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Dahlen comments on To Spread Science, Keep It Secret - Less Wrong

37 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 28 March 2008 05:47AM

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Comment author: Dahlen 25 July 2012 01:11:45PM 2 points [-]

You seem to be working on the assumption that imbuing science with an aura of mysteriousness, at the expense of availability of knowledge, would somehow attract more enthusiasts than it would repel. Or, in other words, that there are more people whose main reason for not being into science is an (inaccurate) idea of it as a dry, boring, completely un-mystical pursuit, than there are scientifically-inclined people that would become frustrated with the cultishness and the secrecy and eventually quit, in the eventuality of a scenario like the one you proposed.

This seems quite unlikely to me, and I'll explain why.

For the most part it's a feeling that the scenario you came up with is pandering to the wrong audience. Consider the present state of things. Science is more or less out in the open, if you have the resources (mental, financial, time) to learn; a large majority of people is apathetic about science even after (presumably) having had encounters with it at various points during their education; some people that have probably had about the same encounters with science have gotten enthusiastic about it, and obviously did not need any science cults to get them to pursue it. Your thought experiment seems to be designed to attract more of the first.

First there's the concern about whether that "untapped" audience really has the potential to bring contributions that match the effort spent with attracting them. These people have been exposed to science already -- and it had no effect on their interests! In this case, do you think they'd really join a mathematics "cult" for the equations, and not for the social standing or need to adhere to a group? If not, then do they hold promise as potential thinkers?

As for the second category of people, those who wouldn't need any of that bullshit social incentives anyway, like I said, the unavailability of knowledge might be a disincentive. Science is hard enough as it is. It takes years and years to gather a decent enough body of knowledge in order to actually get to make advances in your own field; introducing silly social rituals along the way won't speed up the learning process. Moreover, there's the danger of not getting your message across in the first place, of it not reaching all of the people that could have been interested. So, all in all, bad idea.

Of course, I know you meant this more as speculation than anything; the premise just seemed faulty to me.