Trust is at an all time low for Science Journalism in 2017, even off an already abysmally low performance from the last time trust in influencing professions was measured and ranked in 2012/2013. I would daresay now, the data is showing that science communicators are ranked right alongside Congressmen and used car salespeople regarding their established level of public trust. They have worked hard to earn this notorious accolade. These are not the sharpest tools in the drawer. We deserve better than this.
This blog article seeks to outline some of the characteristics we deserve and should demand from our science communicating journalists. And here is a thought, it would also be nice if they actually were real scientists, technicians, engineers or medical professionals.
Science Communicators are Ranked Alongside Used Car Salespeople in Terms of Trustworthiness
Now I do not pretend in the least that the solution to this is anything close to being easy to devise; as I advise my alma mater from time to time regarding what industry needs most from its science and engineering graduates. In my labs, advisory and operating companies, I grew frustrated at having to retrain every STEM graduate over their first three years of work, in order to unlearn them the quasi-baloney they were taught in undergraduate school. This was becoming very costly in terms of time and useless salary burden. Instead, I shifted to a program of hiring interns as soon as they had passed their Freshman year at three particular universities, and systematically training them alongside their college education – ending up hiring 100% of the interns which I had used in this fashion inside a variety of STEM analytical, design and research job functions.
I found it interesting to note how much a person can accomplish, if you do not tell them beforehand that they don’t know how to do it.
Interns served to provide creative new approaches to industry practices which were long tried, true and worn out. This was refreshing and surprising, and in small ways reflected a mutual positional symbiosis between the intern and the company.
My interns did not spend the summers partying in Europe and learning how wonderful a snowflake they were. They learned the hard lessons of client demands, complicated design challenges and demanding bosses.
Shifting the advance and transfer in the course of these schools’ rather large ship, in order to keep up with the pace of changing technology and economic understanding is monumental in the least; only accomplished through the work of literally hundreds of advisors, instructors and textbook authors for each university school alone. Developing professionals prepared to deal with modern science, engineering and business challenges is a daunting task, no doubt. So when it comes to extrapolating this process into changing the course of the ship of journalism, I can understand that this is no simple matter. Yet it still needs to be done.
Trust is at an all time low for Science Journalism in 2017, even off an already abysmally low performance from the last time trust in influencing professions was measured and ranked in 2012/2013 (depicted to the right, from two polls).¹ ² I would daresay now, after the horridly bad year of political advocacy masquerading as science, that science communicators are ranked right alongside the Congressmen and Car Salespeople chart data in their level of public trust. They have worked hard to earn this notorious accolade.
And Here are Some Examples Why
As an example, some summaries below come from the bio’s of Tier I Science Communicating journalists. I am not really wishing to focus on the persons, rather the ideas entailed here, so these are posed anonymously. The persons involved are high quality individuals in matters other than their claim to represent science. I am critiquing practices of an industry, not the people themselves. However, that being said, none of these people are even remotely qualified to comment or communicate the topics about which they boast as authorities – and worse than that, boast as spokespersons for an entire super-discipline called science itself.
…career working in government relations and public policy, ended up as an entrepreneur before landing at NASA where fell in love with its openness and limitless ability to inspire. Dedicated the last few years of life to extending that openness to space fans and journalists everywhere, using social media and a warm “class clown” persona to connect with the people who most want to hear the message. Holds no STEM education or employment background.
…received master’s in journalism at the University of ______________ (also my undergrad alma mater), and teach journalism at _______University in _______. I previously taught high school and often think of my journalism as a form of teaching, by helping others understand science and medical research and by debunking (despite holding absolutely no skills or quals whatsoever) misinformation about vaccines, chemicals and other misunderstood topics. Biggest life qualifications were hiking and diving in Europe, getting married and having a child within the last two years.
…an inquisitive (non-degree holding) agnostic born in _____________ and living in _____________, with her nerdy husband, curious toddler daughter, infant son, and needy dog. Her interests and pastimes fluctuate wildly, but always consist of family, reading and writing, cheese, and the world of genetics/bioinformatics. Most significant publication is a polemic attacking a person they did not like.
…has been an adjunct professor (largest accomplishment) in the graduate Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program at _________ University for the past few years. A frequent lecturer and has appeared at the 92nd Street Y in New York, Yale University and New York University among many others. Was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (a non-expert volunteer organization of non-scientist political activists) for the Section on General Interest in Science and Engineering. Holds no science nor engineering employment or degree history.
…previously, spent nearly 14 years at ________ in positions culminating as executive editor. Work in writing and overseeing articles about space topics helped garner that magazine the Space Foundation’s Public Outreach Award (Appeal to Authority Reach Around). Was Science Writer in Residence at the ___________. Chapter on science editing appears in A Field Guide for Science Writers. Former chair of Science Writers in New York and a member of the American Society of Magazine Editors and the Society of Environmental Journalists. Mostly ceremonial, low activity and high visibility accolade-infusing positions. Holds no science, engineering, environmental science, astrophysics positions, experience nor degrees.
In the end, there exists a distinct difference between a mom advocating on behalf of finding out why her children are chronically sick, and seeking to establish as sponsor, plurality under Ockham’s Razor – and an unqualified mom who pretends to represent broad sets of scientific knowledge, final conclusions and attempts to squelch and bully the voices of those who have been, by a sufficient threshold of Ockham’s Razor evidence, arguably harmed. Science communication habitually evades ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’ in favor of social psychological manipulation specifically because of an inability on the part of the participants therein, to recognize what indeed is fact and evidence to begin with.
If, in similar shortfall to Kevin Folta, you cannot understand the difference between a sponsor seeking necessity research based upon direct observation science, and a pretender enforcing ‘correct’ ‘settled’ science through journalism, who is not even qualified to make such a determination – then you don’t understand the first thing about ethics, morality, logic, argument, skepticism and most especially the scientific method or science. You are ignorantly celebrating and enabling a cabal of writing, speaking malevolent idiots.
These people are not journalists, they are hired guns of propaganda. They are stupid, insensitive bullies, except where their progressive agenda tells them to feign compassion. Their inability to spot their role inside the game being played, constitutes a key feature of what Nassim Taleb calls the Intellectual Yet Idiot class of science communicator. They have not been educated, they have been trained to do a job and perform a crony role. Which introduces the issue, of what needs to change inside this training pipeline, in order to correct this enormous pathway of social damage.
What We Need and Deserve
These are abysmally poor, unqualified and telltale propaganda-laden and indoctrinated biographies. Common themes promoted by these authors include: identifying the bad guys first, identifying ‘pseudoscience’ immediately, identifying the ‘anti-GMO-science-technology’ among us, associative condemnation and strawman as ‘tin-foil hat’ types, plagiarizing pre-written propaganda, targeting working Americans, misandry and class hatred, liberal socialist politics and hatred of working moms & the middle class. Often crafting articles which leverage all this condemnation through employment of explanitude based disciplines such as psychology, in pretense of being and doing science (there is a notorious #1 ranked social skeptic who is both a psychology Ph.D. and science communicating journalist, examine the chart to the right and take a hint here).³
These are not the sharpest tools in the drawer. What is being exploited is the relative lack of aptitude (see SAT by Selected Major chart to the right) and experience on the part of these celebrities; a gap of competence which affords crony entities the ability to craft, pass without scientist or peer input, and promulgate straight to truth, specific unchallenged agendas. The individuals sacrifice their integrity by taking celebrity and book deals as payment for their unethical service role. They become giddy as to how many people they can impart harm, and yet at the same time deceive as many people as possible into thinking that they represent science. It is the joy of magicianship and sleight-of-hand for the intelligent ones, and the heady rush of sudden fame for the not-so-bright ones. All payment for surrendering the will and the critical mind, and regurgitating the correct things which they are handed.
We deserve better than this. Our journalism schools are key in this formula of weakness.
In particular, our journalism schools (to be fair, some of these science communicators above did not even attend journalism school) should prepare to deliver:
- Better logic mastery, science & analytical aptitude
- A keener understanding of the Scientific Method
- A modern understanding of the Public Trust and accountability inside the context of a constitutional-rights driven free nation
- A keener ability to discern between actual skepticism versus corporate or social doubt-ism/cynicism/profiteering/bullying
- Ethical integrity to avoid groups who tout fostering their careers through compliant reporting & plagiarized regurgitation
- Exposure to a major portion of the US Demographic, not simply their liberal arts college, fraternity/sorority and 4 months of partying in Europe and having babies.
- Understanding that republishing prepacked material/phrase-lifts/propaganda without recitation (from any source) is plagiarism. Even if they perceive it to be OK because the sources wants the material spread widely. Sometimes we cite sources because the information is wrong too, and we need to know who is crafting/spreading it.
- Understanding The Art of Scientific Research
- Spending significant time (2-4 years) serving in impoverished nations or in a mission-oriented field such as the military or an objective charity in a tough environment.
- A background in diverse sets of interests other than homemaker puffery and liberal think-tank cocoons.
- Two to four years of experience actually doing something other than being a celebrated journalist or academic journalist.
And here is a thought, it would also be nice if they actually were scientists or even STEM graduates. This is what we deserve and should demand from our science communicating journalists.
¹ Gallup Survey: The Least-Trusted Jobs in America; Nov 26 – 29, 2012; http://www.gallup.com/poll/159035/congress-retains-low-honesty-rating.aspx
² YouGov Survey: Trust in Journalists to Accurately Report Science; Dec 6 – 7, 2013; http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/tabs_HP_science_20131209.pdf
³ Chariot Learning, Average SAT Score By Intended College Major; Mike Bergin; Nov 03, 2014; http://chariotlearning.com/average-sat-score-by-intended-college-major/
Pollsters and those who fund them, you have to ask yourself: If 59 to 70% of the population in any given year believes that your media outlet pushes biased/corrupt propaganda† – would that not mean that ANY poll conducted in your name will automatically contain extreme levels of skewed collection data? A scientist might think so; might think so for nine specific reasons listed herein. But a deluded political group, might strategically use such an effect to their advantage. They might want to even swing an election by means of exploiting, but not acknowledging, such a bias effect. This reality exemplifies the nature of the new poll and electorate gaming underway in American politics.
Believe it or not, I actually had the nine points inside the critical redress of this blog post written a week before the 2016 US Presidential Election. However, I had not yet gathered all the material I wanted to elucidate and support each point. So, with risk of appearing to provide predictive power through having 20/20 hindsight, I want to point out several factors which notoriously influence, especially political polls, into reflecting unanticipated or purposeful bias. Pew Research has provided an excellent outline of the dangers of collection and analytical bias here. While most of this material is derived from sampling bias I have observed over the years, it does align well with, and is supported by, the Pew Research principles defined herein and in the footnotes. (1, 2, 3, 4 Pew Research)
If there existed any question about the political goals entailed inside the Agenda of Social Skepticism, let’s dispense with that notion now – a direct observation by millions of scientists and persons as a result of the 2016 US Presidential Election. It became poignantly clear in the aftermath of this election that Social Skepticism is not by any means a democratic movement. The same tactics which Social Skepticism applies inside enforcement of their pretend science dogma (and wild claims to consensus), are the same exact tactics employed inside the election poll taking and the fake protests ongoing across the US right now. They both bear features of manipulation by agenda bearing forces and hate-based paid protests against a race, a gender, and a people. These are the same tactics employed by the shills who infest social media and are paid to push dogmatic pseudo scientific messages, all relating to one set of political goals and one single religion. These are tactics, tradecraft, signature practices developed and implemented by the same minds behind these various expressions of tyranny.
Employing that segue into pseudoscience, let us examine one tactic of social manipulation which is practiced by Social Skepticism. This tactic is the art of poll and consensus manipulation. Polls in American politics notoriously skew to the left, towards the hate and talking points agenda of Social Skepticism. They also claim to incorporate ‘science’ in their collection and statistical protocols – no surprise there. The astute American citizen has learned that nothing could be further from the case. Here are nine specific reasons why polls are notoriously unreliable, especially polls generated for the sole purpose of effecting and influencing the outcome of an election.
Poll Skewing Factors
Well known in industry, but ignored by ‘statisticians’ in highly contested or manipulated public polls:
I. Means of Collection – bias-infusing polls use exclusively land line phones as their channel and means of respondent communication – a tactic which is notorious in excluding males, mobile professionals and the full time employed. (2 Pew Research)
II. Regional Bias Exploitation – call sampling is conducted in the New England states or in California, reflecting a bias towards tax oriented businesses, such as healthcare, insurance, government offices, and the corporations who work and contract with such agencies. (4 Pew Research)
III. Bradley Effect – people have a tendency to express opinions and intent which fit a social pressure model or keep themselves out of the ‘bad guy’ bucket when polled on polarizing issues. This tends to skew polls notoriously to the left. (1 Pew Research)
IV. Crate Effect – impact of persons who purposely give the opposite response as to what they really think because of animosity towards the polling group (especially if non-free press) and/or their perceived history of bias, and/or animosity towards the circus around elections or the elections themselves. This false left leaning bias is generated most often inside groups who believe media outlets to be left-leaning and unfair. (5 Political Hay)
V. Crate/Bradley Power Effect – the misleading impact of the Crate and Bradley Effects falsely convinces poll administrators of the power they hold to sway the opinion of ‘undecideds’ and misleads their sponsors into funding more and more polls which follow the same flawed protocols and traps. (5 Political Hay)
VI. Trial Heat – the overall pressure which is placed on respondent results based on the structure of or questions inside the poll itself (1 Pew Research)
a. Leading preparatory questions – employing questions which are pejoratively framed or crafted to lead the poll respondent, in order to skew undecided voters, prior to asking the core question, and
b. Iterative poisoning – running the same poll over and over again in the same community and visibly publishing the desired results – akin to poisoning the jury pool.
VII. Form of Core Question – asking different forms of THE CORE question than is implied by the poll, or different question by polling group. 1. Who do you favor, vs. 2. Who will you vote (will vote) for? vs. 3. Who do you think will win? (3 Pew Research)
VIII. Follow Through Effect – only 35 to 55% of people who are polled, on average, will actually turn out to vote. (6 2016 General Election Turnout)
IX. Oversampling – declaring a bias to exist in a population a priori, in the larger S pool from which an s sample is derived. Then further crafting a targeted addition of population members from S, to influence sample s in the opposite signal (direction and magnitude) from the anticipated bias. (1, 4 Pew Research)
Ironically, item IX above, Oversampling is typically addressed in the Notes section of the polling analytical reports. However, such oversampling signal compensation typically only is practiced as a means to address prima facia and presumed S-pool biases, and rarely reflects any adjustment attributable to items I – VIII above.
Until polls are conducted by low profile, scientific, unbiased collection and analytical groups, and not these agenda-laden parties listed below, they will continue to mislead – and to be used as a lever in this pretense to effect a political end-game. For the record, below are the polls indicating both the retraction-back-to numbers the day before the election (reflecting the shock of the early voting results which had them pare back their wild landslide victory they had predicted for Clinton). In other words, the poll models never actually resulted in the final November 7 differential – as that was a manual intervention in panic – so that the models did not look so badly errant in the end.
A note about models and prediction: If you adjust and tweak your model or its parameters, so that it now results in numbers which are more in concert with actual early return data – you have not increased the predictive reliability of your model. Simulation and modeling professionals get this – poll statisticians do not.
Enjoy a laugh, but remember – these are the same people and the same methods, which are employed to advertise to you what it is indeed that scientists think. (7 Real Clear Politics). But such conclusions are derived with much less confidence bearing methods of data collection, as are even election polls. Also, for the record, as of November 18th 2016 at 7:26 pm PST, the preliminary outcome of the popular vote was Clinton 62,523,126 – Trump 61,201,031; a 1.0% Clinton edge, with respect to the number conventions used below. So no one below really got the final results right, with the exception of the conservative IBD/TIPP tracking poll for a Trump Clinton race only. (Source: CNN Election Results Update, 11/18/2016 Election update).
Actual Final 2016 Election Result Clinton +1.0 (average skew = 5.2 points left bias or a 10.8% error rate)
† The 2015 State of the First Amendment Survey, conducted by the First Amendment Center and USA Today; 7/03/2015
1 Pew Research: U.S. Survey Research, Election Polling; http://www.pewresearch.org/methodology/u-s-survey-research/election-polling/
2 Pew Research: U.S. Survey Research, Collecting Survey Data; http://www.pewresearch.org/methodology/u-s-survey-research/collecting-survey-data/
3 Pew Research: U.S. Survey Research,, Questionnaire Design; http://www.pewresearch.org/methodology/u-s-survey-research/questionnaire-design/
4 Pew Research: U.S. Survey Research,, Sampling; http://www.pewresearch.org/methodology/u-s-survey-research/sampling/
5 Political Hay: How Poll Bias Obscures Trump’s Likely Election; https://spectator.org/how-poll-bias-obscures-trumps-likely-election/
6 2016 General Election Turnout Rates; http://www.electproject.org/2016g
7 Real Clear Politics http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/latest_polls/
It is not that the contentions founded upon an appeal to infinity are necessarily and existentially incorrect, rather simply that the appeal itself is premature under the definition of what constitutes good science. So I replaced the word god, with the word infinity – OK, good; but have I really accomplished science through such an action? Wittgenstein challenges this notion. The context in which ‘infinity’ is abused as an obvious scientific alternative or worse, apologetic employed in order to leverage social conformity (pseudoscience), are outlined inside what is called the Appeal to Infinity (or Plenitude) error.
Don’t get me wrong, I have both pondered the mathematical, scientific and philosophical ramifications of the concept of infinity in our observable universe, as well as frequently used such precepts of expansive/endless domain as a justification behind why incredibly unlikely things are observed to have occurred. (Please note that the context of ‘infinity’ here includes use of ‘suitable large numbers’ which might allow for a special pleading instance not constituting infinity, yet still remain suitably large enough to accomplish the same goals.) Such an approach is not an invalid domain of scientific reasoning as the basis for the beginning of hypothesis formulation – but neither does such a rationale set constitute finished science according to Popper (nor in reality Wittgenstein either). Obviousness does not stand tantamount to verity for Wittgenstein, nor does simply the formulation of an idea stand tantamount to hypothesis for Popper. Infinity (also known as ‘plenitude’ based theory), as a explanatory construct rendering infinitesimally unlikely things as now likely (set aside the existential nature of its mathematical and philosophical uses) only serves as a placeholder inside science, and albeit one which can someday hopefully be matured into a truly scientific hypothesis, stands as a placeholder nonetheless.
‘You’ are a trivial happenstance wrought through an infinity of possibility; yet upon this infinite basis ‘you’ could not possibly have happened before, nor sustain, and can never happen again.
~ The Existential Nihilist employs the concept of infinity as a hypocritical appeal to both special plead and deny in the same breath
I remember fondly, one night staring out the back sliding glass doors of my childhood home, my father engrossed inside his nightly television routine nearby in the den of our house. I was seven years old, as to my recollection the leaves were colorful and newly removed from the trees surrounding the house, which we had also newly occupied. Our pregnant cat scurried urgently about examining every nook and cranny in the entire house for some amazing plot on her mind. This late hour and bare tree condition allowed me to observe and ponder again the nighttime sky for the first time in several months. Summer was ending and that exciting cyclical period of life where I was able to stay up past dark had commenced once again. I commented to my father as I stared through the glass doors at the nascent night sky “Dad, if there is endless time, and endless stars, why would the sky not be daylight all day and all night?” Wow consider the possibilities, playtime 24 hours a day – except for during that horrid waste of time they forced us into, called school. I hated school.
School was the place where uber-rules-followers used social demeaning as a tactic of class stratification (not that I used those words then). A tactic which some immature instructors even bought into as well. I was barely a C-average student every year of my young life until the day that I scored at a college freshman level in science, in my fifth grade achievement tests. Again in seventh grade I scored a perfect score on the science achievement tests. After asking if I had cheated (both times), my school finally broached the idea that perhaps I needed to be taught in a different way. So ended the track of memorizing spelling words and formulas and facts, and thus inaugurated the track of pursuing projects, ideas, goals and research. The spelling, facts and Laplace Transformations simply fell into place along the way. Don’t stand over me, hands on hips (figuratively) forcing me to make journal entries. Rather allow me to explore my passions through journalism, and I will teach you how to write a journal. Don’t teach me facts about the Punic Wars, let me model the Naval Battles and how they were fought, and maybe could have been prosecuted even better. Tolstoy is a far better teacher of grammar than is sentence diagramming. Anna Karenina’s winding family hierarchy bore with it kind gifts of Russian-challenged complexities in English language, both in logical calculus and structure. Such folding of reality inside out transitioned me from January of my soul into vernal brightness – an evolution of elegant whisper kissing my forehead and changing my life, forever.
I was invested from a young age into ideas, and not simply social protocols and procedures. This is part of my nature as a philosopher. Thankfully there existed standardized tests in those days, or I would have been relegated to a dunce track. No, this perception on my part is not in any way seeking to impugn specific jobs nor career tracks, as fake skeptics are wont to suggest; rather merely to point out that such a track would have been unfulfilling to me. All a result of my failure to comply with the standard mold they so sought in education.
My dad apparently regarded my sliding glass door observation to constitute a pretty astute question. He was a trial lawyer and enjoyed skills in the art of argument. But he always plied his wisdom with me by means of a Folgerbergian ‘thundering velvet hand’. I learned the nature of argument from him, and him alone. He calmly replied “well perhaps there is not endless time and/or there are not endless stars?” I watched the sky for some time before being rushed off to bed by my mom; petitioning the same question to her, to which she replied “God made just the right number of stars and the right amount of time, so that you can enjoy the night sky.” What a great answer. That made sleeping so much more a pleasant experience. Wow, God set all this up just for us.
For the World is Hollow and I have Touched the Sky
So there we had it. The three alternatives inside of which I was imprisoned for the next 15 some odd years of my life. There are finite sets of stars and time, god set up the stars and time just right, or – maybe the assumptions which I brought to the argument were incorrect in the first place. It was probably around age 12 or so where I began to protest against the concept of finite-ness as compared to infinity. I often quipped to my eye-rolling buddies in high school (I had been moved a year ahead of my normal age group) – ‘The only thing less palatable than infinity, is finite-ness.’ I considered the idea that, once existence was observed, then infinity was a fortiori. For how could one then truly define a boundary, much less find it? Such a boundary was rendered absurd in an existential context, surely only a boundary-state (a brane or transition if not) and not indeed the end of infinity. “For the World is Hollow and I have Touched the Sky” was one of my favorite Star Trek episodes (although by this time well into syndication), not only from the perspective that Dr. McCoy got it on with some hott alien chick, but also because this issue was touched. In the plot, a man crawls to the end of the ‘sky’ and touches it, only to find it a tactile boundary, a dome of deception – the sense of which drove him to an insanity of just desserts for violating the strictures of the ‘god’ which ruled their planet and forbade such arrogance – as asking questions.
One should bear in mind that in certain contexts, an appeal to infinity is no more scientific than is an appeal to God. It just appears more scientific to the non-philosopher.
Perhaps the best take-away from that Star Trek episode is one which I carry to this very day.
The universe is at least in part incomprehensible. It is not that it is simply unmeasurable, as this claim actually constitutes an organic untruth. The fact is that we cannot seek to measure that which we do not comprehend in the first place. Our skills of measure are not as limiting for man, as are our skills of comprehension – that is our boundary, our dome of deceit after all, and not this fictitious field-of-measurability which nihilists claim they have identified.
Don’t get scared, just deal with and expect it. Embrace the unknown, embrace the absurdity. Do not substitute a pretense of knowledge as a methodology towards feeling better about the unknown – this is no different than appealing to God. Your mind does not yet possess the tools to survey reality from the right perspectives. Such were the whispers which reverberated in my mind each night. Accordingly, began my track of leveraging the bookends of infinity (the absence of finite-ness) in contrast with the finite-ness of the hand of God. I roiled against such a bifurcation, again questioning infinity as an adequate argument against the ‘god’ argument which I had already come to reject in the ensuing years.
And here is why I reject infinity as a bifurcating excuse of science, situations wherein it is used simply as a lever and apologetic in opposition to those who make ‘God of the Gaps’ claims (which I equally eschew). An appeal to infinity (or suitable large number/domain thereof) is NOT a scientific idea for several reasons of demarcation:
- Infinity does not bear a measurable nor definable set of features in an epistemological sense (the same as ‘god’ in reality under an Appeal to Elves argument)
- Infinity is easier to propose and codify than it is to resolve, reduce, induce or deduce (this is the reverse trajectory from Wittgenstein defined science)
- The antithetical idea can neither be defined nor tested, in order to offer Popper falsification of infinity as a null hypothesis
- The concept of ‘infinity’ as the proposed hypothetical answer, answers the wrong question at hand under the scientific method. I am not burdened with answering the question ‘how did consciousness or life originate?;’ rather, ‘How did the 3 letter codon basis of DNA-protein synthesis originate in Archaea on Earth so quickly?’ The former question is asked out of sequence and stands as a non rectum agitur fallacy. And this would be OK, if it were not used to beat people over the head in promotion of nihilism. What created life? God! Infinity! Yawn – these are the same exact unsinnig (Wittgenstein: nonsensical) answer.
- Infinity moves quicker as a handle, a term, than it does as a true philosophical/scientific concept. The concept is not easily intelligible nor observable, however it can be sustained under a Wittgenstein set of knowledge features. This renders the concept of infinity vulnerable to being used as a baseball bat to enforce proper thinking.
- It can explain everything, much as Marxist class struggle theory and the Freudian psychology of sex, plenitude can explain the existence of anything and everything. This is not science.
All these things are anathema to sound science. It is not that the contentions founded upon an appeal to infinity are necessarily and existentially incorrect, rather simply that the appeal itself is premature under the definitions of what constitutes good science. But you will observe social skeptics appealing to infinity as if they are applying good science. This is not correct in the least. The context in which infinity is abused as an obvious scientific alternative or worse, apologetic employed in order to leverage social conformity (pseudoscience), are outlined inside what is called the Appeal to Infinity error:
Appeal to Infinity (Plenitude)
/philosophy : pseudoscience : argument : error in logical calculus/ : a variation of an appeal to magic wherein the infinite size (or other suitably large scale) of the containing domain is posited as the all powerful but scientific rationale behind the existence of a stack of incredibly unlikely happenstance. A closure of scientific argument and refusal to consider other alternatives, especially when an appeal to infinity hypothesis is unduly regarded as the null hypothesis – and further then is defended as consensus science, without appropriate underlying reductive science ever actually being done.
Appeal to Lotto – Informing a person who has been harmed that their instance of harm is extremely uncommon (‘they won the Lotto, simply because someone had to win’ scam). A double appeal to infinity involving convincing a target regarding the personal experience involved in a remote happenstance. A million dollars just fell out of the sky in neat little stacks and then subsequently, you just happened to be the first person to walk by and observe it – two appeals to infinity stacked upon one another. Often used as a sales pitch or con job. Any instance where a ‘Law of Large Numbers’ is used as an apologetic to justify why a person was harmed or an extremely unlikely occurrence emerged.
Omnifinity – any argument which ascribes to a theoretical god, such powers, knowledge and capability such that the god in question is simultaneously able to do anything, and at the same time evade any level of comprehension on our part. This type of god is simply a placeholder argument (the ultimate special pleading) which is a parallel argument to the Infinity of the Gaps argument below. These are twin arguments, which contrary to superficial appearances, are the same exact argument. Neither one constitutes science.
Infinity of the Gaps – any argument where an appeal to infinity is simply employed to avoid the appearance of using a ‘god of the gaps’ explanation, when in reality the employment of infinity as the explanation for an infinitesimally remote chance occurrence is virtually as ridiculous or lacking in epistemological merit as is the god explanation – see Appeal to Elves.
Infinity as Science – any argument where an appeal to infinity is spun as constituting a superior scientific explanation, in comparison to, and in an effort to avoid examining the underlying assumptions which precipitated the invalid perception/belief that an event or series of events are extremely rare or statistically next to impossible in the first place.
Explanitude – the condition where a theory or approach has been pushed so hard as authority, or is developed upon the basis of unacknowledged domain uncertainty (such as Marxist class struggle theory or Freudian psychology of sex), that it begins to provide a basis of explanation for, or possesses an accommodation/justification for every condition which is observed or that the theory domain promotes. A theory or approach which seems to be able to explain everything, likely explains nothing (Popper/Pigliucci).
I am sure that I will never truly understand neither infinity nor finite-ness. It makes it very difficult however, to stomach abiogenesis now, knowing that life began right on the heels of the Heavy Bombardment period for Earth – and no, an Appeal to Infinity falls hollow in the face of such a tightening window of finite-ness. Nor however, will I gain fully an explanatory alternative to the prevailing beliefs of abiogenesis and consciousness. Such a sad state of affairs. But I can discipline my mind to be robust against falling prey to a misuse of infinity in the meantime. I can say “I do not know” or ‘I do not possess an adequate explanation/definition for that’ – and yes, be conducting real science.
I do not have to, nor will I as an ethical skeptic, pose inside such a costume of social conformity.