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Alexander Sokolov - Russian scientific journalist and science popularizer. Founder and chief editor of scientific-educational portal Anthropogeny.ru.
Let's think: why in the XXI century, the era of the triumph of knowledge and high technology, pseudo-science is not only not going to take the position, but feels great? What is the secret of the indestructibility of this phenomenon?
I will try to highlight several reasons.
1. The complexity of modern scientific knowledge and the availability of pseudoscientific ideas
Banal truth: science is complex. It is so complicated that if you gets into the hands of the scientific article, the theme of which is beyond the scope of your profession, with some probability, you will understand in the text, only excuses. A new subject area to master in 30 minutes or even a month. Sometimes this requires years of hard study. For those who seek to make science a part of your life, there are special educational institutions, scientific libraries, databases, relevant conference. Those for whom science is a subject of interest "in their free time," should, in theory, to carry out scientific propaganda, which turns complex ideas and airtight theory in striking and accessible characters. If the student climbs the stairs of knowledge to the distant peaks, the scientific advocate, to be understood, need to make back – to descend from heaven to the scientific level of the student. "Profanation," and says a specialist.
Yeah, this level only enough to maintain a smart conversation in the kitchen. Scientists turn up his nose. But why this is necessary becomes clear when scientific propaganda cease to engage in the "kitchen conversations on science" vacuum. What's going on? People no longer understand what is happening in the "high science". Between science and the masses is widening the gap, the abyss of the unknown. A strange scary, therein lies the threat to comfort and safety. "Reassure us, give us a simple explanation!" – pray alarmed citizens. And then from the basement you hear a discordant chorus: "To us, to us! You cheated! We gagged, and now they are confused – and we finally present you with an alternative science that you like it! Because we love you, unlike these snobs with glasses. We have only comfortable theories and ideas available, pleasantly tickle your nerves. So listen carefully and buy our books."
Here's an example of psychologically comfortable ideas: "Women are stupider than men because she has less brain". People vote "for" for reasons not related to science is irrelevant. The representative of the stronger sex is flattering and comfortable. The idea picked up and many ladies, for which a ready justification for his own weaknesses. To refute such an assertion means to go against popular stereotypes and breaking stereotypes – it's stress. Therefore, the theory that "woman is second-class people" will enjoy success in defiance of scientific facts.
so when scientific propaganda is losing ground, the gap between science and the General public instantly fill easily digestible substitutes.
2. Science classes involve specialized, often very narrow
In the network runs a set of grim trade jokes on the theme of "You're a biologist!" (who always knows how to treat a neighbor's dog and when on the lunar calendar to sow carrot), "You're a historian!" (always remembering by heart all the kings and the dates of all events on the planet), "You're a linguist!" (speaking all languages, including the long-vanished) and so on in the same spirit. Common ground for such humour – vast breadth of science and many narrow specializations in its expanse. It is in the XIX century, when a scientific discipline was formed, Charles Darwin could, while remaining within the bounds of science, to write papers on Geology of coral reefs, systematics of orchids, the structure of barnacles crayfish, breeding pigeons, psychology and paleontology. In the XXI century expert on barnacles cancers – specialist in it and nothing else. Historian all his life engaged in the late middle Ages Eastern Russia, linguist decades immersed in the phonetics of the Tocharian languages, and the paleontologist knows the ropes of fossil rodents of the Pliocene, only superficially, the ancient monkeys, and even less of the stone age people. "A specialist knows everything about nothing and little about everything else," – said the American humorist Ambrose Bierce.
Probably narrow specialization is the inevitable price to pay for professionalism. However, from this it follows that even the eminent scientist outside the profession may lose the scent, to replace the knowledge and experience a set of memories "from the TV" and instantly turn into ordinary people with standard Luggage of stereotypes, prejudices and phobias. In other words, the professional mode is switched off, and instead begin to work non-intellectual mechanisms. Sadly, when the scientist continues to broadcast in the genre of "I'm the doctor!", like a degree automatically makes them infallible expert on any issues. An understanding of the limits of its competence as a necessary quality for a researcher, but "wise humility" nature has provided is not all.
No services specialist does not guarantee immunity from error outside of his profession and emerging topics, which can be very narrow. So, dear scientists sometimes become transmitters of the pseudo-scientific ideas, and their reputation rises to the flag support groups: "H has publicly stated that Darwin refuted, and, among other things, he's a surgeon!", "K. says that man could not have originated in Africa, and he was a famous biochemist at Harvard taught!".
That's why the accessibility of knowledge and higher education does not interfere with the pseudoscience to take root in the human brain. It would be worth to introduce to the students the compulsory subject "Signs of pseudoscience". Just who will be teaching?
3. The volume of modern knowledge many orders of magnitude beyond the capabilities of the individual
obviously We can't verify most of the information we receive. What remains? To believe. Our trust information is based on the credibility of its source. Without a reasonable confidence in the "knowledgeable people" probably impossible civilization, which is based on the distribution of knowledge. In ancient times may have been different, but, presumably, already existed in the stone age.
Ettore Biocca, white woman, who was destined to live 20 years in a tribe of Amazonian Indians, told how the Indian women demanded that she had done for them pots and machetes, "because she is white and needs to be able to". When Beocca tried to explain that her dad bought a machete in the store, the Indians did not believe.
Now we don't need to know how to make a machete, and do not have to write a driver for the printer, so he printed out this Chapter. There are experts who do this for us, we trust their experience. Similarly, in a healthy society there is the credibility of the people involved in science, such experts have a well-deserved reputation, listen to their opinions. However, if a scientist is masked rogue? For example, using external paraphernalia – he's bearded, wears glasses, solid gosavi, signed by the academician. The credibility of the authority misfires. Many used to believe that sounds on TV, especially if the information is read out soulful, slightly alarmed man's voice. Who will take the time to check every fact? Unless the holder of such a tone may lie? So the heads of the audience being implemented properly Packed nonsense.
for Example, in the TV program "Military secret" shown on the channel "Ren TV" on 11 November 2013, the VoiceOver said: "the Number of victims of school shootings in the United States has, perhaps, not inferior to the losses of America in Iraq."
Sounds shocking. What the hell is going on in American schools! What do you think, what percentage of the audience before terrified, wondering whether made reality?
In fact the loss of America in Iraq are 4486 people (official data of the Pentagon). Compare: 1990 in school shootings in the U.S. 254 people were killed.
Someone lied! But lie so beautifully that it is not difficult to believe.
4. The level of education in our country has fallen
for several years I had to sit in the admissions office of one of the St. Petersburg University. At first I was shocked by the students who do not remember the capitals of European countries, at all did not know neither history nor literature, was not able to solve the simplest arithmetic problem. Then I used to.
"On a blank sheet of paper, you can write the newest, most beautiful characters" (a statement attributed to Mao Zedong). Empty head, a blank slate. What is the difference, what is its score?
Suppose someone tells you that the first mention of the Egyptian pyramids in the written sources refer to the beginning of the XIX century: "To Napoleon about them, no one in Europe ever heard."
Of course, you can argue that about the pyramids, wrote the Greek Herodotus and the Roman Pliny, the medieval authors considered the colossus of Giza "the granaries of Joseph", in the XIV century the French Baron d Anglor saw how the locals were removed from the pyramids facing in the XVII century Egyptian wonder of the world admired the English mathematician and astronomer John greaves, and even Newton is not spared the great pyramid in his "Treatise on the sacred cubit of the Jews". But you need to know. Well, as one who heard not only of Herodotus but also of those authors who wrote about the pyramids in the XX–XXI centuries, it is easy to believe that all the ancient monuments built over 200 years ago.
getting Acquainted with another pseudo-scientific creation, I sometimes think, "we have arrived, to be worse." And again and again reality proves that I was too hasty. Recently came across the video: it the author denounced the supporters of a flat Earth, contemptuously called them idiots, unfamiliar with the school physics course, homerically laughed. "In fact, clearly, – he spoke then slightly weary tone of a teacher addressing first-graders, that our Earth is hollow!" I prayed it was a joke, but the author of the video meant it.
the Lack of knowledge, inability to produce and lack the public's thinking skills are greatly simplified lieutenan task.
5. The development of the means of mass communication
some time among cultured people it has become fashionable to flaunt that "I generally don't watch TV". Poor box appears the embodiment of evil, the source of vulgarity and stupidity, the mouthpiece of false propaganda. Largely true! However, for all its faults, the TV saves the important property of "traditional media" – on any television station there are editors who selects the content producers, and monitors its quality. Yes, the quality criteria for some programs it is unlikely you will like it. However, the man in the street to get into the Studio to share with the audience his brilliant ideas, if they can, then only in the format of certain television shows and under strict control. He start in the air cursing (without permission), to call for a coup or to advertise your shop will take off from the Studio by a bullet and forever.
Another thing – the Internet. Any citizen is able to press buttons, makes blozhik, and his testimony, which previously had not gone beyond the kitchen, with impunity flock to the world wide web. Knowledge, experience, diploma optional. Even a certificate from a mental hospital is not required to acquire their own, independent from anyone information channel, is actually media. And if you have literary talent? If you have talent after some time the owner of the blog can receive thousands of followers ready to like and repost. External censorship, but social networks are jamming and censorship internal. "What do you think?" – interested in Facebook. Not reflective, tell me what's on your mind, it's all so interesting! The social network is home for aggressive Amateurs and allows them to Express themselves like nowhere else and no one will allow. Noise produces noise and the lonely voice of the scientist is drowning in chorus of thousands of the ignorant. So pseudoscience – in the form of blog posts, "shocking" photos and funny videos – come to every home, including yours.
the Passage from the book of Alexander Sokolova "Scientists hide? Myths of the XXI century"
Alexander Sokolov about the book "Scientists hiding?"
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