08 November 2018

Instinct for science


Yeah, I'm late again a bit. Another snafu. This time, my computer broke, and it took more than a week to get the replacement motherboard. That Murphy law really has me in its grip...
Anyway, this time I wrote few posts while waiting for the motherboard, so I'll post those in succession.

A few weeks ago Trump declared that he has an instinct for science. As much as I could understand, Trump thinks that he has this instinct for science because he had an uncle who was quite prominent in medical technology research. Of course, he used his argument about the instinct to back his science denial in the case of global warming.
So let me account all that is wrong with his statement.

First, the concept of instinct for science does not exist. A human can have an aptitude for science. And it basically means if that human decides to pursue science it will find more ease in scientific pursuit versus some other profession. However, even those aptitudes are not predictable of a person future career, not to mention that some people simply like a challenge. I will take myself for example, when I took the test for aptitude it turned out that I have an aptitude for languages and logic. Not math. But nevertheless, I ended up being an astrophysicist and publishing more than 30 scientific papers. The catch is that hard work is necessary for somebody to master science.

Second, having a relative who is the engineer or scientist does not give an average human any advantage or special abilities to understand science. And definitely not an instinct for science. Trump admitted that he never talked about science with his uncle. I find that not surprising. His uncle and I had a similar family environment. Only ones in the family who took up science. I cannot tell much about his uncle, but I know that I never talk about science with my relatives. The most significant amount of scientific talk I had with any of my relatives were trying to explain into three sentences what exactly am I doing. Any longer explanation they would interrupt and declare boring. The similar situation is with friends as well, especially friends who are not scientists. The only friends I would talk science with, are the friends who are scientist themselves.
Only once I spoke about a scientific subject with my own brother. The topic was not astrophysics but nutrition. My brother has only a high school education. And he is the big believer into conspiracy theories. Including pseudoscience surrounding food. The issue we talked about was acidification of the blood due to milk consumption. The conversation eroded to my futile attempt to explain the role of the kidneys and liver in the human organism, and that those two organs actually keep your blood pH value relatively constant and if a significant change in pH value of the blood occurs person dies. In essence, no food you consume can change the pH value of your blood. My brother was not convinced. And I was not surprised. When you know somebody as a kid, one doesn't see that person as a competent adult in any area that adult is actually expert, but as a silly child or annoying relative who cannot possibly know more than you.
Maybe this is just my family, but I found some of my scientist's friends who come from poor families had similar experiences. Somehow, when one is the only one who does science in a family, the rest of the family has an adverse reaction towards any talking about science. As much as I could figure it out that comes from the fact that they somehow perceive when I talk about science I'm somehow saying they’re stupid. It is a frustrating experience because, in the end, it is hard to argue with egos and emotions. And, I think, that might be a reason why Trump’s uncle never talked with Trump about science. Just think about the guy itself, Trump doesn’t allow anyone to say they know more than him.

Third, Trump used the argument about the instinct of science to back up his previously formally stated opinion about climate science. I have to say formally declared because for one of his golf courses in Scotland Trump used a climate change as an excuse for his request to mitigate erosion. I will not go into Trump’s personality, but I will point out that statement about instinct for science served only to justify his previously stated opinion despite the overwhelming facts and events that basically proved him wrong. In essence, he was invoking this instinct of science to show that he is right despite all the facts and reality. And that is a different can of worms.
Stay smart!

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