Anti-Science

You can put me down in the “pro-science” column. I think in the main, science is a good thing for humanity. Life is more than material wealth, but having better food, better shelter, better communications and better medicine is nice. None of those things can happen without men in labs, amateur and professional, fiddling with the bits of nature, trying to learn how things tick. It is the constant trial and error of improvement that has made civilization possible and it is science that has made the modern world possible.

That said, people are flawed so their enterprises will be flawed as well. Science is not an exception to this rule. That’s what makes science different from religion or ideology. Good science is the constant revisiting of past claims, while religion can never permit it. You can become a famous scientist by proving that some accepted bit of science is flawed or simply wrong. New technology can lead to the overturning of fields, which is what we see happening with psychology. Technology is turning psychology into alchemy.

That’s one important aspect of the replication crisis.

Half the results published in peer-reviewed scientific journals are probably wrong. John Ioannidis, now a professor of medicine at Stanford, made headlines with that claim in 2005. Since then, researchers have confirmed his skepticism by trying—and often failing—to reproduce many influential journal articles. Slowly, scientists are internalizing the lessons of this irreproducibility crisis. But what about government, which has been making policy for generations without confirming that the science behind it is valid?
The biggest newsmakers in the crisis have involved psychology. Consider three findings: Striking a “power pose” can improve a person’s hormone balance and increase tolerance for risk. Invoking a negative stereotype, such as by telling black test-takers that an exam measures intelligence, can measurably degrade performance. Playing a sorting game that involves quickly pairing faces (black or white) with bad and good words (“happy” or “death”) can reveal “implicit bias” and predict discrimination.
All three of these results received massive media attention, but independent researchers haven’t been able to reproduce any of them properly. It seems as if there’s no end of “scientific truths” that just aren’t so. For a 2015 article in Science, independent researchers tried to replicate 100 prominent psychology studies and succeeded with only 39% of them.

It is important to understand what is going on here. Science has always been self-correcting by definition, but it does not prevent the problem of the Left abusing the truth. Psychology is a good example. In the 20th century, psychology became part of the theology of the Left, used to justify their latest crackpot ideas about humanity. The money for research went into studies that purported to prove some aspect of the blank slate, rather than challenge these beliefs. It was about confirmation, rather than discovery.

As a result, the soft sciences are under fire. That’s what the replication crisis is about and why it is a good thing, even though it opens the door for people who wish to fly the flag of intellectual authority, but lack the cognitive skills to participate in a STEM field. There are legions of people who will never understand the basics of genetics, for example, but they want to be an authority on evolution and human biodiversity. They will point to the replication crisis and claim that all science is suspect and no better than opinion.

In fairness, the soft sciences are not the only area of “science” taking a beating in the replication crisis. Chemistry has had problems with crap papers flying through the peer review process undetected. That’s about the politics of publishing as much as anything, but it should not happen. Medicine has also come under scrutiny and rightly so. These quack studies on diet, for example, that populate news sites, do more harm than good, because they often lead people into wacko conspiracy theories like pawtism.

This is what Cofnas gets right in his review of the moral and political pressures that undermine and retard the scientific process. The people in charge are the people sponsoring the research and paying for the studies. Like everyone in power, they want confirmation and they will pay good money for it. As long as research is done by humans, there will be humans willing to fake their research to get grants and tenure. That’s the story of climate  science thus far. The “consensus” was money well spent.

Cofnas is wrong to think this is unique to our age. The people in charge in all ages have had their priorities. A smart guy in the Roman Empire was wise to apply his skill to practical things, like how to improve sword making, because that was important. Philosophy was not. In the Middle Ages, the emergence if science meant navigating around the church and crown, as both viewed new ideas with concern. The king and his favorite bishop were more concerned with power than scientific knowledge.

“Reality is that thing that does not go away when you stop believing in it” and that is the reality of the replication crisis. The quackery of the soft sciences eventually runs up against reality. In our age, it is the reality of genetics that is dismantling the nutty ideas popular with the prior generations. That’s what Cofnas gets wrong. Science is self-correcting, just not as quickly as you would like. Sometimes it takes a new technology or simply a generational change, Eventually, reality returns to right all wrongs.

56 thoughts on “Anti-Science

  1. That’s far from all the issues with the Cofnas’ papers. I was less than impressed with his lack of honesty and deceptive measures. I expected better, though I cannot say why exactly.

  2. I just watched a remastered version of Fritz’s Lang Metropolis, and though the movie’s message “The heart must guide the hand and the head” is simplistic, I think it has merit. The issue I have with those enamored with science alone, as if it is a religion to worship, is they see it as a means to use for power and to meta-game morality and escape the consequences of their actions. I’m not a Luddite, but I believe too many treat science as a means to replace our conscience, instead of providing neutral knowledge and tools to be used wisely. Otherwise, we run into the Jurassic park scenarios and are all devoured by Velociraptors and T-Rex’s because we irresponsibly played with science.

  3. A little too much blind faith in science eventually getting it right. If anything, Reich’s book makes it seem more likely that academics will find a way to defeat the genetic science. Indeed, people like Reich will help – the funding is at risk, see?

  4. We’ll know we have those leftist wackos on the run when affirmative action is repudiated.

  5. “Science” is just another area where everything the Libs touch turns to crap. Because they touched it. Like dogs that feel they must pee on every single fire hydrant, the Progs feel it necessary to infiltrate and capture every last thing of value in our culture. When they capture it, they always destroy it, every time. Why? Because they don’t have a clue. They substitute “caring” or “feeling” for knowing about things. But they don’t understand that caring about something provides absolutely zippo about being actually qualified to manipulate or operate the thing. They don’t “do” science. They “wear” science like an ornament or a piece of jewelry, signaling that they are smart or clever and all. Watch some of those “Bill Nye the Science Guy” videos. He is like a used car dealer for “science”. OK, rant over.

  6. My concern is that as life spans get longer, and women delay childbirth , generational change slows down, and the flywheel of progress decelerates under the drag of decrepitude.

    • African women are busy disrupting that pattern. Call them stupid, but they’re still operating along biological principles.

      Anyone who builds bluebird houses knows how frustrating it is to see three out of four of these ‘bluebird’ houses occupied by wasps before the bluebirds show interest.

  7. I want to like Cofnas and it’s in my interests to support his work, but I think he carries too much water with a very small bucket. Yes, it is perfectly obvious that the academy has a far left priesthood that guards against truth. Yes this means a loss of trust by the intelligent in the system. But then one realizes his chief complaint is that said loss of trust is allowing establishment-unapproved voices to enter the fray on the margins.

    On balance, he isn’t wrong. Crackpots claiming the earth is flat and jews are lizard people are not deserving of any indirect credential. That being said I don’t see where such ideas are being taken seriously. Memetic waves of irony and satire are crashing into taboos around race and tribalism and this is a good thing. If Cofnas wants to do g-d’s work, he should give up banging the old drum on Kevin Macdonald, who isn’t ever going to be in the main, and focus on dismantling the widely accepted junk science of our age.

    Indeed, more people who pay attention to Macdonald would be persuaded to reconsider their JQ ideas if such a promising young jew lent his iq to deflating leftist dogma rather than taking up the all too familiar business of paying lip service to big problems while magnifying an iota of antisemitism into the primary issue. Antisemitism is still at all-time lows in the white population world wide. His broader approach is, in that sense, shameless and a confirmation that Macdonald’s unfalsifiable theory of Jewish behavior is not entirely untrue.

  8. The most annoying thing for me, though, is the lauding of the peer-review process by those on the Left. Having been a reviewer of probably several hundred papers in organic and medicinal chemistry, I can tell you that the process is only cursory at best. I and other reviewers mostly to to see if the claimed results are plausible, are supported by the reported data, and that the papers provide enough detail for replication should someone choose to do so. We rarely if ever, in the review process, attempt to replicate the paper unless we have some other reason to do so.

    • Peer review is no less captured by the prog than the media, social platforms, and academia. It is an old story–who watches the watchers?
      Bruce Charlton ran a scientific publication for many years exclusively devoted to publishing research that was not peer reviewed, believing there was a wealth of information being barred by the peer review police. It was so successful in it’s mission that it was bought out by progs, and abandoned.

  9. I was an organic chemist, and thankfully found only a handful of papers over the years that I considered fraudulent out of the, by the end of my career, thousands of papers I had occasion to replicate in part by need. But that is the thing- it is easy to test most organic chemistry papers, not so easy a thing to replicate much of what passes in soft-science.

  10. The post seems to concede an entire field, psychology, to one side. This does not seem wise. The research on twins, and heritability of traits, was both born and raised there. The same holds for the research on Intelligence.

    In fact, the post seems to concede the entire academia, which seems suicidal. May be the academia is less homogeneous that it looks.

    • That’s a valid criticism. I made a follow up comment to that effect. There are part of psychology that have been and remain within the domain of science.

  11. If I heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: Christians are hypocrites. Christians are idiots. Christians have an imaginary friend in the sky. Stupid Christians.

    Back in the day they earned all that fair and square and a good percentage of them still do today. But the worst of them? They threw their faith and morals out the window years ago when religion stopped being a focal and leverage point of power and prestige. Those are the liars, hypocrites, and lame-brains that became chit-house scientists. Only now they twist science for fun, personal gain and amusement rather than faith.

    Many people mistake Jordan Peterson for a conservative of sorts. Nothing is further from the truth – fact is that he is a classical liberal; and as such he – like most of us, has had a bellyful of Lefty’s BS. He is a heretic, smack dab in the middle of Lefty’s own court – and he makes them scream every time he opens his mouth.

    I just saw this lecture on race realism and IQ this morning, and it’s worth your time if you haven’t seen it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MJUhDQKJcY&t=1014s

    I notice he carefully avoided saying ‘blacks are stupid and violent as a group’ by saying instead that IQ does not equal virtue. You can tell he doesn’t like the truths and realities his research is showing him. I don’t think any of us do either – but Peterson is proof that cracks are forming in the leftist cathedral already. They are going rotten from the inside out too.

    Have a good Saturday folks.

  12. it was good of Pinker to point out that IQ research has always been highly replicable, for over a century. it’s the only part of psych that IS a science & is not made up snake oil. yet it’s hidden b/c it’s nonPC. go figure!

  13. “The king and his favorite bishop were more concerned with power than scientific knowledge.”

    Nonsense. The Church simply demanded replicable evidence before changing doctrine to fit a new discovery. Yes, sometimes this took centuries, but it certainly avoided the replication crisis.

    You are allowing the cult of Atheism to color your perceptions again.

        • Fair enough – I will do so. Thanks for the recommendation…

          (later) – ok, found it on Amazon; my guess is that I’ll enjoy the book; I hate clichés about the history of the Church, which is a main reason I recommend Santillana to everyone who cares about understanding the total context of the Galileo case – as science, as politics, as cultural confusion; the Church is not the villain in this responsible 1955 text by an historian of culture and science.

          So I’ll get to Stark.

  14. I’ve said here before that I knew much of “science” to be bullshit after years of reading medical literature and experiencing the literal non, or malfunction of drugs that had gone through all of the hoops. Yes. Some make it all the way through the early phases of discovery and testing and through the clinical phases and get FDA approval, and simply turn out not to work. How the hell is this possible? The only thing I can come up with his Hans Christian Andersen: all these skilled researchers are swearing that they can see the emperor’s new clothes and actually believe themselves.

    A few years back Academic Questions ran a short series of articles talking about the descent of some fields into what they called a “New Scholasticism” in which people in a field and those they train to come after them turn into academic sycophants churning out papers designed never to offend the status quo. This plays right into Thomas Kuhn’s theory about scientific revolutions and why paradigm shifts seem so sudden, a sort of scientific preference cascade.

    I think it is wrong to say that science is self correcting. If it was the method alone we wouldn’t have to wait so long. It’s something else entirely: http://biblehub.com/ecclesiastes/9-11.htm

    • It’s why the leading academics of Galileo’s Italy were reluctant to look through his telescope and agree with him – we’re talking pretty basic replicability here – that the moon has craters. Santillana tells us that junior lecturers like Galileo made 180 florins while the “big boys” were raking in 2,000 florins. With that extra money came extra pull with the authorities…

      It’s hard to justify a 2000 florin income when everything you teach is wrong. Ptolemaic astronomy wasn’t just a thesis – it was a vested interest.

      • Models are provisional in all cases. In his last book, The Discarded Image, C.S. Lewis says that in every age accurate thinkers never regard scientific theories as statements of fact. “A scientific theory must ‘save’ or ‘preserve’ the appearances, the phenomena, it deals with, in the sense of getting them all in, doing justice to them.” There is always a distinction to be made between theory and fact. It is a categorical error to confute them.

        In support of this he quotes Aquinas in Summa Theologica Book I Question 32 article 1:
        “‘In astronomy’, says Aquinas, ‘an account is given of eccentricities and epicycles on the ground that if their assumption is made (hac positione facta) the sensible appearances as regards celestial motions can be saved. But this is not a strict proof (sufficienter probans) since for all we know (forte) they could be saved by some different assumption.'” He then goes on to state his opinion that the reason Copernicus hardly caused a ripple and Galileo raised a storm, may have been because one offered up an alternative hypothesis while the other treated his supposals as facts, and that the real argument may have been about a new theory, but about “a new theory of the nature of theory”.

        When you think about that, and see that critical theory is now treated as fact in most universities, you see that the real revolution in academia hasn’t been in uncertainty, but in certainty.

    • David Burns documents how the process of double-blinded studies was goosed to make SSRIs look effective when they are not. In fact, they cause numerous awful side effects such as suicidality and murder.

      • Maybe even Marjory Stoneman HS and our new Waffle House friend.Not to mention the dozens of others.

  15. There is science, and then there is Science Inc. People erroneously assume that a person with an advanced scientific degree is a valuable commodity. He is not; only the cream are that. For the rest, wave six figures at him and he is yours. In other words, he is as easily corrupted as the next man.

    • This dictum applies to all the divisions of “expertism”. The Sovietologists – Stephen Cohen was always the one who annoyed me the most – all “knew” in 1988 that the USSR was here to stay; they even promoted the creation of a coffee-table book, ‘A Day in the Life of the USSR’, meant to condition us in the belief that Soviet life was just “another way of being”.

      They were as wrong as Ptolemy and Brahe. And yet oddly, it didn’t matter all that much. In our degraded age, being “right” versus being “tenured”, the entrenched “knowers” will go with tenure every time; better that than being what Lysenko called ‘a kulak of science.’

      In the early 90s a really substandard roofing system out of Canada was all the rage among roofing contractors; and when these roofs began to fail massively ten years later (I know, because my roof was one of them), the suppliers’ phones were all disconnected and a lot of roofers disappeared.

      That, at least, is what happens in a system where claims and assertions are tested against reality, the system of business enterprise; in academia – as well as government – we get back the same suppliers, the same roofers, the same shingles, and the same claims. But at double the price.

      By the way, last time I noticed, Cohen still had a gig as a “Russian expert” at a good salary.

  16. Climate “science” has always been one of those fun ones, particularly if you make your living betting actual capital against outcomes. We’re still waiting for the models to actually match observed and measured results. Per the “settled science”, San Diego and environs is supposed to be a swamp, more prone to flood and mudslides than brushfire. But there is economic incentive to join the hysteria–governments (regulators) are all in, thus much easier to justify rates by harping on the climate change risks and the need to build capital against them. But literally, when we look at value at risk adjusted to constant dollars against incurred losses…nothing out of norm is showing up.

    • Garbage in, garbage out. That’s what they say about models. The fact is we don’t know enough to get enough information into a model to get anything worthwhile out

      • Well, what we discovered in that last thirty years of catastrophe damage modeling is that the business is full of “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns”. For example, Andrew surprised the crap out of us in ’92 when it showed the wind speed degradation over land assumptions were seriously flawed and assumptions of “actually built to code” turned out to be specious. The climate guys have that problem X20 with the added distortion of politics. Sat through a four hour global reinsurance market review a few weeks ago and none of frequency/severity assumptions at the 50/100/250 return periods are actually shifting in the models. The short version–the climate alarmists are full of shit.

    • Not long ago I had the realization that people who know socialism doesn’t work can bet on that knowledge. We may not have insider information on the short-term direction of interest rates (which is how the cloud people make easy money) but we know taxes will have to go up, the USD will be inflated, and entitlements means-tested. Real money is fungible so place your bets strategically.

      I think this also explains the quickening of animosity between the left and the right. As the left becomes more delusional the right calls them on it with capital. Disproportionate wealth then flows to the only sane investors left which agitates the inequality and fuels further leftist hysterics, resulting in the leftist cliche that wealth = evil.

      Jacobin magazine really does not like Bitcoin and they hardly ever mention Gold and Silver. This is all why capital controls are fundamental to leftists and why investing is not taught in school.

  17. Re: Psycology, people are slowly, very slowly, starting to realize that they are mainly there to advance the pharmaceutical industry. And, by extension, “the opioid crisis”.

    My wife is a doc, and it’s tough when faced with relentless pressure by patients for the pills whether unnecessary antibiotics or mind control psychotropic medications.

    Climate science has faced a reproducibility crisis for decades. Einstein’s theories were not initially accepted…until an experimentalist determined that Einsiein’s theories accurately predicted where starts and planets WOULD be…deflection caused by gravitational lensing. Predictive.

    Climate scientists would have us believe they can predict climatological changes 5-10-100 years hence using models not much different than weather models. The very same models which cannot accurately forecast beyond about 72 hours. Sometimes much less.

    And the climate models are consistently wrong. As are the assumptions that mild warming is altogether bad.

    • mind control psychotropic medications

      Yah….it seems that a large proportion of teen-aged killers have scrips for those.

      • Full disclosure. Am not a physician or scientist. But during a side career in Fire/EMS–the three suicides I recall in our district, all were individuals who had just recently begun SSRI medications.

  18. Science is seriously lacking when it comes to poly pharmacy. The same when it comes to supplements. The same when it comes to diet. That being said, poly pharmica is the most insidious, for the obvious reason of masses of $$$$ influences. I pretty much avoid doctor prescribed medicine. I also don’t get caught up in nutritional fads, which are often rank pseudo science. I do experiment with supplements liberally, with little concern with the lack of so called scientific certainty associated there with. Nootropics are especially interesting to me. As an n=1 function, they have benefited me significantly, absent scientific imprimatur. So what? Diet likewise. I count calories. Go slightly greater in protein intake ( I workout regularly). And I eat pretty much everything as long as I maintain my own unique CICO ratio for my desired weight. I also stay away from looking at Web MD, Diet science shit, or other clearly compromised sources for so called scientific consensus before I act. That’s a paralyzing protocol many are tied down to. Not me. There are simply too many permutations and combinations to diet, drugs, etc for science to have anymore than approximations on what is remotely optimal for any particular individual. Reliance solely on mainstream, scientific sources in these matters is a fools errand. No thanks. Doesn’t mean I’m anti science. But I’m smart enough to know when science butts up against a wall of its practical limits.

    • Yes. In fact, I often wonder if some of the papers I’ve read on Xirl Science were not gags, but sadly, I think they were all legitimate.

      • Even more sadly, these streams of rubbish have been getting written – and published – for decades, despite Sokol’s hilarious takedown. I’m sure no one in Xirl Science has ever heard of Alan Sokol, or even gravity, much less “quantum gravity”.

  19. No.

    The bulk of people will always lust for fictions. Dismantled fictions will be replaced, on the level of the mainstream and Health People shared mind, by new fictions.
    Truth can’t last more than a twinkling. It is immediately replaced (we are talking of the conscious. The unconscious often knows the truth — like it knows the truth about group inherited differences), and that’s exactly why on the level of the conscious (anything that is social, public, democratic, mainstream, and gets the consensus) fiction is demanded.
    (Meaning that people will accept to be governed — that is, recognize as authoritative — only who tells them fiction that works.)

    There’s a defined room for the pursuit of truth (not Truth: truth. The revolutionary, anti-social principle that A is always A whenever it impedes the person’s purposes/menaces their comfort or it doesn’t, B is always B, and if A is not B today B can’t be or couldn’t be A nor yesterday not tomorrow): but it is outside of the scope of politics, journalism, and popular (scientific or not) literature.
    A theologician, a scientist, a music composer and a computer programmer have all the same chance to be truth pursuers, and they call can do, each in his field of activity. But it’s a niche, and an isolated affair.

    Your point can still hold: just let’s call it the replacement of less productive fictions with more productive fictions.

  20. >”That’s what Cofnas gets wrong. Science is self-correcting, just not as quickly as you would like. Sometimes it takes a new technology or simply a generational change, Eventually, reality returns to right all wrongs.”

    How optimistic! Unhappily, though, I must agree with Eric Hoffer: Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket. Science moved into the business phase decades ago, and now has at least one foot firmly planted in racket territory. Barring something truly radical and unexpected happening, it will only move farther that way. Entropy is a harsh mistress.

    Like the Constitution, the scientific method was an artifact of the Enlightenment conceit that human nature could be effectively restrained by a bunch of guidelines written on a piece of paper. Nice try; I genuinely admire the sentiment. But that’s not how human endeavors seem to work in the real world.

  21. Read a small article some time ago about a firm’s new drug trials. The results showed this new drug helped prevent a particular condition.
    The stock price of this company went up as a result.
    I don’t recall the details, but it was something like this; several thousand participants were given a placebo or the real drug (it was a double blind study – neither the doctors nor patients knew who got what).
    At test end, say, 12 people on the placebo suffered the ailment, but only , say, 7 on the drug got the ailment.
    The results were considered “statistically significant” and the drug was considered a success.
    Are you F’n kidding me.
    You test 1000 folks and only 5 more people get sick if not receiving the drug?
    Does anyone believe that if the test war repeated on a totally different population that the results could not be completely reversed and still be statistically “significant”?
    Yea, the statisticians “control” for all the other possible reasons that could cause the ailment – sure. How do they do that? How do they know exactly how to “control” for this or that.

    Every so often a new study comes out that shows Omega 3 fish oil or eggs or coffee does nothing or can kill you, but then a newer study shows it will have you live until 150 years of age.
    Frankly, they have no F’n idea what’s going on.
    But all the studies are statistically “significant.”

    Eskimos – before white guys showed up – never got heart disease despite living off blubbery fatty fish and wild game.
    Oh, must be something in the fish that protects arteries and the heart from all that fat.
    Really?
    Did anyone ever consider that the Eskimo diet back then did NOT have sugar, carbs, flour, wheat, corn, bread, fruit or vegetables?
    Just fish and wild game – of which they ate the entire animal or fish.
    Maybe it was their total lack of sugar and carbs that produced the “anomalous” results (anomalous if you believe the hi fat diet will kill you despite the fact that for 500,000 years humans evolved on fat and protein and ate very little in the way of fruits, veges, wheat, flour, etc.)

    I once believed that a new drug , when approved, would “cure” or prevent, say 75% of folks who took it from contracting a particular ailment or condition, and maybe 90% or so who did not take it would wind up sick or not cured.
    But this is simply not the case.
    The difference betwixt a drug “working” or not is really incredibly small.
    No need to mention the potential side affects of approved drugs – just listen to all those TV drug commercials and be alert to explosive diarrhea, projectile vomiting , Ebola and AIDS if you decide to take them.

    Check out “Why We Get Fat,” by Gary Taubes and “The Big Fat Surprise,” by Nina Teicholz,” for good reads on what is really fraudulent science that has been the basis of the food pyramid.

  22. I try to ignore all “experts say” type filler articles. Once in awhile I will get pulled into one, and actually read it to see if there is anything new or not. Knowing that the tech class is so lefty has caused me to pull back from society, to ride out the madness. I see and encounter very little prog insanity, mostly by avoiding social media and MSM outlets. My sense is that the herd has had enough, and has already started turning against the prog project for humanity. Hence my staying out of the way until things settle down again.

    • I fairness, there is a part of the field that is very good. The people working with patients as a matter of medicine are just doctors specializing in mental disorders. The real trouble is in the academy.

      • Having a couple kids with LD, would single out neuropsychology as being far more focused on data and not much on voodoo. And what is teased out in cognitive testing batteries is increasingly supported by brain imaging and genetics.

    • Dad;

      There *is* a book already making this case: Social Sciences as Sorcery; by Col. Stanislav Andreski : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanislav_Andreski

      The 1972 edition is still available from Amazon (can’t get a link to work but you can search the title.)

      I remember it with delight from my grad school days when it first came out in the late ’60s. It purports to prove that the many parallels between psychology (in particular) and black & white magic prove that they’re the really the same, all tongue in cheek of course.

  23. Haven’t you heard that the scientific method is part of the white patriarchy and it needs to be replaced with more diverse ways of discovering the truth. Also, there is no truth

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