when science isn’t scientific

One of the reasons that western civilisation abandoned Christianity was that a shiny new replacement was available. While religion was just superstition this new replacement dealt in absolute truth. Its claims could be tested and were subject to proof. It was incapable of error. This new system was called science.

There was much excitement at the time. And today the claims of science are almost universally accepted. If you’re not sure about something, ask a scientist.

The problem is that science has expanded and it has gone on expanding. Science now covers an immense range of academic disciplines. We can be assured that they are all real science. Their practitioners tell us so, and why would they lie?

The problem is that most of these fields are in reality not science at all. They simply borrow some of the trappings of science. Physics is science. One or to other fields of science are also real science. They employ the scientific method, and the scientific method is the one trump card that science holds. The scientific method is an assurance that we’re dealing with truth rather than superstition or opinion or even deliberate falsehood. For a theory to be accepted as true it has to be tested by experiment and the experiments have to be repeated multiple times just to make sure. It’s a fool-proof system. Physicists knew that the laws propounded by Galileo and Newton were true because they were tested by the scientific method and proof was obtained. Of course the laws propounded by Galileo and Newton later turned out to be wrong but that’s an annoying minor detail that is best ignored.

Most scientific disciplines do not employ the scientific method. Geology for example, or palaeontology. You might be pretty confident that a particular type of valley was the result of thousands of years of glacial action but you can’t very well set up an experiment to prove it. You might think that changing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere change the climate but you can’t set up an experiment to prove it.

This has always been a bit of an embarrassment but in the past few decades a solution has been found. If you can’t perform an actual experiment you can set up a computer model. And that’s just as good. The only problem here is that computer models are not just as good as performing an experiment. Computer models are amusing toys. They can be very expensive toys, but they’re still toys. They don’t prove anything.

At least geologists and palaeontologists try to be as scientific as they can. That can’t be said of many other sciences. In fact many disciplines that masquerade as sciences are completely unscientific. Psychology and anthropology for example. That’s not to say that it’s impossible for an anthropologist or a psychologist to have an accurate insight. It’s just that it’s not a scientific insight. Psychology is an art, not a science.

Then there are the social sciences. Like sociology. Such disciplines are very keen to be seen as scientific. In fact they’re political ideologies, not sciences.

And all of this is without taking into account the very real problems of scientific fraud, and the even bigger problems of scientists being motivated by political bias and cowardice. If you look at a field like climate science you get every single one of these problems.

Science’s claim to be able to give us undisputed truth is really rather unimpressive. In certain very narrow fields it can do so, up to a point. The fact that science has major deficiencies isn’t really a problem in itself. What is a problem is that so many people seem to be unaware of these deficiencies. When stuff like “climate science” starts to get taken seriously we’re a long way down the rabbit hole.

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climate change, lies and changing beliefs

We get lied to constantly and to a large extent it’s what we expect these days. Some of these lies are just so transparently obvious that it’s difficult to imagine a reasonably bright five-year-old being taken in by them. What’s worrying though is that no matter how obvious the lies most people seem to swallow them.

The most spectacular example has to be climate change. It is clearly not happening. Coastal cities are not being inundated. Coastal communities have not been swept away by the oceans. Any change is sea levels has been microscopic. The super-gigantic killer hurricanes have not eventuated.

The climate has not changed. But most people still believe the climate change lies.

There are several possible explanations. One explanation is that most people are so dumb that they believe what they’re told even when the evidence clearly indicates the opposite.

A second explanation would be that people don’t actually believe these lies at all but they’re so desperate to conform and so afraid of attracting the attention of the Thought Police that they will pretend to believe absolutely anything. If true that would actually be in some ways a hopeful explanation, because it would mean that those who are currently obediently chanting social justice slogans would, in the event of regime change, abandon those slogans overnight and start chanting a whole new set of slogans.

I’m inclined to think the second explanation is the correct one. While I would never underestimate the power of human stupidity I think the power of conformism is much stronger. The urge to conform is the most powerful of all human instincts, much more powerful than hunger or sex.

The problem is that if the majority is prepared to go along even with lies as obvious as climate change then bringing about regime change is going to be exceedingly difficult. We can’t rely on ordinary people suddenly deciding one day that they’ve had enough and they’re not prepared to be lied to any more. There isn’t going to be a grass-roots revolt. If people are willing to say that the climate is changing when it obviously isn’t then there is effectively no limit to the lies that they can be persuaded to accept.

That’s the thing about regime change which tends to justify both pessimism and optimism. Regime change is incredibly difficult to bring about but once it’s achieved it’s pretty much guaranteed to be permanent. If liberalism ever falls then the overwhelming majority of the population will abandon their liberal beliefs overnight.

the things left unsaid

It’s often the things that are not said that are more revealing than the things that are said. This is especially true when applied to liberals.
One interesting example is environmentalists and overpopulation. Remember when greenies were obsessed with the population explosion? It was going to be worst thing ever  and it was going to kill the planet and we were all going to die. Environmentalists don’t talk very much about that subject these days. The reason in this case is obvious. To talk about overpopulation would be racist!
They’re particularly keen to avoid discussing immigration. If they did discuss it they would have to face up to one very embarrassing hatefact – if millions of people move from the Third World to the First World those people are going to have a much bigger impact on the environment. They’re going to consume a lot more electricity. They’re going to want to buy cars. A lot more fossil fuels are going to be burnt. If there was any truth to global warming then these immigrants would logically accelerate the process. 
There are two conclusions one can draw from this. Either environmentalists don’t really believe in global warming, or they’re quite happy to see the planet die as long as they are not seen to be racist.
The other interesting example of things left unsaid involves feminists and pornography. I’ve been reminded of this by a recent post at Upon Hope. Feminists have always been divided on this issue but until fairly recently there was a very significant segment of the feminist movement (in fact the dominant segment) that was bitterly opposed to pornography. They argued that pornography objectified women, encouraged violence against women, oppressed women, was an insult to women, etc etc.
These days feminists have gone strangely quiet on this issue. Which is odd. At the time when they were enthusiastically crusading against it pornography was not all that big a problem. Today it’s a very big problem indeed. It’s all-pervasive, the evidence that it causes harm is much stronger and it’s almost impossible (indeed it’s probably quite impossible) to keep such material out of the hands of children. So why has the feminist sisterhood gone strangely quiet on this topic? Have they changed their minds? Do younger feminists simply not care? Are they so driven by hatred for our civilisation that they welcome anything that will undermine that civilisation, even if it harms women in the process?
There is another possible reason. They may have backed down in the face of opposition from the LGBTQWERTY lobby (with which feminism has an uneasy relationship to say the least). Any crackdown on pornography could not in practice be confined to a crackdown on heterosexual pornography. It would have to include material involving various forms of sexual deviance. But that would be homophobic, transphobic, queerphobic and all sorts of other phobics.
And the unpleasant truth for feminists is that LGBTQWERTY “rights” trump women’s rights. Feminists are at the absolute bottom of the victim hierarchy. So the explanation might have more to do with cowardice than hypocrisy.
It’s always worth taking note of the things liberals do not say. They tend to be very revealing. They also suggest that there are major fault lines within the left-liberal establishment, fault lines that might well widen considerably at some future time.

Stridency as a sign of weakness

I’ve been involved in a discussion elsewhere on the growing aggressiveness of the pro-abortion movement and their increasing tendency to present abortion as something to celebrate.

What strikes me is that very often the more strident someone is about their beliefs the more uncertain they really are. I’ve noticed that over the years with political lesbians. Many of the most militantly radical political lesbians end up turning straight. So their militancy was merely a means of covering up the disturbing little seeds of doubt that were growing inside them all the time.

I’ve also noticed it recently among the advocates of climate change hysteria. As the number of climate change sceptics grows, and as the evidence for man-made climate change becomes ever more elusive, so the proponents of this dogma become ever more shrill and enraged.

You can see it with radical Islam as well. The fear of the radical Islamists is that more and more young Moslems will end up like the average westerner, paying at best lip service to their faith but in practice being more interested in iPods and Facebook than in jihad.

I suspect it’s the same with abortion, that those who are trying the hardest to convince us that abortion is a cause for celebration are probably secretly tortured by doubts, by the awful fear that abortion is in fact murder and is utterly indefensible.