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In Defense of Anti-Science

Why the Anti-anti-science Movement Has Gone too Far

IS IT AUDACIOUS OR FOOLHARDY FOR SOMEONE RAISED on Erector Sets and soldering kits, who still tinkers with arduinos and who writes code for money, to take a stance against science? Am I going to sit here and eat of the fruits of science while ungratefully pointing out that the roots are rotten? Yes I am, and I’m going to shudder to my core as I make common cause, if briefly, with anti-vaxxers and climate change deniers; however wrong they are, their noses are keen to the stench of science. The word itself has become a kind of rejoinder lately, often as the object in a newly beknighted grammatical construction: “because science.”

“Do you know why we are able to land a spacecraft on a comet?”

“Because science, that’s why.”

“Do you know how the doctor can tell you have a mild rash and not gonorrhea?”

“Because science.”

“Do you know why you are able to sit there on the Internet and look up misleading, completely false, or outright destructive ideas that completely warp your own view of science itself?”

“Because science.”

For a lot of people, such a quasi-tautological irony sums it up, Q.E.D. We might call it a pro-science argument, but that would be something different, such as arguing that NASA needs more funding and/or that our schools need more STEM focus. The anti-anti-science movement, rather, wants to shut the hand-biting mouths of armchair investigators and amateur bunkers and debunkers alike, and to call everyone to enjoy the ride of our accelerating technological chariot.

But how are we supposed to enjoy climate change? When pundits intimate that maybe an appropriate contingency for global warming is for everyone to just invest in Hudson Bay retirement property, they are extending, not subverting, the antianti-science argument. Science, after all, brought us the carbon-burning orgy that created climate change, right before it brought us our current geologic walk of shame.

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UPLOADING YOUR BRAIN SPECIAL ISSUE: Uploading the Mind to a Computer Mind Uploading: An Argument for the Scientific and Technical Plausibility of Preserving Thoughts Indefinitely by Kenneth Hayworth; Uploading Your Mind Does Not Compute by Peter Kassan; Virtual Immortality: Why the Mind-Body Problem is Still a Problem by Robert Lawrence Kuhn SPECIAL SECTION: What Motivates Extremists? Once Upon a Time: Re-Thinking the Fight Against Extremists by Tina Dupuy; Dealing With Islamism: Trust, Costly Signaling and Forming Moral Teams by Peter Boghossian and James A. Lindsay; Apocalypse Soon?: How Emerging Technologies, Population Growth, and Global Warming Will Fuel Apocalyptic Terrorism in the Future by Phil Torres ARTICLES Paleoanthropology Wars: The Discovery of Homo naledi has Generated Considerable Controversy in this Scientific Discipline by Nathan H. Lents; Charlie Sheen’s HIV Goat Milk Doctor by Harriet Hall, M.D.; Massachusetts: Mass Hysteria Cover Up by Robert E. Bartholomew; Agony and Ecstasy: Were Saint Paul’s Christian Beliefs a Symptom of Epileptic Personality Disorder? by Harry White; In Defense of Anti-Science: Why the Anti-anti-science Movement Has Gone too Far by J. Howard Siegal; The Decline of Intelligent Design: The 10th Anniversary of the Dover Decision and the Demise of Intelligent Design by Donald Prothero COLUMNS The SkepDoc: Flu Shots Facts and Fallacies by Harriet Hall, M.D.;The Gadfly: How Accurate is the “Cycle of Abuse”? by Carol Tavris REVIEW “Sacred Cows: A Lighthearted Look at Belief and Tradition Around the World” by Seth Andrews reviewed by Donald Prothero JUNIOR SKEPTIC: Man-Eating Plants: The Cannibal Tree of Madagascar by Daniel Loxton.