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How can attacks on science be argued against?

#1darkmaian23Posted 1/28/2013 6:04:42 PM
Here are two methods of attacking science I get all the time from my friends:

1. Science is always changing so scientists don't really know anything. My counter is to bring up fairly well-known facts like the basic structure of atoms or Newton's law of universal gravitation. I'm then asked if science is discovering new things. When I admit that it is, I'm asked to agree that there could be a bunch of other particles living inside of the nucleus of the atom besides the proton and neutron that we haven't discovered yet and so we really don't know anything about chemistry.

2. If rigorous investigation of the natural world actually produced meaningful knowledge and we know a great deal about biology, then modern medicine should be able to cure cancer. Sometimes I'll also hear that it can, but "the man" is keeping the cure for cancer from us so that "Big Pharma" can make lots of money on drugs that only sort of work. A third variant of this came about when a friend claimed (bizarrely) that the complexity of the universe must be steadily increasing or we'd have figured it all out by now.

To be honest, these claims seem so stupid to me that I just get really angry and that makes the other person think they are right. I care passionately about the advancement of scientific understanding and wish for the end of ignorance and the celebration of the wonder of the universe as it actually is.

I would like some advice on how to combat these claims effectively and also about how to not be so angry about it. I know that getting upset furthers the belief the science itself is a religion (yeah, my friends think that too) and makes me less of the person I ought to be. But it is hard not to react negatively.

On a slightly OT point, I also struggle a bit with not being outspoken about negative aspects of religion when they appear. When I heard a woman being told that God's grace would heal her cancer-ridden husband if they believed enough by a pastor's wife, I almost told her off for bothering the woman with nonsense. I had a similar episode when someone suggested the need to stand by the Pope and the Catholic church amid the abuse scandals and the need to always have faith.

I just don't know sometimes. x.x
#2Moorish_IdolPosted 1/28/2013 6:39:40 PM
I don't have time right now to respond to all of your points, so I'll respond to one for now and be back later:

1. Science is always changing so scientists don't really know anything.

There's a difference between knowing "anything" and knowing "everything". Science knows a lot about most things, but not everything about everything. Your friends are basically implying that since science doesn't know everything, it knows nothing... which is stupid, and very much black & white thinking.

You could also explain to them that science adapts to new findings -- and that means that it provides the best possible explanation available at the time, not the absolute definitive answer. If your friends expect the latter, then they don't understand what science does.
#3JonWood007Posted 1/28/2013 7:19:04 PM(edited)
1) Our choices are to constantly improve our ideas in the face of new information or stick to the same old ideas that we already know to be wrong. I dont really understand why people attack the fact that our knowledge changes, I mean, the alternative is to blindly accept old, bad ideas and to never admit they're wrong.

2) We dont have that knowledge YET. We might some day as we learn more, but just because we currently dont know doesn't mean that we never will. Not to mention if not for science we'd likely all die at age 30. if you study the dark ages, people tried to stave off disease by whipping themselves (google the flagallants). So science may not have cured cancer yet, but it's sure as heck cured a lot of other diseases.

Also, that whole idea of not having enough faith is garbage. No proof of any of it, and if you ask for it they'll say God can;t be tested or cite some unproven anecdote.
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#4Julian_CaesarPosted 1/28/2013 7:47:50 PM
From: darkmaian23 | #001
If rigorous investigation of the natural world actually produced meaningful knowledge and we know a great deal about biology, then modern medicine should be able to cure cancer.


A good rebuttal would be that without rigorous investigation of the natural world, we wouldn't even know that cancer existed (or how it works).
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#5Hustle KongPosted 1/28/2013 8:02:20 PM
http://www.gamefaqs.com/boards/282-science-and-technology
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#6Faust_8Posted 1/28/2013 8:09:08 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDYba0m6ztE

1:50 in is the most relevant part, but the whole thing is relevant to this topic in some way.

Also, ask them to apply that reasoning to other things. Since we don't know absolutely everything economics, we know nothing about economics?

Since we don't know everything about ancient Egypt, we know nothing about ancient Egypt?

Since we don't know everything about psychology, we know nothing about psychology, and thus any charlatan or Joe Schmoe has the same validity on the subject as someone with a Ph.D in Psychiatry and decades of experience?

It is plainly obvious that your friends do not apply this reasoning except when scientific methodology uncovers truths that messes with their specific faith in one religion. Every other time, they trust science and reason and experts. They wouldn't tell a dentist that he doesn't know about teeth since he's not perfect, but they seem to think they can tell biologists and cosmologists that when the reality they uncover clashes with a Bronze Age book...

Besides, find me one thing that were are absolutely 100% sure that we know absolutely 100% of the possible knowledge about it. It's literally impossible. Nothing is ever proven. That doesn't give anyone the right to reject what we do know currently in favor of their intuition and bias.
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#7LunarAmbiencePosted 1/28/2013 11:14:32 PM
From: darkmaian23 | #001
1. Science is always changing so scientists don't really know anything.

We're actually obtaining closer and closer approximations to practical knowledge. e.g.: Newton -> Einstein; Linnaeus -> Darwin

This isn't an indication we "don't really know anything." Rather, it's an indication of the kind of progress we expect and wish to see.
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#8kozlo100Posted 1/28/2013 11:26:31 PM
Thank you, Hustle Kong.
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#9LastManStandingPosted 1/29/2013 7:38:41 AM
Science is man limited. Through pride men thinks they learn something but in reality they know nothing worth shouting.
We cannot even cure common cold.
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#10JonWood007Posted 1/29/2013 9:07:20 AM
LastManStanding posted...
Science is man limited. Through pride men thinks they learn something but in reality they know nothing worth shouting.
We cannot even cure common cold.


Congratulations, this post just won my facepalm award of the day!

Again, if science was useless, most of us would die by age 30.
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