“Through basic science literacy, people can understand the policy choices we need to be making. Scientists are not necessarily the greatest communicators, but science and communication is one of the fundamentals we need to address. People are interested.” -James Murdoch

Are you scientifically literate? Do you even know what that means? You’ll periodically see quizzes designed to assess some measure of science literacy, and they’ll usually focus on a slew of general knowledge questions, inevitably decrying what a large fraction of people don’t know. But is that a fair assessment of scientific literacy, or what it means to be scientifically literate? Highly doubtful.

The Apollo 1 prime crewmembers for the first manned Apollo Mission (204) prepare to enter their spacecraft inside the altitude chamber at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The Apollo program brought huge advances in technology to the entire world, independent of anything else we learned about space. Image credit: NASA.

The Apollo 1 prime crewmembers for the first manned Apollo Mission (204) prepare to enter their spacecraft inside the altitude chamber at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The Apollo program brought huge advances in technology to the entire world, independent of anything else we learned about space. Image credit: NASA.

At its core, scientific literacy isn’t about being able to answer questions about science correctly or to explain various phenomena, but about two things that most people generally don’t think about: having an awareness for what the enterprise of science is and having an appreciation for what scientific knowledge and discoveries do for humanity.

A composite image of the western hemisphere of Earth. Image credit: NASA / GSFC / NOAA / USGS.

A composite image of the western hemisphere of Earth. Image credit: NASA / GSFC / NOAA / USGS.

If you think both of those things describe you, or you’d like them to, come find out what that really means and entails, and learn what it truly means to be scientifically literate.

Comments

  1. #1 eric
    January 11, 2017

    I think you’ve attempted to shove a whole lot of extra, unwarranted meaning into the statement “being aware of the enterprise of science.” I’m not sure awareness requires or means respect for it, or recognizing our own knowledge limitations, or a need for legitimate expertise, or not choosing preferred solutions using selective data – a process that is typically unintentional anyway. Those things are much more than just awareness. And personally as someone with a background in science, I’m not even sure what you mean by “the enterprise of science.” Seems pretty fuzzy.

    In terms of trying to come up with simple questions to test science literacy, I’d take a clue from Binet. Identify the stuff you think people ought to know, then test a bunch of simple questions related to it until you find some good proxies. The questions themselves don’t necessarily have to be fully representative of the entire subject matter and don’t have to attempt some broad comprehension (like “the scientific enterprise”). As long as you can show that performance in answering the simple questions is strongly correlated with the understanding you’re trying to measure, you’re good – you’ve got a useful test of science literacy. Is that approach merely empirical? Yep. Intellectually somewhat unsatisfying? You betcha. Will it work? Yes, probably.

  2. #2 Anon
    January 11, 2017

    This blog seems to just have become a teaser to make you click on a Forbes website, which first wastes at least 3 seconds of your time showing some random quote, and then complains about any adblock detected (which you may or may not be able to do, or decide right there not to bother.).

  3. #3 Sinisa Lazarek
    January 11, 2017

    While in general, I understand the sentiment in the post.. there are some things I disagree with.

    “Being aware of the enterprise of science means having a tremendous respect for the people devoting their lives…”

    Tremendous respect?! Don’t get me wrong, I respect all working people. Period. But going down the path that some professions are “more worthy” then others is a dangerous road I’m not sure you intended to go down on. The only professions that could be worthy of “tremendous respect” would be the ones where the person doing a job is risking his own life and well being for the benefit of others. Like emergency services i.e. Or people breaking their backs in coal mines … etc.. But sitting in a warm office in front of a computer for 8 hours a day, doesn’t really cut it for handing tremendous respect… just because you are doing science.

    The second thing is (since your post is about the whole world): ” A person born today can expect to survive childbirth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle age and live well into their 70s or longer. They can expect to live healthy, active, well-nourished lives, and to live those lives largely disease-free. They can expect to live those lives in temperature-controlled homes…. ” This would be mostly true if you are fortunate enough to be born in a western country. Are things looking better then years ago.. yes.. but when there are still 2-3 billion people living well below what you describe, I can’t share your happiness about how great our world is today.

  4. #4 Wow
    January 11, 2017

    “sitting in a warm office in front of a computer for 8 hours a day, doesn’t really cut it”

    https://www.bas.ac.uk/polar-operations/sites-and-facilities/station/

    ???

  5. #5 Axil
    January 11, 2017

    FYI

    https://futurism.com/an-international-team-of-experts-just-released-a-manifesto-on-how-to-fix-science/

    An International Team of Experts Just Released A “Manifesto” on How to Fix Science

  6. #6 Frank
    Omaha,NE
    January 11, 2017

    “The only professions that could be worthy of “tremendous respect” would be the ones where the person doing a job is risking his own life and well being for the benefit of others”

    Then a coal miner is more worthy than a doctor or a professor who thought that doctor 🙂
    Another problem is a coal miner can be replaced anytime but what about the others? 🙂
    and also are you saying a doctor is more valuable than Einstein for example? (Or he is just an extreme example?)

  7. #7 Wow
    January 11, 2017

    “Working on the coal face – considered the best paid job in the pit – can earn a miner about £40,000 a year.

    Throw in bonuses and overtime and that earning potential rises to £50,000.”

    “Ecologist job profile | Prospects.ac.uk
    https://www.prospects.ac.uk/job-profiles/ecologist
    Senior/principal ecologists can expect to earn £30,000 to £40,000 plus”

  8. #8 Eleftherios
    USA
    January 11, 2017

    Unfortunately for me, I answered both questions no. I’m stupid, proven by my IQ, but I try.

    Tremendous respect? Shall we discuss the history of science, specifically scientists? We do not have to go very far to find immorality. No, not all are guilty, but apparently you forgot history, conveniently. The reasons are many, mostly are money and power, or worse. Each should be judged individually, not as a whole. It really is a matter of perspective or perception. Do you know the difference between perception and reality? Apparently, only partly, the one you profit from, while the rest suffer from your superiority or belief therein.

    Legitimate expertise and for valuing the conclusions thereby reached? Of course, but too never question, even them, is religion not science. It helps me learn better, something they should want, in my opinion. Even better, is for them to teach willingly and freely and demand nothing in return, it is called giving.

    You cannot choose your preferred conclusion and then use whatever evidence to support it? Correct, all evidence available should be considered and by asking new questions to try to find more, and something new will be learned, eventually. Have you ever tried to prove Einstein wrong? I hope so, that’s science, at least a part of it. It is what he would have wanted; it is what he taught me, based on some of his quotes that I have read.

    Sacrifice is usually giving, not being paid, but not always. Thinking can help answer that question.

    If intelligence is set, possibility, chance and change are not possible, with time. What is time?

    Have you ever tried to prove IQ wrong? I do. Even stupid has chance, given by one, made of two.

  9. #9 eric
    January 11, 2017

    Frank:

    Then a coal miner is more worthy than a doctor or a professor who thought that doctor 🙂

    I have no problem considering some blue collar jobs more worthy of praise and respect than some white collar jobs. Yes, those who risk their lives for our safety and power, resources, etc. should get our respect. Though personally I’d like it if that coal miner’s country were able to retrain him to work in a more environmentally friendly industry. 🙂

    Unfortunately, I think as a matter of practice you’re unlikely to change industry from its current focus on profit. They’re going to pay people according to their ability to earn the company money (or how well they minimize the risk the company loses money), regardless of the personal risk the worker takes on. I’m not saying I agree with that, but I think it’s just one of those things about for-profit companies that we’re probably not going to change.

  10. #10 Craig Thomas
    January 11, 2017

    ” there are still 2-3 billion people living well below what you describe,”
    The average life expectancy in China is 77.
    The average life expectancy in India is 68.

    The reason scientists are generically entitled to respect is the same reason teachers are: the product of their activity is not primarily the monetary reward.

    Although I have a generic request for operators of heavy machinery, at the forefront of my mind when it comes to miners and garbage collectors is the though, “you poor bugger, how did your life turn out like that”.

  11. #11 Wow
    January 11, 2017

    Were lives saved by the Davey lamp?

    How much more could coalworkers get to when the steam engine could drain out the water?

    Did the coalminer do it?

    Why should the scientist or engineer that worked out how to save their lives and keep their jobs be dismissed as less than them?

    SL you dismiss the efforts of others because you don’t see them as “manly”.

    This is not a good way of thinking about things.

  12. #12 Sinisa Lazarek
    January 12, 2017

    I am not dismissing anyone. Quite the contrary, my main objection to OP is the request for “tremendous respect” for anyone with a job in science as opposed to what I assume would be the rest. Why?

    So I should have had i.e. a tremendous respect for my chemistry teacher but just plain ol’ respect for my arts teacher.. just because of their professional choices and interests? That sound very elitist IMO.

    Respect is earned with the quality or achievements in what you do. If you’re really good at what you do, you ought get tremendous respect. Weather you make wooden furniture, milk cows, cure disease, do math, program video games etc.. all jobs matter. I don’t see the rationale of someone getting extra credit, treatment and huge respect just because he likes minerals, while the other person likes to write poems i.e.

  13. #13 Wow
    January 12, 2017

    “I am not dismissing anyone. ”

    Then why the complaining you did in #3?

    Look, for all the BS about “Chairperson”, there’s one good thing to come from discussing it: when you say “Chairman” are you thinking of a male person, or the position? If it’s the former, then you’re slightly unconsciously sexist at least.

    The scientific method is recognition that the easiest people to fool are ourselves,and we want a good image of ourselves.

  14. #14 Sinisa Lazarek
    January 12, 2017

    purely position. i haven’t mentioned gender anywhere.

  15. #15 Wow
    January 12, 2017

    Damn. Posted to the wrong thread. Copied here:

    SL, you didn’t want scientists to be placed where you think coalminers should be.

    Why?

    1) coalminers work physically hard. BUT
    – machinery does most of the hard work.
    – you’re elevating “manly” physical effort as the marker for “worthy”
    – You don’t need to work 7 years or more to become a coalminer
    – We pay them as much as someone senior in ecology. Don’t get me started about the pay of postgrads working for them…

    2) They risk their lives. BUT
    – New York taxi drivers risk their lives more than any other group. You’re not putting them ahead of police, never mind the coal miner. And they don’t sweat at their labour. Pfeh! What are THEY worth, eh?
    – Who says scientists aren’t risking their lives:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-tayside-central-37774048

    If you think it’s all steak and gravy for scientists, that they all sit safe behind a desk, go and join up to help a geology group at university, or an ecological expedition.

    Hell, watch the behind-the-scenes footage of David Attenborough’s series on life on earth. Look at the lives of people who go to Africa to study Elephants. Australia to study sharks.

    Your ignorance (unwitting, I bet, since I suspect you KNEW that the above was true) is because you don’t think scientists are worthy of respect,you look down on their efforts, don’t consider what they ACTUALLY HAVE TO DO when they’re not sitting in a lecture theatre and teaching the next set of scientists to be told they’re worth less than a coal miner by someone who has never had to run a field expedition for 9 months, with all of that time having to negotiate the necessary funds to extend to another 9 months next year (and for the next five, any of which might get its funding chucked out).

    Try it sometime.

    In short, SL, you have the stereotype and paintall scientists with that single image.

    It;s no different than any other bigotry, racism or sexism.

    You find a comforting archetype then instead of thinking, you plonk that stereotype in wherever you need to think about the topic.

    It’s when you do that KNOWINGLY that it becomes a bad thing, but it’s still not good if you do it UNknowingly; and it’s still worth being corrected on. The action is the same, even if the mens rea is different.

  16. #16 Wow
    January 12, 2017

    “purely position.”

    Good.

    ” i haven’t mentioned gender anywhere.”

    I did. In the post you read with this response.

  17. #17 Wow
    January 12, 2017

    “But non the less. I think you are misunderstanding what I was trying to argue. ”

    No, I don’t think you realise what you said means about YOU. You know you’re a good person, and what I;m describing is what a bad person thinks, so that can’t be what YOU think, right?

    But that’s circular reasoning.

    It’s how people like Ragtag convince themselves that they’re right and AGW is a scam.

    “It’s not about coal miners per say. I gave them as an example of a type of jobs”

    And it’s not about the coal miners per se, it was about the example of the “type of job”.

    See this bit again:

    1) coalminers work physically hard. BUT
    – machinery does most of the hard work.
    – you’re elevating “manly” physical effort as the marker for “worthy”
    – You don’t need to work 7 years or more to become a coalminer
    – We pay them as much as someone senior in ecology. Don’t get me started about the pay of postgrads working for them…

    2) They risk their lives. BUT
    – New York taxi drivers risk their lives more than any other group. You’re not putting them ahead of police, never mind the coal miner. And they don’t sweat at their labour. Pfeh! What are THEY worth, eh?
    – Who says scientists aren’t risking their lives:

    Where do I state that only coalminers work physically hard? I even EXPLICITLY NAME New York City taxi drivers and police as someone risking their lives in their job.

    You’re stuck on the idea that you’re not a bad person, and you’re therefore the most likely to fool yourself.

    AND YOU ARE FOOLING YOURSELF. For proof, look at how you don’t see what is right in front of you, even when you’re replying to it, therefore MUST have read it.

    “but that are usually overlooked or treated as being menial”

    cf your post’s description of scientists:

    But sitting in a warm office in front of a computer for 8 hours a day

    DO YOU EVEN LISTEN TO YOURSELF???

    “My argument is why should ALL scientists be a priori treated with tremendous respect? ”

    1) Who said ALL???? Not even YOU when you made your whine at #3.
    2) WHY NOT??? Should all emergency workers be a priori treated with tremendous respect?

    I remember hearing about a nurse giving lethal injections to patients in hospital. I remember an ambulance worker killed someone. ALL emergency workers? No, but not all emergency workers deserve a priori tremendous respect.

    “What is it about their job that’s more special then other professions? ”

    Did you read what I posted?!?!??

    What is it about coal miners job that’s more special than other professions? See the problem? You can’t make that sort of demand of others when you’ve started off with that “error” yourself, YET REFUSE TO SEE IT.

    “Miners were given just as an example”

    But if they are an example for you, then I can use them as the example too.

    Or is that not allowed for anyone else, we must all strive for complete and utter accuracy, with no shortcuts of “examples”?

    “No. I am asking why does OP think they are worthy of MORE respect then everyone else in their professions.”

    Who said that? The OP didn’t. You said that just there for the first time.

    You haven’t read what the OP said, you haven’t read what I’ve said, you haven’t read what you’ve said.

    Would you be surprised to hear that you are pissing me off?

    Because I know you CAN read and comprehend it, but you’re too deep inside your own circular reasoning of what YOU “know” (and note, this is genuinely a scare-quotes-know, you’re the first one to be fooled by what you want to think of yourself, and the last one to change your mind on that) you mean in your head, and ignore that all WE get is what comes out of your keyboard.

    But you’ve demonstrated NONE of that here.

    You’re better than that.

    If you’d been some trolling dumbass, I could just troll you back hard and get giggles out of it, but I still believe you genuinely don’t see what’s going on right in front of your face, and I know that you CAN see it, if you’re MADE to see it. You can do better and I should be able to help you.

  18. #18 Wow
    January 12, 2017

    “I have exact SAME professional respect for Michelangelo as well as for Einstein.”

    So scientist and artist. Check.

    What about coalminer?

    “Or to bring it down a notch.. exact same respect for my doctor as well as for my accountant. ”

    But have you ever described them as “sitting in a warm office in front of a computer for 8 hours a day”?

    No.

    What about your accountant and ambulance worker? What about your doctor and doctors? What about accountants and coalminers?

    You respect your doctor and your accountant because they do things for YOU.

    Yet that computer was done for you by the work of scientists and mathematicians right back to WWII. “sitting in an office 8 hours a day (plus another 8 hours, occasionally 12”.

    “I find it incredible that you would accuse me having archetypes or stereotypes”

    I think it incredible that oyu can say that after what I posted and the evidence given.

    And, no this isn’t a laughing out loud matter. If I thought you were a fucking idiot with no hope of comprehension, THEN I’d LOL after I whupped your sorry ass for its irredeemable stupidity.

  19. #19 Sinisa Lazarek
    January 12, 2017

    I gave a reply in the other thread, so I won’t copy it all here.. but just to summ.

    IMO tremendous respect is earned by doing or achieving tremendous results or contributions in your field or doing. Regardless if you are a scientist or a poet or whatever. That’s why that adjective is there… to signify some very great ammount of that respect..

    Why ask for tremendous respect just by working in the field? Old “regular” respect not enough? That’s what I’m disagreeing with OP. There’s no mention of scope of contribution or anything… just by working in science.. you should get much much more respect then those who don’t. I find this to be a very elitist view and can’t agree with it.

    And I don’t understand how someone can say that a critique of wanting more than respect is same as view of having no respect for science?

  20. #20 Wow
    January 12, 2017

    Note,too, SL, you complain about needing to equate “professions”, yet the only non-manual labour workers you posit are given as individuals, not the profession.

    And you 100% never changed that, nor noticed in the least.

    Did you EVER think of ” have exact SAME professional respect for Artists as well as for Scientists.”? If you didn’t, why the whining about treating professionals, as opposed to “Mike, John, Amy and Natasha”?

  21. #21 Wow
    January 12, 2017

    “IMO tremendous respect is earned by doing or achieving tremendous results or contributions in your field”

    OK.

    But coal miners and emergency workers don’t all do that, by definition, even if nothing else.

    Yet you said, and I quote:

    The only professions that could be worthy of “tremendous respect” would be the ones where the person doing a job is risking his own life and well being for the benefit of others. Like emergency services i.e. Or people breaking their backs in coal mines

    Where, pray tell, was your “doing or achieving tremendous results or contributions in your field” then?

    STOP reacting.

    START reflecting.

    Go back over what you’ve said.Go back and look at what I said. Forget it was you saying the former and me saying the latter. Look at it like you’re the bystander between two people arguing the point.

    Because you’re so deep into what you “meant” you’re not reading anything, not even what you wrote.

    And go back and do the same thing again with what Ethan said and what you said, again, forgetting who said what, as if you were the bystander to that conversation.

    You’re TOO CAUGHT UP in your ego’s insistence that, unlike “bad people” who would think the way I described you, you’re a GOOD PERSON, ergo it can’t be what you read, it must be what you think they must have meant!

    “Why ask for tremendous respect just by working in the field?”

    Medical science mean you;re living healthily well past 80, and your quality of life at 75 today is better than your parents’ life when they were just past 65.

    Medical science done by people “sitting in a warm office in front of a computer for 8 hours a day”, for whom that reality of their working life “doesn’t cut it”.

    “And I don’t understand how someone can say that a critique of wanting more than respect is same as view of having no respect for science?”

    /Because you’re in deep denial of what you have said, deep denial of the evidence of what you’re saying, and deep denial of there being any possibility you’re not the person you think yourself to be.

    Because you’re as deep in denial as Ragtag. It’s just about different things.

  22. #22 Chris Mannering
    January 12, 2017

    That was a pretty good take….although I don’t know if ‘scientific literacy’ is ideal as the umbrella term for the particular sentiments. It doesn’t really matter in this sort of scenario anyway, because terms and choice-of-terms aren’t interesting so no one ever remembers what they were. It’s the underlying ideas that matter, and which have the potential to be interesting. People will remember the ideas, or nothing at all.
    The problem with the word ‘literacy’ is not the word itself but the first association we have for the word which is in linguistics. Literate as in can basically read and write. After that it’s numeracy which does have some parallel with ‘reading and writing’ in terms of arithmetic.
    The problem that arises when ‘literacy;’ is attached to something and doing so does look sensible, is that psychological we will build in a silent assumption that what is described and called literacy will constitute the same parallel in that other domain, as ‘read and write’.
    But…it’s not an intrinsic of the word itself, and that means that you have actually make sure the ideas do correspond to that sort of parallel. Because if they don’t, the problem is that the assumption gets built in anyway, and in that situation, because the ideas didn’t have that parallel, there’s an inconsistency.
    The implications for the word, of this, is found by simply considering that to be scientifically literate, you have to be numerate and you have to have basic reading and writing skills. And those two other contexts of literacy are by no means the only two. There’s hierarchy of meanings for the word. And it’s a category of word in which that cannot be cancelled away. All words have some hierarchical re-emergingness, but context manages that for us. Whereas with some words they are inherently hierarchical and so the way we have to use them is by making that attribute explicit with each next derivation. So we say ‘to be literate for [explicit purpose] you have to.
    If that looks like ‘competent’ it’s because it is. The two words are faces of the same thing.

  23. #23 CFT
    January 12, 2017

    Apparently Ethan is historically and philosophically ‘illiterate’, as he is confusing ideology with methodology. Science can help you find interesting new ways to kill or control millions of people, it offers zero guidance on if such a thing should be done, which is no surprise since that isn’t what science is for. Science is all about how something can be done, not should something be done. Morality and ethics are the proper foundation for guiding principals, not science-y PR advocacy or silly made up mission statements.

  24. #24 Wow
    January 12, 2017

    Is he, or are you creating an internal narrative that confuses them, then dumping it on the text?

    “not should something be done.”

    Meaningless. Science can say that easily.

    Should you jump off that cliff? Science says no, you’ll die.

    Done.

  25. #25 Omega Centauri
    January 12, 2017

    One difference between the scientist, MD, lawyers and the coal miners and such, is that the former devoted a great deal of effort over a period of more than a decade learning the skills necessary to perform those tasks. Instead of spending their time as teenagers chasing girls(or boys) and experimenting with alcohol and fast cars, they were hitting the books. So in some sense they earned their position, by the application of good old fashioned hard work, much of it performed at an age, when actual work seemed far off in the future.

    On sci literacy. I applaud making knowledge of the scientific method, proposing theories and forever testing them with observations and experiments. At its heart the method requires the willingness to discard favored theories
    that don’t match the real world.

    But, there is also a need to be willing to think mathematically about things, as so much of theory, and observation depends upon that. And being willing and able to do at least some algebra is essential to have an appreciation for most scientific (and engineering) effort. If ones attitude is “I hate math, only geeks do that”, then you have denied yourself the ability to be more than moderately scientifically literate.

  26. #26 Chris Mannering
    January 12, 2017

    CFT says “Apparently Ethan is historically and philosophically ‘illiterate’, as he is confusing ideology with methodology. “

    I don’t think so. Ethan is a communicator – a good one, gifted even. A piece is about the ideas and some ideas matter much more than any formalism, which gets settled retrospectively anyway, if a text is regarded as important enough. And what decides importance would you say? It’s the ideas and/or the passion, or the timing, or a combo. Guess what it is never: what you’re saying….what you are prioritizing. That only matters to the extent it matters for comprehension at the point of reading.
    And I’m NO|T accusing you or throwing innuendo your way, because for all I know what you just said there is not typical of you. But if is then yeah, this shoe will fit real nice. Nit picking about terms and categories is the mark of the pseudo intellectual and of the mediocre generally. You don’t find gifted people, even that specialise in those areas, putting down original work, especially not the writer is prolific.

    I raised the matter but only because I thought it might be of general interest. But that’s partly a mood thing what people want.

  27. #27 eric
    January 12, 2017

    Omega Centauri:

    Instead of spending their time as teenagers chasing girls(or boys) and experimenting with alcohol and fast cars, they were hitting the books.

    I think this is a very unfair generalization of blue collar workers (here, coal miners). Some might have ended up in unskilled labor and jobs that rely primarily on OTJ training because they didn’t want to learn a skill via educational/academic training. However, I’d guess the vast majority had no access to good secondary education and no way to pay for higher education, or other family support obligations that made it impractical.

    Let’s dispense with the conservative notion that people generally end up in life where they deserve, eh? Its bullflop. Most people in all walks and strata of life work very hard. The differences in outcomes are due yes in part to effort, and yes in part to life choices. But they’re also to a very large extent a result of accident of birth and luck in life. Most middle class Americans are in the situation of “there, but for the grace of our parentage, go we.”

  28. #28 Wow
    January 12, 2017

    It is a bit, but if you’re hitting the books hard enough to get in to University in one of the hard subjects and not via your parents’ privilege, you’re not going to be getting drunk and chasing girls, at the VERY LEAST not to the extent that jocks will.

    And not getting drunk will merely cement their poor reputation, and getting hideously drunk will enhance the jock’s reputation, making it harder to go out moderately if you’re not a jock type.

    Yes, it’s a generalisation.

    Just like “It’s women who give birth to babies”.

    Except those who don’t by choice, too old, too young, or for medical reasons.

    Is “Women give birth” a horrible generalisation on women or men?

  29. #29 Wow
    January 12, 2017

    It may be simpler to just point out that chasing girls is how humans get more fit for procreation males to mate and increase the health of the species.

    And that personal choice about drink or cars or books should be entirely empty of value judgement as long as they are not a danger to themselves or others.

  30. #30 Denier
    United States
    January 12, 2017

    When you get right down to it, this is just more elitism. Ethan’s take isn’t about worship of knowledge or scientific endeavor. It is an instruction to prostrate yourself to a class of human beings @Ethan just happens to belong to.

    @Ethan wrote

    Being aware of the enterprise of science means having a tremendous respect for the people devoting their lives to furthering our understanding of any aspect of the Universe

    If you don’t have respect for the people, you are cast out. If a particular researcher is a pedophile, oh well. You *MUST* have tremendous respect for that pedophile. He gets a pass because he is better than you. He sought to further our understanding of an aspect of the universe.

    It is not even good enough to condemn the man who is a pedophile while respecting the scientific work. Oh no, no, no. If you do not have tremendous respect of the person then you’re out.

    It is little wonder so many of @Ethan’s compatriots are sexual predators. This line of thinking reeks of a god complex.

    http://www.stopfacultypredators.org/why-sexual-predators-work-in-academia.html

  31. #31 Wow
    January 12, 2017

    “When you get right down to it, this is just more elitism.”

    Ah the cry of the under-appreciated underachiever.

    Since when did the right get all pissy about the successful and envious of their status? You idiots were always the one griping about how others (lets face it, you were only ever blaming the left) had “envy” for the better connected and wealthy, yet here you are, large as life, gnawing your liver at someone who isn’t you or thinks like you being given recognition and status.

    How the mighty tiring have fallen…

    “It is an instruction to prostrate yourself to a class of human beings @Ethan just happens to belong to.”

    I actually laughed out loud, not in the meme sense, really laughed out loud. Proper giggle. Super ironic.

    ” If a particular researcher is a pedophile”

    Oh dear, you’ve swallowed the load that Steyn fed you.

    And he’s desperately trying to convince everyone that even he wasn’t serious about that allegation, yet here denier is, so dumb that even the author of the claim himself#s opinion of what he meant is irrelevant in his pain and vitriol at those who do better than him.

    Tell me, if a paedo existing in that profession exists means we must not give any respect to that profession, what professions are left, moron?

    Trump is a perv and likely paedo given his comments ABOUT HIS OWN DAUGHTER.

    So I guess we cannot have respect for businessmen, right?

    Fuck those paedos!

  32. #32 Wow
    January 12, 2017

    How vile. I read someone in that link who was reported to have said that they like you doing it to them if you’re famous and important.

    Someone who talks like that needs to be LOCKED UP for the safety of society!!!!

  33. #33 Wow
    January 12, 2017

    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/10/us/founder-of-a-minuteman-border-group-is-convicted-of-child-molestation.html?_r=0

    Paedos are hiding in the state militias, and worse, they’re ARMED!

    AND they hide in businesses, trying to pretend they’re all normal and upstanding by “having a good job”.

    Grrrr. Loathe those businessmen and those NRA members!!!!

  34. #34 Denier
    United States
    January 12, 2017

    @Wow

    You can like or dislike, respect or not, anyone you want. I just think people should be treated like individuals. Building identity groups and automatically bestowing traits on individuals for no reason other than you’ve assigned them into that group is the definition of bigotry.

    Scientific researchers are ALL good. They aren’t all bad either. They are people. The same goes for businessmen.

  35. #35 Denier
    January 12, 2017

    @Wow

    Ah the cry of the under-appreciated underachiever.

    Too true, too true. My boss is a total prick and I could work harder but I know my boss can’t fire me without putting himself out of a job.

  36. #36 PJ
    Perth, west Oz
    January 12, 2017

    @ denier #34
    “Scientific researchers are ALL good. They aren’t all bad either. They are people. The same goes for businessmen.”
    Bit of a contradiction there? How can they be ‘ALL good’, yet aren’t all bad’ ?
    🙂
    Doesn’t seem to have much to do with ‘scientific literacy’, either.
    My scientific literacy ability is limited to the projects and interests I am involved in. Each of us is different depending on those personal interests. I doubt anyone can be 100% literate in all scientific fields. However, having stated that, one can apply the same principles to other fields if the opportunity should arise.

  37. #37 Wow
    January 12, 2017

    “You can like or dislike, respect or not, anyone you want.”

    What a wimpy and half-assed bullshit defence of your arrogance, Denier.

    And you’ll bitch and moan and insist that those YOU want to keep special are protected and defended. And get to consolidate their privilege and power.

    But you will beat down and berate any attempt for anyone you DON’T want to keep special for being recognised, and the reason is to drag them down, otherwise you would have given your vitriolic hatred of scientists to your goddamned self, you odious little oik.

  38. #38 Wow
    January 12, 2017

    “” Ah the cry of the under-appreciated underachiever.”

    Too true, too true.”

    If you’re angling for sympathy, you should have sobbed on shoudlers BEFORE you unloaded your spite on scientists.

  39. #39 ketchup
    January 12, 2017

    I have the same problem with the ‘tremendous respect’ phrase that many other people do. As written, it certainly sounds as if he is saying that in order to be scientifically literate, one must have tremendous respect for all scientists, which he defines as anyone who is devoting his or her life to understanding the universe. That would mean having tremendous respect for incompetent scientists who have never made a significant finding (as long as they are devoting their life to trying), or a brilliant researcher who happens to sexually harass his graduate students. I am going to give Ethan the benefit of the doubt, and assume he really meant to advocate for respecting scientists as a class, and not necessarily every individual scientist. But if that is true, he was very careless in his phrasing, and as a result a lot of the discussion in the comments is focusing on that instead of the main ideas of his piece. If I am wrong in giving the benefit of the doubt and he really did mean we must respect even the pedophile and fraudulent scientists, well, that is just crazy. I am a scientist, and I expect people to respect me (or not) because of the entirety of my character and behavior, not because of my occupation. I would agree, though, that a scientifically literate person should know that science is a worthwhile endeavor.

  40. #40 Wow
    January 12, 2017

    Ah, well, when you say this:

    “As written, it certainly sounds as if he is saying that in order to be scientifically literate, one must have tremendous respect for all scientists”

    You’re having to interpret it.

    Which is you converting the words into whatever model you feel fits their meaning, and that interpretation necessarily comes from you.

    So is the problem the message that Ethan wrote, or is it your interpretation?

    “Being aware of the enterprise of science means having a tremendous respect for the people devoting their lives…”

    Doesn’t say all scientists. The ones devoting their lives to whatever is in the elipsis.

    There are scientists who just work 9-to-5. There are scientists who are just in it for the money (see McIntyre and Lomborg).

    But it also says tremendous respect for the devotion to the work done. Take a look. That’s the blank wording; stripping off several words that may be irrelevant.

    Could it be tremendous respect for the devotion to work itself?

    I recall one of the Universal Myths of “The American Dream” was the respect of hard working and success by effort.

    Sounds like tremendous respect for the devotion to work to me.

    But what isn’t there is “all scientists”.

    When you say cops must be safer, or it’s wrong to kill a cop, you don’t SAY all cops, but it is intended. Yet there’s plenty of cases where this doesn’t really want to apply.

    Youtube:

    watch?v=BW5rXN9c67M

    So although “all” may be implied by some people, by others it isn’t, and presuming someone means all AND THEN BERATING THEM FOR THIS is not right at all.

    Ask if he means all.

  41. #41 Denier
    United States
    January 12, 2017

    @PJ

    Doesn’t seem to have much to do with ‘scientific literacy’, either.

    I’m with you and that is exactly my point. @Ethan is saying that ‘scientific literacy’ isn’t about knowledge of facts or familiarity with scientific methods. Specifically @Ethan wrote:

    being a scientifically literate society isn’t dependent on knowing whether any particular set of scientific facts, laws or conclusions are true or not

    @Ethan posits that ‘scientific literacy’ isn’t about knowledge or the pursuit of knowledge, it is about reverence for those who devote their lives to furthering our understanding of any aspect of the Universe. It is a sentiment I strongly disagree with.

  42. #42 Denier
    January 12, 2017

    @PJ

    also noticed the typo. wish there was an edit button.

  43. #43 Denier
    January 12, 2017

    @Wow

    If you’re angling for sympathy, you should have sobbed on shoudlers BEFORE you unloaded your spite on scientists.

    I was joking. I am a majority shareholder for the company I run. My boss and I are the same person.

  44. #44 Wow
    January 12, 2017

    “I’m with you and that is exactly my point.”

    Yeah right, and if you had only that point, there would have been no trouble. But you’re a one for omitting what you would prefer not to mention, aren’t you, you scamp.

    “I was joking.”

    No, you were accurate. Don’t do yourself down, in this case you were right on the button!

    Imagine, selling yourself short like that. For shame.

    “” Ah the cry of the under-appreciated underachiever.”

    Too true, too true.”

    Enjoy that you’re self aware and humble enough to recognise where your bile comes from.

    The first step on the path to recovery is to recognise the problem,and you have passed that step! You can let go of your hate of those who are successful by means other than captialist rapine and plunder, all it takes is the effort to try.

    But you cannot make that effort if you are fooling yourself into thinking you were “only joking”. I know you are better than that. *I* believe in you, even if you forgot how to believe in yourself as you really are.

  45. #45 PJ
    Perth, west Oz
    January 12, 2017

    @Denier #42
    Remember to proof read BEFORE pressing ‘submit’.
    🙂

  46. #46 Wow
    January 12, 2017

    Problem with that is you often only realise there’s a typo about 0.12 seconds after pressing submit.

    Denier, I have little problem with you thinking that “All scientists” should not be automatically tremendously honoured, though you’d have to accept it was an addition you put in there. But “There’s paedos in them there academias!” was fucking stupid, you gotta admit.

  47. #47 Omega Centauri
    January 12, 2017

    eric, At least where I grew up, which was an upper middle class exurb of NYC, we still had many kids who didn’t study, because they didn’t believe it was worthwhile, and they had been told, there would be good paying factory jobs available for them. Unfortunately the world they thought they were going to live in changed. Of course choices are partly the result of the environment, and partly internal, but nevertheless in some sort of collective sense too many had made a poor choice, and now they are trying to get even with the rest of us by voting in Trump.

    Elsewhere worthiness of a job was equated to the direct physical risk to the employee. Using that metric the most worthy job today is to become a foot soldier for IS. We have to be careful with how we dole out respect, least we incentivise the wrong behaviors. Doing the same job, is it better to work for an employer who prioritizes safety, or one who prioritizes profit? We’ve made huge strides making the average workplace safer and healthier, applying a macho standard where danger equates to virtue could undo that.

  48. #48 eric
    January 13, 2017

    At least where I grew up, which was an upper middle class exurb of NYC, we still had many kids who didn’t study, because they didn’t believe it was worthwhile

    How exactly does that dispute my point? You argue in @25 that the difference lower class coal miner and an upper class lawyer is that the coal miner spent his time not studying, but rather lazing off. I counter that everyone in all social strata pretty much work the same amount, and most work hard. You respond by saying that you’ve seen upper middle class NY kids lazing off too. Doesn’t that actually support the point that the relatively low social mobility we have has little to do with how hard people work? It would be one thing if the children of millionaires goofed off and then became coal miners. That would support your point, that the lazy end up where they deserve as to the hard workers. But that rarely or never happens, does it? I’ve known people who worked three jobs a day and didn’t break into the upper class. I’ve known kids who had daddy’s office workers do their college homework for them and ended up – surprise surprise – in the exact same social strata as their parents. The idea that people end up where they deserve in life is mostly a myth. Its definitely worth striving to make the world a better and fairer place, but the classism of assuming that rich people must in general work harder than poor people because look at their different outcomes is bullflop. Life is not that simple and not that fair. You tell me two bits of information about an adult – how many hours they spend at work and how much money their father made it age 40 (in what year) – and I bet the second bit of information will correlate with their social status, level of education, and income far better than the first. At least, IMO. If you hold a different opinion, I guess ultimately we may have to agree to disagree on this one.

  49. #49 Wow
    January 13, 2017

    eric: “You argue in @25 that the difference lower class coal miner and an upper class lawyer is that the coal miner spent his time not studying, but rather lazing off.”

    @25: “One difference between the scientist, MD, lawyers and the coal miners and such, is that the former devoted a great deal of effort over a period of more than a decade learning the skills necessary to perform those tasks. Instead of spending their time as teenagers chasing girls(or boys) and experimenting with alcohol and fast cars, they were hitting the books”

    Looking for “lazing off”.

    Not finding it.

    Are you passing a judgement call on chasing girls, cars and alcohol? Why are you then passing it on to Omega as if he meant it?

    What I see is that there’s a lot of antisocial “not fun” happening in one case, and socialising fun being had in the other.

    Being a social species, especially prone to forming cliques as children (And, it appears, as adults), we appreciate socialising and stigmatise as “odd” or “Different” those who are not socialising. And it IS “stigmatise”. Remember the adage “It’s always the quiet ones you have to watch out for”.

    WRONG.

    It’s the maniac screaming and shouting waving an axe and going “I’m gonna kill you alll!!!!!” you have to watch out for. They’re unstable and dangerous.

    And when someone dies and we want to show sympathy for them, we use “They were a very popular boy/girl”. Even if “doing well at school” it comes after the popularity.

    Unlike “lazing”, there’s evidence for stimatising the non social children.

  50. #50 Denier
    United States
    January 13, 2017

    @eric

    how many hours they spend at work and how much money their father made it age 40 (in what year) – and I bet the second bit of information will correlate with their social status, level of education, and income far better than the first

    Although statistics support the correlation between father’s income and son’s (girl’s income shows less correlation). I would argue that doesn’t necessarily invalidate the work component. Sure you know people who work 3 jobs but that is not to say they’ve worked with that same intensity their entire lives. I would argue that had they worked that hard early in life they wouldn’t be working 3 jobs now.

    Take the example of Dingeman Elementary School. In California at least, all second grade public school students are given a test to determine intellectual aptitude. It is called the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) test and its purpose is to identify kids possessing an intellectual aptitude high enough to put them in the top 2% nationally. At Dingeman Elementary 60% of the second grade students are GATE. Dingeman isn’t a magnate school. It is just a regular public school, and yet a slightly below average Dingeman second grade student would crush 97% of American second graders intellectually.

    http://school-ratings.com/school_details/37683386112726.html

    Dingeman Elementary is in an affluent area. Generally speaking GATE testing in second grade does not identify genetically gifted students. All it reliably identifies is affluent areas. It isn’t Daddy’s office staff taking the test for these kids. These kids show these test scores because their parents make them work hard even as second graders and that is what is reflected in the second grade GATE scores. True intellectual giftedness can’t reliably be determined until fifth grade.

    As stated, statistics support your contention that past affluence is the most reliable indicator of future affluence. The Dingeman kids will likely be successful in life adding yet more statistical support to the argument, but that is not to say it is purely the money that does it. I would argue that it is also a transfer from one generation to the next of the culture and work ethic that generated the affluence in the first place.

  51. #51 Wow
    January 13, 2017

    ” I would argue that had they worked that hard early in life they wouldn’t be working 3 jobs now.”

    You would, however, be wrong.

    Not EVERY job, but so much more the majority that the difference is petty nitpicking, there just aren’t the jobs available that pay a living wage any more. Especially with the rise of zero hours.

    And if you’re offered that job and refuse it, even if it’s because you can do better, you are nearly certain to lose your social security payments.

    Once you have that job, it isn’t enough to live on, so you need at least one more.

    But because that job has to compete with your first underpaung job, you can’t put an appropriate number of hours into it, so THAT doesn’t pay even as well as the first one.

    So if you have a family or live in an expensive area (because public transport is a joke in the USA) because your old job was enough, but that job isn’t there any more, only poorly paid ones, ones which don’t support paying for travel expenses or for living nearby,but still demand you take the job or lose everything, you need a third one.

    I’m not too bad off, I can take contracts for a third of the year and be well off, or a quarter of the year and survive.

    But if I didn’t have a large nest egg to live off, I would have had to take one of the zero-hours contracts that paid so little that I would still have had to get tax credits and housing benefit, but would have

    a) taken me off the unemployment rolls
    b) increased the welfare state per registered unemployed, “proving” that the welfare bill was out of control and even more people needed forcing off the dole
    c) moved more taxpayer money into the hands of private industry, not the hands of the taxpayer, making them look far more efficient

    As it is I could spend a year telling them to fuck off and if they didn’t like it, they weren’t paying me squat anyway (and,yes, I paid more in the last year of employment in NI contributions than I have EVER RECEIVED, yet they still whined and complained and investigated me because they thought that the pro rata bonus I got was “pension” because someone 45 years old is totally having a pension paying them…) that would make no sodding difference to me.

    They still whined and whinged and moaned that I wasn’t looking every single day for a job.

    Pointing out that the jobs are NEVER “one day sale offers!!!!”, so there was nothing gained by looking every day.

    So, really, I feel better off working 4 months in the year since I pay no tax then, and now no stamp.

    And I still sign up when I don’t have a contract underway, just so they can complain at me and I don’t have to give a shit.

    I once asked them if unemployment had dropped by a third, how come a third of the assessors weren’t fired? They didn’t like that. I managed to not smirk.

    So, no, it’s not their fault, its the fault of a bureaucracy that, because of rightwing talking points, insists that nobody actually be on benefits (well, unemployment ones. Corporate handouts are fine, they’re benefits for”job creators” who then create jobs abroad…) and that they MUST be forced off as soon as possible. Whether they move to a job that actually pays into the state is not relevant. Economic health is claiming low unemployment.

  52. #52 dean
    United States
    January 15, 2017

    “is in an affluent area”

    Economic status is the primary predictor of educational success, despite what people who don’t understand statistics yet believe there is still a good chance that hard work will bring social advancement.

  53. #53 Wow
    January 15, 2017

    it’s worse in the USA because of the braindead stupidity of making school funding depend on the catchment area’s rateable value.

    So poor housing = poor schools nearby.
    Wealthy housing = wealthy schools nearby.

    Because in the USA paying for something that someone else will benefit from is an anathema (somehow, the early days didn’t seem to be set up like that: you helped your neighbour, though maybe “It’s a Wonderful Life” and Westerns have lied about what it was like, like they did about the prevalence of guns, especially the “lack” of control in towns, in the “Wild West”).

    If the school is underfunded, and if your parents can’t afford to be without both parents earning,the education of the child will be poorer, irrespective of their native intelligence.

  54. #54 Brian
    CA
    January 16, 2017

    More arguing from “Wow”. Since you’re such a badass on this physics message board, prove it by posting a link to your facebook page, so everyone can see who you are? What’s that? You’re scared TO DEATH to do that because you’re a stereotypical troll who hides behind his computer?

    Everyone, just watch as he types a full essay response, but is absolutely terrified to post the link. Here it goes…

  55. #55 Wow
    January 16, 2017

    Hipocrite.

  56. #56 eric
    January 16, 2017

    Denier:

    Generally speaking GATE testing in second grade does not identify genetically gifted students. All it reliably identifies is affluent areas. It isn’t Daddy’s office staff taking the test for these kids. These kids show these test scores because their parents make them work hard even as second graders and that is what is reflected in the second grade GATE scores.

    I have no doubt it accurately identifies affluent areas, but that involves far more than just ‘parents make their kids work harder.’ An affluent area is one where the parents bought their kids better preschool care. More books. Higher quality books. More paid-for social activities (sports etc.), and so on. And as Wow points out, and affluent area has better schools, with better educational resources and higher paid and more competitive teaching spots – which often translates to better teachers. They likely have better classrooms and smaller class sizes. These sorts of birth circumstance related advantages have, at 2nd grade, contributed to the 8-year-old’s educational development far more than how hard they work on their homework. That’s important too, yes, but good gracious, do you actually think that all the poor kids are working less hard on their homework than all the rich kids?

  57. #57 Denier
    United States
    January 16, 2017

    @eric

    as Wow points out, and affluent area has better schools, with better educational resources and higher paid and more competitive teaching spots – which often translates to better teachers. They likely have better classrooms and smaller class sizes.

    I can’t speak of other states but in California it only works that way at the district level. In California, school districts are funded by either a combination of local property taxes, mello-roos, and bond measures -OR- an Average Daily Attendance (ADA) distribution from the state per student per day. The ADA distribution serves to set a lower limit so even school districts in poor areas aren’t too bad of, but those funded locally do get more per student.

    Property values within the district often have the opposite effect. Scripps Ranch High School (SRHS) is a school in the San Diego Unified School District. It is in an affluent area and one of the top rated high schools in the state. Lincoln High School (LHS) is also in the San Diego Unified School District, and ranks towards the bottom. It is in a poorer area but San Diego Unified School District gives more money per student to LHS than it does to SRHS in an effort to ‘close the achievement gap’. Despite the extra money, API scores at LHS get worse while SRHS remains high.

    It isn’t per seat revenue that makes the difference here. San Diego Unified School District has 24 high schools among their 226 total educational facilities and allows intradistrict transfers. The parents living in the area served by LHS who are willing to put effort into their kids education are moving their kids to other high schools. The students left at LHS have parents who are using it as little more than day care. Even the best teachers in the world can only do so much with no parental involvement.

    An affluent area is one where the parents bought their kids better preschool care. More books. Higher quality books. More paid-for social activities (sports etc.), and so on.

    Yes. Absolutely, but that goes hand in hand with what I’m saying. It is a circumstance of birth. Kids in those areas are more likely to have parents who have the resources and willingness to push their kids educational development. Those kids are more likely to grow in in 2 parent households, which also has a strong correlation with success.

    The point is that although there are numerous admitted advantages the 2nd graders still have to do the work of learning what is being tested for. The test scores show that 2nd graders in affluent areas are more likely to have done that work than 2nd graders in distressed areas. School funding doesn’t necessarily tell the tale. There is another factor pushing those kids to get more work done. I argue that doesn’t stop at 2nd grade, and the cumulative effect of that increased work correlates with lifetime success.

  58. #58 Wow
    January 16, 2017

    “Property values within the district often have the opposite effect.”

    Got data on that, or just a feeling?

    “Yes. Absolutely, but that goes hand in hand with what I’m saying. It is a circumstance of birth.”

    Wow.

    Srsly?

    cf

    Dean: Economic status is the primary predictor of educational success

    Eric: The idea that people end up where they deserve in life is mostly a myth.

    You: I would argue that it is also a transfer from one generation to the next of the culture and work ethic that generated the affluence in the first place.

    The “argument” for that appearing to be that there’s not a 100% match with dosh and that rich parents’ children are born in the same home as their rich parents, so “could” be learning how to work one job with the “right” amount of effort to deserve good pay.

    You DO know that we’re saying that the rich person gets privilege from merely being the children of rich parents, right? Money, access and connections are all things that are missing from people in lower classes, no matter ow hard they work. And, given three options, one of which you know their parents, good people, which one are you going for if they’re equally qualified?

    So the deck is stacked against them.

  59. #59 Denier
    United States
    January 16, 2017

    @Wow

    You DO know that we’re saying that the rich person gets privilege from merely being the children of rich parents, right?

    Privilege? Yes. – Success? No.

    With very few exceptions, you do not get success by just being. I am saying there are reasons successful people are successful. Any able bodied person doing what successful people do can be successful. Any able bodied person doing what fuck ups do can be a fuck up. Socio-economic mobility is not a myth. It actually happens.

    @eric was saying that success is all up to birth and he discounted the role of work. I strongly disagree. Yes there are privileges with birth but it is ALSO work, and even some of the privileges are just the privilege to do work.

    As I said in post #50, don’t discount the work component in success. I believe that work and success are inextricably tied together.

  60. #60 Wow
    January 16, 2017

    “Privilege? Yes. – Success? No.”

    Success, yes.

    See Trump. See Paris Hilton.

    Bill Gates would have gotten nowhere without his mum being high up in the “social circles” and connected with someone in IBM when they needed an OS for their new rival to the Apple Mac. It also helped immensely that Bill bought someone else’s DOS when he lied at the interview for supplying a new OS for IBM and said he already had one. Because at the time he didn’t.

  61. #61 Wow
    January 16, 2017

    “@eric was saying that success is all up to birth and he discounted the role of work. ”

    No he didn’t. Any more than you said it was all work and nothing to do with birth, despite the fact you’re discounting its effects.