David Noble: Time for the left once again to put science in perspective - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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David Franklin Noble (July 22, 1945 – December 27, 2010) was a critical historian of technology, science and education, best known for his seminal work on the social history of automation. In his final years he taught in the Division of Social Science, and the department of Social and Political Thought at York University in Toronto, Canada. Noble held positions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Smithsonian Institution, and Drexel University, as well as many visiting professorships.


Suzan Mazur: You’ ve said "[I]t is perhaps time for the Left once again to put science in perspective." That the Left criticizing the informed critics of science as participating in "anti-science" is a sign that the Left really needs to "return to the revolution". Would you comment further?

David Noble: What I mean there is, and this is what I outline in that article, the Left grows out of a critique of religion in the beginning of the 19th and end of the 18th century. And science was the substitute. They substituted science for religion.

Suzan Mazur: You also say those roots are intertwined with mysogynism.

David Noble: Ok. That’s another issue. Let’s keep it simple. The point here is that science became like God. But since WWII, in part because of Hiroshima and other events, other products of science, critique of science became a very serious matter. And the Left was very much involved in looking anew at looking at science as political. And scientists as human beings and as people with interests, etc. So they de-mythologized science.

It went by many different names. Social construction of science, whatever. For decades people were, and still in some quarters are, looking very critically at this whole enterprise. And then along comes this global warming campaign. And you have these people like George Monbiot and others acting as if there had never been any critical examination of science.

Al Gore – his whole theme is propaganda. A consensus of scientists. Well, when you have a consensus of scientists, that should set off alarms. That scientists shouldn’t be consensual. There should be all sorts of controversy in science.

Suzan Mazur: You’ve also got scientists in evolutionary biology who pound on the creationists because they don’t have fresh discoveries themselves. What they’re doing is making an industry out of bashing the creationists – instead of improving the science. That’s what’s happening on the science blogs, where you get these virtual death squads opposing any science that veers from Darwin orthodoxy. Characters purporting to be atheist scientists who are actually violent Darwin religious cultists censoring the free flow of ideas. Making statements like, "I'm always happy to see a fellow hang himself"

That’s the peer review that’s now popular. It’s degenerated into a bloody massacre.

David Noble: Tribalism is rampant. The idea that people still hold is that science is this community of inquirers and that they review one another’s work has never been true. It’s always been mythical. . . .

The peer review thing, the reason why it works is because people’s careers are implicated in it. Anyone who wants to be promoted or get a job has to SUBMIT to this regime. I never did But I’m the exception. And I come out of a different moment in time perhaps. There’s no way I could probably get a PhD today. There’s certainly no way I could have become an academic. No way. That’s what’s going on now. People might have concerns about this, but they have no choice but to SUBMIT.

That’s what they’re told. So those anonymous peer reviewers have absolute decisive power over people's professional lives.

Suzan Mazur: So you're saying that one way we can change this is to get the public onto the National Science Foundation and government science panels.

David Noble: Yes.

My criticism of peer review, which for me is no big deal, turns out to be unique. Nobody’s talking about this. When George Monbiot attacks Alexander Cockburn by saying that the stuff Cockburn is referring to was not peer reviewed, and I say what kind of an idiot is Monbiot.
David Dixon was a writer for Science and Nature. . . There was a time when there were science journalists who were alert to this and understood the politics of science. But when this whole climate change thing came down the pike, all of these self-interested people – Monbiot had a book to sell. All the environmentalists are getting probably millions of dollars in foundation money to peddle this. And they’re still doing it even though the whole thing has collapsed. And it’s completely disqualifying the public by saying it all depends on the IPPC. It all depends on peer-reviewed journals. That’s what they were saying.

When you look at all this sordid stuff at East Anglia University about climate change. People begin asking: And this is the foundation of the whole game? It's like the Left just went to sleep.

Suzan Mazur: People have been bought off.

David Noble: Right. And when Alex Cockburn and I and Denis Rancourt raised questions about it, we were just pilloried by the Left, which is mindboggling.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2010/02/26 ... ensorship/

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