Not Good at Thinking? You’re Probably a Nonscientist

Joshua Youngkin


The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has long been known for combating “evolution denial” in public schools. Further expanding its portfolio and donor base, this year the NCSE added “climate change denial” to its list of bad things we should fear, as we earlier reported.
Now in a recent interview, the NCSE’s Eugenie Scott adds yet another item to the list: vaccine skepticism. The leading questions posed by the interviewer, Liza Gross, are as fun as the answers they prompt.
Gross asks:

[The] NCSE hasn’t taken on the anti-vaccination issue, but do you see something similar with those who reject evolution and climate change?

And Scott replies, in pertinent part:

This kind of anomaly mongering is something that we’ve dealt with for decades with evolution. We’re starting to learn more about it with climate change.

Translation: skepticism of the current scientific consensus on any topic is based, rather anemically, on the rare anomaly — that curiously inexplicable item for which a satisfying explanation is right around the corner. Just you wait.
Gross asks:

For a nonscientist it’s very difficult to figure out what to think, especially when the so-called “debates” on these issues become so emotionally charged. How do you cut through the emotions to help people think rationally?

Monkey 1.jpegAnd Scott replies:

Our experience with the evolution and climate change issues has been to recognize that there is a huge amount of dichotomous thinking going on. In the case of evolution you’re either a good guy Christian creationist or you’re a bad guy evolutionist atheist. Those are the packages that many students come into classrooms with. So breaking apart these dichotomies is very important because they’re false dichotomies.

Translation: unlike scientists, nonscientists think with their hearts rather than their heads, which is why nonscientists mistakenly believe the “debate” over evolution and climate change amounts to a personal or political dispute between “good guys” and “bad guys.”
Then, tossing all skepticism into one undifferentiated bucket, Scott concludes her interview with these words

That basic understanding about what makes vaccinations work is a core idea of science. We’re just not debating whether that works or not any more than we’re debating whether living things have common ancestors or the planet’s getting warmer.

Debate over the particulars of Darwin’s theory carries no measurable risk of coastal flooding, unlike the climate change debate, or unnecessary infection, unlike the vaccine debate, but thanks to Dr. Scott these three subjects finally have something in common with one another: they’ve all been officially closed as topics of conversation. And you, dear reader, are not allowed to open up what Dr. Scott has closed.
Well, it’s not that you can’t think or speak for your nonscientist self as a matter of law (yet), only that these activities are best left to the experts as a matter of prudence. The NCSE wouldn’t want folks to hurt themselves.

Joshua Youngkin

An attorney, and previously, Discovery Institute Program Officer in Public Policy and Legal Affairs.



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