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If you want to save democracy, learn to think like a scientist Bobby Azarian; Quartz; 8 Dec 2016

brief article about thinking critically

Paradigms U Like Ophelia Benson; Butterfiels and Wheels; 11 Oct 2003

The hostility to science goes back for millennia. We don’t like brute facts, we don’t like having to check our wishes and hopes against the reality of how the world is. We’ll submit to the necessity for survival purposes, we’ll learn what we need to know of leopards and rabbits, fire and ice, but beyond that we want the right to believe our fantasies. ‘May God us keep/From single vision, and Newton’s sleep!’ said Blake, and Wordsworth agreed: ‘Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;/Our meddling intellect/Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:–We murder to dissect.’
But there is a new kind of animus that has become conventional wisdom in many universities over the past three decades. It goes by the name of perspectivism or situatedness or social constructionism . This view purports to show that science is neither universal nor peculiarly well equipped to arrive at the truth; that on the contrary it is local, Western, socially and culturally embedded, and therefore, merely one form of knowledge among many.

Why Are Environmentalists Taking Anti-Science Positions? Fred Pearce; Yale environment 360; 22 Oct 2012

On issues ranging from genetically modified crops to nuclear power, environmentalists are increasingly refusing to listen to scientific arguments that challenge standard green positions. This approach risks weakening the environmental movement and empowering climate contrarians.

Why Science? Iida Ruishalme; THoughtscapism; 13 Feb 2015

Where should we turn to if we want to know something? What are good sources of information? What do they look like? These questions apply to most areas of life. It all really boils down to: why science? Aren’t there other just as important sources? What makes science so infallible? I’ve often heard the counter-argument that science doesn’t know everything. So why should we listen to it? The answers are: science is not infallible. It doesn’t know everything. But it’s the only one in the game. There is no competing system of knowledge. Science is the common denominator for all those endeavours that openly admit that ‘we think that this might be the case but we will test real hard to see if it turns out really to be so’. If you are looking for knowledge about the world, science is the one gig in town that’s sitting down around the table and thinking hard on ‘how can we truly know something?’

How to read and understand a scientific paper: a guide for non-scientists Jennifer Raff; LSE blog; 9 May 2016


The appeal to “science was wrong before”

The argument is that since science is sometimes wrong, the believer’s claim is as likely to be true as one supported by scientific evidence.


The Debunking Handbook: now freely available for download John Cook, Stephan Lewandowski; Skeptical Science; 27 Nov 2011

Debunking myths is problematic. Unless great care is taken, any effort to debunk misinformation can inadvertently reinforce the very myths one seeks to correct. To avoid these “backfire effects”, an effective debunking requires three major elements. First, the refutation must focus on core facts rather than the myth to avoid the misinformation becoming more familiar. Second, any mention of a myth should be preceded by explicit warnings to notify the reader that the upcoming information is false. Finally, the refutation should include an alternative explanation that accounts for important qualities in the original misinformation


You are not going to believe what I'm about to tell you The Oatmeal; May 2017

illustrated explanation of the backfire effect in comic strip form

Why fighting anti-vaxxers and climate change doubters often backfires Science

If there’s a war on science, it’s not just one war. And branding people who disagree with you about vaccines, climate change, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as the enemy may be unwittingly fueling the conflicts. Those were some of the arguments made at a session here today at the annual meeting of AAAS

Injecting kindness into the debate Iida Ruishalme; Thoughtscapism; 19 Feb 2015

Vaccines are a topic that stir up a lot of emotions. How should we talk about them? Will anything we do make a difference? I think a useful perspective on the topic comes from framing the question somewhat differently: can we make a difference by the way behave in our interactions with other people? When I first encountered vaccine skepticism at a mommy-group, I found myself on a furious Google and PubMed-fest, pasting from scientific sources and official health authorities. The thread went south. The worst names we called each other may only have been ‘irresponsible’, ‘ignorant’, and ‘biased’, but going on 150 comments, each time that notification button turned red it added double digits to my blood pressure. I’d wake up at 3 am to feed the baby, unable to get back to sleep thinking of *how they could just not get it*. Giving up on sleep, I’d answer adjuvant questions at 3:45.

We Are All Confident Idiots DAVID DUNNING; 27 OCT 2014

The trouble with ignorance is that it feels so much like expertise. A leading researcher on the psychology of human wrongness sets us straight.

Ban academics talking to ministers? We should train them to do it Ben Goldacre; Times Higher Education; 7 Mar 2016

The Shock of the New: Finding a Circuit Breaker for Health Fears Around New Technology Ketan Joshi·In; The Wheeler Centre - Health & medicine; 13 Apr 2015

Often, despite the evidence, new technology provokes anxieties around human health. As Ketan Joshi explains, there's more to this fear than errant logic — and symptoms of ill health can even be induced by it. But, in the case of large-scale developments like wind farms, there are simple and practical ways to improve the experience of communities living nearby.

Persuasion: Fascinating Study Shows How To Open A Closed Mind Stephen J. Meyer; Forbes; 12 Jun 2014

So how can we get people to see things our way? Researchers Brendan Nyhan from Dartmouth University and Jason Reifler from Georgia State considered that question in a context where convictions tend to be especially resistant to facts: politics. They ran experiments where they presented people with information that contradicted their political attitudes. They deliberately chose topics that were highly emotional – highly polarizing issues that make people really dig in their heels. ... They tested three different strategies:
  • Presenting a paragraph of text that summarized the factual evidence
  • Presenting the evidence in a chart
  • Building up subjects’ self-esteem so they’d feel less threatened.
The least effective approach was explaining the facts in words. Building up subjects’ self-esteem didn’t work very well either. The most effective of the three techniques was simply presenting the information in a simple chart like the one below.

Socially constructed silence? Protecting policymakers from the unthinkable. PAUL HOGGETT and ROSEMARY RANDALL;; 6 Jun 2016

In 2013-14 we carried out interviews with leading UK climate scientists and communicators to explore how they managed the ethical and emotional challenges of their work. ... a picture emerged of a community which still identified strongly with an idealised picture of scientific rationality, in which the job of scientists is to get on with their research quietly and dispassionately. As a consequence, this community is profoundly uncomfortable with the storm of political controversy that climate research is now attracting.

Me vs. We: Rethinking Personal Guilt Daisy Simmons; Yale Climate Connections; 10 Aug 2016

New research suggests that people donate more money to a climate cause when they're thinking about collective rather than personal responsibility for the problem.

Misconceptions, Misinformation, and the Logic of Identity-Protective Cognition Dan M. Kahan (Yale University - Law School); SSRN; 24 May 2017

This paper supplies a compact synthesis of the empirical literature on misconceptions of and misinformation about decision-relevant science. The incidence and impact of misconceptions and misperceptions, the article argues, are highly conditional on identity protective cognition. Identity protective cognition refers to the tendency of culturally diverse individuals to selectively credit and dismiss evidence in patterns that reflect the beliefs that predominate in their group. On issues that provoke identity-protective cognition, the members of the public most adept at avoiding misconceptions of science are nevertheless the most culturally polarized. Individuals are also more likely to accept misinformation and resist the correction of it when that misinformation is identity-affirming rather than identity-threatening. Effectively counteracting these dynamics, the paper argues, requires more than simply supplying citizens with correct information. It demands in addition the protection of the science communication environment from toxic social meanings that fuse competing understandings of fact with diverse citizens’ cultural identities.

impact factor

Impact factors are not the same thing as reliability The Mad Virologist; 9 Dec 2015

A very common issue that I see among scientists and science lovers (skeptics, enthusiasts, etc.) is this idea that impact factors are useful in determining the quality and reliability of a scientific study. Some take it to the point that anything with an impact factor less than 10 is questionable. Unfortunately, there are issues with this idea that become apparent once what an impact factor really means is defined. An impact factor is the number of times that the articles in a journal are cited the previous year divided by the number of articles published that year.