The effect of the liberal culture on science

The other day I wrote that contemporary scientists, along with other liberal elites in today’s society, “believe in nothing higher or truer than the disordered human self,” and therefore they “drag everything down to the commonest level and make it appear to be as messy and meaningless as we pride ourselves on being.” Kidist Paulos Asrat has further reflections on how our culture’s loss of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful has stripped meaning from everything, including nature and its mysteries that science seeks to unfold:

The Good, the True and the Beautiful are no longer those solid principles with which we tried to understand the world around us. These principles were formed partly through religion (specifically Christianity) and partly through our cultural history and traditions. Society was thus constantly informed how to differentiate between good and evil, beautiful and the less beautiful, the true and the untruthful.

Now, since we have cast aside these traditions, and since religion is just something one harks back to on Christmas or a christening, we no longer have that to guide our understanding of the world.

We could look at it this way. Man has three primary ways of discovering and expressing truth (which I will capitalize): Religion, Art, and Science. The dominant liberal or postmodern culture denies God, thus disempowering Religion as a path to truth, and it denies the transcendent (that sense of the larger whole to which things belong), thus disempowering Art as a path to truth, leaving only Science and the material truths of nature. But without the transcendent, there is no meaning (the connection between a part and the whole to which it belongs), including any meaning in matter and nature. The universe as revealed by Science becomes a meaningless postmodern collection of stuff. Which, by the way, was the deeply demoralizing impression I got some years ago when I visited the then-new Rose Center for Earth and Space which had replaced the old Hayden Planetarium.

Just now, thinking I would check out the sky show at the Hayden Planetarium, which is now part of the Rose Center, I found this:

A spectacular new Space Show, Journey to the Stars, narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Whoopi Goldberg, premiered on Saturday, July 4, 2009, in the Hayden Planetarium at the Frederick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Center for Earth and Space.

Whoopi Goldberg, who as a host of nationally televised awards shows has made profane and disgusting comments about Republicans and is a star of the disgusting feminist program The View—this trashy entertainer is our officially designated guide to the mysteries of the universe. Could there be any better indication of how the contemporarary science enterprise, as an expression of the liberal culture, cheapens the cosmos itself?

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James N. writes:

Check out Bruce Charlton’s article on Peer Review and Science.

LA replies:

I’ve just read the first paragraph. It would seem to be a very welcome explication of my oft-stated view that today’s science and the hyped-up presentation of science to the public are part of one movement, that the good cop (science) and the bad cop (the journalistic and PR hyping of science) are a team.

James N. replies:

As you read more of his writings on this subject, you will see that he makes the claim that today’s science is in fact not science at all, a view that I think is mostly correct.

LA replies:

That is very interesting, I have never heard of this argument, and I look forward to reading it.

LA continues:

I’ve now read the article. I am disappointed. He makes a large, interesting, and provocative assertion, that peer-review science does not seek truth, but he doesn’t back it up with any evidence or examples.

I personally have long had a sense that modern science is not about truth, or at least not enough about truth. It came to me in the 1980s when I was getting more interested in science, reading science journals, and attending science lectures. It seemed to me that the whole science enterprise was not about finding truth, but about following certain required procedures. Namely you find some evidence, and you put forth a hypothesis based on it. It doesn’t matter if the body of evidence is so tiny that the hypothesis is not convincing, or if the hypothesis is of such a trivial nature that it’s not worth knowing. As long as you follow the set procedures, it is regarded as good science.

Not only did it not seem to be about truth, but it was so narrowly written, so bureaucratically written as it were (meaning that the whole focus was on following the established procedures), that it was not interesting. It did not engage the mind. This bureaucratic approach to science is stultifying to our mind in the same way that bureaucracy itself is deadening to our humanity.

James N. replies:

The problem with peer review is that the judgment of a committee invariably involves the seeking of consensus and the minimization of risk.

Science on the edge breaks consensus and craves risk. It is often the case that the brilliant insight is rejected by peers (this has always been true, by the way). What has changed is that those peers now control careers in a way that was not possible before.

And as the “peer-reviewed literature” accumulates, pressures to conform grow, and error is compounded.

I thought Charlton explained it well, but on re-reading the article I realize that the argument requires some familiarity with the working of study sections and tenure committees that may elude the general reader.

LA replies:

Sounds like Charlton himself may suffer from a standard symptom of over-specialization: he doesn’t realize that his readers don’t share his specialized knowledge and that he needs to explain it to them.

James N. writes:

The essence of real science is falsifiability. The essence of fake (contemporary) science is authority—“scientists say,” “science teaches us that,” etc.

I recently got involved in a local environmental issue. It turns out that the foundational paper supporting a certain proposed course of action was a senior research project by a college student, and ALL the subsequent “hundreds of references” are either advocacy organization position papers or state and federal guidance documents, all based on “research” which, as far as I can tell, has never been subjected to the hostile criticism and attempts at confirmation that are the hallmarks of real science.

When Charlton writes about dead science, that’s what he’s talking about.

LA replies:

Ok, but what do you say to the objection (which I myself have often received) that the thing you are criticizing is politics and PR, while real science continues to be done, and therefore your criticism of science is unfair to real scientists?

James N. replies:
I’m not sure there is a distinction between politics/PR and false science. They are two sides of the same coin.

The critical aspect of false science is that truth is subjective, that it depends on the observer, and, as such, it can be adjusted based on things outside of the rules of real science.

There are, of course, many areas of scientific interest that do not intertwine with the realm of politics, but they are fewer and fewer as the power of the state grows.

Certainly, the environmental sciences are completely postmodern.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 15, 2012 11:30 AM | Send

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