# The Myth of the Noble Scientist

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Magical Realist, Apr 13, 2016.

1. ### Magical RealistValued Senior Member

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I have to prove my quotes aren't distortions because I don't buy into the myth of the noble scientist? That doesn't even make sense.

Last edited: Apr 24, 2016

3. ### DaeconKiwi fruitValued Senior Member

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We simply don't believe that you're posting those quotes in good faith.

We expect you to be taking them out of context as a demonstration of your contempt for science, scientists, and the scientific method.

5. ### TiassaLet us not launch the boat ...Staff Member

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Would you propose that one's disdain for a perception of "contempt of science" warrants a forfeiture of science?

7. ### Magical RealistValued Senior Member

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Actually you're accusing the quote site AZQuotes of distorting, which is the source of most of these. Why do you think a quote site would distort their own quotations? Do you think they hate science too?

In any case, if you are accusing me of dishonesty here, then prove it. Either that or quit making lying accusations about me. Also quit saying I hate science. I happen to love science enough not to let people reduce it to some sort of religion or moral value system to be imposed on the world. It was never meant to be that. It is only a tried and true way of gathering facts about the universe. And one among many.

Last edited: Apr 24, 2016
8. ### DaveC426913Valued Senior Member

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Would it be all right if he merely accused you of being, say, a "snotty elitist who looks down on humanity as ignorant and in desperate need of your guidance"? Or, say and "egocentric careerist"? Or would he have to prove those accusations, lest he be called liar?

What does it mean to have to prove a rhetorical opinion?

9. ### Magical RealistValued Senior Member

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I cited two articles, oops, no three!, showing deception and careerist ambition in science. And since you are jumping on the "bash MR" bandwagon now, what have you provided showing I am distorting my quotes? Anything? Let's see it.

Last edited: Apr 24, 2016
10. ### DaveC426913Valued Senior Member

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You have no idea how assertion and substantiation works, do you?

11. ### Magical RealistValued Senior Member

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Are you claiming I'm distorting my quotes or not? It's a simple question.

12. ### DaveC426913Valued Senior Member

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No. I'm claiming that you are offering a generalized, personal opinion about the elusive mindset an entire community of people, based on a few anecdotes.
You demand "proof" that someone else isn't lying, yet you feel free to make sweeping accusations about the mental outlook of entire community which, even in principle, can't be "proven".

As is often the case, it's not about you being so much wrong as way overreaching with your assertions. You would get a lot farther if you weren't so bombastic.

13. ### Magical RealistValued Senior Member

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Like I said, I provided 3 firsthand accounts from people inside the field of science. That's certainly better proof than those claiming I am distorting quotes based on no evidence whatsoever.

14. ### DaveC426913Valued Senior Member

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3 out of ten million does not a proof make.

15. ### Magical RealistValued Senior Member

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LOL! Who decided that? You?

16. ### DaveC426913Valued Senior Member

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3 men committed murders. Therefore men are dirty, stinking, hateful, egotistical animals who would stab their mother for a dollar.

That is an overreaching generalization.

I can't believe we have to walk you through basic logical deduction every ten posts or so.

17. ### James RJust this guy, you know?Staff Member

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Yazata,

I don't disagree with you on this. However, I was under the impression that Magical Realist was saying that Science has an embedded system of moral values in some way or other.

Sure. And I agreed that scientists are human. Plumbers, too, are no doubt motivated by careerism, if that means keeping getting paid for what they do.

It seems to me that while science is influential in setting up, in particular, the technological underpinnings of modern society, it is not particularly influential in telling people what to think.

For example, look at the issue of climate change - not how we should address the problem, but at the simplest level of whether human beings are changing the climate. Now, I'm sure that the vast majority of scientists - 97% of climate scientists at least - would much prefer it if laymen accepted the reality of human-induced global warming. And they've been out there trying to spread the message that warming is real. But how have they gone in exerting authority over the general public on that point and getting the general people just to believe whatever they are told? Not so well, I think. Powerful vested interests have propagated their own message in opposition to what the scientists have been saying for a long time now, and they have had a good measure of success in convincing many people that climate change is not real, let alone a problem.

This is by no means a problem restricted to science. In many areas of our lives we are forced to rely on experts of different types for their specialised knowledge and ... expertise. We are supposed to trust our bankers to look after our savings, to trust teachers to educate our children, to trust politicians to make important decisions regarding public spending, to trust engineers to construct buildings and bridges that are safe to use, etc.

Obviously, we can't go through life doubting that every bridge we drive across many be structurally unsound. We have no real choice but to trust that systems and processes and experts are in place to guard the public safety and to appropriately regulate things. We must believe the freeway flyover we're about to drive over won't collapse, because (a) we're seldom in a position to confirm that it is safe for ourselves, and (b) it would be impractical to do this even if we had the expertise.

Anything that proclaims itself as the One True Church should be regarded with suspicion. This is why it is so important that citizen be taught to think critically about things they are told. We can't personally check every statement presented to us as "fact", but we can run a critical eye over things and ask a few probing questions to at least make sure that said facts are consistent with what else we know about the world.

18. ### James RJust this guy, you know?Staff Member

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(continued...)

I know, and my post about plumbers was very much tongue-in-cheek, as I hope you noticed. But there was a point in there. Anybody can be arrogant and protective of their own expertise, plumber or politician or scientist.

A plumber is concerned primarily with things that exist on a human scale. But scientists often have to consider things that are not even directly observable with our ordinary senses - whether it be atoms or genes or black holes or bacteria. The scientist's aim is to understand the world at a more fundamental level, but necessarily at a level that is often removed from everyday observation. And why? So as to learn how better to control and predict our environment.

It is probably not an uncommon idea that scientists spend a lot of their time just "making stuff up". Cosmic strings and dark energy sound like bizarre sci-fi fantasies that somebody just dreamed up. But ultimately they come from observations that raise unsolved problems. Something needs an explanation. But that explanation can't be just a free-form fantasy. It has to fit with everything we already know. So, a scientist's hypotheses are always constrained, both by the raw data and by accepted theories. Laymen may well wonder at some of the whimsical names used to stand in for a complex idea (e.g. "dark energy", "big bang", "epigenetics"). What they don't always realise is that these are, ultimately, just labels attached to a theory. Even a word like "electron" is shorthand for a theory.

When a plumber holds a length of plastic piping, is that something that is really "out there in the world"? Certainly, the plumber's perception is of a solid object with certain properties. The scientific model of the pipe is somewhat different. For example, 99% of the plastic making up the pipe is actually empty space, and the pipe itself is solid only in so far as its component atoms are bound together by invisible forces.

What's real - the plumber's solid pipe, or the scientist's collection of atoms? I say both are real, with the main difference being the level of accessibility of each model to ordinary human senses. The plumber no more knows the "real pipe" than the scientist does.

Who then is really more "objective" about that pipe? The plumber, who takes it at face value, or the scientist, who sees what the plumber sees as well as knowing about the various theories that describe the pipe at a more fundamental level? Is it the person with less knowledge who is more objective?

Celebrity in science is quite rare, but when it happens it can happen in a big way. I think there are no celebrity plumbers precisely because plumbing doesn't hold the same aura of mystery for the general public that science holds. Most of the general public today would never have heard the name "Feynman". Everybody has heard of Einstein, but very few can explain even what $E=mc^2$ means, even if it's the only "famous" equation they know. For most people, Feynman and Einstein are archetypes of "smart". They don't know what those men did, or very much about what they were like as people. But they see them as representative of what great scientists are like. Einstein is quoted for his views on religion in part because it is (somewhat inaccurately) assumed that smart in one field means generally smart - that smarts are transferable from one thing to another.

The other thing to say is that Einstein and Feynman are role models for many people who aspire to be scientists, just as Taylor Swift is a role model for aspiring pop stars. People admire and like to emulate others who have been successful. Also, Einstein, Feynman and Swift all achieved a level of fame, and lots of people think they want to be famous.

There aren't too many celebrity plumbers. Mostly, I think, this is because their skills are largely transferable. In most instances, one plumber is as good as another for getting the job done. Einstein, though, is arguably irreplaceable. Even Taylor Swift is, in some ways, unique. Fame tends to come because of some element or perception of uniqueness.

19. ### Magical RealistValued Senior Member

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LOL! No..three men that work at a store say there is discrimination and cheating going on. We therefore conclude that is the case. And who is this "we"? You have a turd in your pocket?

20. ### DaveC426913Valued Senior Member

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Ah. So, when you say "I doubt that scientists are any more virtuous than anyone else. The ones who don't take science as some value system are probably egocentric careerists only in it for the money anyway. The ones who DO take science to be some grand enterprise are otoh snotty elitists who look down on humanity as ignorant and in desperate need of their guidance. "

You are not referring to scientists in general, but just to the three examples you've listed.

So the noble scientist archetype might very well apply to the vast majority of scientists, just not ones in the three anecdotes.

I can live with that.

Maybe you just live in a bad neighborhood.

21. ### Magical RealistValued Senior Member

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Nope..most scientists in general. It's a simple observation of human nature and what motivates most people backed up by the experiences of 3 scientists. If you don't like it, I don't care.

22. ### DaveC426913Valued Senior Member

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You can state whatever you want, that's your privilege. I am simply dismantling the assertion and shining a light on the flawed logic. Your premise doesn't support your conclusion any more than my hypothetical "3 murderers mean most men in general are animals".

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