Science and the Alt-Right

One of the stranger aspects of some corners of the alt-right is the hostility to science. I don’t want to say it is a rejection of science, but something like an extreme skepticism about it. I was reminded of this reading Vox Day’s 16-point manifesto the other day. The part that jumped out to me is this one:

The Alt Right is scientodific. It presumptively accepts the current conclusions of the scientific method (scientody), while understanding a) these conclusions are liable to future revision, b) that scientistry is susceptible to corruption, and c) that the so-called scientific consensus is not based on scientody, but democracy, and is therefore intrinsically unscientific.

Vox seems to be trying very hard to declare himself the Pope of the alt-right so perhaps he is just getting carried away with himself with these posts, but he has made a big deal about being an anti-evolutionists that regularly kits himself out in the Don Quixote suit and runs around tilting at imaginary concepts. Usually, people opposed to evolution are coming at it from the perspective of self-styled Christians¹. That’s not the case with Vox as you see in this post titled The Crisis in Science.

There is no crisis in science. The soft sciences like psychology and sociology are certainly in trouble, but people have known that for a very long time. It’s not just the bogus studies either. It is the hard sciences, particularly biology, that are collapsing soft sciences like psychology. Once you arrive at a biochemical explanation for mental illness, there’s no need for guys in turtlenecks, smoking pipes and asking about your mother. Genetics is rendering many of the soft sciences meaningless, by exploding blank slatism.

The replication crisis that is bedeviling the soft science is not a problem in chemistry, physics or even biology where speculation is more common. The reason there is a replication crisis is the empirically minded from the hard sciences grew tired of the bullshit coming from the sociology department, showing up in the news as real science. It is science policing itself by enforcing the rules of science on those who seek to appropriate science for their own ends. This is a normal part of the scientific process.

What’s puzzling about the anti-science elements on the alt-right is they are not really motivated by religion, like we see with most Progressives. Rejecting science because it violates your deeply held beliefs is not irrational. It may be wrong, but it is not irrational. The anti-science people in the alt-right seem to be responding to the identity politics of the Left, which often waves the flag of science to justify their crackpot ideas. Since it takes too long to refute the Progressive pseudo-science, some on the alt-right simply reject science, or at least large parts of it.

This is to some degree understandable, as the alt-right is mostly a reaction to the extremism of the social justice movement. The unhinged assault on normalcy is often dressed up in the language of science. A degenerate in a sundress, who wants to watch your daughter pee, is excused as transgender, as if such a thing exists. People with Ph.D’s step forward to tell us how biological sex is a social construct and that there are unlimited number of “non-binary identities.” It perfectly understandable that normal people will get a little skeptical of scientists.

The interesting part of this is that big part of the alt-right is rooted in the growing fields of genetics, evolutionary biology and the cognitive sciences. Guys like Steve Sailer and John Derbyshire have been intellectual heavy weights of the movement for two decades, largely due to popularizing research in the cognitive sciences that contradict the Progressive faith. More than a few evolution guys have been “Watsoned” for promoting ideas from evolutionary biology.  Frankly, there would not be Vox Day if not for the science guys and their wild tales about evolution.

That’s the other interesting strangeness about the thing the press is now calling the alt-right. There’s a wide diversity of opinion within it and a wide diversity of opinion about what it is. Greg Cochran, I’m guessing, would laugh off the assertions of Vox Day, but guys like Richard Spencer would dismiss people like Razib Khan. Yet, there would be broad agreement among all of them when it comes to critiquing the prevailing orthodoxy. That suggests the anti-science stuff is just a way to make magic fit reality. Self-delusion is powerful stuff and not always a bad thing.

¹I’m sympathetic to creationist because they are harmless and their beliefs tend toward the sort of positive outcomes that make for a healthy Western society. You can be a great engineer and still believe Adam and Eve rode around on dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden. On the other hand, I have no tolerance for intelligent design people. They paganize the Christian concept of God, turning him into a fickle teenager, who alters the laws of nature for no reason. Intelligent design is not just anti-science, it is anti-Christian.

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Member

The Alt Right, like everyone I guess, likes certain findings of science and dislikes others.
They like the IQ data I post showing Blacks have lower IQs.
They don’t seem to like the data I post showing Jews have higher IQs.
I try to tell them I got the IQ data from the same source, but …

coyote
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coyote

Jewish IQ data is acknowledged throughout the alt-right, mostly with no “dislikes” apparent. “they don’t seem to like the data” has nothing to back up your assertion; how does this help the alt-right? Your criticism seems nothing more than a baseless smear- who are you intending to benefit with this?

Jim O\'Neil
Guest

“Jewish IQ data is acknowledged throughout the alt-right…”
How about the IQ Mongoloid vs Caucasoid data, is that accepted?

Buckaroo Banzai
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Buckaroo Banzai

“They don’t seem to like the data I post showing Jews have higher IQs. I try to tell them I got the IQ data from the same source, but …” You are extremely confused about the Alt-Right. We definitely believe that Jews have a higher IQ than every other ethnic or racial group. What concerns us is that Jews are rootless cosmopolitans that exhibit a very particular set of behaviors that tend to destabilize their host cultures in profoundly negative ways. Generally this results in their ostracism, expulsion, or worse. This has happened approximately 100 times in the last 2… Read more »

Member

Is medicine a hard science? I ask the question because I was a surgical subspecialist for over thirty years and was published for original investigations. Not a real Long CV, but it’s real. Also the first to perform many new procedures in my area and state. I have this to say about medical scientific publications: Mostly crap. The replication problem is not only to be found in psychology, sociology, etc., but I presume in every field of medicine as well. Physicians misrepresent (lie) about their results all the time. Sometimes for money. Pick up any recent issue of the Lancet.… Read more »

Member

Why Most Published Research Findings Are False – John P. A. Ioannidis
http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124

Member

Cognitive Neuroscience sounds nice and Hard Sciencey — nope.
Most papers appear to be bunk.

Empirical assessment of published effect sizes and power in the recent cognitive neuroscience and psychology literature http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2016/08/25/071530

“False report probability is likely to exceed 50% for the whole literature. In light of our findings the recently reported low replication success in psychology is realistic and worse performance may be expected for cognitive neuroscience.”

walt reed
Member

Doc, I have a very good friend here in Oklahoma City that is also an MD. He is (was) a hand specialist. Residency at Walter Reed during Vietnam. Sold his practice a few years ago. Worked as an employee at a major hospital for a few years. He retired after his second contract ended. He was terribly frustrated with the day to day HMO/Govt environment. His comments about journals match your opinions.

jwm
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jwm

You and Vox are currently my two favorite bloggers. Are you trying to bait Vox into an exchange? If so this could get very entertaining (in a good way)

JWM

jwm
Guest
jwm

Just to clarify: It was not my intention to be snarky. I didn’t mean to sound like I want to see a pissin’ match. But I would very much like to hear an exchange of ideas between you and Vox.

Member

“The replication crisis that is bedeviling the soft science is not a problem in chemistry, physics or even biology where speculation is more common. ”
–ZMan

“During a decade as head of global cancer research at Amgen, C. Glenn Begley identified 53 “landmark” publications — papers in top journals, from reputable labs — for his team to reproduce. Begley sought to double-check the findings before trying to build on them for drug development.

Result: 47 of the 53 could not be replicated. He described his findings in a commentary piece published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.”
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-science-cancer-idUSBRE82R12P20120328

Jak Black
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Jak Black

Z, maybe I’m just being dense, but this is the first post of yours that left me scratching my head. Can you explain exactly what bothers you about Vox’s statement? Not a huge Vox fan (he can be entertaining, but he’s definitely a d-bag), but I don’t see your problem. Maybe some specific examples of science they reject? I also second coyote’s comments regarding JonRiversToo. All I’ve seen is massive acknowledgement that Jews are damn smart. They despise some aspects of how that intellect is used (see: founding ladies of feminism), but I’ve never seen a denial that Jews are… Read more »

Uncola
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Uncola

I am not familiar with Vox Day and have only checked out the Vox website via the links posted here. But when I see terms like “Scientistry” it appears to be a blend of “Science” and “Ministry”. This could refer to the dogmatism in Science today that is akin to the Catholic church in the Middle Ages and as revealed in Ben Stein’s documentary, “Expelled”. Or, perhaps how the scientific conclusions supporting Climate Change seems to be determined by funding from questionable benefactors and for the purposes of political expediency. Regarding the adherence to Darwin’s 157 year old theory today… Read more »

nicainhouston
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nicainhouston

It is far more dire and widespread than you imagine, Z. Clinical studies in which the working assumption (the rock no one wants to turn over) is that if we can’t contact for follow up they must doing well. University pharma research that simply fails to replicate or has minuscule effects. Climate ‘science’ that has the working meteorologists (that SELL their forecasts to traders) rolling on the floor laughing… Where data is ‘homogenized’ again each month, not from the raw file, but from last month’s homogenized run, where the past is cooled to create trends, where linear analyses are applied… Read more »

Member

Two subjects left out of this blog post are climate “science” and government funded science

Al from da Nort
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Al from da Nort

Slightly OT, but for nerd fun ask any progressive frothing at the mouth about Creationism to explain Evolution. They usually can’t help themselves from conflating evolution with agency, as in, “Evolution does x….”. Evolution for most is a tautological explanation for ‘whatever is now’ . It’s actually a theory about an unobservable process posited from current observations. No more, no less. Is there strong evidence that it might be true_? Yes. Are there contradictory observations_? Again yes. To begin with, there is, so far as I know, no contemporary observation of actual speciation, just a strong inference that it happened… Read more »

fodderwing
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fodderwing

Good point, Al. Seems everything human these days is explained by evolutionary “biology,” which is about as much a science as sociology. I used to enjoy “The Great Courses” until of late they seem to explain everything in conjecturalized terms. One recent course on color explained that we respond to the color blue in certain ways because way back when we were tadpoles in the deep blue sea our circadian rhythms formed, or something. Last time I checked, the biggest thing we see every day in the here and now is the big blue sky, so the effect of blue… Read more »

Francis W. Porretto
Guest

A poor essay built on a foundation of straw. Try taking specific exception to the Vox Day quote. You didn’t do that in the above. And your “footnote” disparaging intelligent design proponents is gaseous and dismissible.

Fuel Filter
Guest
Fuel Filter

Science and the scientific method has taken a *huge* beating in the public eye due to the $1.5 Trillion fraud that is global warming. The bogus “97% of all scientists” agree with lie, NASA’s manipulation of data going back decades, the UN’s IPCC reports, the ClimateGate and Michael Mann’s scandal, the hoary falsehood of ocean acidification and the “dying” Great Barrier Reef, the bullshit about the hole in the ozone layer, all laid bare as deliberate misinformation that has been jammed down our throats since the 70s; all this (in that arena alone) and much more has had a massive… Read more »

CaptDMO
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CaptDMO

Alt Right.
It means THIS, except for when it means THIS. Of course THIS “faction” has broken off to promote THIS, and according to THIS woman, “No True Alternative Conservative Political Scientist has an astrological “water” sign. “,
This is contradicted by “Only Jewish matriarchy allows for the exclusions of certain high IQ data as “white”, hence BLM/BDS.
Glad I could clear that up.
Now, let me mansplain what REAL Feminism is….

alzaebo
Guest
alzaebo

Now THAT clarified the matter, you betcha!

Member

With all of the bad science out there, I’m going to propose a hypothesis: the “scientist shortage” is a fraud.

james wilson
Guest

There are an excess of scientist, that is, people with degrees in science. Because any fool can get a degree in the humanities, and usually does, and because it is harder for any fool to obtain a degree in science it is assumed there is less mischief to be found in science, but that trillion dollar price tag for global warming alone shows this not to be the case.

Maxi Dean
Guest
Maxi Dean

But science is hard and confusing:
https://youtu.be/a1ofgE_mOkQ

Member

Don’t confuse creator with supreme being. They aren’t necessarily the same. It’s possible we’re the product of a mortal, but advanced civilization that is as lost in this great big universe as we are. They may themselves have ideals about God. I personally believe that there might be a God, but there will never be any evidence of him, since he would not exist in this universe. Tolkien was the supreme being of the LoTR universe, but he was not physically part of it.

whatever
Guest
whatever

I agree with some of the commenters that alt-right (and Vox in particular) are not hostile to science. The alt-right are hostile to the elevation of science to a dogma (or a religion if you will). The humanists claim science will solve all of humanities ills, and use the cudgel of science to both foster their agenda or punish those on the other side of the isle. They of course conveniently ignore science (or even simple correlation) when it suits them. In other words, “science” has crossed the isle into politics and is no longer science. As an engineer by… Read more »

Mike Martin
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Mike Martin

Good post, Z. I have an MS in Geology, and was very impressed for a long time with the quality of science I saw in my studies. I did see some research that was bogus (Dorn’s studies on Detroit varnish, for one), but all in all it was solid……until global warming became the rage. Holy crap, did that change things. And it was all because of grant money. Sickening. I still read a lot of geo journals, and the time and money spent on that crap is astounding. It’s interesting too, because so many of my geo colleagues are oil… Read more »

Mike Martin
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Mike Martin

Desert varnish. Oof.

Tim
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Tim

No crisis in science? Hmmm. Maybe not in the theoretical sense, but it’s beginning to have a miasma around it.

http://retractionwatch.com/

Omega3
Guest
Omega3

“The replication crisis that is bedeviling the soft science is not a problem in chemistry, physics or even biology where speculation is more common.”

I think it’s in the ‘hard’ sciences too, I’m afraid:
http://www.nature.com/news/1-500-scientists-lift-the-lid-on-reproducibility-1.19970?WT.mc_id=SFB_NNEWS_1508_RHBox

ApoloDoc
Guest
ApoloDoc

Sad to say how poorly informed you are on these matters. As an engineer and a physician who happens to also be a Christian, I can tell you that neo-Darwinian evolution is not remotely near fact. More to the point, those at the highest levels who can TRULY appreciate what is being asked of this “blind” mechanism realize that it simply DOES NOT WORK. In private there are many who state that they need a new model. PERIOD. It simply does not work. Random mutation (error/change) does not produce meaningful digital code, and the intricacies involved in massive base-pair change… Read more »

Tim Broberg
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Tim Broberg

Hmm… seems to me that ID is the general case of Biblical Creationism. Same thing, but with looser constraints, leaving out any parts that are by revelation and focusing on the scientific conjecture that life is so complex that it appears engineered.

In my view, nothing wrong with that as an approach, although it may be just wrong.