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By Kaiserschmarrn
#14742057
City Journal wrote:
The Real War on Science

My liberal friends sometimes ask me why I don’t devote more of my science journalism to the sins of the Right. It’s fine to expose pseudoscience on the left, they say, but why aren’t you an equal-opportunity debunker? Why not write about conservatives’ threat to science?

My friends don’t like my answer: because there isn’t much to write about. Conservatives just don’t have that much impact on science. I know that sounds strange to Democrats who decry Republican creationists and call themselves the “party of science.” But I’ve done my homework. I’ve read the Left’s indictments, including Chris Mooney’s bestseller, The Republican War on Science. I finished it with the same question about this war that I had at the outset: Where are the casualties?

Where are the scientists who lost their jobs or their funding? What vital research has been corrupted or suppressed? What scientific debate has been silenced? Yes, the book reveals that Republican creationists exist, but they don’t affect the biologists or anthropologists studying evolution. Yes, George W. Bush refused federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, but that hardly put a stop to it (and not much changed after Barack Obama reversed the policy). Mooney rails at scientists and politicians who oppose government policies favored by progressives like himself, but if you’re looking for serious damage to the enterprise of science, he offers only three examples.

All three are in his first chapter, during Mooney’s brief acknowledgment that leftists “here and there” have been guilty of “science abuse.” First, there’s the Left’s opposition to genetically modified foods, which stifled research into what could have been a second Green Revolution to feed Africa. Second, there’s the campaign by animal-rights activists against medical researchers, whose work has already been hampered and would be devastated if the activists succeeded in banning animal experimentation. Third, there’s the resistance in academia to studying the genetic underpinnings of human behavior, which has cut off many social scientists from the recent revolutions in genetics and neuroscience. Each of these abuses is far more significant than anything done by conservatives, and there are plenty of others. The only successful war on science is the one waged by the Left.

The danger from the Left does not arise from stupidity or dishonesty; those failings are bipartisan. Some surveys show that Republicans, particularly libertarians, are more scientifically literate than Democrats, but there’s plenty of ignorance all around. Both sides cherry-pick research and misrepresent evidence to support their agendas. Whoever’s in power, the White House plays politics in appointing advisory commissions and editing the executive summaries of their reports. Scientists of all ideologies exaggerate the importance of their own research and seek results that will bring them more attention and funding.

But two huge threats to science are peculiar to the Left—and they’re getting worse.

The first threat is confirmation bias,
the well-documented tendency of people to seek out and accept information that confirms their beliefs and prejudices. In a classic study of peer review, 75 psychologists were asked to referee a paper about the mental health of left-wing student activists. Some referees saw a version of the paper showing that the student activists’ mental health was above normal; others saw different data, showing it to be below normal. Sure enough, the more liberal referees were more likely to recommend publishing the paper favorable to the left-wing activists. When the conclusion went the other way, they quickly found problems with its methodology.

Scientists try to avoid confirmation bias by exposing their work to peer review by critics with different views, but it’s increasingly difficult for liberals to find such critics. Academics have traditionally leaned left politically, and many fields have essentially become monocultures, especially in the social sciences, where Democrats now outnumber Republicans by at least 8 to 1. (In sociology, where the ratio is 44 to 1, a student is much likelier to be taught by a Marxist than by a Republican.) The lopsided ratio has led to another well-documented phenomenon: people’s beliefs become more extreme when they’re surrounded by like-minded colleagues. They come to assume that their opinions are not only the norm but also the truth.

Groupthink has become so routine that many scientists aren’t even aware of it. Social psychologists, who have extensively studied conscious and unconscious biases against out-groups, are quick to blame these biases for the underrepresentation of women or minorities in the business world and other institutions. But they’ve been mostly oblivious to their own diversity problem, which is vastly larger. Democrats outnumber Republicans at least 12 to 1 (perhaps 40 to 1) in social psychology, creating what Jonathan Haidt calls a “tribal-moral community” with its own “sacred values” about what’s worth studying and what’s taboo.

[...]

And that brings us to the second great threat from the Left: its long tradition of mixing science and politics. To conservatives, the fundamental problem with the Left is what Friedrich Hayek called the fatal conceit: the delusion that experts are wise enough to redesign society. Conservatives distrust central planners, preferring to rely on traditional institutions that protect individuals’ “natural rights” against the power of the state. Leftists have much more confidence in experts and the state. Engels argued for “scientific socialism,” a redesign of society supposedly based on the scientific method. Communist intellectuals planned to mold the New Soviet Man. Progressives yearned for a society guided by impartial agencies unconstrained by old-fashioned politics and religion. Herbert Croly, founder of the New Republic and a leading light of progressivism, predicted that a “better future would derive from the beneficent activities of expert social engineers who would bring to the service of social ideals all the technical resources which research could discover.”

[...]


Long article which goes on to give plenty of examples. Can't argue with most of it.

Diversity of opinion is the only type of diversity of real importance, yet it's the only type of diversity progressives either don't care about or in many cases outright oppose. This is exacerbated by their tendency to demand "constructive" or "civilised" (by their own definition) criticism:

Inside Psychology’s ‘Methodological Terrorism’ Debate wrote:
It isn’t every day that an academic researcher publicly compares some of her colleagues to terrorists, so it’s probably no surprise that what happened last month sparked a heated debate. That’s when a draft version of an upcoming column in the Association for Psychological Science’s Observer magazine was published online. Written by Susan Fiske, a highly regarded social psychologist at Princeton, the former head of the APS, and a longtime editor at the online journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS, the column decries the current tone of academic debate within the field of psychology.

[...]

"These unmoderated attacks create collateral damage to targets’ careers and well being, with no accountability for the bullies. Our colleagues at all career stages are leaving the field because of the sheer adversarial viciousness. I have heard from graduate students opting out of academia, assistant professors afraid to come up for tenure, mid-career people wondering how to protect their labs, and senior faculty retiring early, all because of methodological terrorism."

[...]

Considering the kind of students we are currently breeding at our universities, who increasingly demand to be shielded from events, opinions and even words that, in their own view, adversely affect their well-being, science is in even more trouble than it currently is.

It is no surprise that there is a blanket mistrust of science among many conservatives. Not only are many fields nothing more than progressive echo chambers, but personal sensibilities are increasingly used to evade and ignore criticism. Add to this the hubris about their own objectivity that scientists often display and our broken publishing and peer review system, and you have such a toxic mix that it seems pretty reasonable to be a priori skeptical not only of ridiculous research that claims that hurricanes with female names are taken less seriously, but of the whole scientific enterprise.
By foxdemon
#14742072
The author is right to point out the emperor is not wearing any clothes.

Western academia likes to pride itself on the virtues of an open mind, objective assessment of the evidence and critical review. Furthermore, the notion of education is to teach people how to think not what to think. However, for at least half a century these ideals of the liberal mind have become image rather than substance.

To my mind there are strong parallels to be seen between conservative theocracy and contemporary western social science. The article presents a good explanation as to why this might be so. Left wing acedemia holds itself above criticism, seeking the moral high ground to maintain this invulnerability, with the intention of asserting dominance over the society of which they are a part.

Like a theocracy, they can not allow their beliefs to come into question. After all, the foundation of their status and authority are those beliefs. They are compelled, furthermore, to force others to bow to those same beliefs. As with proselytising religion, only when their beliefs are accepted as norms will their authority be accepted by all. And like theocracies, they must marginalise the non-believer. There is no room in their minds for objective assessment of the evidence or an open mind. There is only the will to power.

We see this mansifest in a refusal to even consider the arguments or interests of individuals or groups who might lie outside the realm of left wing morality. Instead various tactics are deployed to delegitimise, deflect or otherwise dismiss such interests, even to the point of advocating and justifying violence against the political heretic or heathen.

Western social science is a theocracy. It has much more in common with extreme Islamic theocracy than any tradition of intellectual freedom or liberal thinking. And it should be no surprise it shuts down acedemic progress in the same way a theocracy does. It should also be noted that the people this system of belief produces are not at all unlike the extremists produced by the medieval Christian church, such as the Inquisition. And it should be no surprise it's appeals to charity and social justice make it the secular 'opium of the masses' (how ironic).

The social scientists are Western culture's fanatics.
#14742081
It is no longer restricted to the social sciences. It happens wherever left/progressive causes and fields intersect with real science. Two examples are climate science and wherever psychology overlaps with medicine.

With the former, lack of openness about data and methods is excused by the threat to the cause of saving the planet and scientist can identify as activists (although they prefer the term advocates) and nobody bats an eyelid. With the latter, the biases and often abysmal standards of psychological research enters the medical sciences, and while pharmacological trials are ever more scrutinised, they pretty much get a free pass in comparison. I've even heard the excuse that there is so much bad psychological research out there, why should we get worked up about any particular study in particular. :knife:
#14742085
@Kaiserschmarrn

Your citation of the Inside Psychology debate over 'methodological terrorism' is not at all relevant to your argument.

I sincerely hope you were not being deliberately disingenuous. The debate over methodology has to do with the increasing impatience with sloppy methodology and bad statistical practices, in the field of psychology. It is the critics of this sloppiness who have been branded by some as 'methodological terrorists.' This has nothing at all to do with SJWs, safe-spaces, etc. - it is purely a scientific debate. Some feelings are inevitably being hurt, but it is a good sign that this debate is taking place.

Note that this debate is not all relevant to the subject of SJWs, safe spaces, etc, and 'conservatives' attempt to somehow claim a methodological high ground is beyond absurd.

If you really want to defend science you would be far better off by imposing a $10000 fine every time a pol or talking head uses the phrase "I'm not a scientist, but...[absurd anti-scientific argument]."
#14742087
quetzalcoatl wrote:@Kaiserschmarrn

Your citation of the Inside Psychology debate over 'methodological terrorism' is not at all relevant to your argument.

I sincerely hope you were not being deliberately disingenuous. The debate over methodology has to do with the increasing impatience with sloppy methodology and bad statistical practices, in the field of psychology. It is the critics of this sloppiness who have been branded by some as 'methodological terrorists.' This has nothing at all to do with SJWs, safe-spaces, etc. - it is purely a scientific debate. Some feelings are inevitably being hurt, but it is a good sign that this debate is taking place.

Note that this debate is not all relevant to the subject of SJWs, safe spaces, etc, and 'conservatives' attempt to somehow claim a methodological high ground is beyond absurd.

If you really want to defend science you would be far better off by imposing a $10000 fine every time a pol or talking head uses the phrase "I'm not a scientist, but...[absurd anti-scientific argument]."

I'm not disingenuous at all. The people that don't want to be criticised invoke, among other things, the same argument as the current snowflake students: that their own well being is jeopardised by "vicious attacks". As we see in universities, and not only in the US, this is becoming increasingly acceptable.

You need to read my post again if you think that I claim that conservatives have a "methodological high ground" (I'm not even sure what this means, tbh).
#14742091
I'm glad you are not being disingenuous. Nevertheless, the scientific debate over methodology in social sciences is generally unrelated to your argument concerning the dismal campus social climate. Methodology is a specific and limited tool used to evaluate the validity of scientific research. Of course, all sorts of people use arguments that are vaguely similar (human beings being what they are). This hardly carries over to the validity of the argument to any particular situation.

However, I agree with the general idea that people need to be tougher in the face of criticism, and more unafraid to dish it out when justified. In a civil way, of course!
#14742093
quetzalcoatl wrote:I'm glad you are not being disingenuous. Nevertheless, the scientific debate over methodology in social sciences is generally unrelated to your argument concerning the dismal campus social climate. Methodology is a specific and limited tool used to evaluate the validity of scientific research. Of course, all sorts of people use arguments that are vaguely similar (human beings being what they are). This hardly carries over to the validity of the argument to any particular situation.

However, I agree with the general idea that people need to be tougher in the face of criticism, and more unafraid to dish it out when justified. In a civil way, of course!

I really don't see how it's unrelated. The social sciences are, with few exceptions, dominated by progressives and progressives have a tendency to elevate their own sensibilities and that of protected groups above anything else. What's more, they are increasingly demanding that everybody else does the same. In my OP I clearly stated that these attitudes exacerbate the problem. It is, after all, extremely easy to hide behind them if you don't want to be criticised.

I'm not sure why you wouldn't regard this as a real threat to scientific debate, regardless of whether it concerns the current argument about the methodological failings in the social sciences or anything else; especially considering the snowflake culture that we are currently witnessing at universities.
#14742096
Snowflake sensibilities are bad enough. The main threat to science doesn't come from this direction, in my opinion.

Science depends on a relentless allegiance to the legitimacy of evidence over all forms of belief, hope, and faith. The critique of global warming from the right is not based on evidence.* You know this to be true, don't you? It is based on deeply-held personal conviction and financial interest. This is absolutely the the only reason the 'controversy' even exists.

If the argument were about string theory, nobody would give a rat's arse over the methodology involved. But because the debate over climate has direct implications over our personal lives, people will feel threatened.

Another factor is that study of complex non-linear physical phenomena is not deterministic. We can only assign probabilities and assess risk factors.

------

*The incoming administration has plans to cut or eliminate NASA'a climate science budget. I hope a few of you realize this will not affect the underlying physical processes at work. Reality will in the end obviate such efforts, but the architects of this won't be around to answer for their actions.
#14742111
quetzalcoatl wrote:Snowflake sensibilities are bad enough. The main threat to science doesn't come from this direction, in my opinion.

Science depends on a relentless allegiance to the legitimacy of evidence over all forms of belief, hope, and faith. The critique of global warming from the right is not based on evidence.* You know this to be true, don't you? It is based on deeply-held personal conviction and financial interest. This is absolutely the the only reason the 'controversy' even exists.

If the argument were about string theory, nobody would give a rat's arse over the methodology involved. But because the debate over climate has direct implications over our personal lives, people will feel threatened.

It doesn't matter what the motives of the opponents are. It's far, far more dangerous to let scientists hide their data and methods without them immediately losing their credibility. The same goes for activist scientists.

quetzalcoatl wrote:Another factor is that study of complex non-linear physical phenomena is not deterministic. We can only assign probabilities and assess risk factors.

Non-linear systems are deterministic. We are limited by sensitivity to initial conditions and computing power/the granularity that we can use.

We are only relatively good in assigning probabilities and assessing risk if we know the errors involved and how they propagate through the system. Ideally we should have experienced the events we study plenty of times - the more often the better - to be able to update our methods accordingly. A relatively simple thing like elections forecasts based on polls was apparently hampered by almost nobody realising that the polling errors, which were small, were correlated, which should have been reflected in the predictions (at the very least by a much wider confidence interval).

quetzalcoatl wrote:*The incoming administration has plans to cut or eliminate NASA'a climate science budget. I hope a few of you realize this will not affect the underlying physical processes at work. Reality will in the end obviate such efforts, but the architects of this won't be around to answer for their actions.

I doubt it will be eliminated, and wouldn't support it, but I welcome the redirection to space exploration.
#14742126
Kaiserschmarrn wrote:It doesn't matter what the motives of the opponents are. It's far, far more dangerous to let scientists hide their data and methods without them immediately losing their credibility. The same goes for activist scientists.


Motives are critical. Respect for truth is critical. The fact that we live in a post-truth era is the greatest threat to science. Trumpism does not respect truth, nor do his supporters. This is a demonstrable fact.

Having siad that, I would support transparency of data and methodology. I would like to see scientific papers made made accessible to the public as well.
Non-linear systems are deterministic. We are limited by sensitivity to initial conditions and computing power/the granularity that we can use.


We are limited by more than that. Non-linear systems cannot be modeled deterministically either in theory or practice, only approximated. We have a long history (more than a century) of dealing rigorously with such systems. Thermodynamics is both precise and non-deterministic, in its actual application.

We are only relatively good in assigning probabilities and assessing risk if we know the errors involved and how they propagate through the system. Ideally we should have experienced the events we study plenty of times - the more often the better - to be able to update our methods accordingly. A relatively simple thing like elections forecasts based on polls was apparently hampered by almost nobody realising that the polling errors, which were small, were correlated, which should have been reflected in the predictions (at the very least by a much wider confidence interval).


Fair enough. We have to add the caveat that some systems happen in real time and are not reproducible. We have to be satisfied with a lesser degree of certainty in those cases.

I doubt it will be eliminated, and wouldn't support it, but I welcome the redirection to space exploration.


Space exploration is worthwhile, within limits. The most important limit in human space exploration is physical survival. Recent studies have indicated that humans are far more vulnerable to radiation than previously supposed. Hard radiation can induce brain changes that permanently reduce cognitive abilities.

The upshot is that without more rapid transportation, humanity will never populate the solar system. Humans cannot survive on the moon or Mars because they have no magnetosphere.

Unmanned space exploration will be the only option going forward.
User avatar
By anna
#14742129
Considering the kind of students we are currently breeding at our universities, who increasingly demand to be shielded from events, opinions and even words that, in their own view, adversely affect their well-being, science is in even more trouble than it currently is.


Well, seeing the explicit bias in the first sentence, I stopped for a moment and looked at the source. No surprise that it's City Journal, which is published by a conservative think tank, the Manhattan Institute.

our broken publishing and peer review system


One thing that would help would be putting the brakes on pay-to-publish.

The first threat is confirmation bias


Which is a problem and a challenge for everyone, regardless of ideology, and certainly not limited to the left.

And that brings us to the second great threat from the Left: its long tradition of mixing science and politics.


Which reminds me of the right and its long tradition of mixing religion and science and politics.


Last year, one of the leading scientific journals, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, published an article by Haidt and five colleagues documenting their profession’s lack of ideological diversity. It was accompanied by commentaries from 63 other social scientists, virtually all of whom, even the harshest critics, accepted the authors’ conclusion that the lack of political diversity has harmed the science of social psychology. The authors and the commentators pointed to example after example of how the absence of conservatives has blinded researchers to flaws in their work, particularly when studying people’s ideology and morality.


What?! What's this objectivity I'm seeing from the left?!

When Crawford (who is a liberal) did his own study involving a wider range of groups, he found that prejudice is bipartisan. Liberals display strong prejudice against religious Christians and other groups they perceive as right of center.


More liberal objectivity?!

In 1965, when Daniel Patrick Moynihan published a paper presciently warning of the dangers for black children growing up in single-parent homes, it was greeted with such hostility—he was blaming the victim, critics said—that the topic became off-limits among liberals, stymying public discussion and research for decades into one of the most pressing problems facing minority children.


It was controversial, to be sure. Here's another look:

The Moynihan Report: An Annotated Edition
A historian unpacks The Negro Family: The Case for National Action on its 50th anniversary.


The Left’s most rigid taboos...
These same sneer-and-smear techniques...
To dedicated leftists and feminists...


:roll:

Similarly, the Left’s zeal to find new reasons to regulate has led to pseudoscientific scaremongering about “Frankenfoods,” transfats, BPA in plastic, mobile phones, electronic cigarettes, power lines, fracking, and nuclear energy.


So... what's he saying, exactly? No reason to be concerned about any of the above? Or does his confirmation bias automatically negate anything from the "left?"

To preserve their integrity, scientists should avoid politics and embrace the skeptical rigor that their profession requires. They need to start welcoming conservatives and others who will spot their biases and violate their taboos.


Yes, scientists should avoid politics. Part of avoiding politics would be to... avoid checking for conservative credentials. Also... I guess maybe there should be a gofundme page to raise money for conservative halo polish? Because apparently without a conservative halo, it's impossible to spot biases. (As for violating taboos... well... coming from the right, that's just funny. :) )
By foxdemon
#14742625
Kaiserschmarrn wrote:It is no longer restricted to the social sciences. It happens wherever left/progressive causes and fields intersect with real science. Two examples are climate science and wherever psychology overlaps with medicine.

With the former, lack of openness about data and methods is excused by the threat to the cause of saving the planet and scientist can identify as activists (although they prefer the term advocates) and nobody bats an eyelid. With the latter, the biases and often abysmal standards of psychological research enters the medical sciences, and while pharmacological trials are ever more scrutinised, they pretty much get a free pass in comparison. I've even heard the excuse that there is so much bad psychological research out there, why should we get worked up about any particular study in particular. :knife:



I accept that. Environmentalism has introduced an uncompromising influence in science. It should also be noted economics has it's own form of ideological correctness. Western universities today play the role the church once did, shaping a system of belief to structure the social order. Whether they are economic rationalists, environmentalists, or even Marxists, they all serve the established order as the 'first estate' of contemporary western culture.

And learning, as you point out, comes second to politics. So, what can be done about it?
#14742745
When it comes to the influence of politics on science, the climate change debate is interesting.

Despite the mountains of evidence concerning climate change, very little is being done about it by gov'ts. Obvioulsy, the influence of the right is powerful enough that the science is completely ignored.
By foxdemon
#14742805
Pants-of-dog wrote:When it comes to the influence of politics on science, the climate change debate is interesting.

Despite the mountains of evidence concerning climate change, very little is being done about it by gov'ts. Obvioulsy, the influence of the right is powerful enough that the science is completely ignored.



I don't think lack of progress on addressing climate change demonstrates the power of the right. Rather it shows how difficult it is to move world economies away from hydrocarbon energy sources. Progress was made with pesticides such as DDT and on issues like ozone depletion, at least in those countries with a strong regulatory tradition. But this were easy to deal with compared to the problem of energy and carbon emissions.

I'm sure the right would like to think they have that much influence, but I don't think they are what is slowing progress on the issue.
User avatar
By Lexington
#14742807
foxdemon wrote:I don't think lack of progress on addressing climate change demonstrates the power of the right. Rather it shows how difficult it is to move world economies away from hydrocarbon energy sources.


This would be an easier claim to make if the right wasn't going around explicitly denying climate science.
#14742917
quetzalcoatl wrote:
Motives are critical. Respect for truth is critical. The fact that we live in a post-truth era is the greatest threat to science. Trumpism does not respect truth, nor do his supporters. This is a demonstrable fact.

Motives are only important insofar as they give us an idea what the likely direction and type of bias is, but they cannot tell us whether it exists or not. I would argue that we should never assume that there is no bias, and this is obviously not restricted to political views. I would also say that respect for truth is a noble but not achievable goal. You and I would probably both say we respect the truth, yet on some issues it will be very difficult to convince us to change our minds, and these issues will almost certainly be different.

It's futile to rely on people policing themselves. What we need to do is harness these human failings. If my views diverge from yours, then you are the best person to scrutinise my work, because you want to find faults in it. I will almost certainly not be able to be as critical as you, your perspective will be different and you might come up with alternative explanations that I never thought of. That's why diversity in opinion - political and otherwise - is vital and secrecy is toxic.

Otherwise, I think we agree more than we disagree.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

anna wrote:Which is a problem and a challenge for everyone, regardless of ideology, and certainly not limited to the left.

Precisely, and the first article I quoted makes that point. It argues that because of this the more politically homogeneous a field is the more vulnerable it becomes to being not much more than an echo chamber.

anna wrote:What?! What's this objectivity I'm seeing from the left?!
More liberal objectivity?!

Yes, and among conservatives we would surely also find critical/more objective than average people. Yet I suspect you would agree that as a group they have a tendency to gravitate towards certain conclusions that confirm their political views/values, and even more so if they don't have to expose their work to alternative viewpoints.

anna wrote:So... what's he saying, exactly? No reason to be concerned about any of the above? Or does his confirmation bias automatically negate anything from the "left?"

Your defensive reaction is actually a good demonstration for the problems the article points out. After all, few would argue that criticising conservative positions on certain subjects means "negating anything that comes from the right".

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

foxdemon wrote:I accept that. Environmentalism has introduced an uncompromising influence in science. It should also be noted economics has it's own form of ideological correctness. Western universities today play the role the church once did, shaping a system of belief to structure the social order. Whether they are economic rationalists, environmentalists, or even Marxists, they all serve the established order as the 'first estate' of contemporary western culture.

And learning, as you point out, comes second to politics. So, what can be done about it?

I think the only way is openness and transparency from start to finish. Ideally, that would start with scientists making public their protocol - i.e. what they want to study and how - before they begin their work. Any changes to that protocol would have to be documented and justified publicly as well and they should always include the analysis based on the original protocol, so that one can see how their changes have affected the reported findings. Their data must be available on a public repository at the time of publication, because it often turns out to be impossible to get data that is "available on request". There must be a mechanism to enforce corrections and retractions must become much more common - journals currently have little incentive to retract and some actually charge scientists a fee for retracting their paper. The whole publishing business is skewed towards - often wrong - positive findings, when in fact knowledge about null results is just as important, even more so in the age of meta-analyses. Peer review, as practised by journals today, on its own is pretty useless. We should look to arvix where scientists peer-review each others' work pre-publication, which means that publications that get rejected by journals are also publicly available. Post-publication review is also important and for that transparency and openness are required.

I could go on but this would be a good start. Ultimately, I think that we need a cultural shift away from our almost idolising scientists and hoping for them to be as objective as possible to intolerance of lack of methodological rigour and sloppy research practices. Regulations and procedures can go a long way to preventing the worst in that respect, but there is nothing as effective as social pressure from your peers. If you are likely to lose credibility and respect from your peers if your methods are sloppy, if you are not open or if you spin your results to sound better than they actually are, you'll think twice about engaging in such practices. Currently, these practices carry little risk - although there is significant variation between fields - and so we are swamped by ever more bad research. It's not only a giant waste but also a serious impediment to scientific progress.
User avatar
By Drlee
#14742963
What a great discussion. I am enjoying this immensely. Thank you Kaiserschmarm, et all.

Simple observations.

There is a considerable difference between what any "expert" believes and what their expertise serves. A scientist working in industry possessing the same set of facts expresses his/her conclusions in the service of that industry. That is pretty obvious. And it is transparent. We all know who that scientist serves. This is not true of those laboring in the groves of Academe. Academics can and do claim an objectivity to which they ought not any longer lay claim. As was pointed out, within their personal situations they are virtually compelled to "tow the line" yet the are far to quick to dismiss this.

I don't see a solution. How do you restore objectivity to science when there is no compelling (other than purely personal) reason for any one scientist to strive for it? Science has always been in the service of the non-scientist and "for" the nonscientific public. There has never really existed a "science for science" sake space.

Defending conservatism as a conservative I would point out that our job, as Buckley said, "is to stand athwart history and shout stop". I "believe" in global warming. I want us to do something about it. I find it settled science. BUT.

Climate science, physics, chemistry, all stand in the dock alongside the social sciences. One has to admit that much of the rapid social change happening today looks for justification to sketchy science to say the least. Our view of homosexuality comes to mind. We really don't know why some people are homosexual and others not. There are interesting leads and promising data. Yet in a modern university this is treated like settled science. In my own field of public health there are simply too many things taken as scientific truth, that when one even suggests that we check the numbers, calls down upon our heads the wrath of the scientifically "pure" - meeting in community. Many is the time I have had personal conversations with another public health person about this study or that only to have them admit that the research is poor and the conclusions questionable, but that I am out of my effing mind if I think they have any interest in saying so.

Trickle down works.

So now the completely rational questioning of the data before we commit our country to billions of dollars in potential financial loss become "unscientific". It is perfectly scientific of course. The problem is that soon the mere fact that one or two politicians are doing some questioning trickles down to the voting public. And if this public happens to be in a state that derives a great deal of its income from coal mining, there is bound to be pressure. And the pressure hits a wall. The wall is "scientists working at universities". The public is basically told:

You cannot possibly understand the science.

You would not sit still long enough for us to explain it to you.

You are blinded by your financial concerns.

How dare you question our research!!! We are PHDs and professors (genuflect). We live in a world where we are not questioned and especially by the likes of you.

And don't give me that shit (oh so inconveniently true though it may be) that you are paying out salaries.


I am a conservative and something of a scientist and I can see this first hand. It us unfair for an educator to complain about those who they have failed to educate.
By Rugoz
#14742980
There's a strong incentive to publish work which is new and interesting and contradicts existing work in a meaningful way.

There's arguably conformism when it comes to methodology, although that must not necessarily be a bad thing.

When you have a presidential candidate saying that global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese, and he actually gets elected, you know it's not the "educated" who are the problem.
By foxdemon
#14743087
Lexington wrote:This would be an easier claim to make if the right wasn't going around explicitly denying climate science.



The activities of those we think of as right wing don't change the fact there is no viable alternative to hydrocarbon energy. Not quite yet, anyway. Unless, Lexington, you have the solution to replacing hydrocarbons and you've been holding out on us. If not, my statement stands.

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