How to Know What Scientific
by Laurence D Smart B.Sc.Agr., Dip.Ed., Grad.Dip.Ed
[Free to print and distribute. Copy must be in full.]
For our benefit, experienced Christians have provided us with a number of hints to help us identify a cult or a false prophet. They point out that:-
A cult can be identified by the following traits:-
(1) Profess special insight
(2) Practice control tactics over its converts
(3) Demand that they are the only ones that will be saved
A false prophet can be identified by the following actions:-
(a) They mostly prophesy inevitable things
(b) Their specific prophesies don't come to pass
From my own experience, and talking with other experienced Christians I can identify a number of other salient points on this identification process.
(i) Stand back and observe from a distance
(ii) Don't commit yourself until you know it is the right thing to do
(iii) Don't accept what has be said until you have analyzed it and had at least one night's sleep
(iv) Observe the long term effect of the teaching on the lives of the believers
All these points are for our own protection, to keep us firmly on the Christian path.
Are there similar pointers to help us identify pseudo-scientists and the false prophets within the scientific community?
Interestingly enough, the science writer, Ronald Bailey, has done just that. With regards the scientific proponents of radical environmentalism and doomsayers, he stood back and observed; he tested their prophecies; he analyzed what they have said; and he studied their tactics.
In his book "Eco Scan: The False Prophets of Ecological Apocalypse" (p:177-178) he provides some tips on how to identify a false prophet of doom, those pseudo-scientists who wish to lead us by the nose in the name of science. His 10 points of disclosure are:-
"(1) The first indication is flat-out claims..."
"(2) Does the proponent assert that certain facts "impel", "require", or "demand" that a specific course of action be followed? Good scientists rarely propose radical ... plans in conjunction with releasing scientific research results."
"(3) Is the proposed program clearly identified with any particular political ideology, party, or interest group?"
"(4) Look at the proponents past predictive record - have [they] ... ever come true?"
"(5) Think about how a scientist would go about testing the truth of the assertions being made. Do they more closely resemble ... testable hypotheses like, "What goes up must come down"? This process will give you some idea of the real scientific content of the statement."
"(6) Be especially skeptical about 'scientific' reports that are being handled by public relations firms..."
"(7) Scientific findings and conclusions are generally highly caveated and nuanced - rarely flat-out one way or the other. Beware of absolute certainty."
"(8) Find out who funded the work being reported - what agency or foundation, and what is its agenda?"
"(9) Beware of moral fervor and high levels of righteous indignation."
"(10) Talk with scientists - other than those who are pushing the alleged crisis."
As I read these points, it struck a chord within me as I clearly saw that the pointers applied to many of the proponents of evolutionism whose work I had read. The pointers indicated to me that many evolutionists and their messages have strayed from the path of true science.
It is up to each and every one of us to examine the teachings of evolutionists (and creationists) to verify that they are scientific. The following points will help with this task. Beware of:-
(1) Flat-out, outlandish claims that have no flexibility.
(2) Facts that are asserted to "impel", "require", or "demand" that a specific interpretation be adhered to.
(3) Paradigms that are clearly identified with a particular ideology, or interest group.
(4) Proponents whose past statements have lapsed, failed or been shown to be false or erroneous.
(5) Assertions that don't resemble a testable hypothesis.
(6) 'Scientific' reports that are being handled by public relations firms, the media, or aggressively 'pro' organizations.
(7) Scientific findings and conclusions that are presented as absolute certainty.
(8) Scientists (and their reports) that are funded by aggressively 'pro' organizations.
(9) Statements containing moral fervour and high levels of righteous indignation.
In addition, talk to, and read the statements of scientists who do not agree with other scientists' interpretations. But as you search of the truth, consider the following snag that Ronald Bailey identifies.
"Be aware, however, that scientists are often reluctant to criticize their fellow scientists and may even fear that their criticisms might endanger the funding for their own work if they speak up in opposition."
A.A. Hodge once wrote:-
"It is easier to find a score of men wise enough to discover the truth, than to find one intrepid enough, in the face of opposition, to stand up for it."