Socialist Science

 | 

In his famous 1945 report to President Truman, Science: The Endless Frontier, Vannevar Bush attributed scientific progress to "the free play of free intellects, working on subjects of their own choice, in the manner dictated by their curiosity for exploration of the unknown.” Bush argued that government need only support basic research, and that "freedom of inquiry must be preserved," leaving "internal control of policy, personnel, and the method and scope of research to the institutions in which it is carried on."

How did such an abstemious, unfettered funding scheme work out? According to MIT scientist Richard Lindzen, "The next 20 years witnessed truly impressive scientific productivity which firmly established the United States as the creative center of the scientific world. The Bush paradigm seemed amply justified."

But trouble was brewing. By 1961, President Eisenhower, in his farewell address, observed that "a steadily increasing share [of scientific research] is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government" and warned of the day when "a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity." More than by the influence of the military-industrial complex, Eisenhower was troubled by the possibility that "public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite." His worry was justified. Leftist intellectuals and social activists were already infiltrating the social and behavioral sciences and had, by the early 1970s, crept into influential positions of government, to bring science into a social contract for the common good.

It was no doubt this movement that American physicist Richard Feynman had in mind in 1968, when he observed "a considerable amount of intellectual tyranny in the name of science." In particular, liberal theories, as embodied in the programs of the Great Society, would fail the hypothesis testing of real science — their predicted performance has never been confirmed by observable evidence. The ambitious nostrums about poverty, welfare, education, healthcare, racial injustice, and other forms of socioeconomic worriment were based on what Feynman called Cargo Cult Science. These programs are not supported by scientific integrity; they are propped up by the statistical mumbo-jumbo of scientific wild-ass guesses (SWAG).

Leftist intellectuals and social activists were already infiltrating the social and behavioral sciences and had, by the early 1970s, crept into influential positions of government.

The centralized control of research that began in the early 1970s laid the groundwork for the liberal idea of science as a social contract. Under such a contract, the "common good" could not be entrusted to the intuition of unfettered scientists; enlightened bureaucrats would be better suited to the task of managing society's scientific needs. Similarly, normal scientific principles of evidence and proof became subordinate to the vagaries of social concepts such as the precautionary principle, whereby anecdotal and correlative evidence (aka, SWAG) is perfectly adequate for establishing risk to society — the slightest of which (including imaginary risk) is intolerable — and justification for government remedies. Mere suspicion of risk would replace scientific evidence as the basis for regulatory authority. New York state, for example, recently banned fracking, not because of any scientific determination of harm to public health, but because of the uncertainty of such harm.

As the autonomy envisioned by Bush and the integrity demanded by Feynman faded, hypothesis testing became lackadaisical, often not considered necessary at all. And, with the need for sharp "intellectual curiosity" in decline, egalitarian funding of scientific research was put in place. According to a recent New York Times article, agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes for Health (NIH) award grant money based on criteria other than scientific merit. Preferring "diversity of opportunity" over consequential scientific discovery, administrators now "strive to ensure that their money does not flow just to established stars at elite institutions. They consider gender and race, income and geography." Apparently, enriching our brightest scientists is a vile capitalist concept that diminishes the social value of the funding scheme.

So must it also be with the discovery process, where, as Lindzen observes, "the solution of a scientific problem is rewarded by ending support. This hardly encourages the solution of problems or the search for actual answers. Nor does it encourage meaningfully testing hypotheses." In Lindzen's view, such developments have produced a "new paradigm where simulation and programs have replaced theory and observation, where government largely determines the nature of scientific activity . . ." And now, with the pursuit of scientific truth trumped by the political passions of activist scientists and their funding agencies, "the politically desired position becomes a goal rather than a consequence of scientific research." In this paradigm, science is more easily manipulated by politicians, who cynically scare the public, as H.L. Mencken put it, "by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

Nowhere did this become more prominent than in the environmental sciences. During the 1980s, as socialism began its collapse, distraught western Marxists joined the environmental movement. If the workers of the world would not unite to overthrow capitalism because of its economic harmfulness, then regulators would destroy it because of its environmental damage. Government agencies, most notably the EPA and DOE, became coddling, Lysenkoist homes for activist scientists. By the end of the decade they had penetrated climate science, striking it rich in the gold mine of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). By the early 1990s, the hypothesis that humans had caused unprecedented recent warming, and would cause catastrophic future warming, became self-evident to a consensus of elite activist scientists. The establishment of fossil fuels as the sole culprit behind AGW — and progenitor of an endless series of climate hobgoblins — became the goal of government-funded climate science research.

Apparently, enriching our brightest scientists is a vile capitalist concept that diminishes the social value of the funding scheme.

Science, however, was not up to the task. It could not verify the AGW hypothesis. The existence of the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was ground for rejection, as was the nonexistence of the so-called tropical hotspot (the "fingerprint of manmade global warming”) predicted by AGW computer models. Then there is the ongoing warming pause, a stark climatological irony that began in 1998, the very year following the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol to curb the expected accelerated warming. Even when confronted with such nullifying evidence, activist scientists refused to reject the AGW hypothesis. Nor did they modify it, the better to conform with observational evidence. Some simply rejected the science — science that they had come to view as "normal science," no longer suitable for their cause — and switched to Post-normal Science (PNS).

PNS replaces normal science when "facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high, and decisions urgent." Invented by social activists, it is a mode of inquiry designed to advance the political agenda behind such large-scale social issues as pollution, AIDS, nutrition, tobacco, and climate change. PNS provides "new problem-solving strategies in which the role of science is appreciated in its full context of the complexity and uncertainty of natural systems and the relevance of human commitments and values."

In other words, in the face of uncertainty, researchers can use their "values" to shape scientific truth. As the late activist scientist Stephen Schneider counseled, "we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts one might have . . . Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest."

Climate science luminary, Mike Hume, believes that scientists (and politicians) are compelled to make tradeoffs between truth and influence. In the struggle between rational truth and emotional value, Hulme advises (in Why We Disagree about Climate Change, sections 10.1 and 10.5), "we need to see how we can use the idea of climate change — the matrix of ecological functions, power relationships, cultural discourses and materials flows that climate change reveals — to rethink how we take forward our political, social, economic and personal projects over the decades to come." Expanding on Schneider's advice: "We will continue to create and tell new stories about climate change and mobilise them in support of our projects.”

One way or another the "projects" (renewable energy, income equality, sustainability, social justice, green economics, etc.) fall under the umbrella of global governance. There is no solution to global warming that does not require global cooperation, in the execution of a global central plan. The "scary stories" of climate catastrophe (storms, floods, droughts, famines, species extinctions, etc.) are the hobgoblins used to coerce acceptance of the socialist remedy, while obscuring its principal side-effect: the elimination of capitalism, democracy, and individual liberty, none of which can coexist with global governance.

Even when confronted with such nullifying evidence, activist scientists refused to reject the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis.

Under the old paradigm — the free play of free intellects, guided by skepticism and empirical truth — discoveries were prolific, albeit unpredictable with respect to their nature, significance, and timing. The centralized planning that began in the early 1970s attempted to control such fickleness, by selecting the research areas, the grant money, and, in many cases, the desired research result — all to harness science for the common good, of course.

How has the new paradigm — the circumscribed play of biased ideologues, guided by compliance and consensus — performed relative to the old paradigm? Abysmally. The methods of teaching mathematics and reading cited by Feynman have failed; US public education, the envy of the world in the early 1970s, is, at best, mediocre today. The "War on Cancer" that began in 1971 has failed to find a cure. Similarly, government research grants (substituting diversity and a paycheck for intellectual curiosity) have failed to produce cures for many other diseases (AIDS, Alzheimer's, diabetes, Parkinson's, MS, ALS, to name a few). The NSF website lists 899 discoveries — but these are not discoveries; they are discussions of scientific activity, coupled with self-congratulation and wishful thinking.

Activist scientists would shriek that such evidence of failure is anecdotal and correlative, and therefore illegitimate — and who are better qualified than activists to recognize SWAG when they see it? They would also vehemently assert that it is too difficult to establish a causal relationship between government-planned science and paltry discovery — perhaps as difficult as naming a single invention, technological advance, medical breakthrough, engineering development, or innovative product in use today that is not the result of scientific discoveries made prior to the early 1970s.

This evidence for a causal relationship between increasing government control and declining scientific achievement is no flimsier than the evidence for a causal relationship between increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 and increasing global temperature. Indeed, it is the very lack of such evidence that, to activist science, justifies PNS.

But PNS is a charade. It is hobgoblinology, masquerading as science and used to thwart skepticism about the unverified claims of socialist scientists masquerading as enlightened experts, pushing a political agenda masquerading as the common good. AGW is supported by nothing more than cargo cult science foisted on a fearful, science-illiterate people.

The scary stories, incessantly pronounced as scientific facts, are speculation. They are themselves hypotheses — additional, distinct hypotheses that would have to be verified, even if the parent AGW hypothesis could be established. But false syllogisms are permissible under PNS. The PNS scientist is free to infer scary stories from the unverified AGW hypothesis, provided there is uncertainty in the normal science and virtue in his political values. The scientific method of normal science is replaced by a post-normal scientific method, in which an hypothesis is tested not by empiricism but by scariness — that, and the frequency and shrillness with which it is stated. One could call this socialist science process Scary Hypothesis Inference Testing (SHIT). And one would find a strong causal relationship between SHIT and the aroma of SWAG.




Share This

Comments

Greg Woods

Scientific debate has also become political. For instance, I often hear those who disagree with the AWG hypothesis referred to as "deniers", obviously trying to link them with holocaust deniers (unlike the AWG, there is lots of evidence that the holocaust actually occurred). This is known as "demonizing the opponent", a common tactic in political debates, not scientific ones.

It is ironic that one of the initial justifications for government-funded scientific research was so that public policy could be based on scientific fact, but now instead the science is influenced by public policy.

BRENDAN

While I certainly agree with the main point and global warming vs skepticism, there has been much progress on AIDS and on cancer. Cancer rates have fallen and there are more survivors. AIDS is no longer a death sentence. However the author's use of acronyms is hilarious.

Bruce Alan Martin

CLARIFICATION: My previous comment was in response to the comment by Jim Decker.

I also enjoyed the article by Murphy, but I was commenting on the comment by Decker, and his "call for action".

Jack Decker

The Libertarian Party was and is a Star Trek club. It has never and doesn't currently even try to seriously win a single US House District but instead pats itself on the back for being the only national political party to own their headquarter building. However, many libertarians who want to bring about political change has since decided to change one of the political parties and, so far, that is producing great results. There are now openly libertarians in the Republican Party and currently there is a fight between them and Establishment Republicans (a.k.a. neo-conservatives, "compassionate" Republicans, Religious Right, and other big-government Republicans).

Why I bring up the above in regards to your article is quite simply: What can we do about socialist scientists controlling scientific funding and research?

Just as many libertarians invaded their local Republican state and county parties to fight for the "soul" of the Republican Party, what can libertarian scientists do to do likewise within the scientific community? In other words, how can we beat socialist scientists at their own game?

Organize a scientific conference to discuss the problem? Not much but at least it would be a start.

Start an organization of libertarian scientists? This could be a natural outgrowth of the above conference.

Found and fund a science foundation(s) that funds their work?

What? How? Who?

And "Who?" might be the most important question of all. Without an articulate persuasive leader, this counter movement has little chance of gaining ground, to say nothing about winning. Ideally there should be more than just one such leader but a growing corp of them.

So what do you suggest?

Jim Stiles

A libertarian science foundation and an organization of libertarian scientists would be good starts. A libertarian science foundation would, conceivably, attract money from people and corporations with deep pockets (i.e. the Koch Brothers).

A libertarian science foundation would have to be designed so that the researchers it funded would search for the plain truth and not results that would please libertarians. If we apply this idea to AGW, the foundation would seek researchers who produce rigorous work that can withstand the attacks of the climate lobby.

Jack Decker

Jim Stiles,

Unlike what socialist scientists have done, what I suggest is a very open process for creating a libertarian science foundation. The socialist scientists will naturally attack it so it has to be bullet-proof. Clearly laid out objectives. I would also highly recommend that research objectives be made public BEFORE the research is done and results posted regardless what they are.

I believe a key to attacking socialistic science is simply trying to replicate of their research. Trying to honestly and thoroughly reproduce what their research says were positive results. Most of the public doesn't know that very little of what current modern science is based on has never been successfully replicated. Also science journals commonly refuse to publish dissenting research that exposes bad, misleading, and out-and-out fraudulent research that their journal has previously published as good research. Recently (within the last few years), this "finding" was a major scandal within the scientific community. I think a libertarian science foundation could most help by simply funding replication research. A lot of the research touted by big government advocates has never been successfully replicated or even unsuccessfully replicated. In other words, no one has ever tried reproducing and confirming their results. These positive results literally and currently stand unchallenged.

Another thing the libertarian science foundation could do is issue out monetary rewards for research that can explain what socialist scientists refuse to try to explain. For example, what caused the Middle Age Warming Period that was a lot hotter than what we are experiencing today. So hot that there were farms in Siberia. Needless to say, this warming period happened long before the Industrial Revolution which environmentalists all claim is the cause of man-made global warming ... oh, sorry, they don't call it that anymore since no one beleives that bullshit anymore ... I mean man-made climate change. Then again, I think they've recently abandoned that phrase too and now call it "man-made environmental disruptions". Sorry, it is pretty much a whack-a-mole when you deal with socialist scientists and big-government environmentalists.

Johnimo

Great leaders are rare. That's just one of the problems we face as a group desiring limited government and maximum personal liberty. We must calmly and deliberately argue against socialism with humor, good will, and facts until our spokesman comes along. Maggie Thatchers are very hard to come by and usually arise, as did Churchill, only during times of great crisis. I'm actually not too negative about our prospects, having lived now through a constant period of government growth and over reaching.

Most of my friends are very liberal, but they have pathetically little intellectual material with which they back up their desire for more government. They say things like, "Socialism works good in Sweden," hoping I'll agree with them. When I point out the high level of capitalism and economic responsibility in Sweden, they fall silent. I urge them to adopt Sweden's universal school vouchers idea, as a way to encourage accountability in US schools. They have no answer; they say, "That just wouldn't work here," and fall silent again. I end up feeling kind of sorry for them.

Thus, I am waiting patiently, as an old man with little energy to actually do much. Thanks for the good and creative suggestions.

Jack Decker

Johnimo,

The leader has to be a respected scientist. Not a layperson like myself. Someone no one on the left can call a quack or a nobody. They should have impeccable credentials. Sorry, but that's just the way it is. Finding such a person will be hard BUT if we never look for her/him, they will never be found and encouraged to step forward.

And ideally, we have more than one. They will need to be good at debate as that is what they should seek with socialist scientists in public forums. Much like how atheist scientists are right now taking on religious leaders in debates about creationism, evolution, near-death experiences, angels, gods, origins of the universe, etc.

If anyone know of respected scientists who are libertarians, post that information in a reply here.

Bruce Alan Martin

Great question!!!
Plus a few very good suggestions.

Please pursue this!
You are on the right track, I'm waiting to hear more
(and ready willing and able to participate!)

Jack Decker

Bruce Alan Martin,

I can only do so much. This is really and truly a mantle that libertarian scientists must pick up and carry themselves. Laypeople like myself (I only possess a BA in psychology and a minor in business administration and been a marketer for three decades) cannot as the socialist scientists will simply do ad hominem and appeal to authority attacks against someone like me.

Likely the best thing you and anyone reading this can do is send a link to the above article to all scientists they know. They can even be mere grad students. We need to circulate this article. We need to make it and its comment section here a rally point ... until someone comes up with a better one.

© Copyright 2017 Liberty Foundation. All rights reserved.



Opinions expressed in Liberty are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Liberty Foundation.

All letters to the editor are assumed to be for publication unless otherwise indicated.