Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A Flat Earth, The Handmaid's Tale, and Science

If someone had asked me even 20 years ago if I knew I would on this date be reading an article in Newsweek about people who believe the earth is flat, I am sure I would have said no. I might have even laughed.

If someone had asked me 20 years ago if I thought states would be curtailing women's rights and working hard to ensure that the white race has babies by manipulating settled constitutional law and creating challenges sure to head toward a loaded, political Supreme Court, I would've thought about it a bit but rejected the idea, ultimately. But here it is. It's here. And here. And here. How long before it comes to my state?

None of this affects me personally right now, but it makes me sad. Under some of the bills, procedures I endured while trying to have a child, birth control pills I took to control endometriosis, and other drugs given me could have sent to me to jail. Or they might have simply allowed me to die instead of operating. So if you're one of those applauding these laws, please leave my blog now. Because essentially you're saying you want me, and thousands of other women like me, to die or be locked up to ease your conscious and so you can hold up your illogical and mythological religious beliefs front and center. Screw that. And screw you for thinking that.

I grew up knowing the earth was round. I do think we have been up in space. I believe my body is mine not my husband's or anyone else's for that matter. Opinion is not fact. The Bible is a book of stories, it's not fact in my mind. You might not like the color blue but I love it.

So back to the article on flat earth believers. Just like people who do not believe vaccines work, these are folks who do not respond to rational arguments. Their views are not based on anything rational in the first place.

These are people not convinced by research or data. They are convinced by people who reach them at some visceral gut level of trust (like a preacher might). Denouncing them is to threaten them. It's the same with anyone who has a different view. If you call names or do as I did above and simply say, "screw you" you're not really going to change any minds.

I am pretty sure I am not going to change any minds anyway, but it would be nice to know how to make an honest effort. I give up quickly because I don't like to argue. I have discovered, though, that in this day and age if you can't engage people on topics besides their job or maybe something like food (and not how climate change affects your dinner), you quickly run out of conversation.

How do you engage or converse with people one finds irrational? I think hearing them out is a good way to start, and then challenging them. It takes patience, though, and a bit of internal fortitude, because these folks are brazen and feel they have the Bible at their back (in many instances) and who are you, woman (with a little "w") to challenge anything anyway?

I think starting at the top of the scientific method might be a good way to begin. Ask the question. Why do you believe the earth is flat? Why do you believe women are inferior to men? Why do you believe life begins at conception and not at birth? How do you know you really have a soul? Why do you believe in goblins?

Here's the scientific method, for those who might have forgotten:

I don't think "because the Bible says so," is a reasonable, logical, and researched answer. So that might mean more questions. It might mean a great many questions, and lots of thrusts and parrying in a conversation.  

"All science deniers use roughly the same reasoning strategy. Belief in conspiracy theories, cherry picking evidence, championing their own experts. These are also the tactics used by deniers of evolution, climate change, and the recent spate of anti-vaxx," according to the Newsweek article.

So what to do? What scientists, and regular folks who believe in science, can do is this: "say much more than they do about the importance of likelihood and probability, to puncture the myth that until we have proof, any theory is just as good as any other. Scientific beliefs are not based on certainty but on "warrant"—on justification given the evidence."

Science is NOT based on certainty. Science is based on predictions, tests, etc. You are reading this on a technological device of some kind, and that didn't happen without science. People don't just magically produce cell phones or PCs or the Internet, for that matter.

Certainty cannot be the basis for comprehension and understanding. If that is the standard, "science deniers may feel justified in holding out for proof. So let's explain to them that this is not how science works. That certainty is an irrational standard for empirical belief," says Newsweek.

Science, "does NOT pretend that it has all the answers. It is open to new ideas, but also insists that these must be rigorously tested. In science there is a community standard to enforce this, based on data sharing, peer review, and replication. The scientific attitude exists not just in the hearts of individual scientists, but as a group ethos that guides empirical inquiry in a rational way," says Newsweek.

"It is reasonable to expect more interactions between scientists and science deniers, as is now happening with the measles outbreak in Washington state, where public health officials are holding workshops to talk with anti-vaxxers," Newsweek says.

It's also reasonable to have conversations about women's rights, the law, health, the judicial system, and the definition of theocracy, which is not the same as democracy in any sense of the word.

Science and scientists know that sometimes their theories are wrong. Maybe there is string theory or maybe there isn't - it's not a proven theory yet. But we have more technology in our hands in a cellphone than it took to send a rocket ship into space in the early 1960s, so why would you not believe that to be possible?

And if you believe that possible, then why would you insist that the photos taken from space are all one big conspiracy theory, and the world is really flat?

The existence of your cell phone, your car, electricity, and the gazillion other things that make up modern life - and the things that made up the agrarian life (like something simple, such as making fire) - prove science has its uses and its theories and hypotheses and those put into action are generally correct.

Otherwise we'd all still be walking, and I'd be beating a drum to send a message over to the next hill instead of picking up my cell and making a call.


  1. Well, I have never believed that the earth is flat and I don't believe that women are inferior to men, but I will stand up and say that science proves that a child is a child at conception and not birth due to the fact that they have a heartbeat. Scientifically, we are dead if we do not have a pulse which comes from a heartbeat. I also believe that the Bible is a series of stories that we are taught about and whether you believe it or not is between you and God, if He exists. I am sorry if you disagree with any of this, but you asked questions and I am answering to the best of my ability.

  2. I am with you 100% on this entire post! It si completely a woman's choice to have a child or not and anyone that thinks otherwise is basically signing off on the deaths that are going to happen form illegal abortions. If a woman does not want a child, she will find a way of not having it and history has shown many woman take matters into their own hands. I back you 100% on this post!


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