Writer. Warning: opinions. My lawyer advised a disclaimer, but didn't include any jokes to go with. Damned if I can think of any either.

Why People Don’t Believe Scientists

A Catholic buddy of mine once said to me, regarding homosexuals: “No, see, I think it’s totally okay for them to be gay. It’s just not okay for them to do anything about it.

Now, I know this person to be an intelligent human being, a great husband and father. I have had the pleasure of his friendship for many years. This experience with him leads me to believe that he must be performing some serious mental gymnastics inside himself in order to say such a thing.

A scientist doing science.
He’s not alone, of course. Cheryl believes wholeheartedly in things like auras, UFOs, and reflexology. It’s all I can do to maintain a straight face when any of those subjects come up around her. I want to leap out of my chair and rebound off the walls, reciting passages from Richard Feynman’s collected works, or possibly even Richard Dawkins. I hold my tongue for a lot of reasons, not least of which being I don’t want to give her the impression that all Richards are dicks.

More than that, though that stuff is just her faith, you know? It’s not her person. Whatever her beliefs in holistic astrological whatnot, she’s someone I have respect for, and that is worth a lot. On top of that, if I am a man and I consider myself worthy of describing the human experience with any accuracy, then I have a duty to be capable of understanding and respecting people who think much differently than I do.

It’s hard, though. Sometimes I want to sneak in a line like “Hey, have you ever noticed that UFOs have yet to be photographed convincingly despite the fact that nearly every man, woman, and child in America has at least one camera on his or her person at all times?” It’s a pointless thing to say. I might as well bring up Galileo to the Catholics, or the early myopic Hubble to an astronomer.

Scientific American magazine has an article about this very thing, in which they come off a bit smug:

Science may not be the only way of organizing and understanding our experience, but for accuracy it fares better than religion, politics and art. That’s the lesson.

That might be true, but accuracy is valued by almost no one. If you don’t believe me, try correcting everyone’s grammar for a few days and gauge the reaction among your friends. Its doubtful they’re face’s will light up.

Sometimes I have to look inside myself and question my own beliefs. I tend to side more with the scientists than the religious or the spiritual, but is there really any difference between an aura and an electron cloud from my perspective? I don’t have a firm understanding of either one. Neither have I witnessed firsthand.

Now, you might be saying “Well, all you have to do is read this book or that book and over time you could come to understand how it works,” and I agree that that’s how it works. But am I talking about books about auras or ones about electrons?

Ultimately I think it comes down to your belief. I happen to prefer the Science view of things, but I think it’s my duty to admit that this is just a preference. I’m not more right than Cheryl is.

One thought on “Why People Don’t Believe Scientists”

  1. Doug

    My 29 cents:
    I have to get Scientific American’s back here. It’s not smug to differentiate science the way they have. Science vs Belief is a false dichotomy anyway. “Science” is just a process; it doesn’t have to involve fancy mathiness or goggles. It’s simply a way of approaching a question or solving a problem that it is centered around experiments that validate or contradict a hypothesis. That’s where reflexology and the like differ: they don’t withstand (or simply cannot be subjected to) independent investigation. So don’t sell electrons short by saying you’ve never seen one. If you’ve ever tweeted, seen a medical x-ray, or destroyed Alderaan you’ve seen phenomena at work that is consistent with electron theory.

    Whether to argue with your woman about such things is another matter entirely.