August 26, 2013

Change and decay in all around I see

There’s an op-ed piece in the New York Times (by a physicist, Adam Frank) about how no-one pays attention to science any more, and it’s all political, with creationism and climate change denial as the main examples.

Chad Orzel (also a physicist) is unconvinced

 [T]he question is whether we’ve fallen off from some golden age when everybody listened raptly to the best science had to offer…. After all, as depressing as it may be for forty-odd percent of the population to want to align themselves with a creationist position (whether from honest belief or out of tribal identification), that’s probably an improvement from the days of the actual Scopes trial. Which, it should be noted, Scopes lost, unlike the several more recent cases where teaching of creationism has been soundly rejected by the courts.

 He points to other questions whether there hasn’t been as much political propaganda and where basic scientific knowledge is improving.



Again, there’s plenty that’s bad, I’m not going to deny it. But just because we’re not winning as fast as we’d like doesn’t mean that we’re in decline. Though frustration might make it seem that way at times.


Thomas Lumley (@tslumley) is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Auckland. His research interests include semiparametric models, survey sampling, statistical computing, foundations of statistics, and whatever methodological problems his medical collaborators come up with. He also blogs at Biased and Inefficient See all posts by Thomas Lumley »


  • avatar
    Ben Brooks

    Isn’t the point that the ‘golden age’ was when experts made pronouncements and they were believed and acted on. Nowdays we need not just scientific consensus, but a public one too. So the fact the public is more scientifically literate is besides the point – the golden age was when the public were ignorant and everybody knew it and therefore paid no attention to their views on scientific questions.

    4 years ago