Social Identity Threat Motivates Science-Discrediting Online Comments
February 7, 2015 2:50 PM   Subscribe

"Another simple pseudo-scientist who gets a pat on the back for finding what he was looking for. No subtle thinking here. No qualifying or consideration of alternate interpretation. No honest presentation of the limits of your study. No alternative explanations. This is why the majority of social scientists are flimsy. It is a weak science desperately pretend[sic] it has hard evidence for complex phenomena."

Social scientists Peter Nauroth, Mario Gollwitzer, Jens Bender, and Tobias Rothmund explore anti-science behavior among a group of people with a strong social identity. Their research method: Reading all the comments.

Results show that strongly (vs. weakly) identified group members (i.e., people who identified as "gamers") were particularly likely to discredit social identity threatening findings publicly (i.e., studies that found an effect of playing violent video games on aggression).
posted by Made of Star Stuff (62 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
The above research threatens my social identity of being a strongly-identifying group member. Since I am a typical group member and I don't behave that way, there's no way it could be correct.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 3:00 PM on February 7, 2015 [15 favorites]


Their research method: Reading all the comments.

/me stands, salutes, mutters You magnificent crazy bastards. God save you...
posted by Etrigan at 3:09 PM on February 7, 2015 [57 favorites]


It seems like the researchers, who strongly identify with their identities as scientists, have created this online community-discrediting article to protect their group from the threat of doubting comments.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:09 PM on February 7, 2015 [35 favorites]


The mere fact that even a bitter gamer (is that who that quote is from?) would acknowledge that social phenomena are complex is something of a win
posted by clockzero at 3:10 PM on February 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Are we talking about belittling research by people who read the research? Or commenters belittling reported research results by journalists? Because there's a big difference.
posted by Obscure Reference at 3:43 PM on February 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


We read the comments and you won't believe what we found!
posted by 99_ at 3:54 PM on February 7, 2015 [3 favorites]




I kind of lost concentration when he stated, "While conceding that there are a number of reasons why gamers would choose to angrily argue with the science rather than seriously consider its implications," because of this issue I have regarding people using the phrase "the science" when they mean "the results of studies deemed reliable by many respected people." Calling it "the" science, as though the matter is entirely settled, strikes me as a rhetorical stunt meant to imply that 1) the point of view being presented is an ironclad absolute truth 2) anyone who is unconvinced must be an ignoramus.

It's easy enough for the author of this piece to adopt a stance of dispassionate inquiry when it's not his social status in jeopardy. If it were, I wonder how unskeptical he would remain of "the science"?
posted by xigxag at 4:34 PM on February 7, 2015 [11 favorites]


Nobody should be surprised by this. We even see it all the time on Metafilter. Any post about a study which re-affirms our existing beliefs is met with "Did we need a study to tell us that?", "of course!", or at least "maybe all those other people who are wrong will see the light!". But any post about a study which disagrees with our existing beliefs or notions is immediately met with "correlation doesn't equal causation!!!!!1!1!!!11!1eleven" and "the sample size is soooooo low!!!" and "there are small methodological problems which I will explain in painstaking detail and which render the entire study wrong".
posted by Justinian at 4:40 PM on February 7, 2015 [27 favorites]


this issue I have regarding people using the phrase "the science" when they mean "the results of studies deemed reliable by many respected people."

I don't want to start a dictionary fight here, but "the science" is generally regarded by most people to mean exactly that, rather than "the absolute and indisputable capital-T Truth."
posted by Etrigan at 4:42 PM on February 7, 2015 [16 favorites]


You study The Science in order to be able to drive a cab near CERN.
posted by benzenedream at 4:46 PM on February 7, 2015 [25 favorites]


I don't want to start a dictionary fight here, but "the science" is generally regarded by most people to mean exactly that, rather than "the absolute and indisputable capital-T Truth."

And it's also important to point out that although it might not be "the absolute and indisputable captal-T Truth," a scientific consensus is still our best shot at the truth, and it's not rational to just reject it out of hand.

What's interesting here isn't that people are coming to a reasoned conclusion about "the science" that leads them to disagree with it. It's the way that a stronger identity leads them to reject it out of hand and attack the credibility of the whole field. In some ways, it's an obvious result--but hey, a lot of "the science" is studying things that we think might be true.

Anecdotally, as a linguist it's my experience that people who have emotional investment in their use of "proper language" are the ones that are the most likely to attack what linguists have to say about it. Ironically, this means that it's often people who identify as educated that reject linguistics out of hand. I'm sure there is some research about this, but I haven't hit upon the right keywords.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:07 PM on February 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Calling it "the" science, as though the matter is entirely settled,

That's the exact opposite of what they mean by "the science". The term refers to the totality of a current field of active research and encompasses not only completed studies that agree but conflicting results, proposed fields of interest, new studies and letters, presentations etc that a researcher in the field would be familiar with.
posted by fshgrl at 5:17 PM on February 7, 2015 [8 favorites]


I heard someone on the radio the other day who represents some anti-fluoridation outfit talking about how she "looked at the science" and concluded something-or-other. No one asked her what scientific training she had that allowed her to draw conclusions. No one asked her what her sources were, "the science" apparently being good enough. Which of course could be anything from reading articles from PubMed to skimming rants from conspiracy theory sites.

A lot of this is the Dunning-Kruger effect in action. People are too ignorant of the limits of their own understanding to accept that there are some subjects they simply cannot understand no matter how much they try.
posted by 1adam12 at 5:27 PM on February 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


That's the exact opposite of what they mean by "the science"

I don't know, is your disagreement indicative of identifying with a totality of a current field of active research and encompasses conflicting and nonconflicting results, etc.?
posted by polymodus at 5:32 PM on February 7, 2015


Personally, I eschew language such as "the science". It's both overly abstract and reductionist at the same time. And the people who I would probably be tempted to use it at are those who would least benefit from such language.

Based on the article one could suppose even grammatical choices such as a simple "the" could have the effect of activating people's identity cognition mechanisms. And so if the goal is to focus on the science, the fewer these types of triggers used, the more effective.
posted by polymodus at 5:37 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you don't put things that disagree with your worldview under close scrutiny, you're probably the sort of guileless person who is going to go off believing all sorts of weird things.

It's whether you can be convinced with reasonable evidence that counts. And usually analyzing and synthesizing that doesn't happen all that quickly...

I have to wonder about these studies talking about how unreasonable people are on their gut reactions. I mean I think I react the same way, but if something disagrees with my worldview and seems credible, I'm going to think it over and investigate further, even if I want to reject the notion originally. Maybe most people aren't like that? But it's the sort of thing you're not going to catch in a really short term test type study.
posted by Zalzidrax at 5:51 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd just like to remind everybody that these are trained social scientists working in a lab with appropriate safety equipment, and nobody should ever attempt to read all the comments at home.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 5:55 PM on February 7, 2015 [31 favorites]


If you don't put things that disagree with your worldview under close scrutiny, you're probably the sort of guileless person who is going to go off believing all sorts of weird things.

I'd add that if one doesn't also put things that agree with one's worldview under close scrutiny, you might inadvertently go off believing all sorts of weird things too.

That's why we should be funding research and development into creating Electric Monks.
posted by chambers at 6:05 PM on February 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Did we really need a scientific study to tell us this?
posted by Bwithh at 6:07 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wait a minute...wait just a minute...it sounds like this study here...it's saying that people are not easily persuaded of things that they don't agree with? Even when the people telling them are accredited subject matter experts?! This is some crazy groundbreaking shit!
posted by Edgewise at 6:09 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't tell who is being trolled and who is doing the trolling. My poor brain.
posted by quiet earth at 6:19 PM on February 7, 2015 [8 favorites]


I don't want to start a dictionary fight here, but "the science" is generally regarded by most people to mean exactly that, rather than "the absolute and indisputable capital-T Truth."

If by "most people" you mean actual researchers, okay sure. I guess my problem is with people who are not real scientists e.g. the author of this article, political talking heads, internet jerkwads and so on trying to sound authoritative and conclusive about matters they themselves only have a pop-sci comprehension of and spewing statements like: "The science" shows that newborn babies have an innate attraction to beautiful faces. Or "the science" indicates that male and female brains vary in reasoning ability. Or "the science" shows that children raised in single parent households have significantly worse outcomes. Etc. And then you go and look at the actual studies and the conclusions that they support are not nearly as sweeping or certain. But Joe Reader is left thinking that the dime store abridged version of the abstract of the article is the last word on the subject.

Anyway, in my younger years I had some heated discussions with the aforementioned internet jerkwads and a few authors as well so it's still kind of a residual trigger word but I'll give some thought to what you said.
posted by xigxag at 6:45 PM on February 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


because of this issue I have regarding people using the phrase "the science" when they mean "the results of studies deemed reliable by many respected people." Calling it "the" science, as though the matter is entirely settled, strikes me as a rhetorical stunt meant to imply that 1) the point of view being presented is an ironclad absolute truth 2) anyone who is unconvinced must be an ignoramus.

thanks for this. I just spend the last week working a job with a guy who was so in bed with "the science" that I would have called him out as a fundamentalist if someone else hadn't first, which led to a great and passionate and ultimately drunken discussion that settled nothing except perhaps that he (the "the science" guy) ended up being pretty emphatic that what he was putting forth was very much ...

"the absolute and indisputable capital-T Truth."

Not a bad guy, I must add. Just overboard in this one particular regard.
posted by philip-random at 7:13 PM on February 7, 2015


And yet, the studies indicated seem to be not all that conclusive on violent video games (in particular, rational moral relativism is considered a flaw[1], and some people may not be as susceptible to the "negative" affects).

I'm not sure they choose the right "definitive" science to measure comments on -- as obvious as the conclusion may be.

[1] “Compared to the illegal things people do, taking some things from a store without paying for them is not very serious”
posted by smidgen at 7:14 PM on February 7, 2015


A lot of this is the Dunning-Kruger effect in action.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is such bullshit
posted by Hoopo at 7:21 PM on February 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


I literally cannot tell who is fucking around in this thread.
posted by maxsparber at 7:28 PM on February 7, 2015 [21 favorites]


I happen to be the world authority on the Dunning Kruger effect, and I assure you it is as real as I am.
posted by benzenedream at 7:52 PM on February 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


I know this feels like a derail, but I think it's relevant.

Here's a fairly good criticism of the kind of studies that were done about violent video games -- that were included in the meta-study pacific standard referred to. They have gotten better.

Also, there is a definitely a kind of tone policing going on here that looks down upon people who are (rightfully) indignant about others lecturing to them about their hobby -- because of science which is far from conclusive. This isn't climate change or vaccines here, we're talking about psychological studies trying to tease out very subtle effects -- very different IMO.
posted by smidgen at 7:55 PM on February 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


The science indicates that you are the troll.
posted by overglow at 8:02 PM on February 7, 2015


This really isn't the appropriate context to bring up "tone policing." We're not talking about members of marginalized groups being expected to live up to extreme levels of politeness, and having legitimate concerns dismissed on the pretext that they're too rude and angry to listen to.

We're talking about people who have a hobby that they identify with attacking the credibility of scientists, including dismissing entire fields as pseudo-science, because some findings make them uncomfortable.

Calling it "tone policing" is appropriating language meant to name a type of oppression to protect people engaging in ordinary knee-jerk defensiveness when something that they like is criticized. The way you're using it, you could also apply "tone policing" to anyone who criticizes men for their vitriolic reactions to dicussions of misogyny in video games, for example.

It's really not what the term is for.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:15 PM on February 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm a relatively new user to this site, and so far this is about as hostile as I've seen it.

Anyway, maybe I wasn't reading that closely, but I don't even think the validity of the video-games-and-violence studies is that important; they're just assessing people who discredit them in online comments.
posted by teponaztli at 8:16 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is "discredit" the right word?
posted by busted_crayons at 8:22 PM on February 7, 2015


Just want to point out that use of the word "discredit" comes from the OP. That's what the article says. So, what do you mean by "right?"
posted by I-Write-Essays at 8:25 PM on February 7, 2015


I literally cannot tell who is fucking around in this thread.

literally?
posted by philip-random at 8:41 PM on February 7, 2015


sorry
posted by philip-random at 8:41 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just want to point out that use of the word "discredit" comes from the OP. That's what the article says. So, what do you mean by "right?"

Sorry, I was referring to the OP, too. I don't think that the type of commentary that they're talking about tends to actually discredit the work in question. Maybe "attempt to discredit"?
posted by busted_crayons at 8:49 PM on February 7, 2015


I literally cannot tell who is fucking around in this thread.

I honestly didn't think I was being subtle there.
posted by Hoopo at 9:05 PM on February 7, 2015


Anyway, self-esteem issues aside, it seems an entirely reasonable response to me to strongly question the results of research that is has the potential to be used in a politicized fashion against your group.

"A number of studies strongly back the conclusion that people who habitually get hangnails are more likely to be violent and make unsuitable mates." If you get hangnails, yeah, you're going to want to critique the hell out of that because if you let it become unchallenged conventional wisdom, somewhere down the line some politician will use it to fuck with your life. Pushback isn't some weird self-esteem booster by social outcasts. It's a survival strategy. One which is already almost too late for gamers. "Violent" games have already been permanently tainted in the public eye regardless of the actual facts.

Plus of course the dominant groups, which control the funding and the discourse, are already positioned to defuse and discredit any studies that cast them in a bad light. "Nasty and dismissive" applies to the comments dirty, unsocialized gamers and not to the sentiments of bright, besmocked researchers for the same reason that "shrill" applies to opinionated women and not to the men who have opinions against them and that "militant" applies to minority protest groups and not to the combat-booted SWAT teams storming their neighborhoods.

Finally, I don't frequently play "violent" games. (I keep putting "violent" in quotes because I think it sort of begs the question to characterize games with representational violence as being actually violent.) But even from my I sorta-don't-give-a-shit position, I find some of these studies questionable. I'm not saying they're not valid. I'm saying that what they are answering is not necessarily the question, "Do 'violent' videogames make people more violent than other activities?" For example, one of them gave the gamers questions to survey their opinions about topics right after playing games. But antisocial responses to questions isn't typically what we think of as violence. Show us actual increases in crime rates. And is society going to look to restrict violent TV, music and books if they turn out to similarly spike M&M consumption? (Seriously, read the article.)
posted by xigxag at 9:12 PM on February 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


The article in the original link might be slightly editorialized, but the study itself wasn't about the validity of claims about video games and violence, it was about the way people call the validity of social science into question when they disagree with it. People were shown to reject social science if it reflected poorly on them, and accept it unquestioningly if it was flattering.

This study isn't intended to make gamers look bad; they're just trying to demonstrate the relationship between group identity and online reactions to scientific findings relevant to that group. This is just one study on one group, the idea being that you can generalize it to reflect on other groups as well:
These findings contribute to the understanding of the formation of online collective action and add to the burgeoning literature on the question why certain scientific findings sometimes face a broad public opposition.
posted by teponaztli at 9:52 PM on February 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


I metaphorically cannot tell who is fucking around in this thread.

Not a very good metaphor, though — I've got no fucking clue what it's supposed to represent...
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:08 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


concentrate on your breathing
posted by philip-random at 10:13 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: I literally cannot tell who is fucking around in this thread.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:57 PM on February 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Can you tell who isn't?
posted by polymodus at 12:04 AM on February 8, 2015


This is about ethics in social science reporting.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:05 AM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Before I question "the science", I usually question the funding. Saves time.
posted by walrus at 4:48 AM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I literally cannot tell who is fucking around in this thread.

I was fucking around. I do some work in the broader cultural cognition world and so I'm not at all surprised by the evidence of identity-protective cognition but I am pretty cynical about the attempts to operationalize it.

Here's what's uncontroversial: motivated skepticism seems to come up for most people when their identities are threatened. That means if you want to provoke skepticism, you can do so by showing a finding to people in a way that has potential identity effects. Meanwhile, if you tell someone something that fits their identity, they'll be credulous, won't challenge it even if the evidence is weak or methodologically unsound.

But here's the thing: it's never obvious, beforehand, whether an article or finding needs to be fisked or given due authority. Lots of research is wrong. Lots of research gets published because it fits an agenda, or offers a tempting provocation, or whatever. Lots of social science research is statistically underpowered for the results the authors claim, so the studies can't really distinguish from the null hypothesis. And worse: lots of science journalism takes good or indifferent research and promotes it in a way that's actually wrong, error-ridden, or misleading. In the worst examples, science journalism can lead people to draw exactly the opposite conclusions of a study's actual results.

So: there's no reason to think that "discrediting" responses are intrinsically worse than credulous ones. Reflexive credulousness is just as error-prone as reflexive doubt. But it is important to note that we have these tendencies. I notice folks on Metafilter are especially likely to discredit economic arguments and evidence (as pseudoscience) and to credit public health arguments. But public health scholars get things wrong and economics researchers get things right.

I think there are two ways this stuff matters: you can worry about how to present results that (you think) are well justified so that others will accept them. And when you want to be sure that you are not, yourself, being to credulous, you can present the findings to an audience primed by their identities to question it. That group will put the work in to expose weaknesses that you might yourself be primed to ignore.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:32 AM on February 8, 2015 [10 favorites]


People's willingness to reject scientific claims is partly fueled by their growing disenchantment with science. Science spokesmen and their fans frequently come across as bullies and philistines, completely in harmony with existing power structures. You're going to whine about how gamers don't like being told that games might be bad? Why not instead tell the NRA that guns might be bad? What's more, there seems to be no recognition of the responsibility of science and scientists for our most pressing political, social, economic and ecological problems. Who, after all, produces the technologies behind GMO, weapons of mass destruction, nuclear exclusion zones, fracking, habitat destruction and species extinction?

Much science seems to be mere ad-hoc pandering to popular sentiment. When homosexuality became politically legitimized through courageous social activism, science threw together its own legitimizations: all of sudden, group selection and the gay gene became a thing. Despite all this fawning, the public is still starting to turn on science. What's a good science booster to do? Threaten hell-fire? Retreat with a sneer? Get the secular authorities to crack down?
posted by No Robots at 7:22 AM on February 8, 2015


Who, after all, produces the technologies behind GMO...

Norman Borlaug.

...fracking...

A lot of scientists who point out why fracking is bad.

...habitat destruction and species extinction?

Seriously, who do you think is doing the work showing why these things are bad? Is it better for civilians to say "spotted owls are cute" or for scientists to say "killing off the warty newt, which is ugly, smelly and dangerous for humans to handle, nevertheless has knock-on effects that are bad for the entire environment."?
posted by Etrigan at 7:45 AM on February 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


^It seems science also has a group identity in need of protection.
posted by No Robots at 8:27 AM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


OH SNAP YOU GOT ME.

Feel free to answer my questions, as I did with yours.
posted by Etrigan at 8:38 AM on February 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


So, a person while in undergraduate studies, decides to pursue a PHD in a medical specialty. Bachelor's degree usually in the sciences, four years of medical school, four years of internship, four years of residency in a specialty, say neurology, then that person has a doctorate degree in medicine.

Meanwhile on Facebook, a person with or without a highschool diploma, posts a hundred items per day that relate in a general sense to the practice of Neurology, for example what vaccines do to the infant nervous ystem, what herbs and essential oils do for the nervous system, with long discourse. The individual postimg to facebook derives an inflated sense of heroism, an inflated sense of relevance, and hopes to receive the respect that say a highly skilled Neurologist may receive. At the same time the Facebook poster having read or not read a word about neurology sets about expounding how stupid Neurologists are and a huge conspiracy of joint incompetence that exists, which the Facebook poster is uncovering because, said poster is a hero, multi level marketing chewable vitamins or some other product.

The current measles outbreak is the result of the phenomenon by which humans receive surrogate social strokes, stoked by paying electric and cable or phone bills, then utilizing computer communications for self gratification. This is freakishly very like the primate studies of cocaine use and parenting, in which primates took the pills (positive stimulus for the central nervous system,) then put their infants down, and let them lie there and ultimately die from lack of nurturance.
posted by Oyéah at 8:58 AM on February 8, 2015


How to talk to an anti-vaxxer
But in our modern world, as Brendan Nyhan and David Ropeik recently pointed out, shaming will only make the problem worse. It drives people into exile, yes; but in a populous, diverse, and technologically interconnected society, exile simply means huddling into another, more like-minded tribe, just a click away.

One of Nyhan’s studies in particular seems to drive my most vocal pro-vaccine friends crazy. Nyhan and his collaborators tried to see if they could change people’s minds about vaccination by giving them information. They found that, when you tried to use evidence to make a case, it backfired: Anti-vaccination convictions deepened.
I’m not sure why anyone is surprised or infuriated by this. We’ve known for years that the information deficit model fails: You can pile all the facts you want on someone, but it’s just going to make them angry if they assume it’s BS. And if they don’t trust you, they’re going to assume it’s BS. (David Roberts has written a lot about this as it relates to climate skepticism.)

[...]

Vaccine hesitancy is a natural symptom of a medical system that values technical fixes but not relationships. Imagine if patients knew their doctors well enough to trust that their recommendations were not some one-size-fits-all guideline, but what was really best for their family. Imagine if doctors and patients truly felt that they had considered the risks and benefits of each treatment collaboratively, until they confidently reached a mutual decision. If doctors could truly know each patient as an individual, and patients truly trusted their doctors, this whole vaccine-refusal issue would vanish like a puff of smoke.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:08 AM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


protect people engaging in ordinary knee-jerk defensiveness when something that they like is criticized.

Apparently "tone policing"is not as generic a term as I thought, apologies.

Anyway, My point is that it's not knee jerk at all.

posted by smidgen at 1:09 PM on February 8, 2015


Much science seems to be mere ad-hoc pandering to popular sentiment. When homosexuality became politically legitimized through courageous social activism, science threw together its own legitimizations: all of sudden, group selection and the gay gene became a thing.

This is a pretty muddled argument. For one thing, the things you list here aren't legitimizations: rather, they're explanations for the mechanisms of homosexuality. For another, you're really also talking more about science journalism a la ScienceDaily than you are about "science": group selection is far from being the only theory about how homosexuality might be partly heritable while persisting in the population, and Dean Hamer's "gay gene" (really, "gay region of chromosome X") is one of several genetic factors that seem to contribute to the heritable variation in sexual orientation (and we already know from twin studies that the influence of genetic factors alone cannot completely explain homosexuality).

More scientists do study homosexuality (and gender identity) now because of advances secured by activists, that's undoubtedly true -- however, it's also worth noting that scientists also made important contributions to this area when homosexuality was still politically controversial. For example, Evelyn Hooker's courageous research in the 1950s, amplified by gay civil rights activists, laid the groundwork for the APA's declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness in the '70s.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:25 PM on February 8, 2015


the APA's declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness in the '70s.

And who classified it as a mental illness in the first place? Some other dudes?
posted by No Robots at 5:33 PM on February 8, 2015


I hope you don't throw out your back pushing those goal posts.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:09 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


^What choice is there, when you've blocked all the exits?
posted by No Robots at 6:32 PM on February 8, 2015


I'm not sure saying "I had no choice but to move the goal posts" is going to help convince anyone that your arguments are valid or even made in good faith, but ok.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:41 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is no accident that I first came across this article because a professor in my faculty shared it with our colleagues. He provided no commentary. But yes, sure, obviously scientists also have a social identity that can be threatened.

One of the things I really like about this study is that the people who performed it are better known for the research that they have done on the connection of violent video games and violent social attitudes. One can imagine their bewilderment at the TrollComments, and then their decision to Do More Science to the comments--what a lucky stroke!

I'm an evolutionary biologist, but I am "allergic" to research about sexual selection and mate choice. It's because it sounds too much like EvoPsych arguments, which sound misogynist, and so I just can't read it or think about it in an analytical, evidence-based way. (It doesn't help when people like Michael Rose describe their fruit-fly age-at-reproduction selection experiments as the "Trailer Trash Strategy" versus "The Graduate School Strategy.") Of course it's because of social identity threat, and of course it makes me a bit anti-science when it comes to these things. I don't defend my attitude because I know it's not grounded in any rational basis. But I don't really know how to... undo it. That's what really bothers me. I think I'm right about evo-psych and misogyny, but I don't think I'm approaching this part of the scientific literature correctly, and yet I still can't read articles about reproductive cannibalism in spiders without getting angry.

All of which is to say, yes, obviously, scientists are people, too, science is a thing done by people. It's frankly amazing we do it as well as we do.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 6:14 AM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


‘Social Darwinism’ is often taken to be something extraneous, an ugly concretion added to the pure Darwinian corpus after the event, tarnishing Darwin’s image. But his notebooks make plain that competition, free trade, imperialism, racial extermination, and sexual inequality were written into the equation from the start—‘Darwinism’ was always intended to explain human society.--Darwin / Adrian Desmond, James Moore, p. xxi
posted by No Robots at 9:25 AM on February 9, 2015


See John Oliver's smack-down of the medico-pharma industry. Trust your doctor? Perhaps not.
posted by No Robots at 9:09 AM on February 10, 2015


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