Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Not all people who "love science" are like that

Yes, yet another rant against the "I Effing Love Science" crowd.

Midway through a MOOC lecture on nuclear decay I decided to write a post about production values in MOOCs (in my case not really a MOOC, just University lectures made available online). Then, midway through that post, I started to refine my usual "people who love science" vs "people who learn science" taxonomy; this post, preempting the MOOC post, is the result. Apparently my blogging brain is a LIFO queue (a stack).

Nerd, who, me?

I've posted several criticisms of people who "love science" but never learn any (for example here, here, here, and here; there are many more); but there are several people who do love science and therefore learn it. So here's a diagram of several possibilities, including a few descriptors for the "love science but doesn't learn science" crowd:

The interesting parts are the areas designated by the letters A, B, and C. There's a sliver of area where people who really love science don't learn science to capture the fact that some people don't have the time, resources, or access necessary to learn science, even these days. (In the US and EU, I mean; for the rest of the world that sliver would be the majority of the diagram, as many people who would love science have no access to water, electricity, food, let alone libraries and the internet.)

Area A is that of people who love science and learn it but don't make that a big part of their identity. That would have been the vast majority of people with an interest in science in the past; with the rise of social media, some of us decided to share our excitement with science and technology with the rest of the world, leading to area B.

People in area B aren't the usual "I effing love science" crowd. First, they actually learn science; second, their sharing of the excitement of science is geared towards getting other people to learn science, while the IFLS crowd is virtue signaling.

People in area C are those who learn science for goal-oriented reasons. They want to have a productive education and career, so they choose science (and engineering) in order to have marketable skills. They might have preferred to study art or practice sports, but they pragmatically de-prioritize these true loves in favor of market-valued skills.

As for the rest, the big blob of IFLS people, I've given them enough posts (for now).

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Note 1: the reason to follow real scientists and research labs on Twitter and Facebook is that they post about ongoing research (theirs and others'), unlike professional popularizers who post "memes" and self-promotion. Or complete nonsense --- only to be corrected by much smarter and incredibly nice Destin "Smarter Every Day" Sandlin:

Note 2: For people who still think that if one of two children is a boy, then the probability of two boys is 1/3 (it's not, it's 1/2):

and the frequentist answer is in this post. Remember: if you think a math result is incorrect, you need to point out the error in the derivation. (There are no errors.)

This particular math problem is one favorite of the IFLS crowd, as it makes them feel superior to the "rubes" who say 1/2, whereas in fact that is the right answer. The IFLS crowd, in general, cannot follow the rationales above, though some may slog through the frequentist computation.