Culture

Science, Non-science & Propaganda — Guest Post by Johan Eddebo

“I Believe in Science. Trust the science. Follow the Science.”

Oh Science, glorious benefactor of the dutiful citizen who humbly recognizes his own insufficiency and weakness in light of the magnificent power and knowledge of your great machinery of truth and progress, lead us into Abundance and Safety.

Let the decrees of your enlightened experts and the intercession of your benevolent managers banish from our trustful and contrite hearts any conceited presumption of our own competence and rational sovereignty.

Discipline us that we may more fully submit to your ever-evolving omniscience, edify us that we may continually work towards uniting our wills with your eternal quest for material perfection, and inspire us to help bring about the final subjugation of the entire cosmos under the dominion of instrumental reason and its all-penetrating gaze.

All of three years ago, before phenomena like Thunberg and the COVID-event, one would have thought a tirade like this a bit hyperbolic, if accurate to an extent. That’s not really the case anymore. In today’s media climate, science is increasingly characterized in terms of myth and legend, if not a pseudo-religious morality play. To be sure, science has played a significant role in Western ideology since the Renaissance, and has arguably functioned as a cohesive myth with redemptive or eschatological trappings in the wake of religion’s retreat during the 20th century, long since pressed into service for imperial expansion and domestic legitimacy.

The Great Exhibition of 1851 is a seminal example of the popular ascendancy of this idea of science as key to the fulfillment of human destiny. Held in London during the dawn of the Victorian Era, and at the very height of the British Empire, this inaugural World’s Fair symbolically and conceptually fused together science with capital, industry and colonialism in an hitherto unprecedented manner. The emerging institution of a monolithic natural science was here spectacularly melded with the fruits of colonial exploitation and industrial technology in what was one of modern history’s most significant propaganda ceremonies.

At the behest of royalty, goods and products from all of Britain’s colonies, as well as most of the Western world, were showcased side to side with the astonishing inventions and industrial technologies of the day in more than 13,000 exhibits. The telegraph was then about a decade old, and the first undersea cable between France and England had just been laid, eventually enabling global telecommunications more than a century before the Internet. But the 1851 Exhibition already sported a fully functioning telefax machine, capable of transmitting actual images across the wire. Brady was here decorated for his daguerrotypes invented a few years earlier, and the first mechanical voting machine was also presented, providing a clear indication of the technological instrumentalization of democracy at the very outset of the spread of common suffrage.

Such marvels. Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Michael Faraday and Samuel Colt were all in attendance at some point or other. The Queen herself made over sixty appearances at this real-life steampunk festival, and the working classes stood in awe, lining up to fund the whole ”self-financing” drama, who received more than six million paying visitors during that one summer.

The dazzling story of science wedded to power and progress is something absolutely fundamental to us moderns. It is a key pillar of not just the most dominant worldviews and ideologies, but rather a prerequisite of any acceptable consensus view of reality whatsoever. This is a situation with quite deep roots, and connects with how governance took form within the framework of early capitalism and the auxiliary ideologies thereto which developed under the auspices of Renaissance humanism and Enlightenment philosophy. Indeed, the very mechanistic reductionism that lies at the core of how our society thinks and speaks of reality itself is arguably a supportive ideology of a capitalism for whom abstract, calculable quantities, immediate utility and priceable commodities, are the central priorities.

Be that as it may, the symbolic authority of science as arbiter of truth and provider of goods, security and existential hope and fulfillment, is now the cornerstone of how we view ourselves and the world. This myth of a cohesive institution of objective knowledge that assures technological and societal progress and abundance, is really the central source of trust in our institutions, ideologies and our cultural narratives in general, having more or less entirely supplanted religious traditions in this sense.

This is one of the reasons why the invocation of science will act as such a potent force multiplier in propaganda. Science has become the fundamental meta-narrative that shapes and supplies legitimacy to almost all of our beliefs and values. It is the predominant fount of power, both epistemically, since it is taken to uniquely provide us with true beliefs, as well in its tangible promise of mastery over nature through technology.

In contrast to the Enlightenment project where reason and sensory experience, although secularized and increasingly instrumental, functioned as the basic warrant for what we can coherently hold to be true (something in principle possessed by every human being), it is now rather the infused authority of the myth and symbol of Science that reigns supreme.

While this, again, is far from a novel development, it seems to have been significantly exacerbated by the current situation. Fear and uncertainty, fomented by a global mediatic effort of almost unimaginable proportions, have driven us to embrace that which may protect us and keep us safe. Science is increasingly not just a cohesive narrative according to which we orient ourselves. It is a sacred totem upon which the fragile edifice of democracy, the rule of law and even our physical well-being is erected. The very pillar of civilization and its redemptive progress, without which all is lost.

One immediate effect of using this symbol of science as a foundation for institutional authority is that political dissent immediately becomes associated with ”denying science”. Even moderate opposition to prevailing opinions or policies then places the skeptic in conflict with the very basis of non-trivial true statements about the world around us. Since basic epistemic warrant is now authority rather than common human reason (instrumentalized or not), your arguments are almost irrelevant.

If you dissent, you’re pitting your own mere opinion against the cumulative force of the entire institution of science and its virtuous experts, who always speak with one voice, and whose collective quantity of hours of schooling and pooled knowledge naturally makes your conjectures entirely pointless. Even if the opposition also legitimately invokes science, which is nearly always the case, they are merely the heretical minority against a dominant orthodoxy supported by global mass media.

In other words, political and institutional power is rendered inviolable in being consecrated by science. This relationship is then constantly renewed through mass society’s mediatic leveraging of the core myths of modernity, something which COVID has kicked into high gear.

The thing is, all of this has very little to do with actual science, or even with the original ideals of Enlightenment rationalism. Science is at its core neither more nor less than the rational and systematic exploration of the world around us, and to enthrone it as some form of inviolable authority will immediately undermine the entire endeavour itself.

At this point, the myth’s apologists will generally maintain something to the effect that nobody has seriously claimed that science is infallible, but rather that it is a uniquely self-correcting set of methods for discerning reality. That science singularly minimizes biases, demands evidence and motivates us to seek the truth in spite of our desires and prejudices. They will generally add that science is historically unprecedented due to its “prodigious performance”. Just look at the Great Exhibition, will you?

But all of this is either trivial or false, aside from also tending to reproduce these superstitious beliefs in the near-infallibility of the institution and its representatives.

All human attempts at understanding and interacting with the world around us necessarily self-correct and demand evidence if there are any kind of stakes involved. Neanderthal seafaring 130,000 years ago was not the result of random nonsense with no method for evaluating evidence or accumulating and disseminating knowledge, and neither are the ”primitive” San people’s ways of surviving in one of the most inhospitable locations on the planet.

In terms of science’s incredible power to bring wealth, goods and contraptions to our table, its contributions should not be unduly denigrated. But certainly most fruits of industrial civilization are chiefly the products of abundant fossil fuels and the nearly free energy they provide. It is furthermore entirely possible that these boons could have been better stewarded by traditions other than modern Western science, and whether this immense growth and expansion of mankind’s disruptive interference in our natural surroundings is always “progress” can surely be debated.

Has the encroachment of modern technology upon the traditional ways of life of billions of people over the world always been desirable in the eyes of those subjected to it? Of course not. And has it always fostered the growth and maturation of knowledge rather than displacing or disrupting it? We lose ten spoken languages every year.

That science magically protects from biases is likewise contentious. If it does at all, that also goes for any tradition of knowledge addressing the threat of starvation or hypothermia. But even the best method cannot guarantee the virtue of the people supposed to put it into practice. The idea that everything society stamps with ”science” is somehow free from partiality is also clearly belied by the data on institutionalized corruption within the framework of pharmaceutical and medical research.

Leemon B. McHenry’s work, featured on Off-Guardian, is a good example. Not to speak of the plethora of science’s historical aberrations. Were the Tuskegee experiments or Nazi eugenics free from biases? Or the Scandinavian forced sterilizations which first ended in the 1970s? Sure, this is always dismissed as ”pseudoscience”, but there’s really no way to make that distinction in these cases without involving non-scientific principles or values such as justice, fairness or the right to one’s bodily integrity, which then immediately contradicts the notion of science’s unique character.

And anyhow, if pseudoscience was rampant within what everyone took to be ”normal” science just a few decades ago, well, then the point is conceded.

Science is obviously not a closed system. It must either be regarded as essentially dependent on non-science, or we must consider all forms of knowledge to be in some sense scientific and thus render the concept trivial. Fundamental principles of logic, epistemology or metaphysics are for instance entirely indispensable for any form of scientific research whatsoever. And it is impossible to even formulate research questions without regard to extra-scientific values and priorities—but these cannot even in principle be derived from empirical data on material reality mechanistically conceived.

Yet that doesn’t mean they can never be proven, or that we have no way of learning about them.

The often frantic attempts at establishing a clear and stable demarcation between science and non-science is really motivated by the need to safeguard the sanctity of a core myth of modern civilization that underpins our worldviews and almost all institutional authority.

But science was never meant to function as myth. Science was supposed to be this radical ideal of universal rationality, specifically in opposition to arbitrary authority and the fiat of princes and kings. The intention was to foster mankind’s trust in our own critical faculties. That we would develop and master these to promote a deliberate growth of common knowledge which would in the end allow us to cultivate true independence from below.

This is not the worst ideal imaginable. But these ambitions are inevitably thwarted if we set science up as some immaculate idol used and abused to develop the perceived legitimacy of our political and economic institutions.

What’s more, the positive contributions of modern science are also immediately undermined if the institution and those who lay claim to it are regarded as above reproach and interrogation. Its actual self-correcting practices will be disrupted at every level as soon as science is both regarded as a near-faultless tradition of knowledge, and captured by powerful interest groups to bolster their authority. Since science in the popular understanding is regarded precisely as a flawless way to attain truth rather than a set of infallible dogmas, this arrangement will cement all that science is taken to proclaim as inerrant in practice, while at the same time rendering every changed prediction or pronouncement equally impeccable.

This tweet gives us a very instructive example:

”Scientists”, the elect custodians of the sacred discipline, are infallible and always in agreement. Your dissenting position, whatever it is, must be rejected by default. It doesn’t even rise to the level of an actual disagreement, because you do not have the proper authority.

It is here further emphasized that science is ”not truth”, i.e. that science as such is only the inherently superior set of methods for discovering truth, rather than some set of fixed propositions. Notwithstanding the fact that any theory or method necessarily must presuppose such a set, this focus on the excellence of the method instead of any particular information enables the last and quite disquieting statement.

Even if it actually changes its position, Science was never wrong. It just evolved according to its perfect method, extrapolating new conclusions as additional data became available. You just had an unwarranted opinion that by definition was unreasonable since it diverged from the then-current scientific consensus.

In other words, the truth is whatever Science tells you, and there are no fixed norms apart from its authority, since it better than anything else is capable of bringing us into contact with reality.

”Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth.”[1]

But there’s an immediate and fatal contradiction here. Without the universal rationality and competence of the common person, there is no science whatsoever. The institution cannot possess any unique epistemic authority if this is not first found in the rational human being. If the critically thinking citizen cannot in principle discern truth by him- or herself, then neither can science.

No matter how complex this human endeavour in principle may become, it will never disconnect from the critical thinking of the common man. It can accordingly always be corrected and improved by new perspectives, analyses or questions that in principle may be posed by everyone who studies the relevant issues.

This is all the more obvious if we consider that experts in actual practice rarely are in agreement. Especially not in regard to complex issues where the data is limited or conflicting, which is almost always the case with new or developing situations. In the history of science, unanimity is many times the outcome of political decisions, common prejudices or social processes, rather than clear and unambiguous data. And time and time again, such consensus positions have turned out to be mistaken, and proven to be so by outsiders, laypeople or mavericks rather than the high-ranking experts.

For all of these reasons, it is clear that the judgments of experts, and the positions attributed to a largely fictional monolithic scientific consensus, cannot be uncritically accepted. They are in need of outside control, not only for liberty’s sake, but also to safeguard the integrity of science as such. And when it comes to truly important issues where the outcomes may be very severe and disruptive, these judgments should be examined most thoroughly, by everyone from concerned citizens and journalists to dissenting experts—even by other traditions outside of science.

The people immediately affected by the outcomes of such judgments should be allowed to ascertain whether they are truly sound, whether being established in the manner of the sciences involved really is the end of the debate, and if not other traditions of knowledge have something superior to offer. And the people making such an assessment must be afforded all the relevant data, not only soundbites filtered through a politicized mass media.

A free society can in no way submit to being governed by a cadre of unelected experts or by the powerful interest groups who employ the prestige and status of experts to cement their own authority. The judgments of specialists can naturally be valuable and useful, but they are not infallible, and they only represent one tradition among many. A free and pluralistic society must therefore scrutinize the positions attributed to the experts, especially so when they regard potentially disruptive changes to society, so that the informed self-governance of those immediately affected can be maintained. If we want to retain any vestiges of liberty in this increasingly authoritarian situation that so rapidly has emerged, there really is no other way.

We must move away from this infantilizing modern superstition, this idolized amalgamation of industry, progress and spectacular technology construed as a monolithic and infallible authority, and rediscover the rational autonomy of the common human being, the very notion from which the project of modern science once grew:

We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity. When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams. If we ask whence this comes, if we seek to pry into the soul that causes, all philosophy is at fault. Its presence or its absence is all we can affirm. Every man discriminates between the voluntary acts of his mind, and his involuntary perceptions, and knows that to his involuntary perceptions a perfect faith is due. He may err in the expression of them, but he knows that these things are so, like day and night, not to be disputed.

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being.

And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.[2]

I do not believe that science is infallible or beyond reproach. As it stands, I think it is a flawed and, in the best of times, myopic set of institutions, that have now become captured and dangerously corrupt, the misuse of which threatens our common future in many ways. All the same, I do believe in science.

I believe in the goodness and decency of human beings, and I applaud their efforts to understand and improve the world around us. I believe that kindness and beauty are ubiquitous, and are deeper and more perfect truths than anything the intellect may grasp. I believe in God, and I believe that there’s a purpose and meaning to this life that is utterly beyond our comprehension, yet that we may hope to one day enter into.

I believe that there exists an objective reality around us that we partake in and have immediate access to, even if we may never fully grasp more than a minuscule part of it. And I believe that the universal ingenuity and shrewdness of human beings allow us to discover and interact with it in always new and unexpected ways.

I believe that there is truth and untruth, that two and two make four, and that from these principles, everything else follows.

So yes, I believe in science.

But I will not kiss your flag.[3]

Johan Eddebo can also be found at the Aesthetic Resistance podcast with John Steppling and others.

Footnotes

  1. George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949. ?
  2. Ralph Waldo Emerson, ”Self-Reliance”, in Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1841. ?
  3. E. E. Cummings, ”i sing of Olaf glad and big”, 1931. ?

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Categories: Culture

19 replies »

  1. Very good. The problem with science is that elites support it mainly for the purpose of profit and power. Thus science will tend towards corruption and untruth in the face of these overweening forces.

  2. While I certainly agree with the general point being made here (https://corruption-of-science.blogspot.com) I am not confident that the author knows what they are talking about. I am not confident he understand real science.

    For example: “the Tuskegee experiments or Nazi eugenics free from biases? Or the Scandinavian forced sterilizations which first ended in the 1970s? Sure, this is always dismissed as ”pseudoscience”

    These examples sound like secondhand moral outrage (of instances popular with leftists), and completely orthogonal to whether the science aspect of these medical instances was good science, qua science.

    And “A free society can in no way submit to being governed by a cadre of unelected experts” – what do ‘elections’ – as of 2021 – have to do with good or moral government? Why would ‘elected experts’ possibly be better than ‘unelected’ ones? What do elections have to do with the real science of the past?

    “I believe in the goodness and decency of human beings”… What? In 2021 – after the past 18 months? “human beings” are innately, or on average, good and decent?

    In general, a poorly argued article, from what sounds very much like a mainstream leftist, materialist and secular stance.

    Real science is dead and gone (except among a few amateurs) – and will only be rebuilt from within a Christian understanding of the world; and by those dedicated to seeking and speaking transcendental truth. Until then, and within the current demonic-lying ideology; there is nothing positive that can be done.

  3. @bruce g

    “These examples sound like secondhand moral outrage (of instances popular with leftists), and completely orthogonal to whether the science aspect of these medical instances was good science, qua science.”

    yeah, that’s why I use them. they’re paradigm examples of pseudoscience, but you can’t make that distinction without recourse to non-science. that’s the only point, i.e. contesting the demarcation thesis.

    “’A free society can in no way submit to being governed by a cadre of unelected experts’ – what do ‘elections’ – as of 2021 – have to do with good or moral government? Why would ‘elected experts’ possibly be better than ‘unelected’ ones? What do elections have to do with the real science of the past?”

    nobody has argued this. I’d maintain that elected representatives in certain contexts can be an acceptable aspect of government, but would rather not be caught dead defending contemporary parliamentarism

    “’I believe in the goodness and decency of human beings’… What? In 2021 – after the past 18 months? ‘human beings’ are innately, or on average, good and decent?”

    sure. all of creation is good, although fallen. man is the imago Dei.

    “In general, a poorly argued article, from what sounds very much like a mainstream leftist, materialist and secular stance.”

    feel free to engage with the actual arguments. the thesis is that basically that science has been reduced to myth, and that the erection of a deified Science considered infallible will basically render it a false religion open to exploitation by those who control the discourse, as well as undermining actual science. but it seems you’d agree with this.

    no idea how you get secularism or materialism out of this though. the entire premise indicts reductionist physicalism, and the end explicitly affirms theism.

  4. “…. during the dawn of the Victorian Era, and at the very height of the British Empire, this inaugural World’s Fair symbolically and conceptually fused together science with capital, industry and colonialism in an hitherto unprecedented manner …”

    1851 was not the height of the British Empire, if one considers the true geographical extent of British Rule, including the Commonwealth, Protectorates and Colonies, the British Empire continued to expand geographically until around 1944. During WW2 Britain acquired (briefly it turns out) huge swaths of eastern Africa and significant lands in south east Asia. India leaving in 1947 brought on the true end of imperial ambitions.

    But I digress. In 1851, it would be another 8 years or so before Darwin’s “Origin of Species” would be found at the book sellers. This theory, in my opinion, would underpin the Anglo-Saxon “Science Is Religion” movement more than just about any other scientific work.

    One thing I’ve observed over the years (having worked internationally) is that the science that gets published is the science with the loudest voice. Since the British Empire spread English across the world, it’s not surprising that English language science and philosophy became historically predominant, even though there was great (and often better) work being done in other parts of the world, such as Scandinavia, Russia, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, etc.

    Very nice article; especially the concluding remark:

    “Real science is dead and gone (except among a few amateurs) – and will only be rebuilt from within a Christian understanding of the world; and by those dedicated to seeking and speaking transcendental truth. Until then, and within the current demonic-lying ideology; there is nothing positive that can be done.”

  5. Thank you. Found this very interesting. One of the things I find to be telling, i.e. tending to confirm that the proclamation of scientific truth by authority experts is akin to a religious authority, is that when the self-contradictions and illogicality of authority science pronouncements is pointed out, people get defensive and upset and simply refuse to discuss the matter.

  6. By the way, I saw a PSA comparing the Tuskegee experiments to men of color choosing not to get the vaccine.

  7. Speaking of the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, and its famous Crystal Palace, Dostoevsky saw them as emblematic of the soul-crushing ugliness, materialism, scientism, and mechanistic utilitarianism of modern herd man. To Dostoevsky, the Crystal Palace was a harbinger of a future human life akin to an anthill.

    “A city with it millions and worldwide trade, the Crystal Palace, the International Exposition…Yes, the Exposition is striking. You feel a terrible force that has united all these people here…into a single herd; you become aware of a gigantic idea…it’s all so solemn, triumphant, and proud that you begin to gasp for breath…It is a kind of biblical scene, something about Babylon, a kind of prophecy from the Apocalypse fulfilled before your very eyes. You feel it would require a great deal of eternal spiritual resistance resistance and denial not to succumb, not to surrender to the impression, not to bow down to fact, and not to idolize Baal, that is not to accept what exists as your ideal.” (“Winter Notes on Summer Impressions”)

    And in the voice of the Underground Man from “Notes From Underground” (one of the great anti-rationalist, anti-utilitarian, anti-scientism screeds):

    “…everything will be computed and defined with such exactitude that no more actions or adventures will be possible in the world. At that time (it’s still you talking) new economic relations will commence, ready-made and likewise calculated with mathematical precision, so that all possible questions will vanish instantaneously, simply because all possible answers will have been provided for them. Then, the Crystal Palace will be erected…You believe in some crystal edifice that is forever indestructible…Well, maybe I’m afraid of this edifice just because it’s crystal and forever indestructible, and you won’t be able to stick your tongue out at it even on the sly…”

    “As for me, I, for example, would be surprised in the slightest if, suddenly, for no particular reason, in the midst of the universal future rational well-being, some gentleman…were to appear, and putting his hands on his hips, were to say to all of us: ‘How about it, gentlemen, why don’t we know all this rational well-being into smithereens with one swift kick, with the sole purpose of sending all these logarithms to the devil, and so that we could live again according to our own stupid will!'”

    “People always and everywhere, whoever they might be, have always preferred to act as they desired and not at all according to the dictates of reason and profit…What has made them necessarily imagine that man necessarily needs a rationally profitable desire? Man needs only his own independent desire, whatever this independence might cost, and wherever it might lead…You see: Reason, gentlemen, is a good thing; that’s indisputable; but reason is only reason and satisfies only man’s rational faculty, whereas desire is a manifestation of the whole of life…And although our life, in this manifestation, often turns out to be nothing but crap, nevertheless it’s life and not just square-root extraction.”

  8. I enjoyed the essay. It’s well-written, well-researched, compelling, but (here’s the but) mostly strawman arguments.

    If we define Science as the principal tool of authoritarianism, symbolic or literal, and as the myth underpinning the modern communal weltanschauung, then Science is perforce guilty of every crime, every hardship, every injustice. If we define science as the logical and rational search for the way the world works, then it is an ancient human endeavor and fundamental to our survival and evolutionary success.

    Either way, too much credit or blame is given to Science. For example, from the essay:

    Indeed, the very mechanistic reductionism that lies at the core of how our society thinks and speaks of reality itself is arguably a supportive ideology of a capitalism for whom abstract, calculable quantities, immediate utility and priceable commodities, are the central priorities.

    That argument above cuts both and every which way. Communism is materialistic, calls itself “scientific”, and is decidedly anti-capitalist. You could plug in any ideology and blame its existence on “mechanistic reductionism”, i.e. Science. The sawed-off shotgun hits every target.

    And be sure to capitalize Science to differentiate it from science, one being the source of all evil and the other how to boil an egg.

    The theme continues: Science has a cure, which is Religion. That argument is also fraught with strawmen and major generalizations.

    Our modern predicament is not so much the worship of Science instead of God as it is the flimflam of conmen citing “science” as the excuse for their brutal excesses. The tyrannical overlords formerly blamed God for their divinely inspired rape and slaughter, and they will again if it becomes necessary.

  9. It was about midnight and the TV was set to go off and really wasn’t watching or paying much attention …

    Heard something about Tuskegee airmen …

    Then I heard something about treatment for Syphilis withheld

    And how you could get free treatment for Covid

    There’s been stories since March including a NYTimes article 7 days ago

    Back in March NPR had one:
    Stop Blaming Tuskegee Study For Inaction On … – NPR.org
    [Search domain npr.org] https://www.npr.org › sections › health-shots › 2021 › 03 › 23 › 974059870 › stop-blaming-tuskegee-critics-say-its-not-an-excuse-for-current-medical-racism
    Mar 23, 2021The Tuskegee syphilis study is often cited as a reason why Black Americans might hesitate on the COVID-19 vaccine. But many say it’s current racism in health care and Tuskegee is used as an excuse.

  10. The ad they featured on adage wasn’t the one I saw, but …

    By the way, has anybody else noted WOM results this past weekend?

    They were well under a 1000 SAT SUN and MON

    Now they’re about double – looks very suspicious – looks nothing like a normal turn up again

  11. “I Believe in Science. Trust the science. Follow the Science.” Oh Science, glorious benefactor of the dutiful citizen who humbly recognizes his own insufficiency and weakness in light of the magnificent power […]

    “glorious benefactor of the dutiful citizen…
    Somethings’ wrong with that description.
    The benefactor is by definiton a person of power, a charitable donating organisation or individual citizen.
    “The science” in this opening line would be the beneficiary.

    Satire is a device used to criticise powerful individuals or organisations/ governments, elites, perceived or actual tyrants.
    So the attitude is right for satire, but the benefactor in that example of the high hand of “science”,
    dictating from on high, in effect, would be a beneficiary, not a benefactor of the dutiful citizenry.

  12. This kind of analysis is also why the “sex” vs. “gender” thread became so futile…

    The point is that “the Science” sees itself as, and wants mankind – the dutiful citizens who genuflect to The Science(TM) – to see it as, man’s great benefactor, not that it actually IS such.

  13. Dennis,
    Of course the point is obvious, but the words used were totally the opposite of what was intended.
    If satire’s worth doing? (which I argue it never is)
    Then it’;s worth doing properly.
    On the general theme:
    Satire is not effective and is in fact counterproductive, when it is used agains the less powerful or the vulnerable. in a given scenario.
    That point is lost on our regular author, utterly.
    Regarding discussion and how you think it ought to proceed?
    The gender discussion? I didn’t notice a discussion!
    The point I made was about missing the main chance in tackling the “gender” discussion. After all this time, people are still at square one. madness! talking about french female ships! “social constructs” and the like, excuse me for finding it tedious.

  14. As a retired physicist (with a name eqution to my credit that needs no footnote) I’ll have to say I enjoyed the article and agree with most of the points made. Here’s one point the author should have made, but didn’t. The problem is in how students are educated in science. instead of teaching students how to balance equations, solve train arrival and pulley problems, they should be taught science from a historical perspective. They then can see how the caloric theory was disproved empirically by cannon boring, how ether was dismissed by a fine experiment, the long struggle to understand energy, order and work in thermodynamics and a molecular theory, and why no one really understands quantum mechanics.

  15. Awhile ago, I went to the range with a friend who counts as an experts in shooting. I hoped to glean some insights from him on how to shoot better. Before going to the range, I had read all the articles and seen all the videos on what you should do to shoot straight. I had been to the range a couple of times to shoot. I made holes in pieces of paper. The holes were reasonably close to where they were supposed to be, but they were down and left of where I was pointing (in general). He watched me shoot one magazine. He picked up his 357 and put some bullets in. He told me to “try this”. I shot. I didn’t necessarily shoot it well. But on the last trigger pull my gun dipped forward. The gun hadn’t gone off.

    He then said “Brad, what just happened there… That is anticipation of recoil!”

    I don’t know exactly what he did, but I suspect he put a spent casing in one of the chambers (it being revolved). I had notice this dip happen to me with my weapon. Sometime the slide doesn’t stay back when it is empty. But I didn’t make the connection between my hands dipping the gun forward and anticipation of recoil.

    The solution… Don’t grip so hard.

    But you have to be careful. Not gripping so hard can quickly become a barrel in your head (especially if some clever bastard hand you a .50 Desert Eagle).

    Turns out not gripping to hard is one of the many factors in many sporting activities. In golf, I have to grip the club just hard enough that the club doesn’t come out of my hands. It is really, really easy to start gripping it too hard.

    Science, Engineering and Medicine are wonderful things. They too, have to be gripped carefully. I am ready for the Overunity project to show up and solve all the world’s energy problems. If someone figures out how to get energy out of the zero point, I will check to make sure they don’t have a battery up their sleeve. I will check to make sure it can do more than make a frictionless wheel keep turning. If anyone pushes back on me when I get out my multimeter or dynamometer to check these, I will back away and not invest. I will tell my friends, family, and those around me WHY it is I am not investing. I will not force them to not invest. They can freely think I am crazy for missing out on the investment opportunity.

    Engineering helps me evaluation the irrational. It also helps me get to solutions. It does not mean I have perfect understanding of anything.

    That Anticipation or recoil is less than a heartbeat. It is less than an eyeblink. It is letting the recoil happen before you put the barrel back on target. You never get to stop practicing avoiding it. It will always sneak in from the side as you get tired. That is the essence of science. You never get to stop practicing it. Ever. Think you figured something out? Now you get to spend the rest of your life proving that you are wrong.

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