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/
Denis Rancourt on the peer review process.

Dr. Denis G. Rancourt was a professor of physics for more than 20 years at the University of Ottawa, up to the highest rank of Full Professor, until 2009. He has authored more than 100 articles published in leading peer-reviewed scientific journals, in the fields of physics, and environmental science. His scientific research has been concentrated in the areas of spectroscopic and diffraction measurement methods, magnetism, reactive environmental nanoparticles, aquatic sediments and nutrients, and boreal forest lakes.

Sivad wrote:

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.

Scientists fight a lot. But they also have ways to deal with conflict. There is literally millions of things they don't argue over. It's settled science.

There are also permanent turf wars. In biology, the theorists are always in conflict with the particularists. It's a forest and trees thing. Some guys work on the forest, others deal with the trees. They don't come to the same conclusions.

Consensus is never universal. The old guys get left behind, kooks get ignored. Kids and money go where the action is.

Climate change was first found in the 70s. Scientists fought about it for over a decade. But it mostly wasn't about whether change was happening, it was about the how and why.

Now, if you pay attention, that change is in the news constantly. The polar caps are melting, the seas are warming, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

That guy was part of a reaction against science that came and went. It went when it became obvious we needed science to deal with the problems. I remember that quite well, because it was weird.

Fortunately, it's for the most part over.

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