The Broken Science Initiative: Two Introductory Videos

The Broken Science Initiative: Two Introductory Videos

The Broken Science Initiative, to which I have been invited, has at last been launched at a recent get together in California.

Greg Glassman introduces the topic. You will recognize many of the names which are frequently dropped here, including David Stove and ET Jaynes.

It’s well worth noting the litany of thinkers Greg mentions were all physicists, except of course for David Stove. He could have also added Aristotle, the father of all. But it’s easy to forget who is ever-present.

Stove wrote a book, or half a book, on logical probability, the second half of The Rationality of Induction. So beside exposing irrationalist philosophy, Stove contributed fundamentally to our logical view of probability.

Incidentally, there is a small statue of Shanon in the small town in which I grew up. My first job there, I promise you, was on Random Lane.

Secondly, an obscure internet thoughtcriminal expands on Greg’s ideas:

No listener was hurt from the dangerous arm waving, though a mariachi band was standing by to sooth potential victims.

You will have noticed this talk is very similar to the one I gave in my shack, as a warmup.

There are many more on their way (and would have been here by now, but I lost my voice for about a week, an event for which many were grateful).

Might I beg that you will send these videos both far and wide?

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  1. Interesting video (WMB’s), but two early reactions (to the first half):

    – There’s a lot of science _outside_ of academia and associated government-dependent areas, in the R part of R&D in industry; there reality asserts itself because that science feeds into engineering. There’s also an audience effect, in that the ‘public intellectual’ scientists tend to not be taken seriously by actual scientists (which is why so much force is applied on them to keep them quiet, ex: CA law enjoining MDs from questioning their political masters).

    – NdGT was misquoting “the thing about REALITY is that it’s true independent of what you believe,” variously ascribed to a number of thinkers by google. For NdGT, the audience effect is probably at its maximum: mention him to a non-social-media-engagement-chaser astrophysicist and watch what happens…


  2. Incitadus

    Excellent my only concern is you’ve given short shrift to the nominalists
    who are ascendant and have returned to center stage. Ouija boards and
    chicken bones have eclipsed ‘The Science’. Science like gender is nominal
    and if Santa Klaus says it three times it’s true.

  3. 1 – I dislike videos, no matter how well done, because they’re terribly slow. I can misunderstand a 30 minute lecture in about 3 mins by reading a transcript and so see the other 27 mins as wasted.

    2 – I skipped through these: interesting, but repetitive and not much new to me – but too much new for the people I could imagine sending them to to tolerate. Remember that the primary behavioral characteristic (shibboleth for) of the cultist (or delusional) is refusal to countenance contrary information of any kind and you’ll understand why the people who need to see this stuff won’t (a contraction for “will not” with the will part underlined).

    3 – In your use of “expert” and often “elites” you are pushing the limits of the art of the contranym and it may make sense to formalize that in some way – maybe develop a word like “nexpert”?

    4 – One of the explanatory factors missing from what I have seen of your exposition(s) deduces the existence and role of nexperts from the combination of heirarchies with rapid technical change. Thus the technical people who sit on committees and are media go-tos tend to have some related education and work experience from years earlier when they sort of understood some of what was then going on, but devoted themselves to upward progression in the heirarchy rather than progression in knowledge/expertise. Once elevated to nexpert status they keep up by reading news reports, getting elevator briefings while tweeting, and reading abstracts written by and for people with little or no technical background. Thus the key problem in the sciences today is that funding decisions are made by people who used politics, not science, to advance and make decisions mainly on selling what’s selling (to others just like themselves) with very limited weighting given to what they misunderstood 30 and 40 years ago.

  4. Hagfish Bagpipe

    Greg Glassman? …searching… okay, that guy is the founder of CrossFit?! Pretty funny. Even funnier he gets cancelled during the Fentanyl Floyd op for tweeting, “Floyd19”. Super funny, gotta love it, tying the two mega-ops together in one punchy zinger like that. And now he’s working to fix broken science. Life is so confounding, in some ways. I mean, how am I supposed to think about this Glassman cat if I can’t put him in a box with a label? That’s a joke, son. He makes a pretty interesting presentation, about his father being a science bigwig and his father hated Popper, insisted he read Stove and that leads him to Briggs — long story short. Which is a pretty good plot twist, eh Briggs? Bet not even consensus models with wee pees could have predicted that. And so there you are the keynote speaker at a conference in Santa Cruz (apparently) spreading the message. Great! Love it! That’s super fun and funny. Thank you Greg Glassman and best of luck to your Broken Science Initiative. And congrats Matt on making a splash in Santa Cruz. You guys are the real “build back better” crew.

  5. John B()

    Jose C Silva

    I quite quickly an easily found two quotes: (1:26-1:31)
    The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe it (2:54 -3:01)
    When you have an “ESTABLISHED” scientific “EMERGENT TRUTH”, it is true, whether you believe in it!

    What does that second word salad mean, Jose?

    No respect at all for NdGT – he’s a whore

  6. John B()


    Thought you’d said NdGT was misquoted, but I see where you were going.

    Still glad that I checked the actual quotes

    John B

  7. JH

    May this adventure bring you fortune and fame! (I helped by clicking the YouTube link and watching an ad for 5 seconds.)

    Defending science against bullshit and pseudoscience – Bullshit and pseudoscience came to mind.

  8. Cary Cotterman

    Tyson cancelled Pluto, Which offended me deeply. He also stated that because scientists can predict eclipses it follows that they can predict future climate change. That tore it. He’s a bloated wannabe Sagan with about as much scientific credibility as Bill Nye the kiddy show presenter.

  9. John B()


    I got to Time 18 on Ladyman’s video … it didn’t quite follow from 12-18 … that just because shit is complex, we have to accept what epistemical authority says … epistemic authority and the abuse of epistemical authority

    He talks about pseudoscience supporting AGW denial (he himself referred to that as a rant – that tells me he accepts that he could be overreacting)

    What about the MOUNTAIN of pseudoscience that SUPPORTED AGW

    We’re not entitled to have opinions … equates the political with the science

    Vaccination campaigns

    His problem is that he doesn’t recognize how the political affects the science

    No JH, Briggs is no more a fraud than Ladyman and Ladyman is no less a fraud than Briggs … I let you have an opinion … you are entitled

  10. JH

    John B(),

    No JH, Briggs is no more a fraud than Ladyman and Ladyman is no less a fraud than Briggs … I let you have an opinion … you are entitled

    How did you reach the conclusion? Just like how do you know Ladyman doesn’t know the role of politics? What is my opinion expressed by referencing the two links? (See what I mean when I said that the readers here have a good imagination?!)

    Ladyman talked about the demarcation problem in science, an important philosophical issue. If I understand correctly, pseudoscience or bad science or bullshit is ‘broken science’ and not science.

    Lindzen (MIT researcher) pointed out a long time ago in his papers (sorry, too lazy to find them) that AGW is legitimate but he disagrees with the extent of AGW. Didn’t Briggs say something similar not a long time ago?

  11. Were all the speakers dressed in underclothes and pajamas, or just you two?

  12. Hagfish Bagpipe

    Lee, that’s pretty funny. In Briggs’ defense, dress code is set by the host, and given the context of young people in Santa Cruz that sort of informal attire is de rigueur. Just wait and see the rig Briggs sports for his presentation to the Broken Habiliment Initiative in Tuxedo Park.

  13. Pk

    Pretty good presentations, though the kid on his phone and ladies cooking up burgers or burritos were a bit distracting.

  14. Forbes

    Pk–One of the ladies had some pretty interesting (revolting) tattoos. Distracting might be another word…

  15. Sad Wings of Destiny

    Very interesting talk by Prof. Briggs, for whom I have the utmost respect as a scientist. However, and maybe I misunderstood the context, he misquotes Popper (min 21:16) regarding what scientists should do with false theories. At least in his early works i.e., “conjectures and refutations…”, Popper is clear regarding the potential value of falsified theories. He writes that, though false, these theories can have great practical utility. Perhaps Popper reversed his views in his later years, and did write something along the lines of “if you prove a model false you should not use it, absolutely”, but I am not aware of such a text.

  16. Briggs

    Sad Wings,

    Yes. See also Greg’s talk. And search here for more on Popper.

  17. Dwight

    To learn about Scholastic Philosophy go to the St. Benedict Center and take their Philosophia Perennis course. It will change your life for the better!

  18. Dwight

    The only other comment I have is that science is only ever interested in second cause. Scholastic Philosophy is the study of first cause which is, of course, God!

  19. Briggs


    I say if scientists don’t interest themselves in that first cause, they’ll never understand secondary causation. Look at the tremendous confusion with QM, for instance.

  20. Rudolph Harrier

    Re: Physicists and cause: I once had an hour long conversation with a physicist where I really only wanted to know the answers to three questions about a model he was trying to explain:

    1.) What features of the model are known?
    2.) What features are derived?
    3.) What are the limitations in using this model as an accurate depiction of reality?

    Despite the conversation going on for an hour, I never got answers to any of these questions. The physicist seemed to not understand the questions and kept taking the fact that I was asking questions as a sign that I did not understand the math involved, when in reality I was fine with the math and wanted to know the relevance of the math.

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