Science: What`s A Lay Person To Do?

My column at Taki’s Magazine is up.  In it I mull over the authority of science, with help from the late Martin Gardner, and with special reference to creationism and global warming. 

Bottom line:  jeer at politicians, not scientists.

I’ll rest on my prescription of five years ago, concentrating my skepticism on the shyster politicians ever scheming to grab away my liberty or property.  In science I’ll go with the magisterium.  They may be wrong, but that’s not the way to bet.

Other matters aside, scientists don’t care what you and I think about their theories.  They only care what their peers think.

Politicians do care, because they want our votes.

The more I engage with people over these very specialized scientific topics, the more I find myself thinking that it’s slightly absurd for lay people (yes, like me) to be bold with opinions about them.

At one point in my recent go-around over creationist Stephen C. Meyer’s latest book, I quoted this snippet from paleobiologist Nick Matzke’s scornful review:

As far as I know every authority would agree that lobopods are a paraphyletic grab-bag on the stems of the crown-group phyla Arthropoda and Onychophora (and perhaps also on the stem below their common ancestor). In other words, the arthropod and velvet-worm phyla evolved from lobopods, and lobopods contain a whole series of transitional forms showing the basics of how this happened! How anyone could write a book on the origin of Cambrian animals, without mentioning Cambrian Explosion 101 findings like this, is mystifying.

If you’re going to get into an argument about the fossil record, better be sure you can engage at that level of detail.  If you can’t, stick to social and cultural generalities, as I try to (not always rigorously).

Or, as your grandpa told you:  If you can’t poop with the eagles, don’t fly with them.