Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Scientist Should Not Be Advocates: Problems Arise that Hurt the Scientific Field

Scientist should remain objective and refrain from advocating.  Becoming an advocate can hurt the scientific field as a whole as scientist with strong opinions can alienate a large portion of the population from numerous scientific theories and beliefs.  If someone recognizes a speaker as a scientist in a certain field and then doesn't like them, this person may develop a bias against all similar scientist, an incredibly unfortunate thing in today's day and age where scientific knowledge is degrading in the general populations (just look at how many people think astrology is a science because they can't differentiate the word from astronomy).

One strong example of this is Bill Nye and his recent debate with Ken Ham.  In an ill-advised move, Nye chose to participate in a debate with Ham putting up creationism against evolution.  Not only does this elevate the creationist theory into the field of science, but this may have alienated people who believe in creation from science in general.  Scientist for the most part have no problem with people believing in creation.  However they do have a problem with it being considered science, as it is quite clearly not (Dart, 2014).  It has been disproved hundreds of times over with the most obvious example being that the earth is most definitely older than 6000-10000 years. Elevating creationism into science by including it in a debate has always been something that the majority of scientists have frowned upon and scientist advocates like Nye have hurt the field of science as a whole by participating in creation/evolution debates in the first place.

Perhaps there is a way to keep be advocates and scientists without many negative consequences, but it is safer, for the sake of science as a whole, to remain objective and seek only to pass on the knowledge acquired from research.

Oh the irony of writing this.... Look at me! I'm a scientist advocating not being a scientist and advocate.

The Billy Nye v Ken Ham debate
Various media on the topic including news broadcasting and online papers
Dart, T. (February 5, 2014). Bill Nye 'the Science Guy' debates Australian creationist on evolution. The Guardian.


  1. So I have two major problems with your argument above.
    1) Scientist should NOT be advocates because it might alienate people? If this is the case than activist ought be people who preach the accepted norms of society? or should activist champion the voice of those who go unheard?
    An activist is a proponent of some value and normally one of change, thus an advocate ought be someone who is unafraid to rile some feathers and upset the norm.

    2) Secondly, it would appear to me that you are under the belief that "scientist" ought stay in an "ivory tower" and turn their nose up at religion. That if a creationist approaches a scientist that INSTEAD of a debate and amalgamation of ideas that scientist ought to scoff at such a notion and refuse discussion at all. This inherently runs contrary to the idea of "seek[ing] only to pass on the knowledge acquired from research.

    1. 1. I maybe wasn't quite as clear as I should have been. I meant that, like all people who are involved in policy, there are sometimes people who give biased opinions or do things in order to advance themselves. When a politician gets caught it hurts his career and makes for an interesting news story. When a scientist gets caught people can begin to distrust all scientists who advocate in that topic, potentially harming the transition of knowledge to the general public.

      2. It was a debate, not an amalgamation of creationism and evolution. The two sides were the creationism that believes in a 6000 year old earth versus millions of years of evolution. Other interpretations of creationist theory can be amalgamated with evolution but not the one that claims the earth is that young. Unfortunately, the debate was the 6000 year old earth interpretation, which is not science as it has been disproved over and over. It is a religious belief, not a scientific theory. It appears that you would approve of a debate between the theory that the Earth is round(ish) and the theory that the Earth is flat. Debating a scientifically disproved theory is elevating that obsolete theory into current scientific importance.

      And I am very open to the amalgamation of intelligent design and evolution/big bang theory. Just not the claim that the earth is only 6000 years old.

  2. I felt like the Bill Nye debate was quite firm in it's separation of science and creationism. He was polite when rebutting Ken Ham and answering all questions in a way in which the major public could interpret in the face of a debate that had been hyped up to be somewhat of a smack down. I feel like he gave all the facts he needed to support and discredit Ham's argument, remove creationism from the pedestal of science, and setting a solid example for other scientific advocacy. All on live television.