How trust undermines Science

How trust undermines Science

SOURCE LINK:  SOURCE: Works in Progress – Perry S | Year: 2022 Month: January


Trust is an absence of deliberative questioning – C. Thi Nguyen. People have implicit trust in science. Is it justifiable?

The reproducibility crisis: Replication is one tool that a study’s audience may use to verify the validity of reported findings in the world outside the study. In recent years, there has been a growing number of reports of critical experimental studies failing this test.

What does it mean to put one’s faith in science?

A mystical credulity field seems to encircle scientific statements, from the lay public and even insiders. At every level, attempts to break the uncritical mindset are disregarded. The unquestioning mentality is still alive and well, and it may even be used to rehabilitate previous conclusions that have been shown to be erroneous.

  • Trust in Science – 101: The most fundamental degree of scientific trust is the belief that the experiment described truly occurred.
    • Joe Hilgard spoke about his attempts to disclose scientific misconduct at the level of faked trials, and how he discovered that most organizations were uninterested.
  • The whole truth and nothing but …: Another degree of trust is the belief that a source’s citation correctly conveys the data found there. If you look at popular science books and review papers, it is more common than not for them to misrepresent the claims of their sources when they quote them.
  • And also:
    • Trust that the data produced were not falsified or altered.
    • Trust that the data are meaningful in the first place (e.g., survey data).
    • Trust that the methods used actually support the general claims made
    • Trust that the effect is large enough to be meaningful or even detectable in context.
    • Trust that the mathematical analysis performed is appropriate to discovering truth from the data.

It’s everywhere: No one knows how common research fraud is, but Richard Smith, former editor of the BMJ, recently put the matter quite strongly in the context of medical research, saying: “We have now reached a point where those doing systematic reviews must start by assuming that a study is fraudulent until they can have some evidence to the contrary.”

When can we trust without questioning? There are a few reasons why a non-questioning stance toward science could be considered an epistemological advantage.

  • First, if scientists questioned one another’s theories behind closed doors, there would be less need for outsider scepticism. The so-called “peer review” process is an old boy’s club, in most cases.
  • Second, if a scientific assertion has evident real-world consequences, such as airline travel or high-speed internet, an uncritical approach is generally warranted.
  • For the inexact sciences (psychology, sociology, behaviour, economics), this does not seem to be the case. Even if insiders are driven to reform, it is unclear if conventional scientific approaches are even practicable in the social and inexact sciences.

So, what are the options? The institutions that profit from the uncritical attitude are unlikely to take steps to dig out the rot since they are well aware that they are mostly comprised of rotten material themselves.

  • Cold and hard or warm and fuzzy? The easiest approach to spot dubious scientific assertions is to look at how abstract they are. Happiness, relationships, sleep, nourishment, motivation, suffering, and belonging are the fundamental abstractions of daily life that are most susceptible to scientific abuse.
  • So what? Another effective technique for successfully exiting the unquestioned mentality is to consider what else would be true if the claim were accurate in the first place. This is a twist on the classic as-if game: Break out from your unthinking mentality by over-trusting the assertion and considering the ramifications.
  • You may see questions like: How large is the effect? Once you start examining how abstractions are paid out and what the consequences of the claim would be, you may notice questions like: How big is the effect?

Questions like these are a natural part of science, and asking them is more respectful to actual science than blindly relying on it without challenging it.


Tag: communication, critical thinking, education, idea
Key words: trust science scientific method question replication reproducibility validity research misconduct mindset fraud peer review effect truth false falsehood