Why Objective Science is Not Compatible with Subjective Social Norms and Thinking

By Ben Alonzo

Do we change objective science to align with our subjective social norms and ideas by picking and choosing only the parts we like, or do we change our social norms and ideas to align with supportive science? Historically, it was objective science that solved critical problems, like disease outbreak, and greatly improved our lives. One of the best qualities of hard science is that it doesn’t care about your skin color, sex, religion, tradition, social opinion, or job title (it’s universal and inclusive). We either accept what science says or we don’t. Unfortunately, many opt to pick and choose only what they agree with, which results in division, argument, endless circles, wars, increasing disparities, and a halt to overall global progress. Objective science is not compatible with subjective thinking.

Have you ever wondered why we have a space program, but we can’t solve the problem of poverty? Have you ever wondered why “a new study says” chocolate cures cancer, but the next day “a new study says” chocolate causes cancer? The reason for this trend in junk science is because such large amounts of people don’t know what actual science involves. Knowing how the scientific method works means you can distinguish between real science and junk science.

A significant portion of the US public doesn’t understand basic science concepts. In 2001, the National Science Foundation found that around 66% of Americans do not understand the basic scientific method or what it even means. Discovery has also reported about 1 in 4 Americans being unaware that the Earth revolves around the Sun, according to a 2014 National Science Foundation report. Similar findings shows a huge disparity between the general public, scientists, and scientific data. Much of the public admits science is good, but doesn’t accept its actual findings. Some public distrust likely comes from junk science that is constantly passed around by the media and even many educators.

Objective Science

Some simply don’t know what’s involved in actual science. You cannot have reason without science. To be reasonable means one has to rely on objective truths. Science is the only proven-effective system of discovering objective truths. Science is done by using the scientific method. In order to be considered science or “scientific”, research must have: (1) observable data/empirical evidence, (2) a testable theory with the ability to verify and reproduce results on a consistent basis, (3) predictability, (4) quantifiability, and (5) clearly defined terminology. It is these very elements that allow for objective observation, hypothesis, prediction, testing, and conclusion.

Science is the best way to discover, make decisions, and progress. Think of a subject and hold it against the above definition of science. If it meets or exceeds the above criteria, then it’s science, otherwise, it’s not science.

Many pseudo-intellectual people are telling incoming freshman students that “there’s no right or wrong answer in science.” Nothing can be further from the truth. There are demonstrable right/wrong answers in science. Think of the calculations, engineering, and science that goes into building a bridge. If scientists and engineers get it wrong, the bridge collapses, people die, and lawsuits happen. Similarly, think of medical science and the implications of a mistake. Giving a wrong diagnosis or drug could kill a person. Any time you are dealing with a hard science, there is a right and wrong answer. Thankfully, we are constantly examining our practices, updating our research, techniques, and theories, based on hard evidence that comes from practicing good science.

At some point, if we continue to halt hard science implementations into our lives and government policies, we will halt our progress as a society. As much as some may not like to hear it, the modern scientific method doesn’t involve subjective matters, such as how every single person feels about an issue or whether research findings are politically correct.

The results of public and governments favoring subjective and arbitrary systems of life, based on mob rule, superstitious religion, and tradition are terrible (both in the short-term and long-term). We fear what we don’t understand. It’s the very widespread fear and ignorance that give us the knee-jerk reactions we often see after various events. People call for more laws, excessive regulation, lynching, executions, and behave similar to a dangerous cult.

You have to believe either one of two things: America has too many subjective, excessive, unnecessary, outdated, arbitrary, complicated laws… or everyone is a criminal.

The United States puts more people in cages than China or Russia. According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, as of 2013, the United States has about 5 percent of the world population, but has almost 25 percent of the world prison population. The number of people behind bars are likely higher than recorded for the US. Recent 2014 federal data indicates the American prison population continues to grow, which was also reported by Newsweek. In fact, it has evolved into a money-making industry with dreams of privatization and debtor’s prison.

Do we want to be known as a society that favors subjective systems of living or denies science because we disagree with it or are afraid of it? Do we want to be a country that invests significant money into effective education or a perpetually outraged social system that continues to make everything into a crime or mental disorder? We can see the results of junk science, subjective practices, and overall fear and ignorance – it’s all around us. In the United States, there are more prisons than colleges.

Junk Science is Rampant in US

Pseudoscience is rampant in the US, unfortunately. Part of the spread of junk science can be attributed to the internet and mass media ability to spread misleading journal pieces, baseless claims, and completely subjective findings that cannot be reproduced.

Last Week Tonight examines junk science and mass media.

Junk science is the opposite of good science.

Pseudoscience and pseudo-intellectualism is severely damaging our country. At what point do we admit that an industry isn’t scientific, shouldn’t be used in the court of law, for counseling, mental health treatment, or guidance, especially when 55%-75% of its published research cannot be reproduced, verified, or demonstrated objectively as effective?

One such example of out of control pseudoscience is the psychology and psychiatry fields. Consider the overwhelming evidence that suggests this is the case. The industry also uses a book that is overwhelmingly subjective as its guidance tool, called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Several top scientists have factually demonstrated that the DSM is primarily a subjective manual that involves voting to modify/add to its content, which isn’t scientific (the scientific method doesn’t include voting). Scientists point out that a number of actual scientific studies have invalidated much of the DSM. Somehow, it’s still being accepted and used today.

A recent 2015 large study was published in the journal Science (also appearing in Nature), titled “Estimating the Reproducibility of Psychological Science.” Similar to other research (Yong, 2012), it found that most psychological research could not be reproduced.

This overwhelming evidence highlights the problem with biases, subjective methods, and tweaked findings. Serious concern is mounting about the reproducibility of research findings, especially in medical journals that claim their content is grounded in evidence-based medicine. When your research cannot be reproduced, it isn’t considered good science.

The psychology industry once considered being gay as a mental disorder. However, thanks to modern science, that very idea was tested and actual scientists couldn’t find any conclusive evidence that being gay was a disorder. It took a long time to get homosexuality removed from the DSM. You can also read about it here — because this is common knowledge, but it’s obviously downplayed by the industry. Science has disproved much of the DSM content, which means science was very beneficial to gays and bisexuals. Sound science tells us that people can be happy, regardless of the sex of their partners. Sound science tells us that we should encourage all people to be happy and give them the same basic benefits as everyone else. Sound science is good for everyone.

The psychology and psychology industry are rapidly turning everything into a disorder, everyone into a victim, and overprescribing dangerous drugs, according to the majority of scientific research and our top scientists (read the evidence here). We perpetuate, often make worse, temporary events by repeatedly telling people they are broken, victims, and that a pill will solve all of their problems. We may even be doing more harm than good. Not all in the industry are purposely harming patients, and many may have good intentions, but the scientific evidence is loud, overwhelming, very clear, and cannot be ignored. The evidence of this is so overwhelming that even its own industry leaders are speaking out about harming people with junk science.

Dr. Steven Hyman, a neuroscientist and former Director of The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), called the psychology and psychiatry industry’s DSM practices a scientific nightmare. Hyman says there is no real theoretical basis for current drug treatments for mental illness. He noted that existing treatments have not changed since the 1950s, and don’t work to improve the lives of people who suffer from real mental illnesses.

A recent study, in 2015, found that of 100 studies published in top-ranking journals in 2008, 75% of social psychology experiments and half of cognitive studies failed the replication test.

Who in their right mind would consider any industry with such high amounts of junk science as scientific, worthy of usefulness in the courtroom, medicine, human development, or academic study? Either this industry needs to radically change by incorporating the scientific method as a research guideline, or it needs to stop passing itself off as scientific to the public. This industry clearly meets the definition of pseudoscience (i.e., being passed off as science, but actually having no scientific basis, not produced using the scientific method).

Again, at what point do we draw the line between actual science and pseudoscience? It’s especially dangerous when we’re using junk science to reinforce perpetual outrage, a nation of victims, thought crimes, delusional thinking, and overprescription of dangerous and unnecessary medications.

Dangers of Subjective Thinking

Many scientists fear for the United States because it has such a significant number of population that is perpetually outraged, reacting out of blind fear and ignorance with bullying, shutting down free speech, parroting sensational stories, misleading science research summaries, and putting political correctness over objective scientific reasoning.

The best scientists are also the best observers. When you erase personal biases and simply observe the rhetoric of the public, often on social media, you can see a clear and present danger. Fear and ignorance represent the majority of social media content, especially when it involves topics like sex, race, economy, climate, international relations, politics, and news.

If you observe social media comments, you find that various people attempt to label anything they disagree with as racist or homophobic. It’s ironic that the people making accusations of racism seem to be much of the very source of racism. Racism still exists today, but it’s really unfortunate that there are so many organized efforts to focus on subjective ideas that basically perpetuate racism. Many say all white males are racist (that’s stereotyping, ironically). Many say if you ever disagree with someone that’s gay, then you’re a homophobe, no matter what the issue. Similarly, many say that if you ever disagree with someone that is not the same skin color, you’re a racist, no matter what the issue. Many say you can’t be gay and conservative. This is a common subjective argument tactic that attempts to inject irrelevant negative labels in order to stifle any opposing opinion. Such practice of false sexism and false racism claims are very contrary to modern science and global progress.

Today, you see digital lynch mobs that react out of blind emotion, often calling for the death of someone, despite being found not guilty, when they disagree with a court, for example. The “court of public opinion” is extremely dangerous to progress as a society, especially when it operations out of hysterical blind rage, emotion, fear, and ignorance, rather than objective scientific reasoning. The ignorant public involved in this cesspool of opinion are often huge hypocrites — they would never want to be tried in the same court of public opinion themselves. In America, there is a culture of perpetual outrage over any and every issue. Social media allows mass hysteria and sensationalism to spread like a wildfire, especially when ignorant people parrot whatever they hear.

The key to dealing with the digital mob of fear and ignorance is to simply not participate in it — or — correct them by offering a reasonable, balanced, objective scientific perspective, instead of parroting the blind rage on social media.

Historically, there have been terrible periods of lynch mobs, also based on fear and ignorance. What might help today is that modern ignorant lynch mobbers are resorting to social media, instead of taking to the streets (as they did in the past). Thankfully, most of them are powerless, despite having huge opinions on every issue. However, the large amount of people participating in digital lynch mobbing (also known as the court of public opinion) is a sign that fear and ignorance still exists in great numbers. This is a clear and present danger for our scientists and leaders.

A graphical depiction of the murder of Hypatia.

Science often outrages the public, especially when the public favors religion, tradition, authoritarianism, and other subjective thinking over critical thinking. Think of what happened to Hypatia of Alexandria in ancient Egypt. She was executed by a lynch mob because they were outraged by her early science ideas, often calling her a pagan. The mob dragged her body into court, beat her to death, and then ripped her body apart. The same lynch mob also burned down one of the largest scientific libraries in the history of the world. They destroyed a priceless amount of data. In fact, we may never know the secrets that library contained.

Fear and ignorance represents a clear and present danger to science literacy and the safety of individual scientists. That same fear and ignorance also keeps us from moving forward with cures, more updated theories about our surroundings, our past, present, and future.

Fear and ignorance told us that a person shaking on the ground was possessed by an imaginary demon, the person was going to hell, and needed to be executed. Modern science finally told us that this person had a seizure, was not possessed, and needed scientific treatment.

salem witch
A graphical depiction of the Salem With Trials.

Remember the Salem Witch Trials of 1862? History tells us what happens when subjective ideas are allowed into the courtroom. Lynch mobs are perpetually outraged people that are driven by fear and ignorance. Fear and ignorance has always led to terrible things, such as death and destruction. What do you have without science?

Galileo when a prisoner of the Inquisition.

Objective science often involves public outrage, especially when it introduces new ideas that are unfamiliar to the general public or contrary to the current subjective social norms of a society (especially when its dominant way of thinking is based out of fear and ignorance).

Imagine you were watching in the 1600s as the Catholic Church and public condemned Galileo Galilei for promoting heliocentrism. This new idea had huge implications, which were scary to many religious people. They sent him to prison for sharing science. In fact, they even called for book burnings. His crime was described as publicly questioning current belief systems. There’s a saying that history repeats itself, but one can only hope that this isn’t going to become more common today.

Science is moving fast and it requires a basic science education to understand it. Without a good basic science education, there is a void. People tend to fill that void with anything and everything, often fear and ignorance. We can either embrace science or replace it with continued fear, ignorance, and outrage.

Organized Fear and Ignorance

Too many organizations are encouraging people to shut down opposing viewpoints and focus on subjective, often scientifically baseless, ideas. Rather than act on mission statements, there’s too much talk. It’s true that actions are louder than words. If your only actions are disruption of public speaking events, then you’re likely halting progress. People must understand that the best ideas can stand up to criticism and questioning. If your ideas are so weak that they cannot stand up to questions or criticism, then they probably aren’t worth having. You only give fire to the opposition, when you shut them down simply because you can’t argue with them, don’t want to have a meaningful professional discussion, or just want to disrupt an event just to be a part of a radical movement.

Even organizations that claim to focus on science, skepticism, reason, and atheism have experienced infestations of subjective ideas. In fact, many of these organizations have become so childish with political correctness, focusing on subjective social issues, picking and choosing only the select pieces of science they like, and creating barriers that prevent outsiders from participating, questioning, offering criticism, or opposing viewpoints. Some of these organizations are behaving similar to a cult – and people are starting to leave/defund them, which is a sign of progress.

We aren’t going to get anywhere as humans, as long as people ignore the content of a message simply because they don’t understand it or disagree with it, especially when objective science says it’s an idea worth sharing.

Embracing Science

Science is our only hope and critical for our future. Today, America has a science crisis. We need more skilled workers in science, engineering, and medicine. We’re so short of professionals that we have to have a visa program for guest workers from other countries. We need more hard science professors that practice, and teach, good science. We need to focus our resources on the objective hard sciences.

According to Pew Research in 2015, 79% of Americans believe science has made their lives better. About 75% of scientists say that American K-12 education lacks critical science and engineering elements. The U.S. ranked 27th in math and 20th in science, according to recent research, exam scores, and public knowledge surveys. America is far behind the rest of the word in education, especially hard science (multiple data resources show). 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Science has given us much more than any religion, tradition, or other subject. Disease control, survival, higher quality of life, clean air and water, comfortable beds, air conditioning, musical instruments, computers, the internet, television, weather forecast and warning, safer cars, buildings, bridges, aircraft, non-invasive medical diagnostics and treatments, the space program, satellites, and so much more are a direct result of good science (aka “sound science”) in practice.

The key to living a better life, improving our political system, ensuring we have clean air and water, equal opportunity for all, better health, understanding, empathy, and fixing our justice system is to focus on objective hard science, rather than subjective ideas. Science findings, especially when new to the public, may seem outrageous, but much of the outrage comes from fear and ignorance. Fear and ignorance can be reduced by increasing scientific literacy.

Science should be one of the most important subjects taught throughout K-12 and college years. A college should be a place where students experience diverse viewpoints, hard science, opposing views, are challenged, and students should be able to realize that some of their ideas might not be right. College shouldn’t be a place full of subjective, politically correct, environments that stifle free speech and opposing viewpoints. A good scientist knows both sides of an issue, there is a balance that sound science produces. Our country is in desperate need of that balance.

How many of you are tired of hearing junk science articles that suggest chocolate cures cancer one day, then the next day another “study says” it causes cancer?

How many of you are tired overprescription of potentially dangerous medications?

How many of you are tired of being labeled for asking questions or challenging ideas?

How many of you are tired of digital lynch mobs?

How many of you are tired of division and circular politics?

How many of you want us to get a cure for cancer as soon as possible?

How many of you want to experience cleaner air and water?

How many of you want to see your country become energy independent, utilizing cleaner, sustainable energy resources?

How many of you want to save money on your power bill because of energy efficiency?

How many of you want to experience scientifically proven paid maternity and paternity leave?

How many of you want scientifically proven mandatory paid vacation time?

How many of you are afraid of change? Something new?

How many of you recognize that we have a crisis in America because we need more scientists, engineers, and medical doctors?

Are you willing to put aside your personal feelings and politics to embrace science and make some real progress through actions, instead of empty words?

How many of you are willing to admit that we have a problem with pseudoscience and pseudo-intellectualism, and that it has no place in a learning institution?

How many of you are willing to admit that science is the only way to reach our most valuable goals?

We cannot pick and choose, when it comes to science. We either embrace all of modern science or we go in circles with subjective, pseudoscience, and pseudo-intellectual junk. We should be teaching our kids and college students the best science. Our decision-makers should be utilizing sound science for all decisions. We, as individuals, should also be making informed decisions that are based on sound science, rather than fear and ignorance.

Imagine a nation becoming incredibly awesome through a strong population of scientifically literate citizens. When a nation embraces science, it greatly increases the likelihood of inventions, improvements, cures, and a generally higher quality of life – not to mention less depression because people are happier. We can get there, if we embrace all of science.

Author: Ben Alonzo is a unique scientist, tech expert, professor, and director of ULTRATechLife.com. He’s CEO of the sci-tech firm Storm Sector, LLC. Ben holds an M.S. in Information Technology, M.S. in Geoscience, M.S. in Nutrition and Health, and a B.S. in Geoscience. He’s a highly-rated professor that teaches earth science, environmental science, oceanography, meteorology, and public health. His diverse background spans numerous fields, network and computer systems, healthcare, weather forecasting, consumer electronics, and web development. Ben holds numerous professional licenses and certifications, ranging from information technology to healthcare and emergency medical technician. He’s also an FAA-licensed private pilot that loves flying. He’s been writing about science and tech for over 10 years. You can see some of his past articles on the Houston Chronicle, eHow, Hearst, and other networks. In his free time, he loves athletic adventures, scuba diving, traveling, storm chasing, producing videos and writing guitar music. More about author.

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