human ends - or, all too often, towards commercial ends and hang the damage it might cause, which is what tends to prejudice the public against "scientists" - usually technologists - in general. Remember Einstein's famous quote when they told him of the success of the atomic bomb trials: "If I had known, I would have become a watchmaker" - or that Richard Feynman, who had one of the most exquisite minds of the twentieth century, suffered deep depression after working on the atomic project, realising that everything he saw could now be wiped away in an instant.


I'm very wary of sweeping statements such as, for instance, "there is no evidence of environmental damage from GM crops". On the contrary, there is already accumulating evidence that genes from GM crops are finding their way into other adjacent plant life, and the lack of evidence accrues mostly because careful, controlled studies of this genetic spread have never been done - and would have to fight considerable, well financed derision if they had. Okay, so we have the knowledge to insert, say, a gene into a food crop which makes it impervious to some particularly nasty weedkiller. For a few years, we can spray our crop with this stuff and (disregarding any dubious effects of using nasty chemicals in the first place) all seems to be okay.


But Nature is not a static process. Darwin will out. The weedkiller resistant gene spreads into other plants, including the weeds, and in time the weeds will be in there with the crop again, now just as resistant as the crop is. It's good farming practices we need for raising healthy crops. Biological experiments like this are particularly worrying because, when all is said and done, we depend on that food crop for our own continued existence. The damage is done, not by the scientists' detached knowledge of how genes work (itself still in its infancy), but by the rush to turn this partial knowledge into a nice little earner for some corporation. Consider the way multiply-resistant diseases are beginning to spread through hospitals - we can, say, eliminate smallpox, but as soon as we do so we're just opening up an ecological niche for something else, possibly something much worse; there have been a number of predictions of a new plague over the last few years, and when one of them does take hold we'll be in much the same position as the people who faced the Black Death.


Most of my own interests and play have been in the realms of straight physics and chemistry. That was my own choice because the "squishy science" of biology is (a) just too complicated and (B) not nearly well enough known to us yet. Good luck to those who try to find out what's going on in those cells, but it's not for me. And remember the surprise shown a few years ago at all the "junk DNA" in our genes - and then the recent revelation that, er, it's not junk at all. We really need to be a lot surer what we're doing before we start trying to make a profit out of it, never mind using it to kill off our fellow human beings.


As for the animal "rights" nutters, any possible sympathy I might have had for their misguided compassion evaporated completely when they chose to take up grave robbing. They need to learn a lot more about the values which make us human before they start claiming "rights" for any other species.


I trust science, then - that is, I trust human ability to study almost anything exhaustively and comprehensively until we have some idea what's going on and develop some kind of theory of how it works. But I'm very wary indeed of those who set out to "improve" our lot by (mis)applying some small part of that knowledge in ignorance of the possible side effects their actions may have. Bring on ArabiaTerra's "entirely different thread"! :D


And remember: if you see them on TV, they certainly aren't scientists, since "real" scientists can only talk coherently with others in their field, and not even scientists in related fields can necessarily understand what they're talking about!

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the qeustion should be "do you trust science?" which is a theory backed up by repeatable experiments, so i doesn't matter about who is doing the science.

as repeated on csi "follow the evidence". scientist lie for all sorts of reasons fame, funds and ego etc but if the theory stands up to the riggers of repeatable experiments by others in the know its probably right. science is also learning which means it constant needs revision, as we learn new things they might affect the thing we thought we knew.

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