Scientists think they are more rational and objective than others think they are

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Most people think scientific theories are just theories.


It doesn’t really matter how scientists think of themselves, as long as science itself is more rational and objective than other forms of knowledge-making.


CP Snow noted much the same thing in his Two Cultures book. Scientists seem to also believe that if you’re intelligent, then obviously you’ll become a scientist, just like them. The idea of a highly intelligent artist or carpenter or whatever just doesn’t compute for them. To them, preferences and life choices are dictated by intelligence.

It’s funny, because if you throw a similar syllogism to them about a different topic, they’ll immediately spot the weakness of the logic and reject it. It’s pure snobbery.


If I play the group game and imagine that I can lump people together based on some commonality and also allow myself to make the assumption that these groupings are in any way meaningful rather than arbitrary, I might ask myself “Of all the professions out there, which one is most concerned with rational objectivity?” I can imagine myself assuming that scientists have the most concern for those factors as the entire process by which their profession relies, what we call the Scientific Method, is based upon rationality and objectivity among other things such as evidence and experiment.
Since I don’t have the resources to perform real world experiments and evidence to answer my question is in short supply, I may resort to a thought experiment to see where that might take me. If I asked what kind of profession a naturally rational and objective person might be drawn towards, Scientist seems a pretty reasonable answer.


Seems to contradict Dunning-Kruger ( Unless of course, scientists really are very much more rational than everyone else, and the scientists are still underestimating how much more rational they are, while non-scientists are completely kidding themselves that they can think rationally. Yeah, that’s probably what it means.

Edited to add disclosure statement: I am a scientist.


So, basically an unscientific survey found that a self-selected group of self-identified scientists consider themselves more rational than a self-selected group of self-identified lay persons.

Study design is important. I think one could drive this through the gaps in the described study design:

Disclosure: I am an engineer who self-identifies as a scientist. :slight_smile:


In my experience, this is true of certain scientists, not the majority.


The real question is surely whether the scientists considered the psychologists to be part of their group?


Great photo choice from one of my favorite episodes of the Outer Limits, “The borderland” ; They were trying to break through to the “other side,” with the should-be-famous-line … “Polarity!..REVERSE”

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Scientists think they are more rational and objective than others think they are

The proof is in the pudding!

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I was a big fan of the X-Files, but it always made me gnash my teeth to hear Scully say, “UFOs can’t exist - they’re unscientific!”

You know what’s unscientific? The idea that anything is unscientific. This elevates science to dogma, which is kind of doing it wrong.


My dad, an experimental physicist, said just because you have a PhD doesn’t make you smart.


The psychologists definitely considered themselves part of the group, the rest definitely didn’t.


(or maybe it makes you smart about just one teeny weeny thing)


Actually, it’s completely compatible with Dunning-Kruger if you see it as saying “Scientists these fine gentlefolk around me in their crisp white coats peering intently at brightly colored beakers and things are paragons of intelligence and with-it rationality…” while silently finishing “…but I am a doofus who is here by accident, I swear, and oh god oh god oh god they are going to find out.

Impostor syndrome is appallingly common among grad students and the like.

(Full disclosure: scientist writing this comment instead of writing a paper like he should be)


It makes you informed about one tiny thing. You can be amazingly informed about something and technically competent, even brilliant, and still be, in practice, as dumb as a box of rocks. Amazing but true.


“Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts” – Richard Feynman


I hope Scientific American did adequate research on this research about researchers. You can’t trust journalists to be rational or objective!


My personal pet peeve: people who blindly trust things that scientists say, because it’s “scientific”, without evalutating the science underlying the assertions. This is social proof, not scientific proof.