One of the things you’re sick of reading, and I’m tired of writing, is that if there is such a thing as Official Disinformation, there must necessarily be Official Truth, and that there must be an agency or agencies in charge of creating, promulgating, and policing these.
We also predicted that the task could be handled in whole by the government, the bureaucracy being so large, but that because our culture is saturated in scientism, the government would seek the patina of Science on all Official Truth. Thus some of the work on Official Disinformation and Official Truth (OD and OT) would be farmed out to unversities.
That prediction has verified.
With a cacophony of scientific voices on social media – some well informed, others crackpot – establishing scientific consensus on key issues is proving more difficult than ever. But a project led by Durham University academics may soon have the answer to that thorny question of what can be confidently called a “scientific fact”.
Under a scheme headed by Peter Vickers, co-director of Durham’s Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society, scientists from across the world will be emailed to give their view on issues on which opinion appears to be split. Results from the polls, which seek to reach as many as 100,000 scientists at a time, will be shared to help the public gauge the true level of consensus on contested topics.
It’s hard not to laugh, so don’t try holding it in, when you learn of the name of this to-be-created agency: Institute for Ascertaining Scientific Consensus.
The scientism manifests in assuming a “scientific consensus” exists and is desirable, and that consensuses would become the OTs, where departures, outside narrow windows, as we’ll see in a moment, would be ODs.
It should also be obvious (by now) that the panel of scientists chosen to vote on ODs and OTs matters.
Dissent from a small number of scientists can often give a false perception of the strength of scientific consensus on an issue, as shown in the 1960s and 1970s when tobacco companies sponsored doctors and scientists to question smoking’s link to cancer, [Vickers] said.
“If this institute had existed when science was battling against Big Tobacco, even if tobacco firms had produced 100 scientists casting doubt on the cancer link, we could have showed they were still a very small minority,” explained Professor Vickers.
The criticism that voting does not prove Truth is obvious. But it should be just as obvious that voting to prove Official Truths is going to be accepted, and even welcomed with relief. Especially in a culture that votes on morality.
We only have a vague idea who the mandarins will be:
The project will be piloted this year, but scientists from six continents have already agreed to support the initial trial phase – with Jim Al-Khalili, professor of theoretical physics at the University of Surrey and presenter of BBC’s The Life Scientific, among dozens of leading scientists who have agreed to be part of its advisory board.
Now I will not question the purity of Vickers’s heart: he may well be curious what scientists think on various topics, and no one denies there are things to be learned from the range of opinions.
But let me make a guess of what shape this effort will take, assuming it does not die aborning, as so many things do.
Scientists at various respected universities and research institutes will be asked, and some will serve. And the range of opinions of some topics will initially show broad, but constrained, variability. Because Western universities are devoted to DIE, it will not be recognized that the initial panel will already be somewhat corrupted, having only scientists will survive the DIE.
Soon enough, it will be discovered not enough Official Victims are on the panel. This will be rectified, further corrupting the panel in ways you don’t need me to describe.
In areas not affected by the DIE, whoever is in charge will either bully, or be bullied, to corral panel members, in order to show more unity on “important” questions. Likely this will be things like vaccines and “climate crisis.”
Scientists who have questioned publicly, or who are suspected not to hold with, consensuses will be not be included at the outset. Those who manage to sneak in, will find themselves removed. Unless they can fashion themselves into scientific David Frenches (“While it’s important to see the difference, in the end we must bow to superior numbers”).
I wouldn’t bet against me. We have seen this very trajectory already many times, and each instance “fact checkers” are created.
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