The False Logic of Science Denial in Scientific American of August 2020

This document contains comments about the article The False Logic of Science Denial by Naomi Oreskes In Scientific American of August 2020.
Arguments against the reality of Covid-19 mirror those against climate change and evolution.



In college I learned about the myriad logical fallacies that pervade our world.
The first thing that you should have learned at college is what proper science is.
Good logic, it turned out was pretty restricive.
Proper science is very strict. The first rule to follow is everything what you write should be clear and unambiguous.
If A is true, then B is true
Such a sententence is maybe mathematical correct, but physical has no meaning.
See also: Reflection 1 - Mathematical Logic versus Physical Logic.
The problem is that if A is true then B must already be true. In fact A cannot be true without B being true.
I have a group of animals i.e. 10 sheeps. If you are allowed to select one animal this animal must be a sheep. EUREKA.
In contrast, there is a universe of logical fallacies.
There exists no universe of logical fallacies i.e. of bad mathematics.
One example: My theory says: If P, then Q. I design an experiment to see if Q obtains. It does. Therefore, P is true.
To understand this sentence you must first must explain what a theory is. That is not simple. To get an idea of what is involved please select this: Reflection 2 - What is a theory? The first thing is to agree that in this case we are discussing physics not mathematics.
The biggest problem is the part: "If P, then Q" What is physical meant? That is not clear as such all what follows more or less becomes incomprehensible.
next we read:
Sadly this conclusion is logically incorrect.
The problem is that this sentence is neither logical correct nor incorrect. The sentence is not clear. Of course now you have to explain what that means.....
'Q might hold' for a variety of reasons having little or nothing to do with my theory.
If I understand this correctly there are two claims: Personally I don't see anything wrong in this second claim. I personally expect a problem in the details of the experiments of what is meant with variety of reasons.
Yet scientists make this mistake all the time, which led philosopher Karl Popper to argue that the method of science - or at least should be - falsification.
Which specific mistake make scientists all the time? IMO the most common problem in many arguments is that both parties are not clear in what each means.
Popper insisted that one can never prove that a theory is true, because that would require you to test it in every conceivable, which is impossible. But just a single counterexample can prove a theory false.
See: Reflection 3 - To prove or to disprove.
All this is to say that logical fallacies are everywhere and not always easily refuted.
LOgical fallacies have nothing to do with science. Any experiment is always based on previous experiments and most of the problems are based on the knowledge collected based on these experiment. Part of that knowledge can also based on assumptions which raises the issue if all what we know is realy be true.
Truth, at least in science, is not slf-evident.
Thruth, all what we know, the mathematics used in order to predict, should be based on actual observations or experiments.
And this helps to explain why science denial is easy to generate and hard to slay.
The best way to improve science is to explain everything clearly as detailed as possible, starting from the bottom and based from experiments. Remember that in general science becomes more difficult, because the general population wants more and there is a limited number of resources. Everyone wants a drone and 5G.
Today we live in a world where science denial, about everything from climate change to COVID 19, is rampant, informed by fallacies of all kind.
What is the evidence of this Claim?
Fallacies are not so much the issue The most important issue is to identify an independent organization which gives the facts about the world climate and how it involves. That same organization should also identify the cause of these changes worldwide and what possible can be done to change the direction. Such a scientific organization should be independent of any government, any company or pressure group.
Similar organizations should study the total eco system and all the resources of our planet.
John Cook of George Mason University has, for example, undertaken an analysis of the logical fallacies and distortions tied to climate change denial, which include jumping to conclusions, cherry-picking data, etc
Which is the source of this claim. For a good article about his research please select this link:
"Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming"
The article starts with the following sentence:
"The consensus that humans are causing recent global warming is shared by 90%–100% of publishing climate scientists according to six independent studies by co-authors of this paper. Those results are consistent with the 97% consensus reported by Cook et al based on 11944 abstracts of research papers, of which 4014 took a position on the cause of recent global warming."
The article does not mention the word Fallacy.
But there is a meta-fallacy - an über fallacy if you will - that motivates these other specif fallacies.
I don't understand this sentence.
It also explains why so many of the same people who reject the scientific evidence of anthropogenic climate change also question the evidence related to COVID-19
Which evidence related to COVID-19 ?
Given how common it is, it is remarkable that philosophers have failed to give it a formal name.
What scientist should do is to perform proper science and only proper science. If people object to their findings they should reply and inform what is wrong in a scientific manner.
It is the same with all forms of pseudoscience.
I interpret implicatory denial as taking this form: If P, then Q. But I don't like Q! Therefore P must be wrong.
This type of reply in relation to pseudoscience is not very scientific.
  • Climate Change:

    I reject the suggestion that the magic of the market has failed and that we need government intervention to remedy the market failure
  • Evolutionary theory:

    I am offended by the suggestion that life is random and meaningless and that there is no God.
  • COVID-19

    I resent staying home, losing income or being told by the government what to do.
People can have all sorts of personal objections what climate research predicts, about the evolution theory or about virus research and how to respond against pandemics. That is their good right, but has nothing to do with science.
People also are convinced that 5G radiation is bad. If these opinions are supported by research it is important to investigate the supporting 'evidence' in a professional manner.
The result is that there exist no worldwide strategy with a common purpose or goal: to do what is the best for all of us.

Reflection 2 - What is a theory?

To explain, let me start with an example.
More than 20 years ago I walked with a group of friends in Turino (Italie) from the railway statation to our meeting point, center city. When we walked along the pavement we passed along a car with roof was completely flattened, as like in the expression: as flat as a sardinetin. I was amashed. We walked futher and I saw an other flattened car. After 200 meters again. In total I saw maybe 10 of these cars. Already, while walking I started to think. One car with a flattened roof can be the result of an accident but three or four is strange. There must be a common reason. All the cars were nicely parked and we were in wintertime with a nice blue sky. The houses along the pavement are high and all of a sudden I started to realise that the cause must come from above, from the roofs of the houses, from snow on the roofs that builds up in layers of snow and ice. Ice is very heavy and when it finally melts it drop like an avalanche and smass the roof of a car.
This was my theory. I did not test my theory nor did I ask for a conformation, as such it is still a theory. If I would have tested my theory or people would have confirmed my theory based on observations than my theory would dissolve and become a fact.
Using this example we can define a theory as a proposition of a possible string of actions and reactions which changes a physical state A into a physical state B. The best way to show that is to make a picture of both situations and then ask the question how come? The important point is that there can be many physical explanations which are all valid. Often there can be a set of special coincidences involved which makes solving the puzzle ofwhat really happened complicated, like in airplane crashes.

The most important point is that a theory can change into a fact or a law but that the final law can be also a subject of change.

Reflection 3 - To prove or to disprove.

When we perform an experiment in general what we do is we take certain actions which induce a reaction i.e. certain changes, which we can observe.
From a scientific point is that we can perform many experiment, many very difficult experiments and almost identical experiments. From those almost identical experiments we can learn the most, because very small difference in the parameters (quantities) involved can lead to different results.
In general we can learn the most under very scientific computer controlled operations, how the differences in input parameters change the internal evolutions of the reactions involved, which in response change the outcomes. Specific by doing that we can improve the mathematics involved (differential equations) which describe these processes. At the same we get a better grip of the facts of nature, specific how nature evolves.

The next issue is the question can we prove something.

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Created: 1 January 2019

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