I got to Hillsdale a day early and took an amble about campus. Ended up in the library—called, oddly, a “library” and not the more sophisticated “learning center”—where I saw the strangest sight. A sight that if you have any experience with modern universities will sound unbelievable, but I swear it is true.
Students were sitting quietly reading.
I know, I know. But I promise I saw this. Not only were they reading, but they were reading books. Real books. Physical books. The kind with pages you have to turn. Not on screens.
This puzzled me greatly, and I yearned to know the reason. But it was so quiet that I dared not ask any student to explain their curious behavior.
Our host threw we Broken Science Initiative people a lovely dinner out on his farm. I envied him his barn. I have always wanted a barn. I do not have one. I want one.
On the day of the event, the new head of Hillsdale’s Academy for Science and Freedom took me to lunch to meet some of the faculty who were long-time blog readers, and some students. The topic of conversation was, of course, the mania for “The Science”, especially during the covid panic. Which again, believe it or not, Hillsdale did not do. Panic, I mean.
Incidentally, I neglected to ask anybody I met whether I could “out” them on the blog, which is why I am not naming names. People have enough trouble these days without having to defend associating with a known Thought Criminal like myself.
The night of the speech was classy. Hillsdale laid out savories and two open bars. Before dinner. Dinner itself was brisket—not chicken! Good wine, too. And a reception after the event. There were some 400+ people: many, many tables.
People came from all over, many driving great distances. Which is cheering. Not for me, because few attending knew Greg and me, but for all of us. Figure this: the talk title “Philosophy of Science”. Under, of course, the auspices of the BSI and Hillsdale. But who in the world drives hundreds of miles to hear two talks on the philosophy of science?
Well, many. Which means, just like you, dear reader, people are sick of, or at least suspicious about, the state of science, and most especially of “The Science”. They wanted to hear why they’re being beaten up by so much “The Science”.
Greg and I told them.
Greg Glassman led off with a speech on the Broken Science Initiative itself. He told his terrific nails story (which I’ve related here before), which always grabs the audience. Not all science is bad or broken, he emphasized, but much is, and the reasons for this are not far to seek. Bad philosophy.
Jeff Glassman, Greg’s dad, taught him the important of predictability. If a scientific theory, or model, cannot make verifiable useful predictions, then it has no value. He also has a book which you should know about, but which is hard to find, and is out of print. Evolution in Science, which should be mandatory reading for those designing science curricula.
My talk emphasized that all the best people—all big names, well in with the leading organizations—all say science is broken. I then give the top 7 reasons science goes bad because of bad philosophy. You’ll see these soon.
I even quoted from our old favorite, Old Hoss herself, Sabine “Yeehaw!” Hossenfelder, who took to The Guardian last year to complain that the dozens of New & Improved particles scientists keep proposing never turn out to be real.
A physicist asked me about this, wondering if this isn’t how science is supposed to work. After all, he said, think about the Higgs boson, which was recently confirmed. In my answer, I stupidly failed to emphasize a crucial important difference between the Higgs and the Failed Zoo: the Higgs was predicted by the model, and all those other non-existent particles were not. They were instead overly enthusiastic attempts at fitting statistical anomalies.
I did say that physics is at least one up on most other fields, because they didn’t just stop at proposing new particles, but they went and tested for them again later. That’s the right thing to do.
The majority of models proposed in the literature are never tested. That’s why we have the replication crisis.
The videos, they say, will be up soon. When they are, I’ll feature them in a post. They do not duplicate the material from the Phoenix BSI event. So if you haven’t seen those videos, now’s the time.
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Thanks for the report, wish I’d been there, sounds like a gas.
You get a barn next you get a tractor and pretty soon you have forty acres of crops, cows, goats, chickens and little higgs bosens running around everywhere. The good life. While Rome is busy collapsing again we’re busy building up a healthy new world.
Jeff Glassman’s book “Evolution in Science” is available for free at the Broken Science Initiative website as a pdf download and audiobook. Here is a link to it: https://brokenscience.org/evolution-in-science-california-dreaming-to-american-awakening-2/
> That’s why we have the replication crisis.
In many cases, what fails to replicate are experimental results. And, extrapolating from a number of cases in which the cause for the problem was eventually discovered, the reason those experimental results don’t replicate is because they never happened. They were the result of p-hacking, of data cherry-picking, of data created by simulation passing for experimental data, or simply of making up numbers by typing them up.
And the funny thing is that, even after admitting to falsifying results, some of the people involved don’t just get to keep their academic or research jobs, they get promoted sometime later, because — I wish I was joking, but I actually heard this one myself from someone high up in admin at a large public university system — “they get publications and citations.”
So, don’t blame science or models, dishonesty is a sufficient explanation.
The philosophy of science was my real interest as a youth. It would have been nice to have encountered Brigg’s writing back then – even better to have the intelligence to graduate college. I do recall one statistics teacher who, at the end of a class, insinuated serious problems existed in climate modelling related to under-estimating the uncertainties involved. At the time, I had the distinct impression that none of the students paid much heed.
Please post the videos of the lecture on broken science. I look forward to the arrival of “Uncertainty” and, “Everything you know is Wrong”.
Jose Camos Silva, Dishonestly is part of the explanation, but from the outset there is group think and other forms of unwitting self-deception.
For example, Dr. Roy Spencer writes about many false assumptions which lead climate studies astray. If I understand him correctly, models related to temperature data are to some extent necessary, but the assumptions around those models are often logically flawed. [To take one example at random: https://www.drroyspencer.com/2023/03/urbanization-effects-on-ghcn-temperature-trends-part-iii-using-population-density-1880-2015/%5D It’s not entirely clear to me how one can discern all of these logical errors are purposeful when his own articles directly pertain to research on the effect of those assumptions.
It’s not clear to me how the other scientists themselves would necessarily understand the errors. I could be wrong. Like I said, I didn’t have the brains to graduate.
I concur with Mr. Bagpipe. Your life has certainly changed (the City Mouse is now a Country Mouse) for the better. Remember way back when I advised the switch? Welcome to the Big Cathedral.
Cities have become toxic to bodies, minds, and spirits. How, when, and why are topics to ponder, from a safe distance.
I have two nest boxes on the gable end of my barn, and last week the swallows (green tree) returned. They like to jet around over the apple orchard which is swelling buds right now. Maybe ten days to blooming. I sit on the deck at sunset and marvel at the beauty of Creation. How great Thou art, and how lucky and blessed am I (are we) to witness it.
Oh yeah, and thanks for fixing Science too.
My point was limited to: dishonesty is a sufficient explanation **for the replication crisis** or as I like to call it “academic careers based on mass falsification of experimental results.”
There are other things going on with the **popular perception** of STEM, which have nothing to do with STEM itself (science is just the more visible part of the problem, because engineering/technology are directly useful and mathematics is too hard for most people). Diagram here: https://twitter.com/josecamoessilva/status/1646301268095430656/photo/1
Feynman had some thoughts on this nearly 50 years ago: https://calteches.library.caltech.edu/51/2/CargoCult.htm