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.

48 thoughts on “Science and the Alt-Right

  1. 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.

  2. 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 swapping one nucleic acid residue for another, altering static charge in one area of a peptide so its 3-d configuration changes and multiples of this simultaneously line up for improved function, are beyond any sort of statistical probability. It simply AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN!

    God’s revelation in nature and His revelation in Scripture, when properly understood, will PERFECTLY fit together. I do not subscribe to a 6x24hr creation as natural revelation clearly demonstrates far more lengthy processes. Therefore taking several thousand year old poetic Hebrew and trying to translate and read through 21st century eyes does not fit. I commend those who wish to understand an alternative view to seek out Hugh Ross, a PhD astrophysicist and pastor. He has elaborated a very reasonable model.

    Among astrophysicists there are not so many atheists. They recognize the astonishing design complexity involved in creating a life-permitting universe. They have differing ideas of WHO created this world, but they clearly understand that it didn’t create itself!

    • This is a good example of something I was getting at in my post. The linked article show that hard sciences are the least troubled by this. yet, they throw in the nonsense fields like psychology to muddy the waters and declare all science has a problem.

      There’s also the fact that a “failure to reproduce the same results” is how science works. Team X gathers up data, cooks up an explanation for the data, tests their theory in some sort of trial or experiment and publishes the results. Team Y comes along and points out the errors in data collection, data scrubbing, testing and analysis. That’s how science is supposed to work.

      There is certainly a fair amount of fraud that takes advantage of this, but that’s called the human condition.

      • Except political and economic policy is being implemented on the “results” of those first studies, because those implementing these policy and economic policies agree ideologically with the “scientists” producing the studies.

        It’s a regressive feedback loop at this point, and it has totally knocked science as a profession off the rails, and will lead to the destruction of Western Society if it is not stopped. Which is why Vox brings it up, because he, like most of us, values Western society.

  3. 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 guys, and they all feel that what we should be studying is how to extract minerals in a healthy way (fracking is awesome, by the way, for efficiency and non-intrusiveness) not being political advocates.

  4. 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 training I once thought loftily that (real) science was the answer to everything, but as I mature I found that it actually solves very little, and of course creates many of societies’ ills.

  5. 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.

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

    • 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.

  7. 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….

  8. 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 impact on people’s views of the world of science. I won’t even get into what the SocSci poohbas have said on such things (1 in 5 college women raped, women earn 76% of what men earn and other such nonsense).

    It’s really a shame. As someone with a Psych degree with a strong background in Experimental Psych it pains me to see so many people now distrusting science in general, but that’s precisely what happens when the public has been lied to for so long.

    In light of all this a knee-jerk response by some on alt-right is a perfectly understandable phenomena.

  9. 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.

    • You are more than welcome to offer your specific critiques. If they are of interest to me, I’ll respond.

  10. 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 at some point in the past.

    • 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 on our psyche is from now. Evolutionary biology appears in many instances to just be a lot of made-up stuff, explanations that give us excuses for certain behaviors.

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

  12. 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 to data sets that fail stationarity assumptions. How about physics, and the big gravity wave caper of 2014 with weird calcs, retractions and oppsies.

    I would say we went off the rails when we assumed that the polity of science via ants standing on each each other in a simulacrum of a giant was as effective as the giants on whose shoulders our ancestors were grateful to stand.

    Good read, and maybe Vox can clarify the etymology of all those intriguing neologisms

    • The further you get away from observation of causality, the greater the error rate. For instance, observing that a set of genes determines left of right handedness can be observed and tested. Noting that the left handed are 5 times more likely to be serial killers than right handed people may be mathematically true, but it tells us nothing about why the left handed are more prone to being serial killers. It can easily be misinterpreted as left handedness leads to serial killing.

      That’s why human science are such a mess. It’s also why we’re seeing this reconsideration of the whole process of funding studies and publishing data. There’s lots of good science to be done, but far too many grifters attached to the process. Again, this is not a crisis as much as it is a much needed reformation. It will be slow and ugly, but it has happened in the past and is just how science moves forward.

      • No crisis, no need to reform. We usually recognize the need to reform when we are in a crisis, not before. People cheating, falsifying data and outright dry labbing research, and fooling the peer review process because they are so slick (I’ve been around long enough to witness this being done by two highly prominent researchers in multiple papers–more like 20-30, not just a few–with the journals and the specialty communities quietly putting it all behind them out of sight of the public) have rendered things such that when you read a journal you almost have to suspend disbelief the way you do movies in order to be able to just follow along with the methods and conclusions because you’ve become so skeptical. Call a spade a spade.
        Perhaps it would do you good to go back and read the Climategate emails from that dude at East Anglia University again and realize that what you are reading is unexceptional.

        • I guess I’m one of those guys who is never surprised when humans act human. Yes, people lie, cheat and steal. Not all people and not all of the time, but there’s never a shortage of it anywhere. Science is no exception and it never has been an exception. The difference between science and politics, for example, is science is the right answer business and wrong answers are eventually revealed and rejected. In politics, millions can be slaughtered before anyone figures out there is a problem and even then, nothing gets done. By comparison, science has been pretty could and policing itself and limiting its faults.

          My hunch is the people most worried about the alleged crisis in science are using it as an excuse to reject uncomfortable facts that come from science.

          • Excess deaths attributable to ‘Science”

            DDT – Half a billion unnecessary deaths, aided and abetted by absolutely horrendous ‘ecological studies’ that are driving the reconstitution of malarial swamps AKA wetlands.
            Gasohol – Unknown, but probably in the millions, from starvation, and from knock-on wars driven or exacerbated by food shortages
            Suppression of cheap Energy – Unknown, probably in the millions
            Vaccinophobia – Tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths
            Cholesterol Hypothesis and Food Pyramid (AKA Healthy food) – Hundreds of millions of obese worldwide, and not one shred of evidence. The first scientist I saw ostracized was GV Mann at Vanderbilt after he persisted in publishing impeccable studies that showed that the causality iink for the cholesterol hypothesis was not present, or at best weak. Apparently the Grauniad has found another victim of Ancel Keys, a Brit physiologist who in 1972 compellingly showed that the miscreant was sugar, that sugar was literally toxic

            You need to turn on your BS detector, and realize the “whatever this Vox Day calls them” are a cabal of mathematical, statistical and logical incompetents that would be unable to hold a job in an objectively scored enterprise (e.g. your buildings stand, your bridges don’t collapse, your product is popular, well priced and etc.

            I am, as a scientist, ashamed to say that President Eisenhower was completely correct, and the Academic-Governmental complex was even more dangerous than the military-industrial complex (they always leave that out of the quotations). Just imagine a room full of Liz Warren clones, in dazzling coruscation with their verbal skill, but quantitatively retarded and unaware of it, since it is so well shielded by their verbal brilliance… These are the Legislators that run the driver’s license offices, and also direct all scientific activities by the NSA/NIH/HHS/DIA/DARPA and the entire alphabet soup of incompetence. As the lawyers say, Res ipsa loquitur!

            Your statement that politics is more lethal may just be barely true, though I doubt it….

      • Z, interesting choice of example. The whole left thing blew up decades ago when someone, I forget who, pointed out that anyone who attended catholic schools had been forced to, one, learn the commandments, and two, whipped into writing write handed… This obviously confounded privileged parenting, moral principles and making a large number of former lefties undetectable. The obvious consequence is that the remaining lefties are NOT privileged, and did NOT receive a religious education… And it doesn’t take more than a handful of excess murders to get statistical significance.

  13. 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 as well as Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” affecting us tomorrow: Impartial observation and curiosity appears to have been replaced by Predeterminism and the Scientific Method has become as corrupted as this year’s Democratic Primaries.

    Of course this doesn’t mean the “baby” should be thrown out with the “bathwater”. Just because there are bad doctors and dirty lawyers doesn’t mean all scientists have an agenda or that all science today is weird science. But, I don’t think this is what the apparent “science haters” in the Alt-right are saying?

    What am I missing?

  14. 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 generally smart.

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

    “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.”

  16. 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)


    • 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.

  17. 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. Highly political. Many articles written to make a political rather than a scientific point. The fact is that political correctness has permeated all of academia. For about twenty years or so I have been a member of the National Association of Scholars. I can barely stand to read the journal, Academic Questions, any more because of how depressing it is to see the pitiful state of the universities we are forced to support with our taxes, one of which I recently retired from, and I must say I don’t miss it a bit. Yes. There is a crisis in science. And it doesn’t have a damn thing to do with creationism.

    • 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

      “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.”

    • 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.

  18. 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 …

    • No doubt. You also have the fact the definition has been expanded to be the set of all people not in the increasingly narrow Official Left-Right Club. IIRC, Spence intended alternative right to mean his white identity stuff. Searching Vox Day’s bog, he did not start using the term until last year.

      • There’s clearly a rush by different groups to claim leadership in this ill-defined amorphous thing called the Alt Right. Be interesting to see how it plays out. I’m already seeing demands for purges. So, we’ll see how quickly it Purity Spirals and implodes.

        • Yeah, I suspect there’s going to a Judean People’s Front – People’s Front of Judea moment sooner rather than later. The White Identity guys are not all that happy with the new faces waving the alt-right flag.

      • It’s an interesting question which aspects of the Hard Sciences the Alt Right will reject. They embrace more than the Left or Right but some questions upset them. And, as you mentioned, they’re very concerned about who is White and, especially, who isn’t. GOP & Dems keep trying to wish Race away. Alt Right accepts it, but perhaps thinks the boxes are more narrowly and rigidly defined than they are in reality. Race is real. But borders are fuzzy. Who, exactly, is White? Not such an easy question.

    • 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?

    • “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 millennia.

      Strongly suggest you read Kevin MacDonald’s “Culture of Critique” to understand the Alt-Right position on the JQ. You can find it here for free.

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