What Is ‘Science’ for Progressives?

 

An article in the NY Post Thursday discusses polling data finding that Democrats have more faith in “science” than do Republicans. I don’t find that remarkable given the volume of self-congratulatory memes about “believing” in science that is endemic in lefty social media.

A more interesting question is what do those people think “science” is? Progressives appear to be more predisposed to favor their vision of science now than they did in the pre-Sars-COVID-19 era (normality seems so long ago, doesn’t it?). Empirically, such a trend is hard to understand. On the basis of performance, it is not a rational collective response to have an increase in faith and confidence in those who are identified as the practitioners of science for the simple reason that they were often spectacularly wrong, overtly politicized, often closely linked to special interests and viciously adversarial to the minority of scientists who dissented against whom they often resorted to ad hominem attacks in lieu of well-reasoned, (science-like?) debate.

Like the vast majority of other “experts”, the self-appointed personification of science himself has changed his position on every aspect of the pandemic without even a hint of apology or even acknowledgment. Following “expert” guidance caused enormous harm, accomplished nothing as to what was promised, and little of that guidance was consonant with past science or ever-accumulating current data. And yet some Americans are now more predisposed to respect and honor the authors of this debacle. Why?

My professor in a Philosophy of Science class a half-century ago offered the too-cute definition of science as “that which scientists do when they are doing science” to make the point that attempts to define “science” are invariably too narrow. Ricochet must have about a terabyte of past comments debating whether “falsifiability” is an essential element of any scientific endeavor so I hereby expressly cease and desist any attempt to present or even insinuate any formal definition of “science.” I will simply assert with confidence that whatever science is, when the facts and data uniformly contradict an assumption, hypothesis, prediction, or expectation, it is unscientific to cling to such a falsified idea.

Progressives don’t care what Popper or Kuhn have had to say about science. As with environmental issues, it is now clear that “science” is morphing into a synonym for the administrative state. We should defer to, submit and obey “experts” who are in sole possession of The Science and only malevolent ignorance leading to a hatred of science itself would cause one to think otherwise. Once we accept that viewpoint, it makes perfect sense that actual scientists who defy a prevailing narrative (one that invariably calls for intervention, control, and compulsion) are no longer doing science but purveying misinformation instead.

Polling data also reveals that younger Americans are more afraid of COVID than are we elderly folk—more than twice the fear at about 1,000 times lower risk. A mental habit of fear, magnifying every risk, cultivating a sense of helplessness in the face of each looming crisis, and then looking to “science” for protection and salvation is an obvious recipe for social, political, spiritual, and personal disaster. And yet, young progressives have somehow managed to draw the opposite lesson from the pandemic.

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  1. DonG (CAGW is a hoax) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a hoax)
    @DonG

    Commies use whatever tool to exert or expand power.   “The Science” is just a stick to silence dissenters to their propaganda.   It is safe to assume that anyone that says “The Science” is a fascist.

    • #1
  2. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    The old standby is “believe what they do, not what they say”. That applies when Leftists use the science terminology.

    • #2
  3. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    There is a website, popular among ‘progressives’, called “I F****** Love Science”.  I am quite sure that if the title had been simply “I Love Science”, the viewership would have been a lot smaller, certainly among Progs.

    • #3
  4. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    There will be a real wakeup moment for many. I have to think observing the funeral services for all the cops killed and seeing that they are frequently those the Leftist Elite choose to exploit might have an effect.

    • #4
  5. Quietpi Member
    Quietpi
    @Quietpi

    Grand slam, @oldbathos.  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again:  Any time you hear somebody say, “follow the science,” first determine whether or not that person knows how to spell science.  

    • #5
  6. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    Old Bathos: it is now clear that “science” is morphing into a synonym for the administrative state.  We should defer to, submit and obey “experts” who are in sole possession of The Science and only malevolent ignorance leading to a hatred of science itself would cause one to think otherwise.

    This cannot be made more clear when we hear their use of that ludicrous phrase “The science is settled”.

    • #6
  7. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: it is now clear that “science” is morphing into a synonym for the administrative state. We should defer to, submit and obey “experts” who are in sole possession of The Science and only malevolent ignorance leading to a hatred of science itself would cause one to think otherwise.

    This cannot be made more clear when we hear their use of that ludicrous phrase “The science is settled”.

    “The science is settled” is about as stupid as it gets.

    • #7
  8. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    And how many of these Science-worshipping geniuses on the Left also believe in the power of crystals, and in aromatherapy, and astrology, and of course that men can become women by wishing.

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Recently I read a person write that what we’ve done to young people regarding fear of COVID will one day be described as child abuse. BTW, OB, you are a wonderful writer! Great post!

    • #9
  10. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I keep waiting for someone to say to the CDC, “If you guys were as smart as you think you are, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place!” :-) :-) 

    • #10
  11. Tal Fortgang Coolidge
    Tal Fortgang
    @Tal Fortgang

    This is a crucial question that defies easy answers. My best interpretation of the way “science” is used (basically as a talisman) among young progressives in particular is anything that deals with the natural observable world. Not everything done in a chemistry laboratory is Science — sometimes it’s just messing around. Not everything dealing with infectious diseases is scientific — sometimes it’s just groping for responses to problems. But if you can imagine someone called Doctor as the expert in answering a question, it is treated as “Science.”

    • #11
  12. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Tal Fortgang (View Comment):

    This is a crucial question that defies easy answers. My best interpretation of the way “science” is used (basically as a talisman) among young progressives in particular is anything that deals with the natural observable world. Not everything done in a chemistry laboratory is Science — sometimes it’s just messing around. Not everything dealing with infectious diseases is scientific — sometimes it’s just groping for responses to problems. But if you can imagine someone called Doctor as the expert in answering a question, it is treated as “Science.”

    One issue has to do with the “soft” sciences and polls.  

    We basically have professors in colleges looking for grant money doing polls looking for correlations and publishing it as “science” to get grant money to live off of.  The academia class live on the publish or die model for so long that they are publishing crap just to keep their jobs and with little or no interest if what they publish is really science.  But like many things this is what happens when you have large pools of government money available and a large pool of people chasing it.  

    • #12
  13. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Remember Aristotle who said something like, “Man is most like a god when he reasons.” I agree. Of Western Civilization, I would prefer Aristotle to Jesus. Without G-d men turn to other gods.

    • #13
  14. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    Tal Fortgang (View Comment):

    This is a crucial question that defies easy answers. My best interpretation of the way “science” is used (basically as a talisman) among young progressives in particular is anything that deals with the natural observable world. Not everything done in a chemistry laboratory is Science — sometimes it’s just messing around. Not everything dealing with infectious diseases is scientific — sometimes it’s just groping for responses to problems. But if you can imagine someone called Doctor as the expert in answering a question, it is treated as “Science.”

    One issue has to do with the “soft” sciences and polls.

    We basically have professors in colleges looking for grant money doing polls looking for correlations and publishing it as “science” to get grant money to live off of. The academia class live on the publish or die model for so long that they are publishing crap just to keep their jobs and with little or no interest if what they publish is really science. But like many things this is what happens when you have large pools of government money available and a large pool of people chasing it.

    @fakejohnjanegalt You didn’t go far enough with your point. Now we don’t only have to deal with the crap some try to call science but those living off government grants are required to support the Leftist Party line. That is another piece of the puzzle that has destroyed higher education.

    • #14
  15. Some Call Me ...Tim Coolidge
    Some Call Me ...Tim
    @SomeCallMeTim

    Just as, to a leftist, “fascism” means anything bad or that I don’t like; “science” has come to mean anything good or that I do like. 

    • #15
  16. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I keep waiting for someone to say to the CDC, “If you guys were as smart as you think you are, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place!” :-) :-)

    The two most recent heads of the CDC do not inspire much confidence.  The buffoon Redfield who announced in a live interview that masks were more important and effective than the vaccines and Rachel “Impending Doom” Wallensky both also remained blissfully ignorant of the seasonality curves unfolding in front of them and remained an embarrassment throughout the crisis.

    Scott Atlas portrayed Redfield as lazy and grossly unprepared in White House Task Force meetings without using those adjectives.  You would think that one of the perks of running the CDC would be the ability to pick up the phone and have several competent people gather every scrap of info, every study and the names of the right people to call so as to answer any relevant question.  You expect a CDC head to be someone with that trait that you normally associate with science professionals.. what is it .. oh yeah, “curiosity.” Instead, they seemed to heavily filter everything through what they perceived to be the needs of the preferred political/policy narrative at the moment.

    I get the distinct impression that over the last two years, in my spare time, I may have looked at more COVID graphs and studies, followed more debated points among actual scientists, and consulted a wider range of sources than the current and past head of the CDC.  That is pretty scary.  Mediocrities in high places answerable only to a cognitively and morally impaired POTUS all operating with cover from an ideologically corrupt, pathetic news media and from hordes of mental zombies on social media…. It is amazing we are not already much worse off than we already are.

    • #16
  17. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: it is now clear that “science” is morphing into a synonym for the administrative state. We should defer to, submit and obey “experts” who are in sole possession of The Science and only malevolent ignorance leading to a hatred of science itself would cause one to think otherwise.

    This cannot be made more clear when we hear their use of that ludicrous phrase “The science is settled”.

    “The science is settled” is about as stupid as it gets.

    Would you say the antithesis?

    • #17
  18. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    I hate how the Left has corrupted science. And too few scientists are willing to risk their careers and funding to stand up to the bullies.

    • #18
  19. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Science is a process. Were anyone to say to me “trust the process of science to be our best tool for arriving at what are likely the correct conclusions about the physical world,” I’d be on board with that. On the other hand, were anyone to say to me “trust the current results that those engaged in the process of science are now giving us,” I’d be more skeptical, as the process of science implies that the current results of science are subject to debate and revision, and may in fact be in contention even now. On the other other hand, were anyone to say to me “trust the scientists,” I’d snort derisively: the process of science exists specifically so that we don’t have to trust the scientists, who are after all no more trustworthy than anyone else.

    Of course, none of that is really what’s going on today. What’s going on today is that we are being told to trust the bureaucrats and partisan hacks who represent themselves as priestly spokesmen of the science and who wish to be credited with the mantle of factual authority that starts and ends with the dutiful application of the scientific process, and that no individual — least of all someone in politics — can claim for himself.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, trust the science, but don’t trust anyone who tells you to trust the science.

    • #19
  20. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    As I’ve said elsewhere, trust the science, but don’t trust anyone who tells you to trust the science.

    This, especially.

    • #20
  21. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):
    And how many of these Science-worshipping geniuses on the Left also believe in the power of crystals, and in aromatherapy, and astrology…

    A lot! Which is one reason that I think the current ‘woke’ crowd is really more Fascist than Marxist.

    • #21
  22. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    “trust the current results that those engaged in the process of science are now giving us,” I’d be more skeptical, as the process of science implies that the current results of science are subject to debate and revision, and may in fact be in contention even now. On the other other hand, were anyone to say to me “trust the scientists,” I’d snort derisively: the process of science exists specifically so that we don’t have to trust the scientists, who are after all no more trustworthy than anyone else.

    That is absolutely correct. However, please realize  that it’s psychologically discomfiting.

    I feel it the unpleasantness that uncertainty brings. I remember the good old days when whole wheat bread didn’t make you fat and you should ease up on the meats. Also, sugary fruits were fine because they had lots of vitamins and minerals. It was all wrong of course but it was clear and simple and it granted a sense of security. That it was a false sense of security but it still felt nice.

    It feels weird saying, “The vast majority of evidence suggests that … but maybe the evidence will change.” 

    • #22
  23. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    So far as I can tell, what “science” means to a lefty is anything proclaimed by someone who has a degree in some subject that the lefty doesn’t understand and which leads to a conclusion that the lefty had already reached for ideological reasons.  

    • #23
  24. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    I remember the good old days when whole wheat bread didn’t make you fat and you should ease up on the meats. Also, sugary fruits were fine because they had lots of vitamins and minerals. It was all wrong of course but it was clear and simple and it granted a sense of security.

    And don’t forget the one that was drummed into my head all through childhood:  Eat margarine instead of butter.  Today margarine is known as “trans fats” and is banned in all good lefty conclaves.  And, come to think of it, everywhere else too.

    • #24
  25. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    I remember the good old days when whole wheat bread didn’t make you fat and you should ease up on the meats. Also, sugary fruits were fine because they had lots of vitamins and minerals. It was all wrong of course but it was clear and simple and it granted a sense of security.

    And don’t forget the one that was drummed into my head all through childhood: Eat margarine instead of butter. Today margarine is known as “trans fats” and is banned in all good lefty conclaves. And, come to think of it, everywhere else too.

    We should have demanded more evidence. I find it odd that leftists always question every sexual and societal taboo but when it comes to science, we should just accept whatever the scientists say like illiterate peasants.

    • #25
  26. GFHandle Member
    GFHandle
    @GFHandle

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    There will be a real wakeup moment for many. I have to think observing the funeral services for all the cops killed and seeing that they are frequently those the Leftist Elite choose to exploit might have an effect.

    As they say in Italy, speriamo (let’s hope).  At least at the edges there may be some willing to budge a bit. But never the true believers. I don’t know, but I can guess, that in a lot of cases the true belief masks a complete lack of interest in the matter. “I’ve joined a team. There. That part of life is handled. Back to thinking of my next conquest in bed.” (Probably happens on our side, too, without of course the hope for conquests.)

     

     

    • #26
  27. GFHandle Member
    GFHandle
    @GFHandle

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: it is now clear that “science” is morphing into a synonym for the administrative state. We should defer to, submit and obey “experts” who are in sole possession of The Science and only malevolent ignorance leading to a hatred of science itself would cause one to think otherwise.

    This cannot be made more clear when we hear their use of that ludicrous phrase “The science is settled”.

    “The science is settled” is about as stupid as it gets.

    Wasn’t it Gore who popularized the clause when he used it against the skeptics deniers of the holocaust climate change. His characteristic hubris overtook him. What if he had simply said “Although there are dissenters, at the moment, there is a strong consensus in the scientific community for the proposition that C02 in the amounts currently being released into the atmosphere will lead to seriously deleterious results around the planet.  It is our God-given duty to husband the earth’s gifts. So Come, let us reason together…” ? 

    • #27
  28. GFHandle Member
    GFHandle
    @GFHandle

    Tal Fortgang (View Comment):

    This is a crucial question that defies easy answers. My best interpretation of the way “science” is used (basically as a talisman) among young progressives in particular is anything that deals with the natural observable world. Not everything done in a chemistry laboratory is Science — sometimes it’s just messing around. Not everything dealing with infectious diseases is scientific — sometimes it’s just groping for responses to problems. But if you can imagine someone called Doctor as the expert in answering a question, it is treated as “Science.”

    “sometimes it’s just groping for responses to problems.” Yes. And human, all too human.

    The herd instinct/managerial ethos does its work, too. The right mask in the right situation could reduce the collective risk by about 20% according to the only empirical study a BBC podcast on statistics could find. (So “No use for masks” is also a talisman. ) Since masks CAN help some will extend the notion to a more comforting “WILL help” with attendant rage at anyone not willing to do his/hers/theirs/xhu’s part in the collective effort.

    The hysteria (exaggeration) gives them away.

    • #28
  29. GFHandle Member
    GFHandle
    @GFHandle

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Science is a process. Were anyone to say to me “trust the process of science to be our best tool for arriving at what are likely the correct conclusions about the physical world,” I’d be on board with that. On the other hand, were anyone to say to me “trust the current results that those engaged in the process of science are now giving us,” I’d be more skeptical, as the process of science implies that the current results of science are subject to debate and revision, and may in fact be in contention even now. On the other other hand, were anyone to say to me “trust the scientists,” I’d snort derisively: the process of science exists specifically so that we don’t have to trust the scientists, who are after all no more trustworthy than anyone else.

    Of course, none of that is really what’s going on today. What’s going on today is that we are being told to trust the bureaucrats and partisan hacks who represent themselves as priestly spokesmen of the science and who wish to be credited with the mantle of factual authority that starts and ends with the dutiful application of the scientific process, and that no individual — least of all someone in politics — can claim for himself.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, trust the science, but don’t trust anyone who tells you to trust the science.

    You are drawing basic and necessary distinction that seem never to have dawned on a lot of folks. I am often driven back to Eric Hoffer’s observation that it is the poorly educated rather than the uneducated that we must fear. We not only do not fear them, we do our level best to increase their numbers.

    • #29
  30. GFHandle Member
    GFHandle
    @GFHandle

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    I remember the good old days when whole wheat bread didn’t make you fat and you should ease up on the meats. Also, sugary fruits were fine because they had lots of vitamins and minerals. It was all wrong of course but it was clear and simple and it granted a sense of security.

    And don’t forget the one that was drummed into my head all through childhood: Eat margarine instead of butter. Today margarine is known as “trans fats” and is banned in all good lefty conclaves. And, come to think of it, everywhere else too.

    The margarine I eat has no trans fats. They haven’t been around for years.

    I remember Julia Child cooking with a French guy and adding “a little bit of” gobs of butter and saying, “Some people are afraid of butter. Foolish, really.”

    • #30
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