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View Diary: Today, I became a Democrat. (268 comments)

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    •  It is now, but wasn't always. (5+ / 0-)

      Less than a human lifetime ago, your comment would have met derisive laughter ... from the scientific community.

      Well into the 20th century, racism was considered a biological fact. Leading biologists still believed skin color and other characteristics we call "race" indicated separate species, and that the offspring of interracial unions would be sterile within a few generations. The conclusive disproof of scientific racism - based on DNA studies - came only within the past 2-3 decades.

      The same pattern exists for homophobia and elitism. Scientific research more often supports progressive ideas now, but only 50 years ago scientists could present (since disproved) studies to show that homosexuality was a behavioral aberration, and that children of the wealthy succeeded by virtue of inherited intellectual and moral superiority.

      Polls show that racism, homophobia, and elitism are more prevalent among older Americans. Many of them were taught those as scientific fact when they were in school. Much of that "ignorance" is the time-lag of scientific knowledge among the general population, because most of us learn most of what we know about science as children and young adults and carry that with us for another half-century.

      •  the future (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CWalter, goheelsgodems, NCrissieB

        for the sure and certain disappearance of racism, i extrapolate from this example, and don't tell me it isn't valid:

        as her lawyer having been assigned to represent her,  i was interviewing a young woman, about 16 years old,  in a case in family court in which her mother had been accused of neglect, based on the behavior of a man who was living with her and her children;

        the teenager was white and poor, being raised in the part of the county deep in the mountains, by people without education; but she did attend the public high school, with a somewhat diverse student population;

        i asked her how she felt about the accused man, her mother's boyfriend; she said "he's all right"; then she offered "but i don't really like him";

        when i asked her why, she said "because he's a racist";

        end of story

      •  Junk science is junk science, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        no matter when it is allowed to fluorish.

        The junk science of 50 years ago that was used to perpetuate the homophobic agenda is no different than the junk science of today that is used to "disprove" the existence of anthropogenic climate change.

        In fact, in the promotion of a particularly nasty bit of junk science a mere five years ago, a Harvard president claimed that "science" backed up the "fact" that

        innate differences between men and women might be one reason fewer women succeed in science and math careers.

        That shameless promoter of discreditable, bigoted, and sexist junk science was none other than Lawrence Summers, who was subsequently rewarded with a cabinet position in the Democratic Obama administration.

        So, promoting and rewarding junk science isn't just limited to Republicans.

        This will be one of those ugly lessons you'll learn about Democrats, Novem.

        •  The problem is ... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          blue in NC, ColoTim, James Allen

          ... how do you distinguish "junk science" from "theories that seemed to be supported by evidence, but were later disproved by better methodology?"

          Moreover, when do we distinguish between "scientifically valid" and "useful policy?"

          For example, there are fMRI data comparing male and female brains that may support Dr. Summers' claim. But even if those data hold up and he's right as a matter of science, he's still wrong as a matter of policy. He committed the ecological fallacy (statistical data do not predict individual instances). Males may be better at math and science on average, but a given female may become a brilliant mathematician or scientist and a given male may be hopelessly lost in math or science classes.

          As a matter of science, there may be evidence for group-based statistical differences.

          As a matter of policy, we shouldn't assume a group-based statistical difference will apply for any specific individual when we're making admissions, grading, hiring, or promotion decisions. Doing so turns "valid science" into "junk science."

          •  All very good examples, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NCrissieB, Inspector Javert

            and you'll get no disagreement from me!

            This in particular hits home, since I'm a true science junkie (not to be confused with a "junk scientist") - always have been:

            theories that seemed to be supported by evidence, but were later disproved by better methodology.

            I'm old enough to have been taught the Bohr Atom diagram as the "real" representation of atomic structure; nobody could accurately call Neils Bohr a "junk scientist", but in 1913 his model sufficed to explain certain phenomena and it wasn't until much later that more sophisticated quantum mechanics and the valence shell atom supplanted the inaccurately simple Bohr model.

            Young children were still being taught the Bohr model even in the 1960s, probably because it was considered "close enough" and the complicated reality was beyond a ten-year-old's abilities.

            Politics also turns "junk science" into "real science" - or at least attempts to do so. What is going on in climate science and in evolutionary science is disgraceful; it makes the persecution of scientists by the Church in the time of Galileo look tame - because in these modern times, we don't have the excuse of ignorance that the clerics and politicians had in Galileo's time. But Republicans have seized the yoke of junk science, and have enlisted an army of media and religious entities to promote truly junk science and perhaps irreparably harm the advancement of sound science-based education and policy.

            Teaching the Bohr atom is no worse, really, than teaching Euclidean geometry as the "only" geometry; for all practical purposes, it suffices, and both Bohr and Euclid correctly explained subsets of their larger disciplines.

            The creationists and the climate change deniers, however, have no science on their side; their lies and distortions are 100% based on political and religious corruption and celebrate ignorance...yet they enjoy large followings.

            Shameful, and frightening.

      •  Who says scientists can't be ignorant? (1+ / 0-)
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        Scientists are creatures of their age as much as anyone else.  Good comment, though.  Thanks.

        •  We may disagree on what "ignorant" means. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          James Allen

          If you mean "ignorant" in absolute terms - not only what seems to be supported by evidence today but what will still be supported given better evidence years or decades from now - then we're all "ignorant."

          I'd argue those scientists were "incorrect," rather than "ignorant."

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