“Scientific impotence”

John Timmer has written up a relevant paper on the tactics people use to avoid scientific conclusions. When science doesn’t feed your biases, reject science.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology takes a look at one of these methods, which the authors term “scientific impotence”—the decision that science can’t actually address the issue at hand properly. It finds evidence that not only supports the scientific impotence model, but suggests that it could be contagious. Once a subject has decided that a given topic is off limits to science, they tend to start applying the same logic to other issues.

Francisco Ayala, I’m looking at you. There are some people who are mighty quick to declare that a whole range of topics are excluded from the domain of science.

Timmer points out another common observation, that denialism seems to encompass an entire syndrome.

…it might explain why doubts about mainstream science seem to travel in packs. For example, the Discovery Institute, famed for hosting a petition that questions our understanding of evolution, has recently taken up climate change as an additional issue (they don’t believe the scientific community on that topic, either). The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine is best known for hosting a petition that questions the scientific consensus on climate change, but the people who run it also promote creationism and question the link between HIV and AIDS.

The DI also has HIV deniers in its midst, too.