Transcript: The Case for Science | Oct 01, 2019

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, checkered pink shirt, and spotted gray tie.

A caption on screen reads "The case for science. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says IN ALL OF HUMAN
HISTORY, WE'VE NEVER HAD MORE
READY ACCESS TO VAST,
COMPREHENSIVE, HIGH-QUALITY
INFORMATION ABOUT OUR WORLD.
AND YET, FROM FAKE NEWS TO
ALTERNATIVE FACTS, EVIDENCE
THESE DAYS OFTEN SEEMS TO BE IN
THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER.
PHILOSOPHER AND WRITER
LEE McINTYRE HAS PUT
CONSIDERABLE THOUGHT INTO THIS
SOMEWHAT BAFFLING STATE OF
AFFAIRS AND OFFERS A RESPONSE IN
HIS NEW BOOK: "THE SCIENTIFIC
ATTITUDE: DEFENDING SCIENCE FROM
DENIAL, FRAUD, AND
PSEUDOSCIENCE."
LEE McINTYRE IS A RESEARCH
FELLOW AT THE CENTER FOR
PHILOSOPHY AND HISTORY OF
SCIENCE AT BOSTON UNIVERSITY,
AND HE JOINS US NOW FOR MORE.

Lee is in his early fifties, clean-shaven, with short gray hair. He's wearing a dark blue suit, pink shirt, and spotted blue tie.
A picture of his book appears briefly on screen. The cover is black and white, with a drawing of four monkeys, three of which represent the traditional see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil figures, and the fourth one has a microscope.

Steve continues GOOD TO HAVE YOU IN THAT CHAIR.

Lee says THANK YOU.

Steve says THANKS FOR MAKING
THE TRIP.
WE ARE SEEING EVIDENCE OF
SCIENCE DENIAL FROM THE CLIMATE
CONTINUING TO CHANGE TO THE
RETURN OF MEASLES IN NORTH
AMERICA IN AN AGE WHERE
SCIENTISTS AND THEREFORE WE KNOW
SO MUCH.
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

The caption changes to "Lee McIntyre. The Scientific Attitude."
Then, it changes again to "Finding truth."

Lee says IT HAS HISTORICAL ROOTS.
THERE HAS BEEN SCIENCE NOW FOR
AS LONG AS THERE'S BEEN SCIENCE.
YOU GO BACK TO GALILEO.
I THINK THE MODERN PRECURSOR WAS
WHAT HAPPENED WITH TOBACCO IN
THE 1950s.
THE TOBACCO COMPANIES BANDED
TOGETHER BECAUSE THERE WAS GOING
TO BE A STUDY PUBLISHED THAT WAS
GOING TO LINK CIGARETTE SMOKING
AND CANCER.
THEY BROUGHT IN A PUBLIC
RELATIONS EXPERT, THOUGHT WE
NEED TO FIGHT THE SCIENCE.
WE NEED TO HAVE A PUBLIC
RELATIONS TEAM.
AND THAT WORKED SO WELL THAT IT
BEGAN TO BE FOLLOWED BY ALL OF
THE OTHER SCIENCE DENIAL ABOUT
EVOLUTION, ABOUT VACCINES, ABOUT
CLIMATE CHANGE.
AND THEN THE INTERNET TOOK OVER,
AND ONCE THE INTERNET COMES IN,
IF YOU'VE ALREADY GOT KIND OF A
CAMPAIGN OF MISINFORMATION
STARTED, SOMETIMES BY MONIED
INTERESTS, SOMETIMES NOT, BUT
THEN ONCE SOCIAL MEDIA MAKES IT
SO EASY TO SHARE FALSE
INFORMATION, WE'VE GOT BUILT-IN
COGNITIVE BIAS, IT JUST GETS
WORSE AND WORSE, UNTIL NOW WE'RE
ACTUALLY IN A PRETTY BAD SPOT.

Steve says THERE'S NOTHING NEW
ABOUT SCIENCE BEING UNDER
ATTACK.
LET ME MAKE THE ARGUMENT.
YOU TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK.
THERE WILL BE PEOPLE
WATCHING US RIGHT NOW WHO WILL
SAY SCIENTISTS SOMEHOW THINK
THEY'RE SPECIAL, THAT WHAT THEY
SAY... YOU KNOW, SOMEHOW COMES
DOWN FROM MOUNT SINAI AND
THEREFORE REQUIRES GREATER
CREDENCE THAN EVERYTHING ELSE.
WHAT'S THE RESPONSE FROM THAT?

Lee says WELL, THEY ARE SPECIAL.
BUT WHAT'S SPECIAL ABOUT THEM IS
THE METHOD THAT THEY FOLLOW,
MORE LIKELY THE ATTITUDE THAT
THEY HAVE.
EVEN IF INDIVIDUAL SCIENTISTS
WANT THEIR OWN THEORY TO BE
RIGHT OR THEY SUFFER FROM
COGNITIVE BIAS OR EVEN IF THEY
CHEAT, EVEN IF THEY CUT CORNERS,
THE WONDERFUL THING ABOUT
SCIENCE IS THAT THEIR COLLEAGUES
WILL CATCH THEM OUT.
THEIR COLLEAGUES ARE OPEN-MINDED
ENOUGH TO LISTEN TO NEW
EVIDENCE, BUT RIGOROUS ENOUGH TO
TEST IT AND TO MAKE SURE THAT AN
IDEA DOESN'T GET BY WHEN IT'S
NOT SUPPOSED TO.
AND I THINK THAT'S REALLY THE
MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT
SCIENCE, THE THING THAT DOES
MAKE IT SPECIAL, THAT DOES MAKE
IT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER WAYS OF
KNOWING.

Steve says LET ME PUT ANOTHER
THING ON THE TABLE, WHICH IS, IN
THIS ERA OF TOTAL SKEPTICISM AND
CYNICISM AND QUESTIONING
PEOPLE'S MOTIVES, IF WE SEE A
STUDY WHERE THE SCIENTISTS HAVE
DOTTED ALL THE Is, CROSSED ALL
THE Ts, DONE THE PROPER
CHANNELS WITH THE BACKUP, BUT
THE STUDY IS FUNDED BY LET'S SAY
A LARGE WELL-KNOWN
PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY, SHOULD
WE AUTOMATICALLY BE SKEPTICAL OF
THAT STUDY?

The caption changes to "Lee McIntyre. Boston University."

Lee says I THINK IT DOES RAISE
SKEPTICISM WHEN IT IS
INDUSTRY-FUNDED RESEARCH.
THE TOBACCO EXAMPLE IN THE
'50s, BRING IN YOUR OWN
SCIENTISTS.
SCIENTISTS DO SOMETIMES THAT I
CAN GRANT MONEY FROM INDUSTRY,
THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO DISCLOSE IT
IN CASE THERE'S ANY SORT OF
CONFLICT OF INTEREST.
I THINK IT'S APPROPRIATE THAT
THEY DISCLOSE IT AND PEOPLE
UNDERSTAND THAT THAT CAN MAKE
THE RESULTS DIFFERENT.
BUT IT DOESN'T IN AND OF ITSELF
MEAN THE STUDY IS FLAWED.
SOMEONE HAS TO REALLY GET IN AND
FIGURE OUT IF THE STUDY IS GOOD.

Steve says OKAY.
LEE, LET'S DO A QUOTE FROM THE
BOOK HERE.

Lee says SURE.

A quote appears on screen, under the title "The scientific method." The quote reads "If there is one thing that most people think is special about science it is that it follows a distinctive 'scientific method.' If there is one thing that the majority of the philosophers of science agree on, it is the idea that there is no such thing as 'scientific method.'"
Quoted from Lee McIntyre, "The scientific attitude." 2019.

Steve says EXPLAIN, PLEASE.

Lee says I DIDN'T MAKE THIS UP.
[LAUGHTER]
I'M A PHILOSOPHER OF SCIENCE.
SO KARL POPPER DID HIS WORK
ABOUT A HUNDRED YEARS AGO...

Steve says YOU LOVE HIM.

Lee says I LOVE KARL POPPER.
AND HE, AS MANY OTHER
PHILOSOPHERS-SCIENTISTS HAVE
SAID, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS
SCIENTIFIC METHOD.
WHAT I MEAN BY THAT IS NOT THAT
SCIENTISTS ARE CHAOTIC, NOT THAT
THEY DON'T HAVE ANY PROCEDURES
OR EVEN METHODOLOGY THAT THEY
FOLLOW, IT'S JUST THAT THERE'S
NO RECIPE FOR SCIENCE.
THE CLASSIC ONE THAT PERHAPS YOU
AND I LEARNED IN SCHOOL IS YOU
OBSERVE, YOU FORM A HYPOTHESIS,
YOU MAKE A PREDICTION, YOU TEST
IT, AND THEN YOU GO BACK AND REVISE IT.

Steve says IS THAT NOT THE CASE ANYMORE?

Lee says I DON'T THINK IT EVER WAS THE CASE.
I THINK THAT'S KIND OF A
RATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION, IT'S A
LOGICAL RECONSTRUCTION THAT
PEOPLE DO AFTER THE FACT.
BUT IF YOU LOOK AT HOW
SCIENTISTS ACTUALLY DO THEIR
WORK, IT IS A LITTLE BIT MESSIER
THAN THAT.
BUT MY POINT IN THE BOOK IS, NO
LESS RIGOROUS BECAUSE THE
ARGUMENT I MAKE IN THE BOOK IS
THE THING THAT SEPARATES SCIENCE
FROM NON-SCIENCE IS NOT SOME
SPECIAL METHODOLOGY THAT JUST
ANYBODY CAN FOLLOW, IT'S THE
ATTITUDE, AND THE SCIENTIFIC
ATTITUDE I THINK IS THE IDEA
THAT SCIENTISTS ARE OPEN TO NEW
EVIDENCE, THAT THEY CARE ABOUT
EVIDENCE, AND THEY'RE OPEN TO
NEW EVIDENCE WHICH CAN CHANGE
THEIR MIND.
AS LONG AS YOU GO IN WITH THAT,
IT DOESN'T MATTER WHETHER YOU
OBSERVE FIRST, YOU HAVE YOUR
HYPOTHESIS FIRST, MULTIPLE
TESTING... YOU KNOW, HOWEVER YOU
NEED TO GET THERE.
IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE,
YOU'RE GOING TO THEN... THAT
WORKS.

Steve says HAVING SAID THAT, I
THINK YOU DO SAY IN THE BOOK
THAT WE NEED TO FOCUS ON
SCIENCE'S FAILURES AS OPPOSED TO
ITS SUCCESSES.
HOW COME?

The caption changes to "Lee McIntyre, @LeeCMcIntyre."

Lee says WELL, IT SOUNDS
COUNTERINTUITIVE TO DO THAT.
IF YOU LOOK AT THE HISTORY OF
SCIENCE AND YOU LOOK AT
PHILOSOPHERS OF SCIENCE AND
EXAMPLES THAT THEY COME UP WITH,
THEY'RE ENAMOURED WITH THE
TRANSITION FROM NEWTON TO
EINSTEIN, THE COPERNICAN
REVOLUTION, WITH DARWIN.
THESE ARE IMPORTANT MOMENTS IN
SCIENCE.
MY HYPOTHESIS IN THE BOOK IS YOU
LEARN MOST ABOUT WHAT SCIENCE IS
BY LOOKING AT FIELDS THAT ARE
TRYING TO BECOME SCIENTIFIC BUT
HAVEN'T.
BECAUSE IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT,
SO WHAT ARE THE DISTINGUISHING
CHARACTERISTICS OF SCIENCE?
YOU LEARN ABOUT WHAT THOSE
CHARACTERISTICS ARE BY LOOKING
AT THE FAILURES, BY LOOKING AT
THE FIELDS IN THE SOCIAL
SCIENCES OR THE PSEUDOSCIENCES,
WHICH ARE REALLY NOT LIVING UP
TO THE STANDARD.
YOU CAN LEARN A LOT FROM
PHYSICS, ABOUT WHAT'S SPECIAL
ABOUT SCIENCE, BUT IT'S NOT THE
WHOLE STORY.
I THINK AS I SAY IN THE BOOK,
IT'S KIND OF LIKE DRAWING
TARGETS AROUND WHERE THE ARROWS
HIT... WHERE THE DARTS HIT.
IT'S NOT QUITE THE WHOLE STORY.

Steve says HERE'S AN EXPRESSION
FROM YOUR BOOK.
WE'LL NEED SOME CLARIFICATION ON
THIS.
THE PROBLEM OF DEMARCATION.
WHAT IS THAT?

The caption changes to "Separating the real from the junk."

Lee says THAT GOES BACK TO POPPER.
THE PROBLEM OF DEMARCATION IS
THE IDEA THERE HAS TO BE THIS
LOGICAL WAY, IDEALLY, TO
SEPARATE OUT SCIENCE FROM
NON-SCIENCE.
WHAT THEY WERE REALLY LOOKING
FOR IN THE PARLANCE THAT
PHILOSOPHERS USE, THE NECESSARY
AND SUFFICIENT CONDITIONS FOR
SCIENCE.
THEY'VE BEEN LOOKING AT THIS FOR
A HUNDRED YEARS, THEY HAVEN'T
FOUND IT, AND THEY'RE NOT GOING
TO FIND IT.
AND IT'S BECAUSE EVERY TIME YOU
COME UP WITH SOMETHING LIKE
THIS, YOU'RE GOING TO MAKE
MISTAKES.
YOU'RE EITHER GOING TO INCLUDE
SOMETHING THAT YOU DON'T WANT TO
INCLUDE AS SCIENTIFIC OR YOU'RE
GOING TO EXCLUDE SOMETHING YOU
DON'T WANT TO.
POPPER IS A GREAT EXAMPLE.
BY HIS ORIGINAL IDEA OF
DEMARCATION, HE THOUGHT THAT
DARWINIAN BIOLOGY WAS NOT
SCIENTIFIC.
HE TOOK IT BACK QUICKLY.
BUT IT GOES TO TELL YOU WHEN YOU
TRY TO SHOE HORN SOMETHING ABOUT
SCIENCE INTO DEMARCATION, IT
DOESN'T WORK.
I COMMIT A LITTLE BIT OF HERESY
IN MY BOOK.
I MAKE THE CLAIM THAT WHAT'S
REALLY DISTINCTIVE ABOUT SCIENCE
IS SCIENTIFIC VALUES.
NOT THE OBJECTIVITY, NOT THE
SCIENTIFIC FACTS, AND NOT THE
METHODOLOGY, BUT THE IDEA THAT
SCIENTISTS HAVE THIS CREED THAT
THEY LIVE BY WHERE THEY REALLY
CARE ABOUT EVIDENCE AND CHANGE
THEIR MIND BASED ON NEW
EVIDENCE.
I THINK THAT IF YOU DO THAT,
YOU'RE A SCIENTIST.

Steve says YOU MIGHT BE
SPITTING A BIT INTO THE WIND
WITH THAT PHILOSOPHY.

Lee says YEAH.
I KNOW.
I KNOW.

Steve says I'M NOT SURE YOU'D
GET A SECONDING VOTE FROM A LOT
OF SCIENTISTS ON THAT ONE.

Lee says THIS IS WHY I TALK ABOUT
FRAUD AND THIS IS WHY IN THE
BOOK I ALSO TALK ABOUT SOMETHING
SHORT OF FRAUD WHICH ARE JUST
MISTAKES THAT PEOPLE MAKE
BECAUSE THEY'RE OVERZEALOUS.
ONE THING I TALK ABOUT IN THE
BOOK IS SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED
IN THE LATE 1980s, COLD
FUSION.
I DON'T KNOW IF YOU REMEMBER
THIS.

Steve says SURE.
THEY DID IT ONCE AND THEY
COULDN'T DO IT AGAIN.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Lee says AND THEY COULDN'T DO IT
AGAIN, RIGHT?
I DON'T THINK THAT THEY WERE
COMMITTING FRAUD.
I DON'T KNOW THAT THEY THOUGHT
THAT THEY WERE DOING ANYTHING
WRONG.
THEY WERE JUST OVERZEALOUS
BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, IMAGINE THE
NOBEL PRIZE THEY WOULD GET IF
THIS HAD WORKED BECAUSE YOU
COULD GET FREE ENERGY FROM
SEAWATER, BASICALLY IS WHAT IT
CAME DOWN TO.
AND SO THINGS LIKE THAT HAPPEN
IN SCIENCE, AND WHAT WE REALLY
REQUIRE IS THAT THE COMMUNITY
COMES IN AND DOES THE
CORRECTION.
ONE MISCONCEPTION THAT SOME
PEOPLE HAVE HAD WHEN I TALK
ABOUT THE SCIENTIFIC ATTITUDE IS
THAT IT'S NOT TO SAY THAT EVERY
SINGLE SCIENTIST HAS TO EMBODY
IT, THOUGH THAT'S IDEAL.
BUT THE POINT IS THAT SCIENCE AS
A WHOLE, SCIENCE AS A COMMUNITY
CAN CORRECT THE INDIVIDUAL.
SOMETIMES PEOPLE DON'T CHANGE
THEIR MINDS.
SOMETIMES SCIENTISTS ARE WRONG
AND THEY'LL CONTINUE TO BE
WRONG, AND THEY SORT OF GET
RIGHT OUT OF THE PROFESSION.
THAT'S OKAY TOO. WE LEARN FROM
THAT, THAT'S INSTANCE OF FAILURE
THAT WE LEARN FROM.

Steve says YOU DO HAVE A QUOTE
FROM TED CRUZ IN THE BOOK, THE
U.S. SENATOR FROM TEXAS, A
VERY BRIGHT GUY.
WE'RE GOING TO READ THE QUOTE
AND I'LL GET YOU TO RESPOND TO IT...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Healthy skepticism?" The quote reads "Any good scientist questions all science. If you show me a scientist that stops questioning science, I'll show you someone who isn't isn't a scientist. Look in the world of global warming. What is the language they use? They call anyone who questions the science a 'denier.' Denier is not the language of science. Denier is the language of religion."
Ted Cruz, quoted in NPR's The Morning Edition. December 9, 2015.

Steve says WANT TO RESPOND TO THAT?

Lee says YEAH.
TED CRUZ WENT ON IN THAT
QUOTATION, HE SAID OTHER PLACES
THAT WE'RE WAITING FOR THE NEXT
GALILEO.
WE'RE WAITING FOR THAT CRANK WHO
WAS A ONE IN A MILLION SHOT THAT
HE WAS RIGHT AND TURNS OUT TO BE
RIGHT.
THE PROBLEM IS THAT WHAT HE'S
DOING THERE IS EXPLOITING
UNCERTAINTY.
SCIENCE REALLY HAS BUILT IN
UNCERTAINTY.
THAT'S JUST THE WAY THAT SCIENCE
WORKS WITH INDUCTIVE REASONING.
THERE'S THINGS WE DON'T KNOW.
SCIENCE CAN'T PROVE ANYTHING.
IT CAN'T COME TO A CERTAIN
CONCLUSION.
WHAT HAPPENS IS, WHAT TED CRUZ
IS DOING IS A KIND OF FAUX
SKEPTICISM.

Steve says HE'S ASSOCIATING
HIMSELF WITH SCIENCE BY SAYING
I'M LIKE YOU.
PROVE IT TO ME.

Lee says THAT'S COMMON, THOUGH.
HE'S SAYING I'M MORE SCIENTIFIC
THAN THE SCIENTISTS.
THE SCIENTISTS AREN'T REALLY
GOOD.
NOTICE WHAT HE'S DOING THERE.
HE'S SAYING IF THERE'S ANY
DEGREE OF UNCERTAINTY IN
SCIENCE, THEN HIS THEORY IS JUST
AS LIKELY TO BE TRUE.
THAT'S SOMETHING THAT YOU FIND
IN FLAT EARTH, ALSO ABOUT
EVOLUTION, ANTI-VAX.
THEY EXPLOIT THIS IDEA THAT
UNTIL THE DAY COMES WHEN ALL THE
EVIDENCE IS IN, WHEN IT'S
SETTLED SCIENCE AND THERE'S NO
MORE QUESTION ABOUT IT, THAT
IT'S POSSIBLE THAT THEY'RE
RIGHT, THEREFORE IT'S LIKELY
THAT THEY'RE RIGHT.
BUT IT'S NOT.
THEY JUST... REUTERS JUST
REPORTED THERE'S A ONE IN A
MILLION CHANCE THAT THE
SCIENCE... THAT THE CLIMATE
CHANGE DENIERS ARE RIGHT.
IS THAT SOMETHING THAT CRUZ IS
REALLY COMFORTABLE WITH?
I DON'T THINK SO.
HIS PARENTS ARE SCIENTISTS.
HE SHOULD KNOW BETTER.

Steve says LET ME ASK A
FOLLOW-UP.
HE'S A BRILLIANT GUY.
DO YOU FIND IT PARTICULARLY
EGREGIOUS WHEN GUYS WHO ARE
BRILLIANT... HE'S A BIG BRAIN,
THIS GUY.
DO YOU FIND IT PARTICULARLY
EGREGIOUS WHEN SOMEBODY LIKE
THAT TWISTS THE ARGUMENT TO HIS ENDS?

Lee says THERE'S A POINT AT WHICH I'M
NOT SURE THEY'RE TWISTING ANYMORE.
THERE'S A POINT AT WHICH I THINK
THEY ACTUALLY BELIEVE IT.
THERE'S SPIN-DOCTORING OR WHAT
THEY SAY IN WASHINGTON, THE
CRAZY TAX.
YOU SAY CERTAIN THINGS TO GET
ELECTED BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO SAY
THEM.
THEN THERE COMES A POINT WHERE
AFTER YOU SAY THE SAME THING
OVER AND OVER AGAIN, YOU BEGIN
TO BELIEVE IT.
AND I REALLY DON'T KNOW ANYMORE
WITH TED CRUZ AND WITH FOLKS
LIKE HIM, WHETHER THEY ACTUALLY
BELIEVE IT OR WHETHER THEY'RE
JUST SAYING WHAT THEY THINK THEY
NEED TO SAY TO GET ELECTED.
THAT'S WHY IT'S SO IMPORTANT TO
FIGHT BACK TO SCIENCE DENIAL.
YOU NEVER WILL CONVINCE THE
SCIENCE DENIER THAT HE OR SHE IS
WRONG, BUT EVERY LIE HAS AN
AUDIENCE.
WHEN I WENT TO THE FLAT EARTH
CONVENTION IN NOVEMBER AND THERE
WAS 600 FLAT EARTHERS THERE, AND
I PUSHED BACK BECAUSE I'M NEVER
GOING TO MAYBE CONVINCE THE
PERSON THAT I'M TALKING TO BUT
ALL THE PEOPLE WHO ARE
LISTENING, THEY MIGHT END UP
BEING CONVINCED, OR AT LEAST
HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF SKEPTICISM
ABOUT WHAT THEY'RE HEARING FROM
THE FLAT EARTH PERSON.

Steve says BUT THAT'S THE
THING: SCIENCE HAS SKEPTICISM
ATTACHED TO IT.

Lee says IT DOES.

Steve says SO THAT LINE ABOUT,
WELL, LOOK IT, WE'RE SKEPTICAL
ABOUT THE EARTH BEING ROUND.

Lee says THAT'S RIGHT.

Steve says IT HAS A PATINA OF
TRUTH IN THERE, OR TRUTHINESS...

Lee says RIGHT.
AGAIN WHAT THEY'RE DOING IS
EXPLOITING THE UNCERTAINTY.
THE DISTINCTION THAT I DRAW, THE
ONE THAT I DREW IN THE BOOK AND
THE ONE THAT I REALLY THINK IS
TRUE, IS THAT SCIENTISTS ARE
TRUE SKEPTICS BECAUSE A TRUE
SKEPTIC IS NOT JUST SOMEBODY WHO
IS REFLEXIVELY AGAINST
SOMETHING UNTIL ALL THE DATA ARE
IN, A TRUE SKEPTIC IS SOMEBODY
WHO WITH HOLDS JUDGMENT UNTIL
ENOUGH DATA ARE IN THAT IT'S
SUFFICIENT TO WARRANT,
SUFFICIENT JUSTIFICATION, TO
HAVE RATIONAL BELIEF.
THAT KIND OF SKEPTICISM, WHAT
YOU JUST READ, THAT'S SORT OF
CAFETERIA SKEPTICISM.
YOU KNOW, THAT'S SKEPTICISM
ABOUT THE THINGS THAT YOU DON'T
WANT TO BELIEVE, BUT THEN NOTICE
THAT TED CRUZ IS ALSO COMPLETELY
GULLIBLE ABOUT THE THING THAT HE
DOES WANT TO BELIEVE, AND THAT'S
19... WHAT WAS THE YEAR?
WAS IT 1989?
WHEN EL NIÑO HAPPENED.

Steve says OKAY.

Lee says SO THIS WAS THE YEAR THAT WE
SHOULD BE COMPARING IT TO.
WELL, HE'S JUST CHERRY-PICKED
OUT THAT ONE YEAR TO SAY THAT
THAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT YEAR
IN THE HISTORY OF THE CLIMATE
BECAUSE, IF YOU PICK OUT THAT
YEAR AS YOUR BASELINE, THEN IT
SHOWS THAT THERE HASN'T BEEN AN
INCREASE IN GLOBAL TEMPERATURE
IN THE FOLLOWING 17 YEARS.
BUT THAT'S A DOUBLE STANDARD.
THAT'S NOT ACTUAL SKEPTICISM.

Steve says ALL RIGHT.
LET'S TRY TO SEPARATE SOME OF
THE REALITY FROM THE JUNK
SCIENCE OR THE PSEUDOSCIENCE, AS
YOU LIKE TO CALL IT.

Lee says YES.

Steve says AND LET'S FOCUS ON
HEALTH CARE.
THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO HAVE GONE
TO HOMEOPATHS, FOR EXAMPLE,
THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO HAVE
EXPERIENCED CRYSTAL HEALING,
FAITH HEALING, AND THEY WILL
SAY: THIS WORKED FOR ME.
THEREFORE, IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY
VALID.
THEREFORE, WE SHOULD ALL BELIEVE
IT.
ARE YOU PUSHING BACK ON THAT?

Lee says I DO.
THAT IS SCIENTISTS PUSH BACK
AGAINST THAT.
THEY NEED DOUBLE-BLIND
CONTROLLED EXPERIMENTS TO PROVE
SOMETHING LIKE THAT.
WHERE YOU LOOK AT THE PLACEBO
EFFECT. HOMEOPATHY IS A GOOD
EXAMPLE. YOU NEED EXPERIMENTS
WHERE THE PERSON WHO IS
UNDERGOING THE TREATMENT MAYBE
DOESN'T KNOW WHAT THEY'RE
GETTING SO YOU'RE ABLE TO
MEASURE THE PLACEBO EFFECT.
THE POINT WITH SCIENCE IS, WHEN
THE HYPOTHESIS IS DEAD, IT'S
DEAD.
WHEN IT CAN'T BE PROVEN, WHEN
IT'S BEEN DEBUNKED, WHEN THERE'S
A PROBLEM WITH THEIR
METHODOLOGY, WHEN THEY'VE RUN
THE CRUCIAL EXPERIMENT AND IT
FAILED, THEN IT'S OVER.

Steve says IF IT WORKS, WHO CARES?
I GUESS THAT'S THE QUESTION.

Lee says WELL, IF IT'S NOT HARMING
ANYONE...

Steve says YEAH.

Lee says BUT YOU'VE GOT TO REMEMBER
TOO THAT IT DEPENDS... I MEAN,
SO WHY NOT JUST USE A PLACEBO,
RIGHT?
WHY DO ACUPUNCTURE WHEN YOU
COULD JUST USE FAKE ACUPUNCTURE.

Steve says SO TRUTH AT THE END
OF THE DAY STILL MATTERS?

Lee says I THINK IT DOES, YEAH.

Steve says OKAY.
THERE ARE MANY THINGS SCIENCE
DOES NOT UNDERSTAND, OBVIOUSLY.

Lee says YEAH.

Steve says FOR EXAMPLE, NO ONE
KNOWS WHAT HAPPENS TO US AFTER
WE DIE.
IS IT FAIR FOR US TO DECIDE WHAT
WE WANT TO BELIEVE IN WHEN IT
COMES TO THE UNKNOWABLE?

Lee says YOU'VE ASKED A TERRIFIC
QUESTION THAT HAS BEDEVILED ME.
IT'S REALLY KIND OF ONE THAT GOT
ME INTO PHILOSOPHY, IF YOU WANT
TO TELL THE TRUTH.
I DON'T THINK WE KNOW WHAT
HAPPENS TO US AFTER WE DIE.
AND THAT'S ONE OF THE UNKNOWNS.
I DON'T THINK THAT SCIENCE CAN
TELL US, I DON'T THINK THAT
ANYBODY CAN TELL US BECAUSE
THERE ARE NO DATA SO THAT'S
SOMETHING WHERE I THINK TRUE
AGNOSTICISM IS ABSOLUTELY
WARRANTED. BUT YOU READ DAWKINS,
THE FAMOUS ATHEIST, AND HE WILL
SAY, IF THERE'S NO GOD, WHICH HE
THINKS HE CAN SHOW THAT THERE
ISN'T, THEN THERE WOULDN'T BE AN
AFTERLIFE. I THINK THAT'S
NONSENSE.
I'VE NEVER MET HIM, BUT IF I
EVER MEET HIM, WHAT I WANT TO
SAY IS, IF YOU DON'T THINK YOU
NEED A GOD TO EXPLAIN THIS
WORLD, WHY WOULD YOU NEED A GOD
TO EXPLAIN THE NEXT ONE?
IT COULD BE THAT SOMETHING
WONDERFUL HAPPENS TO US OR
NOTHING.
WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HAPPENS TO
US AFTER WE DIE.
NO DATA WHATSOEVER.
SO THERE ARE SOME TRUTHS THAT
ARE BEYOND SCIENCE.
BUT IF IT'S AN EMPIRICAL MATTER,
IF IT'S A TRUTH ABOUT A WORLD
WHERE THERE'S SENSORY DATA,
THERE'S NOTHING BETTER THAN
SCIENCE.

Steve says HE'S BEEN ON THE
SHOW A FEW TIMES AND I GUESS
IT'S TRUE THAT NEITHER SIDE CAN
EMPIRICALLY PROVE THEIR SIDE IN
THIS DEBATE, RIGHT?

Lee says THAT'S CORRECT.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?
SAY NOTHING.
BE AGNOSTIC.

Steve says AS WE CONSIDER
CHANGING THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF
THOSE WHO DON'T NECESSARILY
BELIEVE, IS IT POSSIBLE IN YOUR
VIEW TO CHANGE THE MINDS OF
THOSE WHO WOULD DENY SCIENCE ITS
APPROPRIATE PLACE?

Lee says YES.

Steve says HOW DO YOU DO IT?

The caption changes to "Changing hearts and minds."

Lee says OKAY.
SO IT'S VERY HARD BECAUSE YOU
DON'T CONVINCE SOMEBODY WHO
DOESN'T BELIEVE IN EVIDENCE BY
SHARING MORE EVIDENCE.

Steve says NO, THAT JUST MAKES
THEM DIG IN HARDER.

Lee says RIGHT.
AND YOU ALSO DON'T CONVINCE THEM
BY CALLING THEM NAMES OR GETTING
ANGRY.
WE SORT OF INHABIT OUR DIFFERENT
SILOS NOW AND IN SOME WAYS WE'RE
NOT TALKING TO EACH OTHER.
THE WAY YOU CHANGE SOMEBODY'S
MIND IS TO BUILD TRUST.
TO HAVE ONE-ON-ONE
CONVERSATIONS, TO ENGAGE, TO
HEAR THE OTHER SIDE.
I THINK THAT'S VERY IMPORTANT.
IF YOU LOOK AT THE ANTI-VAX
CRISIS, WHAT'S GOING ON RIGHT
NOW IN CLARK COUNTY, WASHINGTON,
IN WASHINGTON STATE, THE
GOVERNOR OF THE STATE HAS SENT
OUT PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIALS TO
MEET WITH PEOPLE, TO TALK AT
WORKSHOPS, SOMETIMES ONE ON ONE,
AND THEY ARE CHANGING MINDS.
THERE ARE PEOPLE... I REMEMBER
READING ONE OF THE MEDIA REPORTS
WHERE A WOMAN SAID THAT THIS WAS
THE FIRST TIME... SHE DECIDED TO
VACCINATE HER CHILD.
AND SHE SAID THIS WAS THE FIRST
TIME THAT ANYBODY HAD EVER
LISTENED TO HER AND TAKEN HER
DOUBTS SERIOUSLY.
THE SCIENTIST THAT SHE TALKED TO
SPENT TWO HOURS WITH HER, TOOK
ALL OF HER QUESTIONS, EXPLAINED
TO HER PATIENTLY, AND CHANGED
HER MIND.
HARD TO DO.
AND I'VE HAD SOME PUSHBACK FROM
SCIENTISTS WHO SAY, LOOK, WE'RE
BUSY AT OUR LABS.
WE DON'T HAVE TIME TO DO THIS.
BUT THE THING I WANT TO ASK IS,
WHAT'S OUR ALTERNATIVE?
HOW MUCH WORSE IS SCIENCE DENIAL
GOING TO GET?
THE INTERNET ISN'T GOING AWAY.
OUR COGNITIVE BIAS ISN'T GOING
AWAY.
I CAN'T BELIEVE ANTI-VAX HAS
GONE AS FAR AS IT HAS.
I CAN'T BELIEVE FLAT EARTH IS
WHERE IT IS.
I THINK THIS IS GOING TO
CONTINUE TO GET WORSE.
AND SCIENCE DENIAL, JUST LOOK AT
THE EXAMPLE OF CLIMATE CHANGE,
THAT'S REALLY FRIGHTENING.
THE FATE OF HUMANITY IS AT
STAKE.
IN VERY SHORT ORDER, WE HAVE TO
GET PEOPLE TO START TO LISTEN TO
THIS.
SO I THINK IT'S VERY IMPORTANT
TO LEARN HOW TO TALK TO PEOPLE
WHO DON'T AGREE WITH US.

Steve says THE BACKFIRE EFFECT
IS HARDER.
PEOPLE WILL DIG IN HARDER.

Lee says IT WAS A LITTLE MORE SUBTLE
FINDING THAN THAT, BUT IT DID...
THERE'S ALSO SOME OTHER
EVIDENCE, THERE ARE SOME STUDIES
THAT I CITE IN ONE OF MY EARLIER
BOOKS, "POST TRUTH" BY JAMES
KUKLINSKI AND DAVID WEDLOCK WHO
TALK ABOUT THE FACT THAT ONE
THING THAT CONVINCES PEOPLE IS
EVIDENCE.
IT'S JUST THE CONTEXT OF THE
EVIDENCE.
YOU DON'T JUST SHOVE THE
EVIDENCE DOWN THEIR THROAT AND
YELL AT THEM.
CONTEXT MATTERS.
BUT YOU CAN ACTUALLY CHANGE
PEOPLE'S MIND.
ONE OF MY FAVOURITE STORIES WAS
THE MAYOR OF CORAL GABLES,
FLORIDA, WHO IS A REPUBLICAN,
AND FOUR DAYS INTO HIS
MAYORSHIP, CHANGED HIS MIND
ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE.
THAT'S BECAUSE ALL THE BUSINESS
OWNERS WERE COMING TO HIM AND
COMPLAINING ABOUT THE WATER
LEVEL RISE, AND THE FUNNY PART
OF IT WAS THAT CORAL GABLES IS A
VERY RICH COMMUNITY. PEOPLE
COULDN'T GET THEIR YACHTS OUT.
THE MAST OF THEIR YACHT WAS
HITTING THE BRIDGE BECAUSE THE
WATER LEVEL HAD GONE UP. THAT'S
WHEN IT BECOMES REAL, RIGHT?
YOU CAN ACTUALLY CHANGE PEOPLE'S
MIND WHEN YOU GET THEIR
ATTENTION AND THAT'S ONE THING
THAT I'M HOPING THAT THIS BOOK
DOES IS GIVE SCIENTISTS AND
OTHERS WHO CARE ABOUT SCIENCE
THE WHEREWITHAL TO KNOW WHAT TO
SAY WHEN YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT
SCIENCE DENIERS TO TRY TO CHANGE
THEIR MIND.

Steve says THAT STORY REFLECTS
ANOTHER SCIENTIFIC REALITY WHICH
IS: ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL.

Lee says YEAH.

The caption changes to "Producer: Cara Stern, @carastern."

Steve says WE KNOW WHO SAID
THAT, TIP O'NEILL, ANOTHER GREAT
NEW ENGLANDER LIKE YOU.
THE NAME OF THE BOOK IS "THE
SCIENTIFIC ATTITUDE: DEFENDING
SCIENCE FROM DENIAL, FRAUD, AND
PSEUDOSCIENCE."
IT'S BY LEE McINTYRE, RESEARCH
FELLOW AT THE CENTRE FOR
PHILOSOPHY AND HISTORY OF
SCIENCE AT BOSTON UNIVERSITY.
TEN MINUTES FROM FENWAY PARK,
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACE ON
EARTH. LEE, IT'S GOOD OF YOU
TO COME INTO TVO TONIGHT.
THANKS A LOT.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Lee says THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
I ENJOYED IT.

Watch: The Case for Science