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In Defence of the Quest for Truth


ajd09
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Like many I am concerned at the current political climate and what it means for our understanding of the 'Truth’. The attack on writers and journalists, even in matured democracies, is something that should worry us all.

As people now turn to the dystopian literature of the interwar period to draw parallels with [recent events] (http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-38764041) I am drawn to another warning from history in George Orwell’s essay ‘The Prevention of Literature’ (1946):

“For the moment the totalitarian state tolerates the scientist because it needs him… Meanwhile, if he wants to safeguard the integrity of science, it is his job to develop some kind of solidarity with his literary colleagues and not disregard it as a matter of indifference when writers are silenced or driven to suicide, and newspapers systematically falsified.”

As I battle the pressures to publish high impact science with my own determination to find the truth within the quagmire of laboratory-based research I am comforted by SfN’s promotion of the issues around reproducibility and scientific rigour within the neuroscience community as well as the message about what is at stake if we do not tackle these issues head on.

However, we must also as a community take this same ethos to the wider public to help them discover the truth within (sometimes) messy realities.

At the same time we must stand up for writers and journalists alike in defence of their own quest for truth.

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i like your points as much as the next scientist probably, but how to “stand up for”, especially with all our propensities for slacktivism?

it also worries me that we, scientists, might conflate the conviction that comes from having “facts” in hand/mind, like research, with the conviction that comes from having vested interests at heart, like ideologies. I think there are plenty of examples of scientists twisting their ideas with the “truth” to make something… “truthy” to borrow from stephen colbert…

solutions? I think they’ll stand a better chance if they’re easy, habitual, sustainable… I think most of the footwork is from breaking down complex ideas into digestible and actionable bits. …maybe into a coherent whole of these bits…
hasn’t anyone done research on this who we could cite???

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There are several groups of scientists organizing rallies in cities across the US. You can find these in “March for Science” pages across Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/marchforscience/), twitter (https://twitter.com/ScienceMarchDC), and reddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/MarchForScience/). Although these groups aren’t rallying specifically to defend journalists, there do seem to be many people willing to take action in order to defend the ‘scientific’ quest for truth.

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