Friday, May 13, 2011

Sorting It Out

To add but a little to Ophelia Benson's comments -- these comments, these other comments, and also these comments -- responding to Chris Mooney's latest twaddle delivered by way of a "guest" appearance on a recent Point of Inquiry podcast: Mooney remained fixed on what will and won't succeed in changing the minds of believers when communicating about science. At no point did he speak a word in favor of the truth, or at the truth-seeking function of science.

It is regrettable that science is not in all cases convenient, soothing, or compatible with our wishes, but if science means anything -- science going back to its etymology, from the Latin scientia, signifying knowledge as distinguished from whimsy, passion, or opinion, and also distinguished from broader aspirations like wisdom, insight, and philosophy -- it has to prioritize the truth and the rigorous seeking of truth.

Persuasion is nice --- it's certainly worth trying. In all cases, even in cases where persuasion fails, separating the truth from background noise, popular nonsense, and pleasing narratives is better.

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