Paul Ehrlich Confirms Science’s Negative Expansion Team Effect & Peer Review

Paul Ehrlich Confirms Science’s Negative Expansion Team Effect & Peer Review

Modern science wisdom from Paul R. Ehrlich:

If you can’t see it, it reads:

60 Minutes extinction story has brought the usual right-wing out in force. If I’m always wrong so is science, since my work is always peer-reviewed, including the POPULATION BOMB and I’ve gotten virtually every scientific honor. Sure I’ve made some mistakes, but no basic ones

I am happy to agree with any man where I can. So that I second Ehrlich’s acknowledgment that he has not only virtually, but also in Reality, had nearly every scientific honor. Rarely has one scientist been as feted, awarded, praised, and, the highest compliment of the all, emulated as Ehrlich.

I’m also with him that he has made mistakes—as do we all. We differ only on our understanding of “basic.”

But that is nothing. Because most importantly, I want to convey my hearty agreement with his deepest point—his philosophy of science: “If I’m always wrong so is science, since my work is always peer-reviewed”.

According to Ehrlich, and his peers, the world should have ended by now because of environmental catastrophe. Since he was wrong, so was science. And science likely was wrong because of peer review, which we might also call peer acquiescence or peer enforcement, just as Ehrlich implied.

Thus Ehrlich, given Ehrlich’s admitted errors, he agrees with us, that peer review is one of the big reasons science goes bad.

It is a more-or-less obvious argument that the more peers there are, all of whom are publishing science papers, the more peer review there is. And therefore the greater force there is driving science towards the mean, which is to say average, beliefs.

Ehrlich confirmed this not only by blaming his peers on his mistakes, but by acknowledging how those very same peers gave him almost every award there is. And that means low-level peers wanting to become high-level peers, which is not unreasonable, many would seek to emulate Ehrlich, as they indeed do. But that means emulators in turn make the same kind of mistakes Ehrlich did. And enforce it all with peer review.

What makes this is all more interesting is that right on top of Ehrlich’s comments came a Nature editorial—and peer-reviewed paper!—on the theme “‘Disruptive’ science has declined — and no one knows why.”

That “no one” is tribal. The writer meant no one he knew. For I venture to say that I know, and that regular readers know, why science is suffering. But we—you and I, dear readers—are not peers and so not in the counted class.

The article’s subhead is true: “The proportion of publications that send a field in a new direction has plummeted over the past half-century.”

Now enforced conformity by peer review is certainly not the only reason innovation is stunted, nor even, maybe, the most important. But it is definitely one reason, as Ehrlich confirmed. The opening sentence confirms this, indirectly: “The number of science and technology research papers published has skyrocketed over the past few decades…”

Regulars know I say this result is due to the Expansion Team effect. The more scientists there are, because of the increasing money poured into science, the more work is produced, but the less the average value of the work is worth—and the more peer review there is. This is almost a mathematical theorem.

Here’s the proof, using the authors’ figure:

Their “disruptiveness index” (CD) is yet-another citation formula, sort of like the average number of citations a paper receives. Which, of course, goes down at least because of the increasing number of low-value to no-value papers.

And the number of no- and low-value papers naturally increase the more scientists there are, which is at least a factor of how much money is pumped into the system.

It’s not only citations, but, in what turns out not to be a surprise in retrospect, the average number of unique words in papers has the same declining shape! Papers become formulaic under peer review. It’s only surprising “AI” hasn’t been used to push out papers.

There is no cure for this, save cutting back on the money and number of scientists (mostly in the academy), hence the amount of what is called research.

And that’s not going to happen; at least, not anytime soon.

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  1. john b()


    When one talks about “The Rise of Machines”, one ties that event to “the machine” becoming self-aware.

    “The Fall of Science” :: one can tie that event to when “science” is no longer “self-aware”

  2. Jim from Boston

    Can we assume that ‘LEAST DESTRUCTIVE’ on the chart’s y-axis has a value of ZERO, not negative-one*..? (Zero does appear to be the asymptote on the curves.)

    * Chart description under title

  3. The number of science and technology research papers published has skyrocketed over the past few computerized [as in: copy & paste & find & replace] decades?!

  4. Pk

    I made mistakes, but no basic ones. Geeesh. That deserved a follow up question big time. But, he’s basically a liberal so no follow up,

  5. PE Bird

    ‘It’s only surprising “AI” hasn’t been used to push out papers.’ I’m not so sure.

  6. JohnM

    My paper “Anthropogenic Climate Change is bad but Global Warming is better” was peer reviewed by my Mum, Uncle Charlie and the cat, but I could not be bothered to publish it.

  7. William Wallace

    The only thing better than being “wrong in the right way,” is to be anti humanity. Bonus points for being both.

  8. Dr K.A. Rodgers

    Clearly a scientific concesus is being acheived in each of the four plotted fields.

  9. Hagfish Bagpipe

    Here’s how he made his reputation:

    The original edition of The Population Bomb began with this statement: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate …”[17] Ehrlich argued that the human population was too great, and that while the extent of disaster could be mitigated, humanity could not prevent severe famines, the spread of disease, social unrest, and other negative consequences of overpopulation. By the end of the 1970s, this prediction proved to be incorrect. However, he continued to argue that societies must take strong action to decrease population growth in order to mitigate future disasters, both ecological and social.

    The man is the archetype of the delusional, lying, fear-mongering, lime-lighting, revolutionary chutzpahnik, chosen to heal the world even if they have to kill everyone doing it. His sort provided the moral justification for the current program of mass-murder depopulation via injection by totalitarian world government. We have to do it to save the world! We are the ones we have been waiting for! Our opponents are right-wing Hitlers! We are Gods! Kill! Kill! Kill!

    Big mistake following that crew of lunatic devils off a cliff. But it seems a lot of brain-washed fools, true believers, and moral cowards, as well as innocent lambs abandoned by their shepherds, are doing just that.

  10. “peer” means equal. So dumbing down academia dumbs down peer review – meaning that the peer review idea is fine, it’s the reviewers who aren’t up to the job.

    So why aren’t they? in large part because the boards making up the major funding agencies are largely made up of people who are not qualified to judge science. As a result they hire other unqualified people to rate proposals and give money to things that meet emotional or political rather than objective criteria.

  11. Ann Cherry

    So, the aging Paul Ehrlich has crawled out from under his rock, to tell us he is very disappointed in us. DIE, already, says Paul.

    In a similar way, Jane Goodall, who is also past 80, recently went before a microphone to tell us we need to reduce the human population by over 90%.

    Bill Gates, yet another old croaker, is on board the Death Ship too, and he’s dabbling in a bevy of “solutions”, including forced vexination, and taking out our food and energy supplies.

    If all else fails, there’s always WWIII, and these rich old billionaires all have their bunkers and supplies ready, because even if they think WE should DIE already….they’ve other plans for themselves. The best laid plans, and we know how those often turn out.

    I don’t remember my grandparents thinking this way, but the times they are a-changing.

    I heard a priest once say, during the general prayers, (we pray for) “the surprising sins of the elderly.”

    These wealthy and influential geriatrics, after enjoying long lives, and now approaching their own expiration dates (and their own particular judgements), want to take a whole bunch of us out with them, and prevent future generations from being born. Sounds like a plan straight out of hell.

  12. Vermont Crank

    I heard a priest once say, during the general prayers, (we pray for) “the surprising sins of the elderly.”

    The revolutionaries who chunked together various parts of protestant worship to fabricate the N.O. didn’t consider the Mass as being part of a man centered petition (The Hoy Holocaust does have PARTs of the Mass, Petition, Adoration, Reparation, Thanksgiving) and so we got the bidding prayers.

    That is an explanation for those who grew-up in the Real Mass and here is a moral formal explanation of PARTs

    The four sacrifices in the Holocaust of the Mass

    1. The holocaust sacrifice offered to God is an homage/offering to His sovereign greatness.
    2. The sacrifice of propitiation is offered to appease His Justice.
    3. The Sacrifice of impetration is offered to implore His bounty.
    4. The Eucharistic sacrifice is offered to thank Him for his bounty.

    The Mass is a Holy Holocaust which the One True Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church offers to God as an offering to His greatness and power; a sacrifice of propitiation to appease His Justice; a sacrifice of impetration to solicit His bounty; and a Eucharistic sacrifice offered to Him in thanksgiving for all of His favors.

    The Holy Holocaust demands a spirit of humility, the sacrifice of expiation, a spirit of penance, compunction, and penitence; the sacrifice of impetration, a spirit of fervor and submission; the Eucharistic sacrifice, a spirit of love and gratitude.

  13. Ann Cherry

    Thanks, Vermont Crank, for a good education on the Holy Mass. Yes, it’s gotten folksy, or charismatic, sometimes, depending where you go. Maybe the priest had just heard a really hair-raising confession from a “seasoned citizen.”

    Not to veer off-topic, the point was, there are some people, some of them very old people, who ought to be thinking about “last things” in a very different way.

    We are each of us, writing the story we’ll present to the Lord at our own particular judgment. Hopefully it won’t be about spending our golden years aiding and abetting an apocalypse. God bless.

  14. Johnno

    Science was better off back when it’s excessive stupidities were under the boot of the Holy Inquisition that forced academics to adhere to sound philosophy, revelation and logical moral implication.

    When Theology ceased to be Queen of the sciences, they replaced it with some cross-dressed transexual monstrosity. And Ehrlich and Fauci have been spending a lot of time with their pants down in it’s dressing room.

  15. DAA

    The most personal comment is when Dr. Briggs says to reduce financing. Where would I go? I came to science out of vocation, not for grants nor for glory. Of course expecting to have results. Would I adhere to something to be a boulder and say nothing? But if this collapses I can’t even dig, to beg is shameful. And I do not control the finances of a Lord, which would allow me to buy future employment (remember the parable). So because I went for this out of love I get to become a miser? Or is it like that quote from Heinlein, where he says especialization is for insects?

  16. Darin

    “It’s only surprising ‘AI’ hasn’t been used to push out papers.”

    Oh? How would things be different if it had?

  17. A

    The cause is Women in STEM.

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