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Science Myth Debunking: General Discussion

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by tigerade, Sep 20, 2013.

  1. tigerade

    tigerade Member

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    I'm here to argue that debunking science myths is an increasingly important skill for every person to have. We are constantly bombarded by false claims made by the media, corporations, front groups, political action committees, elected officials, and other institutions. This can cause huge public misunderstanding on important issues, not just climate change, but also the teaching of evolution in schools, vaccines, tobacco use, and so forth. I really wish I could spend more time debunking myths on the internet, because there are so many and it's a valuable educational opportunity. So since I can't be on every news article addressing every commenter, I will go ahead and give you some of the tools I use to debunk common myths. But first, I really want to spell out to you what the difference between psuedoscience and science is, and this article does a great job of that:

    Distinguishing Science and Pseudoscience

    I think this notion at the end is especially important:

    I think that really says it best. Psuedoscience and science myths, and generally ignorance can cause real death. How many people have died because of mistrust from vaccines? How many people have died because they thought HIV wasn't dangerous? How many children will needlessly suffer because the Taliban sees anti-polio campaigns as a Western conspiracy? (Yes, polio is still around in some countries).

    Martin Rees - Science is Key to Earth's Future
    Science Is Key to Earth's Future, Says Astrophysicist Martin Rees | LiveScience

    Scientific American - Anti-science beliefs jeopardize U.S. Democracy
    Antiscience Beliefs Jeopardize U.S. Democracy: Scientific American


    Of course, there is the biggest one of them all, climate change. However I think the climate change thread has plenty of good content, and I want this to be more of a general science discussion.

    I want to start off by saying, that if you are even remotely interested in science, then your first stop would be watching Cosmos. It's an amazing series, available on Netflix. I think watching it changed my life. I know what you're thinking: It's from 1980 and the science has certainly been updated since then. It has, but it's a brilliant narrative. Carl Sagan really makes the universe come home for all of us.

    Cosmos: A Personal Voyage - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Now, I want to go ahead and give you some material that addresses any "young earth/young universe" myths. We definitely know that the Earth is billions of years old, and that the Universe is billions of years older than that. We know that evolution is true, Here is the "Our Origins Made Easy" from Peter Hadfield:

    History of the Universe Made Easy
    1 -- History of the Universe Made Easy (Part 1) - YouTube
    2 -- History of the Universe Made Easy (Part 2) - YouTube

    Origin of Life Made Easy
    3 - The Origin of Life Made Easy - YouTube

    The Story of Earth Made Easy
    4 -- The Story of the Earth Made Easy - YouTube

    Age of Our World Made Easy
    5 -- The Age of Our World Made Easy - YouTube

    Natural Selection Made Easy
    6 -- Natural Selection Made Easy - YouTube

    Theory of Evolution Made Easy
    7 -- The Theory of Evolution Made Easy - YouTube

    Human Evolution Made Easy
    8 -- Human Evolution Made Easy - YouTube

    Human Ancestry Made Easy
    9 - Human Ancestry Made Easy - YouTube

    Scientific Method Made Easy
    10 - The Scientific Method Made Easy - YouTube

    Creation "Science" Made Easy
    11 -- Creation Made Easy - YouTube

    Here is a great video by Jerry Coyne that describes evolution in more detail:

    Why Evolution is True - Jerry Coyne
    Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, AAI 2009 - YouTube

    Here is a video that is more fun/entertaining, it's a 30+ video series and I won't link to them all. But the series is excellent at smashing common Creationist myths:
    Why do people laugh at creationists? (part 1) - YouTube

    Here is a link to RationalWiki. An invaluable resource for myth debunking:
    RationalWiki

    Rational Wiki's Comparative Guide to Science Denial
    A comparative guide to science denial - RationalWiki

    HIV denial
    HIV denial - RationalWiki

    Holocaust denial
    Holocaust denial - RationalWiki

    Germ Theory denial
    Germ theory denialism - RationalWiki

    The dangers of science denial
    Michael Specter: The danger of science denial | Video on TED.com

    The science of why we don't believe in science
    The Science of Why We Dont Believe Science | Mother Jones

    50 science myths debunked in 8 mins
    50 Science Misconceptions - mental_floss on YouTube (Ep.18) - YouTube

    Common Conspiracy Theories debunked
    Conspiracy theories conspiracy - YouTube

    Conservation 3.0
    Beyond Parks, Conservation Must Blend With Daily Life | Nature Preservation | LiveScience

    I'll probably make some edits and changes later on. However I do want to get a conversation started and get people thinking. Science has probably never been more important than today, in an age when technology can literally change the climate of the planet. We're sharing a world with 7 billion others (a population that continues to accelerate), and I'm afraid it could be a dangerous one if we don't solve some big problems soon. We live in an age where we have people actively trying to make the problems worse, denying the existence of the problems, and are backed by powerful companies/institutions/media outlets. So I think it is time to reverse the momentum of the science denial phenomenon. I know for a fact that I have good material somewhere that I'm forgetting, so I will probably come back and add more. For now, feel free to post anything that you think help debunks science myths.
     
  2. SwedishAdvocate

    SwedishAdvocate Active Member

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    #2 SwedishAdvocate, Sep 20, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2013
    I’ve read your post (but haven’t followed the hyperlinks…).

    Since I consider myself to be an atheist, and also since religion seems to be off-bounds on TMC I’ll stop here on that topic. (At least for now. In any case I’ll first ask permission from the moderator in charge.)

    Otherwise I agree with everything in your post.

    Except for this part:

    Unfortunately it seems to be a bit more complicated than that. See for example:


    - - - Edit: - - -

    - - - </Edit> - - -


     
  3. tigerade

    tigerade Member

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    Yes please, and thank you. Let's definitely avoid religious discussion here, even though some of links mention religion. Those kind of discussions always end up personal/emotional and feelings to be hurt. I'm not here to address any personal experiences. Science deals with verifiable, testable and falsifiable observations and experiments. Let's stick with the evidence and not worry about philosophy and faith.

    While I agree that a child developing narcolepsy after a vaccination is horrific and sad, I don't want to jump straight into the correlation = causation trap. I suppose I have a few questions on that. How can we be certain that the vaccination is what caused the narcolepsy, whats the link? If so, Is it the virus itself that caused it, or something else injected with the vaccine? This seems like something worth deeper investigation, which it looks like they are doing. I personally don't have enough information here to form a judgement.
     
  4. VolkerP

    VolkerP EU Model S P-37

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    Great thread idea.

    Education is key to empower every human to debunk myths himself. I go out on a limb and say here, education could help replace emotions with arguments in public debate, reducing hate and helping come to a result. Please help make education stronger at and near your home!

    Good idea to exclude religion from this topic. It is a last resort of spirituality and belief.

    “Everybody's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another beer.”
    ― W.C. Fields
     
  5. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Active Member

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  6. tigerade

    tigerade Member

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  7. Raffy.Roma

    Raffy.Roma Active Member

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    IMO in life it's not so much a matter of misconceptions, it's that some people has a personal view about some matters and are not available to change their own minds even in presence of strong evidences that their views are wrong. This is a real problem for mankind because in some fields, like for instance environment and global warming but also culture and politics, some changes are absolutely needed in a very short time to improve the way we live.

    - - - Updated - - -

    For instance in Italy I see that in general people don't realize the importance of driving pure electric. Because they have the "misconception", or false believe IMO, that electric cars are useless. I know that they are wrong but I cannot do anything to change their minds.
    Hope that they will realize the importance of driving pure electric before that it will be too late for mankind (same for the rest of the world of course).
     
  8. tigerade

    tigerade Member

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    Here is a cute little book, free and fun to read. I wish I could send this to a lot of people on the other side, it would help them realize how bad their arguments are.

    A Book of Bad Arguments
    An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments
     
  9. AudubonB

    AudubonB Mild-mannered Moderator Lord Vetinari*

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    There is a fine word that is particularly germane to your excellent thread. The staggeringly gifted science-fiction author Terry Pratchett invented it, and it debuted in his novel Snuff, when Miss Felicity Beedle says to Commander Vimes:

    As a friend's blog put forth the other day, regarding substitions:
     
  10. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    Read some of John Petersens articles... or better yet the comments; you can see first hand that human ability for motivated reasoning and cognitive dissonance really is effectively infinite. Most humans are capable of believing whatever they want to believe... regardless of the evidence... Nearly half of Americans believe the dog was domesticated before the earth was created... HOW CRAZY IS THAT?
     
  11. RichardC

    RichardC Cdn Sig & Solar Supporter

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    Great thread and posts!
    These posts are cause for optimism.
    Thanks
     
  12. tigerade

    tigerade Member

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    Ah, now I remember what I forgot. I completely forgot my favorite Big Think videos!

    This is totally, absolutely worth 42 minutes of your time:
    Michio Kaku: The Universe in a Nutshell - YouTube

    And this is worth 6 mins of your time. Made me a big fan of Michio Kaku:
    Michio Kaku: Will Mankind Destroy Itself? - YouTube

    Bill Nye on Creationism, you've likely seen it before:
    Bill Nye: Creationism Is Not Appropriate For Children - YouTube

    You may know Penn Jillette as an entertainer and magacian, but he's also a pretty smart guy:
    Penn Jillette: Why Tolerance Is Condescending - YouTube

    Neil DeGrasse Tyson on the Cosmic Perspective:
    Neil deGrasse Tyson: Your Ego and the Cosmic Perspective | Big Think Mentor - YouTube

    A great video by Lawrence Krauss that describes our place in the universe:
    Lawrence Krauss: Our Godless Universe is Precious - YouTube

    A very good point by Lawrence Krauss about common sense, a point that I've repeated many times:
    Lawrence Krauss on Caveman Common Sense - YouTube

    This isn't Big Think, but this is a really great video on Purpose in the Universe by Neil DeGrasse Tyson:
    Does the Universe Have a Purpose? feat. Neil deGrasse Tyson - YouTube
     
  13. tigerade

    tigerade Member

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  14. tigerade

    tigerade Member

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  15. tigerade

    tigerade Member

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  16. Robert.Boston

    Robert.Boston Model S VIN P01536

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    I came back to this article and was struck by some points it made and, in particular, why so many Americans resist the science-based view of human origins in favor of faith-based views. Here are two quotes:
    Contrast the words from Genesis 1:26:
    Perhaps those who prefer to 'dominate' the ecosystem rather than live sustainably find the Biblical POV is more comfortable than the science-based one.
     

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