A response to Judith Levy’s comment about a “religion versus science” post I wrote

Last week, I wrote about an image I saw in Facebook, which sought to disparage religion by showing that religion tears people down, while science builds them up:

Facebook poster saying religion demeans people

My response was to mock up an alternative poster that the little girl could have held up, one that shows that religion elevates the individual while pure science has no regard for the individual:
Religion versus Science
Somehow that post came across the radar of Judith Levy, who blogs at Ricochet. Judith believes that I used the wrong tactics in the battle against anti-religious bias:

The incredibly depressing photograph to the right has been flying all over the interwebs recently. As you can see, a cute little girl is being used as a prop to bash religion and tout science (which, of course, are assumed to be mutually exclusive).

I was struck by the response to this photo on a blog called Bookwormroom.com, the subhead of which claims that “conservatives deal with facts and reach conclusions”.

At this point, Levy offers a few quotations from my poster, the one that has religion acknowledging life’s creation from the moment of conception, versus the scientific view that we are a bag of chemicals. She then wraps up by concluding that I offered the argument to defend religion:

Now, I understand the anguish of religious Christians when they see offensive tripe like the above photo disseminated, especially with the big steaming side of self-righteousness that always accompanies it. (One yearns to give the people zipping it out to all their Facebook friends a good patsch to wipe away the smirk.) Still, responding by announcing that religion = pro-life seems counterproductive: it reduces the issue down to pro-life vs. pro-choice and shuts the conversation down immediately. (It also discounts the reality of religious believers who are also pro-choice, but that’s a secondary issue here.)

What has always amazed me about the God vs. Science line of thinking on the left is how unimaginative it is. Why not attack on that line instead? Why not force a leftist to explain why the math behind the movement of the spheres disproves the existence of a creator? Put them on the defensive, don’t go into your own defensive crouch. A person who puts a sign like this in his own daughter’s hands is not going to hear a word you say if you open with a pro-life argument. That’s for later, no?

Aside from finding it amusing that Levy thinks that I, a vaguely theistic Jew, am a “religious Christian,” I think it’s worth clarifying what I was setting out to do.  Levy apparently believes that I somehow abandoned my commitment to facts by engaging in pro-Life propaganda, and others may also have misunderstood what I set out to do.

Contrary to Levy’s assumption about my goal in writing that post, I was not attempting to prove religion. Why not?  Because I don’t see disproving religion as the central point of the original photograph.  Look carefully at the poster.  It can be summed up as follows:  “According to religion I am [all sorts of negative things]” versus “according to science I am all sorts of [wonderful].”  The point that child’s parent is trying to make isn’t that God is dead, but that religious practices and people devalue humans beings, while pure science, especially as practiced on the Left, elevates them.

You don’t have to take my word for it.  Go back and read the poster carefully.  It doesn’t challenge religion at all. There is not a single word in there that can be interpreted to mean “There is no God.” Instead, it says only that those who believe in God do not value human life, while those who believe in science do. That was the central canard I was attacking.

Within the context of the poster’s implicit argument, every statement I made was a factually true challenge to the poster.  I wasn’t arguing religious doctrine or ultimate scientific fact.  Instead, I took on the poster writer’s world, in which religious people think humans are worthless, evil and valueless, and demonstrated that, in the real world — and the world of those facts I cherish — America’s religious Christians (as opposed to those Leftist’s who, like the Devil, can quote scripture) have a fanatic belief in each individual’s value. To that end, I focus closely on the way in which America’s religious class practices its religion.

On the flip side, I wasn’t challenging whether science is right or wrong. (Although I will say here that, to the extent science is based on data and conclusions that can be drawn from that data, it’s rather silly to think that hard, real science deals in value-laden terms as “beautiful,” “full of wonder” and “smart.”)  Instead, I pointed out, entirely accurately, that it’s the nature of science to reduce life to the lowest common denominator — a collection of chemicals.  Moreover, it’s the “scientific” Left that has taken this definition and concluded, in true Orwellian fashion, that not all lives are equally valuable.

In sum, Levy seems to believe that I failed to counter the original photo because I didn’t engage in a theological argument about God’s existence.  And she’s right, I didn’t and nor would I do it differently if I could re-write the post.  To the extent I believe that the original photo intended to say that religion and God place different values on human lives, I cut through the conclusory language in the original photo and replaced those value-laden terms with hard facts about the way in which religious people differ in their approach from those who elevate science to a religion when it comes to determining each individual’s true worth.

Tuesday tossed salad (and Open Thread)

Victorian posy of pansiesOh, my gosh!  There is an embarrassment of riches out there this morning when it comes to thought-provoking, interesting, informative, or funny articles and videos.  Here are my favorites, in no particular order:

I pointed out here that terribly flawed, infantile, dangerous, and very non-scientific reasoning supported a study purporting to show that all the scientists in the world agree with anthropogenic climate change.  I didn’t have data, I just had common sense to back me up.  The data is now in, though, and it too shows how dreadful these “everybody believes in AGW” studies are.  No wonder Patrick Michaels is writing at Forbes that the age of science may end, as people view once-respected scientists as little more than ignorant shamans shaking sticks at the climate gods.  (My words, not his.)

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For a little bit of real science, this approach to sealing gunshot wounds is wonderful.  Think of all the lives that will be saved in Democrat-run cities such as Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Detroit, where Democrat voters routinely shoot each other.

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Will it surprise you to learn that Richard Hofstadter, one of the darlings of Progressive academics, was full of it?  No?  Well, it didn’t surprise me either.  (Link corrected.)

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“Zero tolerance” is one of the worst things ever to hit the Western world.  Before the dawn of that noxious notion in the West, zero tolerance was reserved for tyrannies:  Nazis had zero tolerance for Jews, gays, and gypsies; Iranians had zero tolerance for gays; Singaporeans had zero tolerance for spitting on the street; Saudis had zero tolerance for school girls with uncovered heads trying to escape burning buildings; etc.

Zero tolerance is never allied with either intelligence or human decency.  At about this time last year, in schools across America, zero tolerance was the justification for suspending elementary school kids possessing pizza slices or pastries that they’d chewed into gun shapes or little girls with water pistols that they never even brought to school.

Now, Canada has gotten into the act:  a retired Army sergeant made a wrong turn in Vermont and found himself at a border crossing.  Rather than letting him turn around as he requested, they interrogated him, searched his car, found his wife’s gun, ignored his concealed carry license, arrested him, and are now threatening him with three years in jail.  Obama’s State Department seems to be staying out of this one — no doubt because it’s thrilled to see Canada take the type of stand that Obama wishes he could.

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I wrote just yesterday that I wasn’t surprised that Philip Seymour Hoffman was a junkie who died of a heroin overdose.  To my mind, there was always something off about him.  Both Kevin Williamson and Jonah Goldberg look at the “off-ness” that lies the heart of heroin addictions.

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Here’s another addiction, one to which sick cultures always turn:  anti-semitism.

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Rob Miller (aka Joshuapundit) has another wonderful article up at The Times of Israel, this one about Israel’s reality — dealing with boycotts, lies, and intimidation.

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One wonders if the kids are getting a better or a worse education in a school captained by a principal with a great sense of humor.  I like to think that humor helps everything.  (But keep in mind that Jerry Seinfeld is being pilloried for suggesting that humor is not about skin color.)

Unscientific methodology attempts to refute legitimate challenges to anthropogenic climate change orthodoxy *UPDATED*

I want you to play a little game with me.  Imagine that you’re an archivist, going through Nazi-era German documents. While doing that review, you stumble across the following article, published in a reputable Nazi business magazine:

Aryan superiority chart

The next time you hear someone dispute that Aryans are the superior race, remember this pie chart.

It represents eugencist Helmut Scheingarner’s review of 2,258 peer-reviewed scientific articles about Aryan superiority, written by 9,136 authors, published between Nov. 12, 1937 and December 31, 1938.

Of all those hundreds of papers and thousands of researchers, Scheingarner found one article, authored by a single scientist, that challenged Aryan superiority:  “The Unusual Intellectual Aptitude of Hebrew People,” by J. K. Grubenman, appearing in the Luxeumbourg Science Journal, Vol. 10, No. 1.

Scheingarnder, a past president of Berlin and Hamburg Univerities, invites anyone to reproduce his survey of the science:

Anyone can repeat as much of the new study as they wish — all of it if they like. I will give you a database with the 2,258 articles here. It includes the title and document number for each article.  Scan the titles to identify articles that might reject Aryan superiority.  Then, I will work with you to locate the article and review it.  If you find any candidates that I missed, please mail me at Aryan Superiority Division, Reichstag, Berlin.

Scheingarner’s earlier survey of peer-reviewed studies published between January 1, 1933 and November 11, 1937 yielded the same results.

white supremacy 3

Within seconds of seeing that first, big chart and reading only a sentence or two of the article, you’d immediately recognize the fatal flaw in its reasoning. To the extent that Aryan supremacy was the prevailing orthodoxy in Nazi Germany, anyone advancing opposing views would be subject to professional ostracism or worse.  With the scientific journals completely controlled by people who couldn’t imagine a paradigm other than Aryan supremacy, the likelihood of scientific journals publishing countervailing articles hovered at zero.

Nazi race-education class

Nazi race-education class

Knowing that, you’d also realize that the frequency of articles subscribing to Aryan supremacy in no way proved that this “scientific” doctrine had merit.  Instead, as you’d fully understand, the notion of Aryan supremacy represented the closing of the German scientific mind. Nazi journals would inevitably refuse to accept anything challenging the white supremacist doctrine. For a supremacist to point to the number of such published articles would therefore be meaningless.

Nazi science book "proving" Aryan superiority

Nazi science book “proving” Aryan superiority

As you’ve probably figured out by now, the above article did not come from Nazi Germany and did not involve Aryan supremacy. Instead, it’s a Business Insider article “proving” that all scientists in the world support anthropogenic warming.  I changed the name of the scientist proudly boasting about his find, his university affiliations, and the article dates, and I substituted “Aryan supremacy” for “anthropogenic climate change.”  Otherwise, the two articles are identical.

What the proud scientist failed to note are some even more compelling facts:  (1) At least 31,400 scientists around the world have stood up and declared that they do not believe in anthropogenic climate change (here’s a list of some of the better known skeptics); and (2) Climategate revealed not just that climate change advocates were manipulating numbers but, more significantly, that they were blocking anyone with opposing views from getting published.

The mantra justifying this closed door is “expert consensus.” Let me state something very important here: An expert consensus is not a fact. Experts used to think the sun revolved around the earth (wrong), that bad air caused disease (wrong), that spicy food and stress caused ulcers (wrong), that autistic people are mentally retarded because their mothers didn’t love them (oh, so wrong), etc. Experts are wrong all the time.

Oh, I almost forgot:  Here’s the real kicker — contrary to those cute little pie charts, there are peer-reviewed journals that challenge climate change orthodoxy, and that’s true despite the significant barriers in place denying publication to climate change skeptics.

In other words, the gloating Business Insider pie charts are exactly as false as that imaginary Nazi article would have been.  Both are the work of ideologues masquerading as scientists, who use fundamentally flawed analyses to deny that any valid opposition exists.

UPDATE:  This article, about science’s (or, more accurately, scientists’) failure nowadays to be self-correcting seems apropos.

Yale Prof. offers a revealing glimpse into the Ivy League’s epistemic closure

A lot of sites have been linking to a blog post from Daniel Kahan, a law professor at Yale because it contains a very surprising confession.  To appreciate both what Kahan said (which was good) and what he refused to do (which was very, very bad), you need to know a little more about Kahan’s specialty.  According to the Wikipedia entry about Kahan, he’s a “leading scholar in the fields of criminal law and evidence and is known for his theory of Cultural cognition.“  (Emphasis mine.)

For the Luddites among us (and I proudly include myself in that number), “cultural cognition” is defined as follows:

The Cultural Cognition Project is a group of scholars interested in studying how cultural values shape public risk perceptions and related policy beliefs. Cultural cognition refers to the tendency of individuals to conform their beliefs about disputed matters of fact (e.g., whether global warming is a serious threat; whether the death penalty deters murder; whether gun control makes society more safe or less) to values that define their cultural identities. Project members are using the methods of various disciplines — including social psychology, anthropology, communications, and political science — to chart the impact of this phenomenon and to identify the mechanisms through which it operates. The Project also has an explicit normative objective: to identify processes of democratic decisionmaking [sic] by which society can resolve culturally grounded differences in belief in a manner that is both congenial to persons of diverse cultural outlooks and consistent with sound public policymaking [sic].

In English:  the good professor thinks that people use their preexisting values and data to analyze new information.  If you can get people to think the right way (I believe the Chinese communists called it “reeducation”), then you can get them to agree to Progressive policies.  (If you read on, you’ll understand why I translate “sound public policymaking” to mean “Leftist policies.”)

As an aside, shouldn’t Yale professors know that “policy making” and “decision making” are two words, rather than each being one portmanteau word?  Yeah, yeah.  Just call me fussy.

For those wondering about the value of a modern Ivy League education that little paragraph pretty much tells you what you need to know:  The Ivy League needs a guy with an expensive Harvard J.D. (and you know how highly I value those pieces of paper) and an even more valuable Yale job to figure out that people operate from their biases, both in collecting and analyzing data.

And speaking of people operating from their biases, Kahan has now confessed that his biases just received a stunning blow.  In the next few paragraphs, I’ll give him some credit for being honest about his recent discovery, but I’ll then explain why he only gets a small nod from me, not a big one.  For the most part, his post leaves me both disdainful and depressed.

Oh, I didn’t tell you what his discovery is.  It turns out that Tea Partiers, the ones who think that AlBore is a scam artist; that humans can pollute but that they lack the power to change the climate, something the sun has been doing fine on its own for several billion years; and that a country that insists on spending money it doesn’t have will soon go broke, are actually more scientifically knowledgeable than the Progressives who worship at the altars of global warming and Keynesian economicsYes, really.  Buried in a sea  of really awesomely impressive statistical jargon, that’s exactly what Kahan says:

In this dataset, I found that there is a small correlation (r = -0.05, p = 0.03) between the science comprehension measure and a left-right political outlook measure, Conservrepub, which aggregates liberal-conservative ideology and party self-identification. The sign of the correlation indicates that science comprehension decreases as political outlooks move in the rightward direction–i.e., the more “liberal” and “Democrat,” the more science comprehending.

Do you think this helps explain conflicts over climate change or other forms of decision-relevant science? I don’t.

But if you do, then maybe you’ll find this interesting.  The dataset happened to have an item in it that asked respondents if they considered themselves “part of the Tea Party movement.” Nineteen percent said yes.

It turns out that there is about as strong a correlation between scores on the science comprehension scale and identifying with the Tea Party as there is between scores on the science comprehension scale and Conservrepub.

Except that it has the opposite sign: that is, identifying with the Tea Party correlates positively (r = 0.05, p = 0.05) with scores on the science comprehension measure:

Again, the relationship is trivially small, and can’t possibly be contributing in any way to the ferocious conflicts over decision-relevant science that we are experiencing.

(I must confess that reading the above made me just ecstatically happy that I no longer practice law.  Think how much academic writing that spares me.)

You’ve probably seen the above quotation everywhere over the last two days.  It certainly makes sense to conservatives, because people who pay attention to actual facts are more likely to conclude that Anthropogenic Global Warming is a hoax.  (If you’re a data junkie, I recommend Watts Up With That.)  It’s the believers who are stuck in the epistemic closure loop.  Climate warmer?  AGW!!  Climate cooler?  AGW!!  No climate movement at all?  AGW.  Models wrong?  Still AGW!  That’s faith, my friends, not science.

But getting back to Professor Kahan.  What’s really fascinating is what comes after his confession regarding what is, to him, a counter-intuitive statistical anomaly.

May I take a moment here to remind you what Professor Kahan’s specialty is?  It’s “cultural cognition,” an expensive sounding theory that posits what your grandmother could have told you for free:  Our biases predispose us to interpret information in certain ways.  This obviously includes as a subset the fact that people look to certain authorities for information.  I can guarantee you that Obama reads the New York Times, and not National Review.  In this way, of course, he is distinct from conservatives, who read both.

Kahan believes that, if he can render cultural cognition into set data points, he can drag people into “sound public policymaking.”  (I believe George Orwell called it “groupthink.”)  Lift their blinders, and they will see the light.

But what about Kahan’s own blinders?  And that’s where his little post gets really interesting.  If you want to see a closed intellectual universe, Kahan invites you right into his:

I’ve got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I’d be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension.

But then again, I don’t know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party.  All my impressions come from watching cable tv — & I don’t watch Fox News very often — and reading the “paper” (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused internet sites like Huffington Post & Politico).

I’m a little embarrassed, but mainly I’m just glad that I no longer hold this particular mistaken view.

Of course, I still subscribe to my various political and moral assessments–all very negative– of what I understand the “Tea Party movement” to stand for. I just no longer assume that the people who happen to hold those values are less likely than people who share my political outlooks to have acquired the sorts of knowledge and dispositions that a decent science comprehension scale measures.

I’ll now be much less surprised, too, if it turns out that someone I meet at, say, the Museum of Science in Boston, or the Chabot Space and Science Museum in Oakland, or the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is part of the 20% (geez– I must know some of them) who would answer “yes” when asked if he or she identifies with the Tea Party.  If the person is there, then it will almost certainly be the case that that he or she & I will agree on how cool the stuff is at the museum, even if we don’t agree about many other matters of consequence.

What a charming confession.  It even includes an embarrassed moue, along the lines of “I’m so embarrassed that I assumed Tea Partiers were dumb.”  That almost hides a rather spectacular omission.  Kahan fails to include the logical follow-up that any intelligent person invested in cultural cognition should make.  What he should say after his little confession is “Maybe I should check out what these surprisingly intelligent people believe and argue.”

Instead, what Kahan says after admitting to his intellectual bubble is that he’s just fine with it.  He has no interest in actual data.  Instead, based solely on his predefined values, he will continue “to subscribe to [his] various political and moral assessments — all very negative — of what I understand the ‘Tea Party movement’ to stand for.”  Or as I translate that, “Please, people!  I’m a Yale genius who’s looking for ways to re-educate you.  Don’t bother me with facts and, to the extent that I inadvertently stumbled onto some facts myself, be assured that I will assiduously ignore them.”

I have said for years that, while I’ve never met a post-1984 Harvard Law grad who wasn’t arrogant and ill-informed,* I’ve been impressed with Yale grads.  After my little insight into the thought process of a current Yale professor, I fear that, should any recent Yale grads pop up on my legal radar, I’m going to discover that Yale has gone all Harvard.  Clearly, you’re getting what you pay for at the premier law schools only if you desire social and professional cachet layered upon close-mindedness, chronic epistemic closure, arrogance, and ignorance.

We can all guess, of course, why the Ivy League crowd is so incurious.  They’re afraid that, if they look beyond the narrow confines of their own Progressive cultural cognition, they might follow David Mamet’s path.  Next thing you know, they’ll be cranking up the air conditioner, using excess amounts of toilet paper, and listening to Rush Limbaugh, while muttering “Ditto!”

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*And yes, I know Ted Cruz is a post-1984 Harvard Law, but I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him.  I’m just basing my “Harvard lawyers are not people I’d ever hire for myself” attitude on the people I have worked with and opposite.  And of course, if Cruz is a Harvard anomaly, Obama, serenely enveloped in his ignorance and arrogance, is a Harvard poster child.

Something enjoyable for those among us who think Andrew Sullivan is an intellectual fraud and tyrant

There are two thinkers on the Left whom I credit with helping me become more conservative:  Paul Krugman and Andrew Sullivan.  Both of them wrote (and still write) incredible horse pucky in publications I routinely read as a yuppie liberal.  I eventually realized that, if these two were lauded as the shining intellectual lights of my political ideology, than I was in the wrong ideology.  (And yes, I know Sullivan used to advertise himself as “conservative,” but that was a skin deep pose as far as I’m concerned.  His writing always pushed Progressive boundaries.)

Both men are not only ideological dead ends, they’re also unpleasant human beings, given to hurling personal insults and hiding behind their own hyper-inflated reputations.  Andrew Sullivan, though, adds to this a measure of spite and monomania — something that became apparent with his obsession about Trig Palin’s birth — that makes him the kind of person one just loves to see knocked down, and then kicked around a bit.  I don’t mean physically, of course, I mean intellectually.

If you enjoy the sight of having Andrew Sullivan get the intellectual stuffing kicked out of him, please take a few minutes to read Jesse Bering’s Scientific American post detailing the “debate” he’s had with Sullivan over male circumcision:  Hey, Andrew Sullivan, Stop Calling My Penis “Mutilated”.  Debate really isn’t an accurate word, though.  Sullivan’s contribution is a single shrill, vicious, emotion-laden, fact-free, strawman-filled, heterophobic screed.  Even by Sullivan’s own standards, it’s bad.  Bering’s part of the debate is humor and lots and lots of scientific fact.

By the way, as you read it, please keep in mind that Sullivan is a darling of all the science-worshiping Progressives.  He perfectly illustrates the fact that science is to be worshiped only when it marches in lockstep with the agenda.  When it doesn’t, as the Climategate scam demonstrated, Progressives will bend the science rather than change the agenda.

A sense of gratitude and wonderment

My mother is a testament to the wonders of modern medicine.  But for the drugs, surgery, and implanted equipment upon which she relies, she would have been dead a long time ago.  Perhaps even more importantly, to the extent that she’s not dead, she has a fairly good quality of life.  Thanks to cataract surgery and high tech glasses (trifocals, anti-glare coating, etc.), she has twenty-twenty vision.  Thanks to teeny little hearing aids that are practically invisible, she’s not deaf.  Thanks to state-of-the-art pain medicines, delivered via state-of-the-art technology, she tends to forget that she once suffered from chronic pain.  She also takes medicines that control the pain and nausea associated with all the other medicines she takes just to stay alive.  She is a walking wonder.

What’s truly amazing about my mother is that she takes all of this for granted.  She is peculiarly unimpressed that modern medicine has her alive and functioning, even though she’s basically held together by glue and spit.  She’ll periodically complain about past or present sufferings, but I never hear from her an awed exclamation about the absence of pain in her life, or about the joy of twenty-twenty vision, or about the pleasure of hearing her grandchildren’s voices, or about the fact that she’s alive at all.

I’m quite different from my mother in this regard.  I’m am constantly overwhelmed by the wonders and miracles that see me alive and kicking (and doing some pretty damn fine kicking on my good days, if I do say so myself).

Modern medicine means that, a long time ago, when I needed emergency surgery, I got that surgery rather than hemorrhaging to death.

Modern medicine means that I didn’t die of hyperemesis gravidarum during either of my pregnancies.  Charlotte Bronte wasn’t so lucky.

Modern medicine means that I didn’t die when I was delivering one of my children, despite the fact that things went wrong.  And thanks to the epidural I had, not only did I not die, but I didn’t even realize that something had gone wrong.  (The kid was all right too!)

Modern medicine means that, although nature intended me to be practically blind, I not only see thanks to my glasses but, when I put my contacts in, I look gorgeous and I kick butt at martial arts.

Modern medicine means that, thanks to over-the-counter products, I have ridiculously young looking skin for someone my age.  (And yes, I’m boasting.)

And that’s just medicine!  I have iPhones and iPads welded to my hands; telephones in every room of my house; cars that talk to me; machines that wash my clothes and my dishes, and then dry them too; a computer system that has me actively connected to most of the world, 24/7; and that’s just the beginning.  The wonders of technology permeate every aspect of my life, including the allergy free pillow on which I rest my head at night.

Despite the fact that I grew up in this modern world, something that distinguishes me from my mother, who is old enough to remember little European villages that had no cars, I’ve never become blase about the wonders of science and technology.  I am endlessly grateful for the manifest benefits these things have brought to my life.

This sense of gratitude is, I think, part of why I am so proud to be an American, specifically, and part of the western tradition, generally.  All human beings have the capacity to create, but it is the West that had the curiosity and America that had the driving competitive energy, to take theory and make it fact.  Put another way, man has long dreamed of flying, but it was Orville and Wilbur, two American hobbyists, who made flight a practical reality.

Obama campaign turns off the “honesty” switch (and a related side note about dishonest “science”)

Funnily enough, the MSM isn’t picking up on this story, the one that provides proof (proof that can easily be replicated) that the Obama campaign machine is set up to encourage completely fraudulent campaign donations.  The same proof exercise shows that the Republican candidates have set up their donations to block fraud.

Hmm.  Obama encourages fraud for cash; Republicans do not.  It sounds like a distillation of the entire Obama administration.

Incidentally, my reference to “proof that can easily be replicated” was not random.  A poll came out recently stating that conservatives distrust science.  Except that, if you dug down into the data that reported this “scientific” conclusion, the facts behind the study didn’t support the conclusion.  Instead, the fact revealed that conservatives distrust scientists, which is a far cry from distrusting science.

Turns out that they have reason to:  scientists are not trust-worthy or, at the very least, they’re not reliable:

A former researcher at Amgen Inc has found that many basic studies on cancer — a high proportion of them from university labs — are unreliable, with grim consequences for producing new medicines in the future.

During a decade as head of global cancer research at Amgen, C. Glenn Begley identified 53 “landmark” publications — papers in top journals, from reputable labs — for his team to reproduce. Begley sought to double-check the findings before trying to build on them for drug development.

Result: 47 of the 53 could not be replicated. He described his findings in a commentary piece published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The MSM hasn’t yet figured out that “science” is only as good as the scientists that produce it.  Conservatives, however, are ahead on that curve.  This may explain why the MSM is ignoring the easily reproducible facts proving that Obama is cheating.

Dear Government, Please keep your cotton-pickin’ fingers out of my business *UPDATED*

When I was a little girl, one of the refrains in my life was “get your cotton-pickin’ fingers out of that.”  I didn’t mean to be destructive.  I was always certain I could make things better.  I had bald Barbies, because I was pretty sure I could make their hair look better.  I had misshapen stuffed animals, because I thought I could fix stuffing defects.  My generous destructive tendencies didn’t stop with my own stuff.  Cameras lost lenses, appliance knobs got jammed, and the food my mom was cooking got ruined.  I thought I was “fixing” things.  My parents knew that my cotton-pickin’ fingers were wrecking havoc.

I was a little girl, and had an excuse for my ill-fated attempts to improve things.  What’s the excuse our government has for continually interfering with things in which it has no business?  And even worse, what’s the excuse of citizens who keep demanding more interference from the government?  I don’t want Washington to “fix” the economy.  I want it to back off.  Let people who know something about business, about supply and demand, about capital, about finances, about consumers, and generally about the facts on the ground, be the ones who fix business.  All that government offers, whether Democrat or Republican, is stupid good will and cotton-pickin’ fingers.

After I expounded on this theory to my sister, she asked, “What should government do?”  I started the usual list:  National Security, Epidemic and Pandemic Control (as opposed to telling people what to eat or how much to weigh), Transcontinental Road and Bridge Building and Maintenance (not “intercontinental,” but “transcontinental”) — basically, things in which it has an interest.

Take national security, for example.  Government definitely has an interest in national security.  That’s one of its biggest jobs and, more importantly, it’s not a job that can be handled competently by states or individual citizens.  Because the government is very goal oriented when it comes to national security, it tends to do it efficiently.  Sure, there’s waste and graft and corruption, but on the whole, as long as the political will is there, our national security system does its core job very well, whether its our men and women in on foreign battle fields, or our information gatherers here at home.

People confuse the main national security goal with the often beneficial by-products it produces.  A classic example is to support a demand that the government fund science by pointing to the huge surgical strides Americans have made during every war since WWI, or to the far-reaching scientific and technological innovations flowing from NASA.  But what they forget was that, in each case, the government had a bigger goal than better sutures or a computer chip.  The government was not trying to improve surgery but was, instead, trying to keep its troops alive so that they could fight and win.  And up until Obama turned NASA into a Muslim outreach organization, it’s purpose was to help us beat the Soviets in the Cold War. That its technology benefited the private sector was great, but that wasn’t the government’s job.

Problems always arise when government tries to micromanage things in which it has no interest.  Government is neither a consumer nor a business, so when it meddles in the marketplace, it does so without any coherent goals, strategies or tactics.  It’s inefficient because it can be inefficient:  as long as things are sort of moving in one direction or another, there is no specific outcome the government is heading towards.

The same holds true for science:  Nowadays, the government tries to pick scientific winners or losers, depending on the political flavor (and trendy Hollywood star) of the day.  As ethanol, biofuels and Solyndra show, the government has an uncanny knack for backing the wrong horse.  Because government spends our money using a mystical and poisonous combination of politics, bureaucracy and corruption, its decisions are unrelated to practical realities.  It’s the marketplace that should be investigating the best way to reduce pollution, whether that means increasing fossil fuel outputs and cleaning emissions, or finding entirely new energy strategies.  Because government as an entity has no responsibility for science qua science, it shouldn’t pretend — at great taxpayer expense — that it does.

And that, my children, is your sermon for the day.

UPDATEBiden’s Solyndra speech pretty much makes my point.  This Jim deMint article does too.

The nuclear plant problem in Japan — and the problem with ideologues in science *UPDATED*

Mr. Bookworm, New York Times reader, was telling the children that there was a total catastrophe in Japan, with the Japanese and the world exposed to the possibility of massive radiation poisoning.  I calmed the children’s fears by telling them that the paper could be right, but it could be wrong.  First, newspapers sell well on disasters, so it’s in their interest to play them up.  Second, I said, it’s doubtful that most of the reporters have any understanding of nuclear technology, so they’re winging it.  (What I didn’t add is that, almost certainly, the Times’ reporters have as their only “experts” anti-nuclear activists.  There’s nothing wrong with getting the activists’ point of view, but the reporting would be more honest if (a) the Times revealed their biases and (b) the Times talked to some people on the other, non-hysterical side.)  The children, bless their hearts, said “Mom, we know that!”

Anyway, if you want a view from the other side, written in the clearest English I’ve ever seen in a science-based article, read Charlie Martin on the nuclear meltdown and the media.  Whether or not you agree with him, he writes so well, you will certainly understand him.

By the way, this is a great place to tell a story I’ve had in my brain for several days.  I have to digress a teeny bit to set the story up, so please bear with me.

I own a Kindle.  I love the convenience (no more suitcases full of paperbacks when I travel), but I find the book pricing off-putting.  With the choice of free books at the library, or cheap books at Goodwill, I’m not thrilled about spending $10.00 on a book.  What makes it worse in my mind is that, while hardback books are marked down about 40-50% (hence the $10 or $12 Kindle pricing), paperback books are priced down only about 5%.  I’m too cheap to buy a full-priced paperback at the best of times (preferring to gamble that I’ll find something I like at Goodwill or the library), so I’m certainly not going to buy the same book for a mere 5% discount.

So I’ve got a Kindle, but I’m unwilling to buy the books.  The answer is to get the free books that show up on Kindle.  Sometimes, there are real finds there.  For example, if a reputable author is publishing the most recent book in a long-running series, the publishers will put out the first book for free, as a loss leader, to entice people.  That works for me and I have been enticed.  There are also free classics (or low priced, 99 cent, classics).  There are a lot of books that are pure garbage and are free because no one will or should pay any other price.  And there are books that see a publisher just trying to get titles out there and gin up some interest.

That last e-publishing approach is how I ended up with a free copy of Sherry Seethaler’s Lies, Damned Lies, and Science: How to Sort through the Noise around Global Warming, the Latest Health Claims, and Other Scientific Controversies. The publisher’s blurb promises that the book will help savvy news consumers understand the science in the news:

Every day, there’s a new scientific or health controversy. And every day, it seems as if there’s a new study that contradicts what you heard yesterday. What’s really going on? Who’s telling the truth? Who’s faking it? What do scientists actually know—and what don’t they know? This book will help you cut through the confusion and make sense of it all—even if you’ve never taken a science class! Leading science educator and journalist Dr. Sherry Seethaler reveals how science and health research really work…how to put scientific claims in context and understand the real tradeoffs involved…tell quality research from junk science…discover when someone’s deliberately trying to fool you…and find more information you can trust! Nobody knows what new controversy will erupt tomorrow. But one thing’s for certain: With this book, you’ll know how to figure out the real deal—and make smarter decisions for yourself and your family!

Watch the news, and you’ll be overwhelmed by snippets of badly presented science: information that’s incomplete, confusing, contradictory, out-of-context, wrong, or flat-out dishonest. Defend yourself! Dr. Sherry Seethaler gives you a powerful arsenal of tools for making sense of science. You’ll learn how to think more sensibly about everything from mad cow disease to global warming–and how to make better science-related decisions in both your personal life and as a citizen.

You’ll begin by understanding how science really works and progresses, and why scientists sometimes disagree. Seethaler helps you assess the possible biases of those who make scientific claims in the media, and place scientific issues in appropriate context, so you can intelligently assess tradeoffs. You’ll learn how to determine whether a new study is really meaningful; uncover the difference between cause and coincidence; figure out which statistics mean something, and which don’t.

Seethaler reveals the tricks self-interested players use to mislead and confuse you, and points you to sources of information you can actually rely upon. Her many examples range from genetic engineering of crops to drug treatments for depression…but the techniques she teaches you will be invaluable in understanding any scientific controversy, in any area of science or health.

^ Potions, plots, and personalities: How science progresses, and why scientists sometimes disagree
^ Is it “cause” or merely coincidence? How to tell compelling evidence from a “good story”
^ There are always tradeoffs: How to put science and health claims in context, and understand their real implications
^ All the tricks experts use to fool you, exposed! How to recognize lies, “truthiness,” or pseudo-expertise

At first, the book seemed to live up to its promises.  Seethaler explained that it was entirely legitimate for scientists to disagree, because science is not as black-and-white as elementary, middle and high schools imply.  Different techniques, different equipment, and different starting hypotheses can all result in differing outcomes that are open to legitimate dispute.  Seethaler explains that, quite often, conventional wisdom has proven to be plain wrong.  The nature of hypotheses is that they are tested, and then tested again, especially as new information and technology come along.

Seethaler also talks about modeling.  The way in which a scientist sets up a model — the parameters he chooses, the information he enters, and the calculations he applies — may dramatically affect the conclusions he reaches.

In light of all these variables, Seethaler acknowledges that, as she says, “scientific revolutions really happen.”  Conventional wisdom frequently gets turned on its head.  Few things are fixed in the world of true science.  What’s important, she says, is that “disputes are not a sign of science gone wrong.”  Instead, they represent scientists dealing with all of the problems, and variables, and information, and scientific development described above.  This can mean, Seethaler writes, that one person, one outlier, can turn conventional wisdom on its head.

After all this, you’d think, wouldn’t you, that Seethaler would carry these conclusions through to the subject of anthropogenic global warming, right?  Oh, so wrong.  Turning her back on everything she wrote in the preceding chapters, Seethaler has this to say on global warming, in the context of a warning the newspapers like to play up conflict, but don’t really understand scientific methodology:

Another problem is what sociologist Christopher Tourmey referred to as pseudo-symmetry of scientific authority — the media sometimes presents controversy as if scientists are evenly divided bewteen two points of view, when one of the points of view is held by a large majority of the scientific community.  For example, until recently, the media often gave equal time and space to the arguments for and against humans as the cause of global climate change.  Surveys of individual climate scientists have indicated that there is discord among scientists on the issue, but that the majority of scientists agree that humans are altering global climate.  One anlaysis of a decade of research papers on global climate change found no papers that disputed human impacts on global climate.  Also, all but one of the major scientific organizations in the United States whose members have expertise relevant to global climate change, more than a dozen organizations in all, have issued statements acknowledging that human activities are altering the earth’s climate.  The American Association of Petroleum Geologists dissents.  Therefore, there is a general consensus within the scientific community that humans are causing global climate change.  While it is legitimate to explore the arguments agianst the consensus position on global climate change, it is misleading for the media to present the issue so as to give the impression that the scientific community is evenly divided on the matter.

Have you read any media in the last ten years that “gave equal time and space to the arguments for and against humans as the cause of global climate change?”  I haven’t.  With the exception of Fox, the media has monolithically climbed aboard the AGW bandwagon, and ignored or discredited any contrary voices.

Also, considering that Seethaler spent pages and pages and pages warning against assuming that science is fixed, explaining how different approaches to models and hypotheses can affect scientific conclusions, and applauding outliers who challenged (correctly) institutional consensus, do you find it as peculiar as I do to have her suddenly announce that AGW is definitely proven and that any voices to the contrary should be ignored?  It also doesn’t seem to have occurred to her that, in this monolithic intellectual climate, the absence of published papers challenging AGW may arise from the fact that the challengers are being barred at the gates.

I deleted Seethaler’s book from my Kindle at this point.  The woman is a foolish ideologue, incapable of practicing what she preaches.  She’s also probably pretty typical of the science writers and “experts” bloviating about the very real nuclear problems in Japan.  That is, there are real problems, and real risks, but never trust an ideologue to be honest with you when it comes to the conclusions to be drawn from the facts.

UPDATE:  Another good example of the media’s gross (and, I suspect, intentional) scientific ignorance.

Experts and the Temple of Orthodoxy

Most of us here in the Bookworm Room express a healthy skepticism of “experts” in general. Most of us revel in our ability to think and discourse critically for ourselves, while others lament that socially-anointed “experts” are not solemnly revered through incense, incantations and burnt offerings made before the Temple of Orthodoxy. Ah well.

Age plays a factor. As a student in the sciences, I revered all my profs until I learned to see through their intellectual facades. By graduate school, I was far more discriminating. Don’t get me wrong – I was privileged to be able to study and discourse with true intellectual giants.  I recognized that a common trait of these models and mentors was their ability to constantly question convention and reexamine their premises. They could also doubt themselves. I admire them to this day and I wanted someday to be like them. I am still trying.

However, there was also another group of intellectual wannabees, professors and classmates, for whom the sole objective of the id was the ego. Their entire sense of self revolved around a desperate need to be recognized for their “credentials”. This group was highly insecure and many were not particularly bright. I recall PhD students who were already penning their “expert” bestsellers before having completed their orals. Alas, such “scientists” were so intent on creating unwarranted reputations for themselves that they would cause great intellectual mischief in my professional field. Thus do I take any claim to self-proclaimed expertise  or consensus opinion with a healthy grain of salt.

The point I am making is that scientists are humans, subject to all the quirks, foibles and fallibilities of other humans. However, because of their credentials, it is too easy for lay people to accept uncritically what these scientists profess. Scientists, like all other people, can also fall prey to herd mentalities and egos too often pose insurmountable barriers to self-reflection. For many of us, as we get older, realism displaces idealism and teaches many of us the need to think for ourselves. It’s part of our journey into adulthood.

I bring all this up because, at No Frakken Consensus, there is a delightful book review on “The Experts Speak: The Definitive Compendium of Authoritative Misinformation”, by Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky.

The book is a historical record of the many, many times that scientific, political, historical and social thinking and consensus have been proven wrong…badly wrong. It’s an intellectual journey sprinkled with entertaining footnotes and guide posts to help one navigate beyond the intellectual facades of credentialed experts (one of my favorites: “funding and forecasting may be dependent variables”).

If you click on the image of the book, it takes you to the Amazon website, where you can peruse pages thereof.

It’s a fun read and I am sure that all critical-thinking Bookworm Room aficionados could have loads of fun for years to come in adding to the book’s list of defrocked orthodoxies (it was most recently republished in 1998). It certainly yields more-than enough holy water with which to give the Temple of Orthodoxy a thorough scrub.

On the liberal penchant for elevating science to a religion

I always enjoy James Taranto’s writing.  Today, however, he wrote something almost transcendent about the liberal misunderstanding of science’s incredibly important role in a healthy, functioning modern society:

The notion that conservatives or Republicans are “antiscience” is a liberal Democratic talking point of long standing, but what exactly does it mean?

Largely it is an assertion that liberals take the side of “science” in disputes that are cast as pitting science against religion. Sometimes they are right, as when they argue that biblical creation or “intelligent design” should not be taught in science classes as alternatives to the theory of evolution. Ideas about the supernatural belong in the domain of theology or philosophy. They are outside the realm of science, and maintaining this distinction is important to the integrity of science.

On the other hand, liberals are wrong to cast as “antiscience” objections to embryonic stem-call research. Whether or not one agrees with these objections, they are based not on a hostility to science per se but on ethical qualms about particular forms of research. Science is a method for answering empirical questions; it cannot yield answers to moral questions such as whether a human embryo has intrinsic value.

The implicit claim that scientists are better qualified than nonscientists to answer ethical questions points to the broader problem with the liberal attitude toward science. It seems to be more about asserting the political authority of scientists than adhering to the scientific method. This is very clear in the global-warming debate, in which, as last year’s “Climategate” scandal showed, scientists disregarded the scientific method in order to promote an ideologically favored hypothesis. In ignoring the scandal and pushing ahead with its “climate” agenda, the Obama administration has shown that it is more interested in ideology than science.

Right.  That’s absolutely and totally right.  Science is not morality, scientists are not infallible, and ideology can be as easily cloaked in false science as in anything else.

The importance of remembering that scientists are not mathematicians

I’ve been reading Fermat’s Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem, by Simon Singh.  Normally, I’d shy away from a book like this — after all, it’s about math! — but it was required reading for my book club, and it’s proven to be delightful.  To the extent there is math in it, Singh masterfully simplifies complex ideas so that even math illiterates like myself can understand them.  Indeed, I suspect that, if I’d had a teach like Singh when I was in school, one who teaches why something matters, or how it came to be, rather than just demanding that one memorize meaningless formulas, I might not be the math illiterate (and math phobe) that I am today.

But my ruminations about books and math aren’t actually why I’m writing right now.  Instead, I wanted to comment on the different types of thinking in the sciences.  I’m ashamed to admit that I never really sat down and analyzed the different intellectual approaches people on the “science side” use.  To me, the world was binary:  science mind (including math) and not science mind (including me).  Sure I knew that engineers could be a bit obsessive compulsive, but it was a trait I admired, so I never thought more about it.

What never occurred to me, however, is that specific branches of science demand different approaches to finality — or, as it’s called in math, “absolute proof.”  Let me have Singh describe this concept.  I’ll quote at some length from his text at pages 20-22 (in the hard copy version 0f his book):

The story of Fermat’s Last Theorem revolves around the search for a missing proof. Mathematical proof is far more powerful and rigorous than the concept of proof we casually use in our everyday language, or even the concept of proof as understood by physicists or chemists. The difference between scientific and mathematical proof is both subtle and profound, and is crucial to understanding the work of every mathematician since Pythagoras. The idea of a classic mathematical proof is to begin with a series of axioms, statements that can be assumed to be true or that are self-evidently true. Then by arguing logically, step by step, it is possible to arrive at a conclusion. If the axioms are correct and the logic is flawless, then the conclusion will be undeniable. This conclusion is the theorem.

Mathematical theorems rely on this logical process and once proven are true until the end of time. Mathematical proofs are absolute. To appreciate the value of such proofs they should be compared with their poor relation, the scientific proof. In science a hypothesis is put forward to explain a physical phenomenon. If observations of the phenomenon compare well with the hypothesis, this becomes evidence in favor of it. Furthermore, the hypothesis should not merely describe a known phenomenon, but predict the results of other phenomena. Experiments may be performed to test the predictive power of the hypothesis, and if it continues to be successful then this is even more evidence to back the hypothesis. Eventually the amount of evidence may be overwhelming and the hypothesis becomes accepted as a scientific theory.

However, the scientific theory can never be proved to the same absolute level of a mathematical theorem: It is merely considered highly likely based on the evidence available. So-called scientific proof relies on observation and perception, both of which are fallible and provide only approximations to the truth. As Bertrand Russell pointed out: “Although this may seem a paradox, all exact science is dominated by the idea of approximation.” Even the most widely accepted scientific “proofs” always have a small element of doubt in them. Sometimes this doubt diminishes, although it never disappears completely, while on other occasions the proof is ultimately shown to be wrong. This weakness in scientific proof leads to scientific revolutions in which one theory that was assumed to be correct is replaced with another theory, which may be merely a refinement of the original theory, or which may be a complete contradiction.

I know that, having read that, you’re thinking exactly what I’m thinking:  Global Warming.  You’re thinking of falsified data, of non-vanishing glaciers, of robust polar bear populations, and of the other cascade of data showing wrong-headed theories supported by bad, careless, or out-and-out fraudulent “science.”  Credulous people, ideologically driven people, and people who confuse scientific theory with the absolute proof of a mathematical theorem were willing to accept that “the science is settled.”  But unlike math, which can see a theorem being finally and definitively proved, real science is never settled, and anyone who claims that must be a liar.

Certainly, we know that some scientific theories are more stable than others, and we’ve built large parts of our world on that.  But when people purport to take the dynamics of the sun, the moon, the earth and predict the climate outcome years or even decades in advance, and then it turns out that they’ve done so entirely without regard to the sun, the moon, and the earth, you know you’ve got mysticism and faith, and nothing remotely approaching science, let alone the sureties of math.

I’ll leave you with a joke, also from Singh’s book, although it originally comes from Ian Stewart, in his book Concepts of Modern Mathematics:

An astronomer, a physicist, and a mathematician (it is said) were holidaying in Scotland.  Glancing from a train window, they observed a black sheep in the middle of a field.  “How interesting,” observed the astronomer, “all Scottish sheep are black!”  To which the physicist responded, “No, no!  Some Scottish sheep are black!”  The mathematician gazed heavenward in supplication, and then intoned, “In Scotland there exists at least one field, containing at least one sheep, at least one side of which is black.”

Since you’re all much cleverer than I at jokes and bon mots, I’ll leave you to imagine what the AGW “scientist” would have said upon seeing that sheep in that field.

A literary take on scientific corruption

The whole sordid story of the corruption of science at one of the world’s premier institutions that has been pushing the man-made global warming theory sounded vaguely familiar to me, but I couldn’t figure out why.  It was only last night that I finally realized that the debate perfectly parallels a major plot point in, of all things, a mystery.  But not just any mystery.  The book is Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night, published in 1936.  Sayers was no hack novelist.  Instead, she was the highly intelligent product of a pre-WWI Oxford women’s education.  She was imbued in the classical concepts of literature, philosophy, history and science.  When she set out to write her acclaimed Peter Wimsey murder mysteries, she brought these sensibilities to the mystery novel.

Gaudy Night is the most autobiographical of her novels.  The main protagonist isn’t Peter Wimsey at all, but his great love, Harriet Vane, a prickly, brilliant mystery writer.  The book begins with Harriet having returned to Oxford to attend her college’s “gaudy,” which is a cross between a class reunion and something inexplicably British.  While there, a poison pen writer strikes.  When Harriet returns to London, the poison pen writer continues to send anonymous missives to people at the women’s college, and eventually escalates to vandalism and physical violence.  The staff at Harriet’s college is anxious to keep the matter private, since they are concerned that their college, a fairly new institution at the time, might have its reputation irreparably damaged if others learned that a female student or, worse, a female professor was behind the letters and violence.  With discretion as the byword, the administration invites Harriet, rather than the police, to investigate the matter.  Harriet, in turn, eventually invites Peter Wimsey.

Because the book is set at Oxford University, and because it is clear that someone working in the college — as opposed to a young student — is the culprit, the book is much taken up with the private and public loyalties of the various faculty members.  In other words, it asks over and over what their obligations are to the institution and to themselves and their families.  Without exception, in the Oxford tradition of the time, which was derived from the monastic tradition, the teachers were unmarried.  Staff members, such as the school secretary, could be married.

In the scene that reminded me so strongly of the sordid events at East Anglia, Harriet has invited Wimsey to join her at a faculty dinner.  The participants there are various teachers and administrators, ranging from the misanthropic history professor, Miss Hillyard; to the aggressively objective science teacher, Miss Edwards; to the very politically correct Misses Shaw and Stevens; to the disciplined, academically passionate history professor, Miss DeVine; to Miss Lydgate, the sweet, but academically ferocious English professor.  That’s the mise en scène, and this is what Sayers has to write (redacted to remove stuff specific to the mystery).  All emphasis is mine:

“Of course,” said Miss Hillyard, in a hard, sarcastic voice, “if you think private loyalties should come before loyalty to one’s job . . .”

[snip]

“Of course, I don’t say that one should be disloyal to ones job for private reasons,” said Miss Lydgate.  “But surely if one takes on personal responsibilities, one owes a duty in that direction.  If ones job interferes with them, perhaps one should give up the job.”

[snip, which picks up with Wimsey speaking]

“How about the artist of genius who has to choose between letting his family starve and painting pot-boilers to keep them?”

“He’s no business to have a wife and family,” said Miss Hillyard.

“Poor devil!  Then he has the further interesting choice between repressions and immorality.  Mrs. Goodwin, I gather, would object to the repressions and some people might object to the immorality.”

“That doesn’t matter,” said Miss Pyke.  “You have hypothesized a wife and family.  Well — he could stop painting.  That, if he really is a genius, would be a loss to the world.  But he mustn’t paint bad pictures — that would be really immoral.

“Why?” asked Miss Edwards.  “What do a few bad pictures matter, more or less?”

“Of course they matter,” said Miss Shaw.  She knew a good deal about painting.  “A bad picture by a good painter is a betrayal of truth — his own truth.”

“That’s only a relative kind of truth,” objected Miss Edwards.

[As matters digress, Harriet steers the conversation back on topic]

“If you can’t agree about painters, make it someone else.  Make it a scientist.”

“I’ve no objection to scientific pot-boilers,” said Miss Edwards.  “I mean, a popular book isn’t necessarily unscientific.”

So long,” said Wimsey, “as it doesn’t falsify the facts.  But it might be a different kind of thing.  To take a concrete instance — somebody wrote a novel called The Search

[snip]

“I never read the book,” said the Warden.

“Oh, I did,” said the Dean.  “It’s about a man who starts out to be a scientist and gets on very well till, just as he’s going to be appointed to an important executive post, he finds he’s made a careless error in a scientific paper.  He didn’t check his assistant’s results or something.  Somebody finds out, and he doesn’t get the job.  So he decides he doesn’t really care about science after all.”

“Obvious not,” said Miss Edwards.  “He only cared about the post.”

[snip]

“The point about it,” said Wimsey, “is what an elderly scientist says to him.  He tells him:  The only ethical principle which has made science possible is that the truth shall be told all the time.  If we do not penalize false statements made in error, we open up the way for false statements by intention.  And a false statement of fact, made deliberately, is the most serious crime a scientist can commit.’ Words to the effect.  I may not be quoting quite correctly.”

“Well, that’s true, of course.  Nothing could possibly excuse deliberate falsification.”

“There’s no sense in deliberate falsification, anyhow,” said the Bursar.  “What could anybody gain by it?”

It has been done,” said Miss Hillyard, “frequentlyTo get the better of an argument.  Or out of ambition.”

“Ambition to be what?” cried Miss Lydgate.  “What satisfaction could one possibly get out of a reputation one knew one didn’t deserve?  It would be horrible.”

To answer Miss Lydgate’s question, one can apparently get quite a lot out of a reputation one knows one doesn’t deserve.  Al Gore, no scientist himself, although he plays one on TV, has made hundreds of millions of dollars.  That’s just greed, though, which is almost understandable.

What is infinitely more awful than mere greed and ignorance is the fact that so many scientists have pursued the man-made global warming scheme as a way to destroy the entire capitalist, post-industrial infrastructure of the Western world.  Armed with the fanatic belief that humans are irredemably evil, and that Westerners are particularly evil, they have used man-made global warming as a method to de-fuel us.

Without our energy, we have no factories, we have no transportation, we have no light, we have no heat.  We are reduced to pre-industrial essentials of subsistence farming in a world lit only by fire.  With this grand ideological goal, who cares about a single individual’s scientific reputation.  It is enough to have the power to remake the world in a Marxist image.

I think it is worth repeating to ourselves, again and again, Sayers words about the absolute necessity for pure science:  “The only ethical principle which has made science possible is that the truth shall be told all the time.  If we do not penalize false statements made in error, we open up the way for false statements by intention.  And a false statement of fact, made deliberately, is the most serious crime a scientist can commit.

Scientists know everything about the known world around us when it comes to climate change, but nothing when it comes to other things

The media repeatedly assures us that there is no question — and cannot be any question — about climate change.  That particular bit of science is settled, with all the data collected, a position the media holds to strenuously despite significant amounts of data that contradict the claim that humans (particularly American humans) are solely responsible for climate change.  The media also clings to this position despite its oft repeated statement, in stories about bizarre animal or geological discoveries, that there is still tons our scientists do not know about the world around us (emphasis mine):

U.S. scientists in the Gulf of Mexico unexpectedly netted a 19.5-foot (5.9-meter) giant squid off the coast of Louisiana, the Interior Department said on Monday, showing how little is known about life in the deep waters of the Gulf.

All of which means that we’re ignorant only when it’s sexy and mysterious to be so, and we’re all-knowing when it’s politically expedient for a Leftist ideology that we be so.

Tying up the healthcare package with an ugly bow

Michelle Malkin puts it together:  the administration’s insistence that blind-folded science (untouched by greed or human feeling) will ensure the proper treatments in all situations plus the person who is the President’s voice for those “scientific” treatments.  If you recall Zombie’s expose about the new science czar, John Holdren, you’ll realize that the person setting the tone for this scientific treatment is someone who views humans as something that should be destroyed in order to recreate Eden.

Again, let me remind you:

Also, I again suggest that, if you haven’t already, you read Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change, which discusses the fascists’ enduring belief that science is the answer.  That belief, of course, reached its apex (or, a better word, its nadir) with Mengele.