Few years back some folks invited me to give a talk at Fermi Lab. Subject was how mistaken views of probability were holding particle physics back. (Which I still think is true, but I now also think the metaphysics is oriented “backwards”. We’ll save that for another day.)
The day I got to the Lab some nervous students and sniffy postdocs searched my name, and, shocked by what they had “discovered”, went and tattled on me to the Powers That Be. “How dare you invite a climate change denier!” they wept. “Cancel his talk!” They fretted I would corrupt the youth with my scientific impieties.
In the end, I was allowed to take the stage and, as far as I know, the nervous students with the delicate ears still safely believe the climate will soon spin out of control, or whatever it is it’s supposed to do.
Perhaps long-time readers will recall I was also invited to Hillsdale to give a talk on why science is broken, and—-what’s that? You already forgot? Well now. Why don’t you watch the video, and then—and this is the most important part—pass it on to others to watch. Or send the transcript. I mean it, now.
There wasn’t, as you might have expected, the same difficulties giving a talk at Hillsdale. The science faculty there, being true scientists, welcomed criticism. All great scientists prize truth over consensus. They were anxious to explore the possibility that some of their most cherished beliefs might be wrong, and, if so, how they might be corrected and push science forward. They knew, better than others, that the motto “science is self-correcting” logically implied science is often in error.
Anyway, one thing I was able to reconfirm is that the job of the press is enforcement. Not giving news. Ensuring people don’t stray from acceptable thought.
Take this piece on Greg’s and my talks. Now Greg and I made many substantive arguments, presenting evidence from many fields of science, bringing up the replication crisis, the opinion of named persons that “half of science is broken”, showing in great detail with many examples just what has gone wrong and why. Here is what the news piece said in direct answer to these arguments:
There is no misquote. That’s it. That’s the total, complete list of reasoned counter-arguments. Which, you will have undoubtedly noticed, is typical of such reports of events which question The Consensus.
The rest of the article is devoted to naming Greg and I as Bad Persons, whose ideas none shall speak, lest you become a Bad Person, too.
Details? Oh, very well, but just to show you how the trick is done; how you can write to make it appear you have given a substantial point, while saying nothing at all:
Glassman spent a portion of his speech redefining well-supported definitions of scientific terms like hypothesis and law — walking the audience through how science “should work.” Glassman married the terms “measurements” and “facts” while also incorrectly defining a hypothesis as “a model that based on all of the data in a specified domain, contains no counterexamples, incorporating a prediction of an unrealized fact.”
Sounds like the writer identified a mistake, doesn’t it? Sure, it’s a trivial dispute over definitions, which are not that important, and over which Greg spoke for maybe two minutes out of his hour. But the implication Greg was wrong is right there. Just what did he get wrong, precisely? We do not learn. But we are assured he was wrong. And you are supposed to accept that because the journalist said so.
If you think I’m mistaken, I invite you to study the report and find the journalist’s, not Greg’s, definition of hypothesis.
One more, this time about my talk:
We still need science. We still need research. It is justifiable and necessary to call attention to the pitfalls of contemporary science, but the college should consider how its public messaging regarding science affects students who are working toward careers in STEM.
It was difficult to find students or faculty who thought any part of the talk was convincing, effective, or helpful. Many students and faculty members who were in attendance said they found the whole evening to be gimmicky, going so far as to express worry about how it will affect perceptions of natural science degrees from Hillsdale.
Several students expressed worry about how Hillsdale’s reputation may affect their futures. If a graduate program is choosing between two students, one from a standard state school and one from Hillsdale, there is a chance that the sentiments of Hillsdale being “anti-science” may affect that student’s admission.
See what I mean? All about the feelz, about the reporter’s fear of how she herself will be viewed. She doesn’t want to be associated with any who question The Consensus. Not one word from any of the “difficult to find students or faculty” about what we said that was in error.
Just lazy implication.
That’s why science is broken.
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