Lies That Scientists Tell (Themselves)
Martin Rezny

I’m less concerned about actual scientists falling into this trap, because often they don’t (and those that do often don’t matter). However, science popularizers fairly frequently fail to adequately inspect their biases & disregard the philosophy of science without understanding anything about it; science popularizers aren’t always even scientists (Bill Nye is a retired aeronautical engineer, and while Dawkins and Sagan were at one time research scientists they stopped their research in favor of writing for a general audience about science), yet they have a great deal of control over the popular view of science.

There’s a lot of variation here in terms of how reasonable they are, as well — Sagan almost certainly had heard of Karl Popper, and wrote about what one could reasonably consider to be the philosophy of science with a pro-science bias but with enough emotional distance not to completely disregard important limitations; meanwhile, Nye seems to think that philosophy is all about Plato’s Cave, and Dawkins doesn’t understand that the objective truth of scripture is a tiny and unimportant part of religion. I’m not quite sure where NDT falls here, but I feel like from what I’ve seen, he’s closer to Dawkins and Nye than to Sagan.

Ultimately, if actually active scientists have foolish beliefs about the philosophy of science, it doesn’t much matter: it doesn’t impact their ability to perform lab work and do reasonable analyses, generally. But, when you replace Bertrand Russel with Bill Nye, you’re going to have a bad time: suddenly, large chunks of humanity disregard important ideas and avoid using useful cognitive tools for, essentially, theological and tribal reasons. (And, to a certain extent, even Feynman is guilty of this: the macho arrogant physics-centrism he popularized has really screwed over a couple generations of otherwise promising people by giving them an easy way to dismiss important ideas.)

Like what you read? Give Rococo Modem Basilisk a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.