Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Creation of Misinformation Regarding Science

To my loyal blog readers, thank you for allowing me the time to recover from my most recent 30,000 mile jet trip to Africa and South America. That was a travel and blogging marathon, and I needed a few weeks to catch my literary (and literal) breath. I am now back in the saddle again.

Science in modern society suffers a few ills, not the least of which is the production of misinformation that can be used to negate certain unwelcome results. From a personal perspective, I have seen the way certain religious groups attempt to discredit accepted methods for the dating of rock formations. Multiple lines of evidence that yield reliable and verifiable dates are nonetheless refuted by some who would rather we use a few verses in a 2,000 year old book from the Middle East to interpret earth history. With such beautiful evidence for an ancient earth (which by the way elevates the idea of god in most peoples minds), why would anyone adhere to the the idea of a 6,000 year earth? It boggles the mind.

Some scientists are finding that the generation of misinformation is itself a topic ripe for study. Robert Proctor, professor of the history of science at Stanford University, has undertaken a study of the development of misinformation and an interesting article published in the LA Times can be read here. Proctor looked at the first wave of manufactured misinformation that was developed by the tobacco industry. From there the vice has grown to include climate change deniers and the Affordable Health Care Act fear mongers. It all leads to greed.

In the end, science is the field that suffers. We create a society that not only fears science but despises it. One need only look to see the results in the society we live in.

7 comments:

Kevin Franck said...

One of the biggest problems with science is some of the people within it's ranks, not science itself. To be honest and I'm sure you'll disagree, I find the Scientific leadership (that is the celebrity types who claim to speak for it) within science today are no different than when Christendom ran academia. Here is an example of what I mean by one of my posts:

A Paradigm Shift (revolutionary science) or More of the Same ?

I appreciate not everyone will agree with me on this, but if you take the time to actually ponder what I wrote as opposed to allowing those defensive hackles to rise up on the back of the neck, then you have to admit there are problems and issues which fuel the fire of discontent. Even the arguments and vicious debates surrounding the formation date of the Grand Canyon by people who are generally promoted as above being childish displays of jealousy don't necessarily allow the average person to put much confidence in the so-called experts. I know you know exactly what I mean, you have been personally attacked for your take on how the Grand Canyon was formed and by what means. Personally I find your take fascinating and more logical than many of the other accounts I have read.

Personally, I don't believe the Fundamentalists will be around long, but neither will the other side if they don't dump the religious affirmations of their own beliefs and masking this under the cloak of science. Hopefully you'll understand what I am getting at here.

BTW, this is a side point. I'm interested in the active volcanism of the Southwest with regards Sunset Crater and Salton Buttes, which ironically are close to the same time period. Were there any other areas of volcanic activity along that same period in the Southwest ? I ask, because I am interested in changes in ecosystems and find an uncanny timeline similarity to the beginning disappearance of ancient Lake Cahuilla, the Anasazis and Cahokia civilization declines and have always wondered if there is a connection.

Cheers, Kevin


Wayne Ranney said...

Kevin - Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I agree with you that humans will typically behave as humans, no matter what the belief. It is natural it seems for everyone to think they have THE answer. That one idea is what has led me to think otherwise - that my ideas are part of a spectrum of ideas. It has worked in the tone and temper of my writing. Thank you again. WR

Kevin Franck said...

You won't believe how many times I have defended your take on Grand Canyon.

BTW, I'm still truly and sincerely interested in the volcanism history of the southwest around 1000 C.E. if you have any info on other cinder cone activity around the same period.

I'm heading over there from Sweden on May 14th thru July 8th and I am interested in documenting some Botanical changes in western Arizona.

Also so that you are aware, I have used a few of your photos for illustrative purposes with links to your website if that is okay.

Vic Smith said...

Wayne,
Excellent points. This country has been driven toward an anti-intellectual, anti-reason position not just by religious types but also by corporate propagandists who are more intent in their short-term profiteering than by what is best for America. The Manhattan Institute would rather have you smoke, even die, than have to give up a cent of profit. This is predatory, not rational economic, behavior.

Wayne Ranney said...

Kevin - I know of one other ca. 1,000 year old volcano in northern Arizona - Little Springs volcano on the north side of the Grand Canyon (Toroweap area). It is almost the exact same age as Sunset Crater. It is the only other one I know of.

Mike said...

On Climate:

I think there's good evidence for Milankovitch Cycles. The Woods Hole Oceanic Institute's magazine, Oceanus, published a series of results of ice core and fossil sea shell analyses that seem to confirm their general predictions.

In addition the American Mathematical Society, as part of the NSF's Mathematics and Climate Research Network, presented a fairly rigorous analysis showing high correlation between the predictions of Milankovitch Theory and what is measured. I will email you a copy of one the presentations.

I think the term 'Climate Denier' is absurd. No one "denies" there is climate or that it changes. What is in contention is what is driving change over time and to what degree different factors do it. The crux being is it anthropogenic in origin or are there natural, astronomically driven cycles that account for most of what's seen? There's good evidence for the latter.

The larger question has to do with how we should fuel our civilization. Dumping huge amounts of CO2, noxious gases and particulates into the air is probably not a good plan over the long haul. The increased use of nuclear power plants to replace coal and oil burning power plants would be a good first step. Despite media hype to the contrary, nuclear power has been an incredibly clean, safe and reliable source of energy since the 1960's and is currently providing around 20% of the electricity in the USA. More would be better.

uturuncu said...

For a few months now, "Ancient Landscapes of the Colorado Plateau" (by Ron Blakey and yourself) has become a 'bible' of sort.
I have handled its geological maps with awe and, i daresay, reverence. Truly a thing of beauty, this book!
It is hard to fathom the amount of work and passion necessary to produce them - let alone the original research that yielded the data!

So reasons more to empathize with you when hearing of your dismay and disappointment in the face of lightly thrown criticism.
As an astrologer and visionary artist living in the margins of current American society, i believe to know how it feels to be summarily dismissed by the ignorant and narrow-minded
(often scientists themselves, however in this case).

Let us not forget that the scientific-materialistic paradigm we live in (and the unfortunate toxic lifestyle it supports and fuels) has been around since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Modern Western civilization lives in it, breathes in it, and is built upon it.
With all due respect to the field (often fascinating) of science, we should remember that it constitutes but just one civilizational paradigm among others - past, present, and futures.