Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Social Conditioning Our Scientific Views

We have all been socially conditioned. Our parents did it when they told us to eat our vegetables and clean our rooms. Our friends did it to us when they egged us on to do one more shot at the bar. Then, in conditioned fashion, we would egg them on for the same thing and walk away thinking it was cool. We may not have all been socially conditioned the same way and for the same things but we have all been socially conditioned.

There is one area, I believe, we have been socially conditioned in a way that we often don't admit and can hinder our progress as a people. That area is in the sciences. For most of us we took grade school science and maybe a little college level. There are the exceptions that moved beyond into careers, but they too have been socially conditioned by the time they get there.

Let me try to illustrate this with a little theory example. Lets bring up the theory of Intelligent Design. What do most of us think? Do we ask what the scientific merit is? Do we ask for the evidence and an explanation of the theory? Or, do we instantly think, 'Religious Right Winged Crap'? Do we think, 'There go those Christians again'? I would say that for many of us the latter is what we think over the former. Is that because we know the theory is wrong? Is that because we know the details of the theory? Is that because we even know much about the scientific supporters? For most of I would say that isn't the case. We have been socially conditioned to react this way.

In this particular case we have schools that don't teach it but teach alternatives. This weighs in greatly on the students view. We have the media that writes things like:

What is intelligent design? Intelligent design is the belief that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection cannot explain some life forms, and that an unseen, intelligent force created them. Most scientists view intelligent design as nonscientific and based on religious beliefs. They strongly object to presenting it to students as part of a science curriculum. (Detroit Free Press 9/21/06)

The question asked is, "What is intelligent design?" but the answer given is not the answer to the question. It gives an arguable stance that is persuasive to many readers to think this about Intelligent Design and that it isn't worth looking into. Now, my point here is not to argue ID but that we are being socially conditioned in our view of the sciences.

This can be very dangerous because through this social conditioning we are conditioning belief. Take, another popular example, the theory of evolution. We don't know that it is true. It hasn't been proven. If it were proven it wouldn't be a theory. Yet, in our schools it is often taught as if it were true. My biology book and the biology classes I took treated it that way. As if it were a given. But, because we don't know it to be true, when we think it's true we are believing something unproven to be true. Sound like religion?

Science is supposed to be as objective as possible in it's task of, "the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena." This isn't happening. When someone steps outside of the conditioned response how does the public react? It isn't very kind. How do scientists respond? Well, for example look at what a professor at Texas Tech University said:

‘[Someone who denies evolution] has committed malpractice regarding the method of science … how can someone who denies the theory of evolution—the very pinnacle of modern biological science—ask to be recommended into a scientific profession by a professional scientist?’

How can someone deny a theory? Isn't science supposed to be about the search for the truth? Not, to uphold our beliefs in a theory? Shouldn't we want unproven theories to be tested and if there is a theory out there that better supports the information to examine that? But, our scientific beliefs turn this from a search for truth through science to a defense of our core beliefs in unproven theories.

This really is about social conditioning. Those same scientists have been socially conditioned since grade school to think and act this way. The public has been socially conditioned to think this way about theories that challenge our perception on the world. I think the first step is we have to admit that we have been socially conditioned this way. I admit it. Do you?