Discoveroids: Laymen Should Challenge Scientists

A few months a go we wrote The Magic of Design Intuition, in which we discussed Doug Axe’s concept of a “design intuition” we supposedly all share, and which — in the case of their “theory” of intelligent design — Axe says is “valid and confirmed by science.”

Today the Discovery Institute is promoting the same theme in a post titled Naval Academy Philosopher: Laypeople Entitled to an Opinion on Science Questions. It was written by Sarah Chaffee (whom we call “Savvy Sarah”). Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

This sounds more than a bit like Douglas Axe. It’s a presentation given at the Conference of the Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice this past June by Larry Lengbeyer, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the U.S. Naval Academy. The talk, “Defending Limited Non-Deference to Science Experts,” explains logically why laypeople are not barred from disagreeing with scientists.

Of special interest is the section defending disagreement based on a perception of “untrustworthy science.” Lengbeyer acknowledges that this is a tricky call for laypeople to make. However, he notes that people have access to credible scientific sources. And “some of the time, the outsider will have the ability to offer evaluations that deserve respect, including critical evaluations…” This is not common, but it happens. He lists more than 17 different logical flaws that a layperson may identify.

Then she gives a few of those 17 logical flaws. Presumably quoting Lengbeyer, we’re told that a layman can doubt a scientist when:

[T]he theory has been confirmed/validated in highly artificial conditions, or with a data set that is limited in important ways, calling into question its applicability to other contexts …

We’re not sure how a layman can determine if that’s applicable. It looks to us like the sort of thing that would be spotted during peer review. Anyway, Savvy Sarah shows how useful it can be to creationists:

This sounds a lot like the problems with current scenarios for the origin of life. Self-replicating RNA is designed in the lab, the Miller-Urey experiment was conducted under conditions very different from those scientists believe were the case on the early Earth, and hydrothermal vents may not be totally nurturing to life.

Then she gives us another quote from Lengbeyer — and the brackets and ellipsis are in Sarah’s post:

[T]he stated findings or conclusions are not convincingly warranted by the study results, on account of one or more methodological failures [overgeneralization, overstatement, cherry picking, possibly p-hacking]…

No problem for a layman to spot an error like that! Sarah gives an example creationists can use:

What are the problems with neo-Darwinism? Generally that natural selection acting on random mutation leads to microevolution (such as changes in the Galápagos finches) rather than macroevolution. When researchers claim that they have observed speciation in action, a closer look often reveals only small changes — instances of breaking genes, not innovation of new information. Overgeneralization and overstatement are rampant.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Look for the Micro-Macro Mambo in Common Creationist Claims Confuted. Sarah continues:

Axe explains the importance of allowing laypeople to weigh scientific arguments, using their own power of reason to arrive at a plausible opinion. [Big quote from Doug Axe.] Logic wins over scientific groupthink.

Sarah gives one more big quote from Lengbeyer, of which this is a tiny part:

Better to embrace the emerging participatory model, and to concentrate on elevating laypersons in respectful and empowering ways so that they can play their limited role competently, perhaps gradually increasing their science understanding so as to narrow the gulf between them and the experts.

Sarah ends her post by gushing:

The “participatory model” is a worthy complement to Axe’s “common science.”

We note that Sarah didn’t quote anything Lengbeyer said about evolution. If he had, she surely would have quoted it. We’re left to wonder what he was talking about, and whether he’d appreciate having his remarks appropriated by a creationist outfit like the Discoveroids.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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24 responses to “Discoveroids: Laymen Should Challenge Scientists

  1. What she is saying is summed up as “It makes my tummy feel bad so it can’t be true.”

  2. michaelfugate

    One can find the Lengbeyer paper here:
    http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/view/creators/Lengbeyer=3ALawrence=3A=3A.html

    He opines: “Many self-styled defenders of science call for a populace better educated in science, thinking that this will produce people who happily and humbly comply with science-based pronouncements.”

    Really?

  3. Of special interest is the section defending disagreement based on a perception of “untrustworthy science.” Lengbeyer acknowledges that this is a tricky call for laypeople to make. However, he notes that people have access to credible scientific sources.

    But who decides what’s “credible,” and on what basis?

  4. It would be interesting if the DI would define exactly how many micro-evolutionary changes would add up to one macro-evolutionary change. If macro is impossible, how many micros can happen before they end and the organism is evolved as far as possible.

    Inquiring minds want to know.

    Also – I haven’t noticed any reluctance on the part of lay people to question science that they do not agree with. Climate change being an obvious example. Evolution is another. In both cases, scientists typically explain why they reached the conclusions they did. Why is this an issue?

    What lay people cannot do is determine what science is true or not based on their beliefs. As the DI does.

  5. “…a population better educated in science, thinking this will produce people who humbly comply with science-based pronouncements.” No, but it might produce some people who would actually know what they are disputing, rather than just saying science is bad because my favorite mythology says so.

  6. His reviews at the Naval Academy do not help. Awful seems top be a popular rating.
    http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=505225

  7. Charles Deetz ;)

    Now the DI feeling empowered in the post-truth/facts/sanity Trumpian America. I’m not liking this.

  8. michaelfugate

    In his article, he seems to be very concerned about vaccines – especially those that prevent sexually transmitted viruses.

  9. She’s absolutely right. It is disgusting that I didn’t get a vote on the germ theory.

  10. Jill Smith complains

    It is disgusting that I didn’t get a vote on the germ theory.

    Not only that, but the vote was rigged! Trillions of microbes were vectored in from Mexico to illegally cast their ballots in favour of the Pathogen Party, totally overwhelming my own vote to ‘Disinfect the Swamp’ and ‘Make Antiseptics Great Again’…

  11. You’re whining about science-type stuff that nobody cares about.
    How about having a vote on deciding who gets home-field advantage for the World Series?

  12. “microevolution rather than macroevolution”
    As a layman I say this is an overstatement, because no creationist ever has even tried to determine the limits of microevolution. Logic wins over creationist groupthink.

  13. “Many self-styled defenders of science call for a populace better educated in science, thinking that this will produce people who happily and humbly comply with science-based pronouncements.”

    This is why, when my heart begins to fail, I’m going to rely on an unlicensed electrician to help me, because I don’t want anyone who’s fallen prey to that cardiovascular groupthink. Also, see “Trump, qualifications to lead large nation.”

    When did we switch to “the Less You Know…”?

  14. TomS suggests that there be a vote to “[decide] who gets home-field advantage for the World Series”.

    A vote might actually be better than the way it’s done now. A better example would be fans voting to determine a team’s next play or series of game-time decisions. More than scientists and politicians, coaches and athletes get a lot of scrutiny from people with little experience in the field (pun absolutely intended). The stakes are much, much lower, of course, but it is where we get the term Monday Morning Quarterback.

  15. Ah, the old “I feel it so it so it must be true” school of logic. Can’t argue with that and of course that’s the reason why its not part of the scientific methodology. Do neo-Darwinist have cool tattoos or some other distinctive trademark by the way?

  16. @Mark Germano
    There has been a change in the procedure. The old one was that the winner of the All Star game determined the league given the advantage. Now it will be the team with the better regular season with the advantage (I don’t know the tie breaking complications.)

  17. Thanks, TomS. I stopped my baseball alerts after the Tribe lost Game 7. If only Francona had done the things I thought were better, maybe Cleveland would be celebrating, amirite?

  18. Mark Germano wisely decides

    when my heart begins to fail, I’m going to rely on an unlicensed electrician to help me, because I don’t want anyone who’s fallen prey to that cardiovascular groupthink

    Similarly, should I ever need brain surgery, I shall shun the likes of Dr. Ben Carson in favour of an archaeologist who can perform a bit of trepanning by means of a trowel. I’ll save thousands of dollars!

  19. OK. To summarize If one doesn’t have the scientific literacy to understand a theory or body of research, just disregard and attack the work based on non scientific arguments based on religious dogma, astonishment, bigotry or hatred. Got it !

  20. Or, as the DI does, use intuition. That way, the answer is always what you want it to be.

  21. But my intuition tells me that lots of animals and plants are related to one another.

  22. TomS – That’s just Satan whispering in your ear. Spin around three times, shout “Get thee behind me, Satan”, and send me 10% of your (pre-tax) income.

  23. I sense the beginnings of a new, and potentially dangerous, tactic of the Discovery Institute.

    Invasion of the public schools having failed, they now see an opening in trying to introduce “democracy in science”. That sounds highly seductive- after all, who is against democracy? Who is against science?- until you realise they want everybody to have a vote in what science is true/valuable and what should be rejected, based on ‘informed participation’.

    A couple of million and a willing ear in the government could work wonders, as there seem to be no constitutional obstacles. I bet we haven’t heard the last of this.

  24. Someone has to stand up to these experts!