Phds, disconnectedness and elitism in science and politics.

Uploaded by anubis2814 on 04.08.2011

Ok folks for the past 2 months I’ve been busy with a new internship. It is in genetics
which is what I need for my career so this will be useful and make my resume pretty.
We are working with splicing genes into E coli, testing if the genes entered where they
are supposed to go, then extracting the proteins and testing their solubilities. If we go fast
and careful enough we are hopefully going to get some practice in western blotting which
will increase my resume even more. The first day we sat down and my boss crammed
our heads full of knowledge about what we were doing. I and the other intern were barely
able to keep up. You want to feel like a complete idiot. Go talk to someone with a science PhD,
you will be overwhelmed with how much you don’t know. She is a biochemist and a biophysicist.
Nothing I had to say added to the discussion, and she had difficulty grasping what exactly
I didn’t know because it was so natural to her. I know how my students feel when I’m
talking over their heads, which is why I’m kind of confused why PhDs are forced to teach
freshmen and sophomores in college. It is both a waste of their education and very difficult
for the students, because if they have problems understanding what the professor is saying,
that professor is so foreign to the idea of not understanding it will be difficult for
the majority of them to spot the flaw in someone’s knowledge and correct it. PhD’s go through
twice the schooling I have, People with a BS or MS still can remember what it was like
not to understand or be confused about something. The PhD is so far removed from not knowing,
that its like an adult trying to tell a baby how to walk, unless they spend time possibly
years studying how to break it down to its simplest steps, and correcting basic confusions
you wont be very useful and the baby will just have to learn via trial and error. Richard
Dawkins and others have worked very hard and have had many years of experience to ensure
they have can convey what they mean to the public and even that doesn’t work with some
people. I’ve had many classes in college where it
was just better to skip class and study on my own and teach so I wouldn’t be more confused
by the instructor then to actually show up to class. Calculus and physics were the worst.
It’s really no wonder why the average high school graduate who didn’t go through college
prep has such a distrust of science. Media tries to translate what the PhDs are saying
and usually mangle it royally or may do a decent job but fail to point out or stress
the accuracy level they are working with an how probable their results are.
Mind you one of the main reasons why they may put PhDs in charge of teaching freshmen
is to get them practiced to dealing with normal people so they can convey their ideas to the
press and to people they are trying to get grant money from. Freshmen at least have a
basic college prep background, that can’t be said for most of the non-college bound
high school grads. On top of that, students are forced to listen and learn and teach themselves
or get a bad grade, the average non-college high school grad does not have to study it
so the PhD doesn’t get a lot of practice with these persons.
The thing that gets me the most is because Phd’s hold so much knowledge, so much work
is expected from them. You are expected to be able to be on call 24/7, understand complex
concepts, write for journals, write grants, attend meetings, defend your claims, peer
review, do actual research, train graduates and then you have to deal with freshmen. It’s
like a massive disconnect. Unless it is their passion they have little interest in explaining
science to the average person. It is too bad that there isn’t a way to better educate
us all and more evenly distribute the work and knowledge load so PhDs did not have to
do so much. This also makes me wonder if this is the reason
there is a disconnect as to why the more educated are liberal and lesser educated are more conservative.
The arguments by liberals are complex and nuanced and agnostic like all science so their
ideas don't get disseminated to the public and just like climate scientists against climate
change it appears to the average Joe that liberalism is economically baseless and unrealistic
powered by fairy dust and happy thoughts. This negative label of elitist in the modern
US has a lot to do with the PhD’s becoming isolated by knowledge that their complex ideas
are not even discussed with more of a “trust us, we’re too busy to explain it” attitude
like with a lot of science. On top of this, to become a PhD requires monk like isolation
from the public and intense focus, like forced Asperger’s so dealing with regular people
unless your field requires interaction in grad school, can become extremely stunted
and they are in a bubble isolated from seeing how the lesser educated see the world. Liberals
especially are bad at this which is why persons either without degrees or with lower level
degrees can be used to come up with tons of logical sounding arguments against liberal
ideas that the public goes well duh on. The same is true with arguments on climate change,
there are nice sounding arguments and data against man made climate change, but if you
actually presented your findings to a climate scientist you would realize that they had
thought of that years ago and taken that into account into their data model. Because of
their level of education though, they tend not to deal with people of lower levels and
educate or combat arguments made with facts so it looks as if liberalism is just a weak
position with little evidence. Just like how science is just now beginning to realize that
they need to better explain themselves to the public, and not take the “trust us”
approach, liberal political scientists need to do the same thing.
Just like basic economics, liberals take the great concepts of the free market into account
and libertarian principles. They aren’t arguing against them, and understand them
quite well but they are very simplified, much like my simplified high school understanding
of chemistry was just a very basic oversimplified version to get me ready to actually begin
to learn chemistry in college, the same is true with economics. Sadly just like I tried
to do with my basic and sometimes self-taught understandings of chemistry mixing stuff in
the woods, amateur economists and political scientists will do the same, though often
effecting the voting because they’ve spread misinformation. I’ve had many debates with
libertarians where they are certain their view is right and they point to some economists
opinions and never bother to or can send me actual credible sourced data to back their
claims beyond a website link. Neither of us probably could disseminate the data even if
we did have it as we are not trained to. Of course the economist community is often
torn and in dissent on what model of economics they should try, unlike with climate change
and evolution. Many models have been discarded or modified after they have been tried and
many models that the public uses like Austrian vs Keynesian are models no longer used in
their pure form beyond loose basic understanding in economics and replaced by more dynamic
models that meet the problems that the model ran into in real life.
Julian Baggini is a British political philosopher and was at the center for inquiry in February.
It’s weird when a Brit who takes socialism models for granted as being a logical and
proven economic model begins talking to a group of Midwest Hoosiers about politics.
There was a lot of tension in the room from the minute he first started talking. As he
moved on though we relaxed because what he was saying made sense. I have a recording
of the talk in the bottom bar if anyone wants to hear it.
I have said it many times that I am not an expert on politics or economics, but the liberals
especially seem so separated by their education from the average person that when a person
like myself or bryantulsa or TheElmoisevil hears an argument from the right, we need
to explain the lefts position in common English. I am not an expert and probably never will
be however my level of education many times allows me to understand what the experts are
saying and I can help translate what they are saying to the average person, which is
something massively important to both science and our society.