Marina Hyde over at Science Blogs was bemoaning our tolerance for celebrities spewing pseudoscience, when I pointed out the difficult position she’s in:
If you want to be intolerant of celebrities speaking scientific nonsense, you have to be intolerant of them speaking all scientific nonsense.
This includes the non-sensical idea that intelligence and abilities are not determined by genetics, and the non-sensical idea that there are no significant genetic and biological differences between races, ethnicities and social classes.
But those aren’t so politically popular. So now what do you do? Do you become a hypocrite, and yell at some celebrities for some views that are incorrect, but not all celebrities for all incorrect views?
I don’t expect this comment to be approved, because it’s socially toxic — but scientifically correct. People get along either by cooperation, which requires individuals to cede some rights and illusions for the sake of central action, or control, which is either authoritarian or accomplished by pandering as is done in liberal democracies. Do what we want, we throw you a bone. If you don’t, we socially ostracize you. It’s just as authoritarian as a Hitler, Stalin, Kim Il-Jung, Pol Pot, Mao, etc. except that you are less likely to run afoul of its laws if your only goals are making a living and enjoying selfish pleasures.
Bad science is all around us. For our control mechanism, we must tolerate the bad science that re-inforces our dominant paradigms and taboos. However, we can feel free to attack the fringe, because they don’t conform. We have a word for this: groupthink.