Darwinism and popular culture: Skepticism not allowed?

A friend draws my attention to an essay published in Nature (458, 30 (5 March 2009) | doi:10.1038/458030a) by a sociologist, who

1. The scientific method can support any evidence-based view, and that would include creationism (= the Big Bang, for example).

2. Common sense is the best deterrent to fanaticism based on ideological certainty. Fanaticism based on ideological certainty has killed far more innocent people than common sense.

3. Compulsory vaccination is a bad idea because most people will simply choose to be vaccinated, which greatly reduces the prevalence – and danger – of an illness, which usually means that even the people who don’t get vaccinated are much less likely to get it. So there is really no need for strong arm tactics.*

Because advanced modern societies can consistently exert more technical power over the average person than traditional ones could is all the more reason to be cautious about how that power is used., and the outcomes of its use.

4. I think that Mbeki’s policies re anti-retrovirals must have been hatched on some planet other than Earth. But he is the prime minister of South Africa. If South Africans do not care enough to do something about this problem, I would recommend that (1) we consider the possibility that they know something we don’t; and (2) those of us who care about this situation design inputs into the situation that do not cause more hostility to us than to him (an easy situation to bring about, unfortunately, as the history of imperialism has shown).

In my view, there is currently way too little skepticism today, rather than too much.

Indeed, another friend writes to say that Collins’s views sound like “consensus science” in the sense that outsiders have no access to truth, and have to rely on the votes of current science establishment figures. And they must not be skeptical. As my friend points out, this approach “closes the door to effective critiques, because the standard is “expertise” rather than evidence.”

*I remember when the Salk vaccine against polio came to Regina, Saskatchewan, in – I think – 1955. I was a small child in a lineup in front of the school house stretching way down the street, whining, “Mommy, I’m scared! I don’t want a needle!” My mom was carrying my brother and holding my younger sister’s hand, and she told me, “Just be quiet! You don’t want polio either.”

As per usual, it did not take long for average Canadians to figure out what science advances were really of use to us.

Also, just up at The Post-Darwinist:

“Junk” DNA: Darwinism’s Last Stand?

Creationism: Creationists visit temple of evolution

Design: A military perspective

Darwinism and popular culture: Noticing the growing uproar

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