"You mean the generation that paid three times as much for college to enter a job market with triple the unemployment isn’t interested in purchasing the assets of the generation who just blew an enormous housing bubble and kept it from popping through quantitative easing and out-and-out federal support? Curious."
Magdalenian antler projectile point design: Determining original form for uni- and bilaterally barbed points
“Maintenance and discard patterns are a central aspect of projectile point analyses. Unfortunately, while the examination of maintenance and discard patterns for lithic technologies is well advanced, osseous projectile point maintenance and discard analyses remain in their infancy. In the Magdalenian context, a large part of this situation is owing to the fact that the form and proportions of osseous points at the time of initial manufacture have rarely been clearly described, nor particularly well understood, by researchers. This paper focuses on uni- and bilaterally barbed points manufactured from antler and dating to the Late Magdalenian. Through examination of 732 barbed point artefacts recovered from 18 sites located throughout France and Germany, along with engravings on portable art, and a brief consideration of ethnographic data, an updated proposal for the original proportions of these iconic barbed weapon tips can be made. Knowledge of these dimensions is essential if researchers are to reconstruct the reduction of these artefacts through use, maintenance and rejuvenation cycles” (read more/open access).
(Open access source: Journal of Archaeological Science 44:104-116, 2014 via Academia.edu)
"Why have we scientists failed so miserably? I think the answers lie mainly in psychology, sociology and economics. A scientific lifestyle requires a scientific approach to both gathering information and using information, and both have their pitfalls. You’re clearly more likely to make the right choice if you’re aware of the full spectrum of arguments before making your mind up, yet there are many reasons why people don’t get such complete information. Many lack access to it (97% of Afghans don’t have Internet, and in a 2010 poll, 92% didn’t know about the 9/11 attacks). Many are too swamped with obligations and distractions to seek it. Many seek information only from sources that confirm their preconceptions—for example, a 2012 poll showed 27% of Americans believing that Barack Obama was probably or definitely born in another country. The most valuable information can be hard to find even for those who are online and uncensored, buried in an unscientific media avalanche.
Then there’s what we do with the information we have. The core of a scientific lifestyle is to change your mind when faced with information that disagrees with your views, avoiding intellectual inertia, yet many laud leaders stubbornly stick to their views as “strong.” Richard Feynman hailed “distrust of experts” as a cornerstone of science, yet herd mentality and blind faith in authority figures is widespread. Logic forms the basis of scientific reasoning, yet wishful thinking, irrational fears and other cognitive biases dominate decisions.
So what can we do to promote a scientific lifestyle? The obvious answer is improving education. In some countries, having even the most rudimentary education would be a major development (less than half of all Pakistanis can read). By undercutting fundamentalism and intolerance, education would curtail violence and war. By empowering women, it would curb poverty and the population explosion. However, even countries that offer everybody education can make major improvements. All too often, schools resemble museums, reflecting the past rather than shaping the future. The curriculum should shift from one watered down by consensus and lobbying to skills our century needs for relationships, health, contraception, time management, critical thinking and recognizing propaganda. For youngsters, learning a global language and typing should trump long division and writing cursive. In the Internet age, my own role as a classroom teacher has changed. I’m no longer needed as a conduit of information, which my students can simply download on their own. Rather, my key role is inspiring a scientific lifestyle, curiosity and desire to learn more.
Now let’s get to the most interesting question: how can we really make a scientific lifestyle take root and flourish? Reasonable people have been making similar arguments for better education since long before I was in diapers, yet rather than improving, education and adherence to a scientific lifestyle is arguably deteriorating further in many countries, including the United States. Why? Clearly because there are powerful forces pushing in the opposite direction, and they’re pushing more effectively. Corporations concerned that a better understanding of certain scientific issues would harm their profits have an incentive to muddy the waters, as do fringe religious groups concerned that questioning their pseudo-scientific claims would erode their power.
So what can we do? The first thing we scientists need to do is get off our high horses, admit that our persuasive strategies have failed, and develop a better strategy. We have the advantage of having better arguments, but the anti-scientific coalition has the advantage of better funding. However, and this is painfully ironic, it’s also more scientifically organized! If a company wants to change public opinion to increase their profits, it deploys scientific and highly effective marketing tools. What do people believe today? What do we want them to believe tomorrow? Which of their fears, insecurities, hopes and other emotions can we take advantage of? What’s the most cost-effective way of changing their minds? Plan a campaign. Launch. Done. Is the message oversimplified or misleading? Does it unfairly discredit the competition? That’s par for the course when marketing the latest smartphone or cigarette, so it would be naive to think that the code of conduct should be any different when this coalition fights science. Yet we scientists are often painfully naive, deluding ourselves that just because we think we have the moral high ground, we can somehow defeat this corporate-fundamentalist coalition by using obsolete unscientific strategies. Based on what scientific argument will it make a hoot of a difference if we grumble, “We won’t stoop that low” and “People change” in faculty lunchrooms and recite statistics to journalists? We scientists have basically been saying, “Tanks are unethical, so let’s fight tanks with swords.”
To teach people what a scientific concept is and how a scientific lifestyle will improve their lives, we need to go about it scientifically: we need new science-advocacy organizations that use all the same scientific marketing and fund-raising tools as the anti-scientific coalition employ. We’ll need to use many of the tools that make scientists cringe, from ads and lobbying to focus groups that identify the most effective sound bites. We won’t need to stoop all the way down to intellectual dishonesty, however. Because in this battle, we have the most powerful weapon of all on our side: the facts."
Tegmark, Max.Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality, p.189-191. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014. Print. (via academicatheism)