Mod+ Why you, me, and our neighbors have a distrust of science and New York Times science journalists

#1
Alex has offered an article which attempts to answer the above question.

http://www.skeptiko.com/why-you-me-...ience-and-new-york-times-science-journalists/

My question is, how does one tell beforehand which is the science writer to trust? The science writer who writes about the support for AGW or the one who writes about the lack of support for AGW? The science writer who writes about the research into vaccine safety or the science writer who writes about vaccines as a cause of autism? The science writer who reviews the research on the safety and efficacy of statins or the science writer who writes about symptoms suffered while on statins?

What's the criteria which let's us know beforehand which science writer is offering a fair and accurate representation of the research (following the data) and which is part of a corrupt PR campaign?

A similar issue came up in the 911 thread, where I asked, given that one can find an endless string of videos which debunk the debunking of the debunkers (etc., etc.) how one is supposed to decide which set of debunkers is speaking fairly and accurately and which are not? (I didn't get an answer, other than "believe me".)

Thoughts?

Linda

(As usual, mod+ refers to Alex's NAR, as he specifies here:
http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threa...cal-science-reporting.2068/page-16#post-62781)
 
#2
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#3
Heh.

Looks like Alex is trying to generate some provocative content to stir up debate (of course anyone who genuinely wants to provide polite counter arguments will be given the cold shoulder). Interestingly, this appears to have coincided with a more clickbait format to the new website.
PR scheming? ;)

Consensus {of experts in their field} matters. Alex is the first to defend the consensus of NDE researchers, for example.
Well, yes. But I wondering how one establishes when it is "following the evidence" and when it is "clueless mutterings" or "PR scheming". Alex offers no way to make that distinction…other than "anti-science establishment = true"?

Linda
 
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Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#4
I can't think of any way to do this other than repeatedly reading what the writer has to offer and weighing it against your own knowledge and critiques by other writers and scientists. You'll eventually understand that Degrasse Tyson is a good writer and Denyse "worst journalist in the world" O'Leary is a terrible writer. There are many writers in the middle that are harder to evaluate.

And, of course, even the best writers make mistakes.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/28/neil-degrasse-tyson-wrong-deflategate_n_6560340.html

~~ Paul
 
#5
I can't think of any way to do this other than repeatedly reading what the writer has to offer and weighing it against your own knowledge and critiques by other writers and scientists. You'll eventually understand that Degrasse Tyson is a good writer and Denyse "worst journalist in the world" O'Leary is a terrible writer.
I'm afraid that's not it. Degrasse is one of the clueless idiots or a PR schemer:

http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threa...the-enemies-of-science.1540/page-3#post-48880

And Denyse O'Leary is one of those clear thinkers, like Alex, who is following the evidence.

http://www.skeptiko.com/62-the-spiritual-brain-denyse-oleary/

Linda
 
#8
Well, extreme views often raise a red flag, since at least with health related items, rarely is it the case that something is either the devil or the greatest thing ever. This can raise skeptical suspicion, perhaps. If someone tells me any drug is totally safe, I am suspicious, especially since if the drug is not necessary, the burden of proof really isn't on me for questioning it, but rather on those saying how good it is.

I almost hate to say this, but I feel my intuition also plays a role, which of course could be wrong.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#9
How does that help? Do you honestly think that Alex and any of the proponents here are with "those guys"?
No, probably not. If you think that the handful of ID proponents are correct and all the other scientists are wrong, then there is really nothing one can do to persuade you otherwise. After all, occasionally the majority is wrong.

~~ Paul
 
#10
If someone is on the side of the outliers, the dissenters from informed opinion on a particular topic, they may be vindicated. It would be a rare occurrence and, unless deep study had been undertaken, it would be more by luck than judgement.

If someone continually takes that side, they are likely to be wrong way more often than they are correct. They should probably examine how they invariably arrive at that "anti-establishment" position, and whether the predisposition of an anti-establishment mindset filters the data and drives the conclusions.
 
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#13
Well, extreme views often raise a red flag, since at least with health related items, rarely is it the case that something is either the devil or the greatest thing ever. This can raise skeptical suspicion, perhaps. If someone tells me any drug is totally safe, I am suspicious, especially since if the drug is not necessary, the burden of proof really isn't on me for questioning it, but rather on those saying how good it is.
Agreed on all that. However, this seems to put you at odds with Alex, and on the side of the PR schemers and clueless idiots, given that this is where consensus comes from in the first place (researchers satisfying the burden of proof for skeptical suspicion).

I almost hate to say this, but I feel my intuition also plays a role, which of course could be wrong.
I don't know how intuition distinguishes between "our water is poisoned but our climate is not"?

Linda
 
#14
Agreed on all that. However, this seems to put you at odds with Alex, and on the side of the PR schemers and clueless idiots, given that this is where consensus comes from in the first place (researchers satisfying the burden of proof for skeptical suspicion).

I don't know how intuition distinguishes between "our water is poisoned but our climate is not"?

Linda
At least my intuition is less helpful on the subject of climate change. Probably because I have more background in health related topics. I think there is also more of a reference frame for health related claims than for climate change. It's one thing to look at examples of good health to ground certain claims, but how should one even begin to ask how much contamination of the environment is sustainable? What frame of reference could one use? Certain topics are more difficult than others.
 
#15
I don't know, let's see... How about suggesting that he is pushing clickbait? Or that he is posting "controversial" content as part of a "PR Scheme"?
While this was at least partly tongue-in-cheek, it's really at the heart of this issue. Everything which Alex says about the establishment could be turned around and applied to Alex or any dissenting opinion. Merely pointing out that there is dissenting opinion among science writers doesn't tell you that it's the dissenters who are right and that "consensus" is wrong. (Although, I suppose that could be the criteria at play.)

Why isn't Alex's concern over fluoridation of drinking water "alarmist arm-waving", or Alt-Med's successful lobbying to avoid any need to prove the safety and efficacy of their products "PR scheming"?

Linda
 
#16
While this was at least partly tongue-in-cheek, it's really at the heart of this issue. Everything which Alex says about the establishment could be turned around and applied to Alex or any dissenting opinion. Merely pointing out that there is dissenting opinion among science writers doesn't tell you that it's the dissenters who are right and that "consensus" is wrong. (Although, I suppose that could be the criteria at play.)

Why isn't Alex's concern over fluoridation of drinking water "alarmist arm-waving", or Alt-Med's successful lobbying to avoid any need to prove the safety and efficacy of their products "PR scheming"?

Linda
If you are going to talk about someone and try to pry open his motives behind his back (everybody knows that he never ventures down here), at least have the decency of tagging him, it's easy: @Alex

Otherwise, don't complain when someone else alerts that person.
 
#18
If you are going to talk about someone and try to pry open his motives behind his back (everybody knows that he never ventures down here), at least have the decency of tagging him, it's easy: @Alex

Otherwise, don't complain when someone else alerts that person.
You misunderstand. That's exactly how Alex wants it. Alex long ago banned the reg skeptics from certain parts of the forum, including the main podcast forum. He has made it clear that he is not interested in our opinions, nor in having critical discussions with us. He has told us that if we want to discuss topics posted in those forums that we should create duplicate threads in the CD forum.

Personally I would welcome engagement from Alex on these issues. There was a time where I actively pursued it - but Alex made it very clear he wasn't interested and so I've stopped trying.

If you can get him to join in here that would be great, and I would participate (the article he posted that is the topic of this thread has several issues which would make for interesting discussion, in addition to the question posed by fls in this thread).
 
#19
While this was at least partly tongue-in-cheek, it's really at the heart of this issue. Everything which Alex says about the establishment could be turned around and applied to Alex or any dissenting opinion. Merely pointing out that there is dissenting opinion among science writers doesn't tell you that it's the dissenters who are right and that "consensus" is wrong. (Although, I suppose that could be the criteria at play.)

Why isn't Alex's concern over fluoridation of drinking water "alarmist arm-waving", or Alt-Med's successful lobbying to avoid any need to prove the safety and efficacy of their products "PR scheming"?

Linda
This is an interesting question and I am finding it very challenging to come up with an answer. I feel like intuition or some sort of "BS meter" helps to guide me, perhaps in a servomechanistic way (i.e. with errors along the way), but that is an unsatisfying answer. What goes into this feeling of intuition?

I think that there are likely many factors that go into deciding what to believe to be true or not. Obviously evidence can play a major role, but what happens when both sides claim evidence? We would have to look at the evidence that both sides presents. Are there any obvious logical problems? Does the evidence actually support what is being claimed? Does the evidence have any potential concerns such as conflicts of interest? How many sources are there? How reputable are the sources? Who are making the claims? Do the claims contradict any other things that seem to be grounded on solid evidence? Obviously, none of these individually would be very convincing one way or the other, but I think when many of these questions are considered it starts to build a picture. In a way, it would be like updating your prior probability based on all of these factors. While this would not establish certainty, but it would seem to me to increase the liklihood of avoiding major error.
 
#20
I think Linda has raised a very interesting epistemic question here.
It has little to do with malf questioning why I alerted Alex of this thread, but don't expect to see me interrupting any debate about it.

You misunderstand. That's exactly how Alex wants it. Alex long ago banned the reg skeptics from certain parts of the forum, including the main podcast forum. He has made it clear that he is not interested in our opinions, nor in having critical discussions with us. He has told us that if we want to discuss topics posted in those forums that we should create duplicate threads in the CD forum.

Personally I would welcome engagement from Alex on these issues. There was a time where I actively pursued it - but Alex made it very clear he wasn't interested and so I've stopped trying.

If you can get him to join in here that would be great, and I would participate (the article he posted that is the topic of this thread has several issues which would make for interesting discussion, in addition to the question posed by fls in this thread).
As mentioned, that "@" tag would be more than enough courtesy and leaves it up to him to engage or not. But mocking him knowing that he never enters this section is not exactly classy.
 
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