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Science is an endeavor aimed at increasing our contact with events in the natural world in a way that allows us to more effectively interact with those events (Skinner, 1953; Kantor, 1953). However, the information generated by science does not always lead to adoption by the common public. In a recent editorial blog post by I F*cking Love Science (IFLS) the author discussed barriers that are commonly associated with people turning away from science and toward alternative “explanations.”
The blog discussed specific barriers to disseminating science such as: scientific writing being too full of jargon and inaccessible to a lay public, alternative competing sources of information, and political motives. The author suggested a solution to create an infrastructure composed of authors, politicians, sociologists, and others that are friendly to science and communicate to the public in a more accessible manner.
Kantor emphasized the importance of a systematic approach to conducting science. He recommended a systematic evaluation of the activities of scientists and provided a naturalistic framework for scientific practice. Kantor noted that any particular branch of science often found multiple answers for a single question, utilized alternative theoretical assumptions, or had general disagreement within the field.
Some scientific fields may be well-suited for the activity of disseminating science. Specifically, a scientific field oriented toward analyzing all behavior (including that of the common public and that of scientists) is an auspicious candidate for conducting dissemination. For example, psychologist J.R. Kantor proposed that a logician of science could cohesively organize and synthesize the theoretical and empirical work of a field (Kantor, 1953). A logician may be an appropriate position for a person informed by the science of behavior. Although Kantor proposed the logician to be within a specific field, it is possible that a similar position that can be applied across fields could provide consistency of scientific findings and constructs across the spectrum of the sciences. In addition to the responsibilities of evaluating science for internal consistency, the logician would provide guidance on dissemination of scientific work to the relevant audience.
Alternative and seemingly common sense explanations of some events might be appealing to the lay public but actually be the opposite or highly disparate from scientific results—such as the hypothesis that vaccinations cause autism. How can or should scientists disseminate contrary information? Here are three general methods that have been attempted in the past:
1) Demonstrating that the original “cause” has been empirically shown to be false.
2) Appealing to the census of the public, values of society, or political agendas.
3) Presenting the information in a way that does not evoke avoidance or retaliation (signs of damage), but instead supports lay public communiques that more closely resemble the scientifically supported approach, with the goal of increasing the likelihood of lay public adoption.
The traditionally-trained scientist typically selects option 1, while the traditionally trained liberal arts or business majors would likely select option 2. However, a person informed by the science of behavior would select option 3.
The field of behavior analysis is in a position to prepare students to perform the functions of a logician of the sciences. It is the responsibility of the field of behavior analysis to advance our work to understanding complex human behavior, including the work of the scientist, adoption of scientific information, and the general advancement of solutions to socially significant concerns. This IFLS blog is initial evidence that there may be a need of a scientist of behavior who pursues information from a naturalistic orientation and who also understands human behavior in order to more effectively provide assistance to the sciences in general and increase the likelihood of adoption of empirical knowledge.
Do you think this would be a good way to disseminate? Let us know in the comments below! Also, be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox.
Kantor, J. R. (1953). The logic of modern science. Chicago, IL: Principia Press.
Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and human behavior. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
Following graduation from Master’s programs, many behavior analysts find themselves in a cold dark world where they are searching for the light of peers that share their approach to the subject-matter of behavior. One online group called Brohavior (derived from “brotherhood”) has recently created a refuge for behavior analyst looking for the light in order to continue their own development. The group aims to create a collaborative environment where students of behavior analysis are exposed to and pursue behavior analytic literature, philosophy and research that is outside of the scope of the BACB-approved course sequence. Click here to learn more about Brohavior.
Why does this article cite Kantor so frequently? From what I understand none of Kantor’s theories led to any fruitful lines of research.
Kantor was a philosopher of science, not a theoretician. Skinner was a theoretician as he focused mainly at the investigative level. Kantor focused on larger issues, especially the subject-matter of psychology, how to make psychology more naturalistic, etc… So, proponents of Kantor, like proponents of any philosophical system, would say that new data isn’t needed so much as new interpretations.