‘Science’ Sinking

 

Hello Ricochet!  I subscribed to Ricochet in 2018 mainly to support the excellent flagship podcast, which I listen to every week.  I have not posted before, not for lack of interest but for lack of time. However, I came across an item yesterday in the journal Science that was so troubling that I had to make time to put my thoughts into words. The lead editorial in the latest edition shows not only that Science the journal is lost to progressive ideology, but also that science the intellectual pursuit may be well on its way.

Yesterday morning a link to the electronic version of Science arrived by email.  Science is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is one of the leading cross-disciplinary science journals.  A paper published in Science is a major achievement for academic scientists.  Every week the journal has an opening editorial published by a guest contributor.  The editorial typically provides an opinion about some current issue related to science.  Typical headlines for the editorial would be statements like “Only international action can save sea turtles from climate doom” or “Academic scientists desperately need more money.”

This morning the editorial was titled “Save the Supreme Court and democracy.” This piece stood out for several reasons.  It is completely political with only a very weak pretense of relevance to science.  The editorial shows that the author (Maya Sen) either (1) has no knowledge of the constitution and hasn’t actually read the Supreme court decisions that she cites, or (2) does understand the constitution and has read the cases but chooses to ignore the facts anyway.  And most disturbingly:  The author must be confident that her highly-educated readers will be just as poorly informed yet confident in their opinions as she is.  

Maya Sen is no un-credentialed slouch. She is a  professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. However, she has no problem making the following statements:

“When it resumes in October, the court will be poised to outlaw affirmative action, undercut federal regulations regarding clean water, and possibly allow state legislatures to restrict voting rights without oversight by state courts.”

“The court’s eye-popping move to the conservative right is confirmed by research that compares its decisions to public opinion.” 

“If people think the court is ideologically opposed to them, they will be more likely to think that it is acting purely politically.” (stated unironically)

“As gridlock and polarization continue to undercut the efficacy of elected branches of government, the Supreme Court’s salience in matters of public importance will only rise.”

“Additional promising proposals by scholars to help reduce ideological imbalance include reconfiguring how the US selects justices and expanding the size of the court. Others—such as stripping the court’s jurisdiction—would address the argument that the court wields too much power.”

You can read the whole thing for yourself here.

By publishing this editorial, the editors of Science gave it the imprimatur of one of the world’s most respected hard-science journals. This adds to the shameful role that Science has played in promoting the risible idea that the Wuhan flu popped up due to natural causes, by the most incredible coincidence in all history, in a market just down the street from one of the three labs in the world that studies enhanced versions of coronavirus found in bats. They published this nonsense without noting the clear conflicts of interest of the authors, who played a role in funding the dangerous research in the shoddy lab that leaked COVID. 

Science (the journal) was an institution that deserved respect based on decades of straight reporting and publication of excellent papers.  The current editors are squandering that hard-won respect and it will take a very long time to re-earn it. Worse still, the scientific community remains largely silent as progressive ideology erodes their institutions. 

All of this, IMHO, traces back to the corruption of science due to politicized government funding and warped incentives in the universities.  But that’s a post for another day.

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  1. Eustace C. Scrubb Member
    Eustace C. Scrubb
    @EustaceCScrubb

    There is no more science or literature or art or… only Politics…

    Thanks for posting, good to have you aboard, Mike.

    • #1
  2. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Sounds like the same shift made by Scientific American a decade or two before.  Granted, Sci Am was always more Newsweek than Nightline, but all of these slid to the left anyway, some skipping, some sashaying.

    • #2
  3. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD
    @DonTillman

    Well, it’s better than Scientific American, which used to be an excellent magazine, but became more of a mouthpiece for democrat party policies over the years, to the point of… and this is hard to believe… actually endorsing Biden in 2020.

    We see this a lot.   Where democrat party operatives will infiltrate a respected institution, and leverage its reputation for their cause.  

    We saw this with the Merriam Webster dictionary, updating their definitions to match the party line.  Straight outa Orwell, man.  

    Remember when Mazie Hirono was grilling Amy Coney Barrett about some homosexual thing, ACB used the phrase “sexual preference”, Hirono jumped on her claiming the term was offensive, and 15 minutes later the online dictionary updated the definition of the word preference.

    And it’s simple economics; respected institutions make sooper valuable assets.  And you can take control over them with a handful of well-placed operatives.  It’s a far more effective use of limited resources than purchasing a bazillion ads.

    • #3
  4. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Mike Izenson: Worse still, the scientific community remains largely silent as progressive ideology erodes their institutions. 

    And this is the real damage.  They laugh off the distinction between trusting the science and trusting some scientists.  Science doesn’t receive a paycheck, but every scientist does.

    • #4
  5. Mark Alexander Coolidge
    Mark Alexander
    @MarkAlexander

    Love to see more from you. The journal Nature also bit the dust about 20 years ago. True scientific rigor is now lost.

    The next time we found a Constitutional Republic, we never let government anywhere near education at any level.

    • #5
  6. DonG (CAGW is a Scam) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Scam)
    @DonG

    Mike Izenson: All of this IMHO traces back to the corruption of science due to politicized government funding and warped incentives in the universities.  But that’s a post for another day.

    Ike warned us in his farewell address.

    • #6
  7. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member
    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler
    @Muleskinner

    Mike Izenson:

    All of this IMHO traces back to the corruption of science due to politicized government funding and warped incentives in the universities. But that’s a post for another day.

    This is exactly right. And Science may prove to be the easiest part of the culture to reclaim. 

    • #7
  8. Headedwest Inactive
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    A diagnosis of this process from some years ago:

    • #8
  9. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    The true leftist is completely dedicated to his/her cause, and sees everything in his/her life from that perspective.

    So, while the rest of us are busy living our lives and running our business, the Left is undermining and taking over all of the nation’s institutions.

    We see politics as an adjunct; they see it as a life-cause and devote far, far more effort in shaping it, to the detriment of the nation and its future.

    • #9
  10. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Mike Izenson: Maya Sen is no un-credentialed slouch. She is a  professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

    I guess credentials mean nothing when you’re woke . . .

    Mike Izenson: I have not posted before, not for lack of interest but for lack of time.

    Well, you’re hooked now.  Welcome!

    • #10
  11. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Heartbreaking. Thanks for a superb post.

    • #11
  12. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Maya Sen’s problem is that she thinks she is the smartest person in the room. Like the typical bar room brawler that think they’re the toughest person in the room whether they know it or not they are on a search. What they have in common is that the brawler and the smartest person in the room will eventually find someone tougher and smarter when they least expect it. 

    • #12
  13. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    The true leftist is completely dedicated to his/her cause, and sees everything in his/her life from that perspective.

    So, while the rest of us are busy living our lives and running our business, the Left is undermining and taking over all of the nation’s institutions.

    We see politics as an adjunct; they see it as a life-cause and devote far, far more effort in shaping it, to the detriment of the nation and its future.

    See also:

    “Stopping Donald Trump is literally the most important thing in my life.”

    — some guy somewhere

    • #13
  14. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Mark Alexander (View Comment):
    Love to see more from you.

    Indeed.  Please do write more frequently, Mike.

    • #14
  15. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Headedwest (View Comment):

    A diagnosis of this process from some years ago:

    Wax moths.

    • #15
  16. carcat74 Member
    carcat74
    @carcat74

    BDB (View Comment):

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    The true leftist is completely dedicated to his/her cause, and sees everything in his/her life from that perspective.

    So, while the rest of us are busy living our lives and running our business, the Left is undermining and taking over all of the nation’s institutions.

    We see politics as an adjunct; they see it as a life-cause and devote far, far more effort in shaping it, to the detriment of the nation and its future.

    See also:

    “Stopping Donald Trump is literally the most important thing in my life.”

    — some guy somewhere

    Some guy said something…..

    • #16
  17. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    No almost nothing about science. Got a C in HS physics.  C in College Botany. And checked out. But was intrigued by all the commotion over climate change (30 years ago it was global warming) and the “settled science” that we are all doomed unless we let the progressives to take over and run things. Ran across Andrew Watt’s site “What’s up with That?” Don’t get 25 % of the intense science stuff  but the gist is that the “settled science” mostly b.s. with lots of folks sucking down tons of taxpayer grant dollars like Michael Mann.  Recall all Paul Erlich’s 1970’s predictions – no oil by 1990, mass starvations, etc. And what do you know there are starvations in 2022. In Sri Lanka, where they outlawed fertilizer. Who’d a thunk it? 

    • #17
  18. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Mike Izenson: Maya Sen is no un-credentialed slouch. She is a  professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

    She is the very model of an un-credentialed slouch.

    • #18
  19. She Member
    She
    @She

    Mike Izenson: I have not posted before, not for lack of interest but for lack of time. However, I came across an item yesterday in the journal Science that was so troubling that I had to make time to put my thoughts into words.

    Welcome to the Club.  Glad you made time.

    Mike Izenson: All of this, IMHO, traces back to the corruption of science due to politicized government funding and warped incentives in the universities.  But that’s a post for another day.

    I hope so.

     

    • #19
  20. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Tough to see how an unremarkable rehash of the faculty room political zeitgeist about SCOTUS has anything to do with science. If they are going to run a purely political opinion piece, then why not one more insightful, better written and by someone with a demonstrated intellectual capacity to step outside the bubble?

    • #20
  21. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Mike Izenson: Maya Sen is no un-credentialed slouch. She is a professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

    She is the very model of an un-credentialed slouch.

    You know there was time when a Professor of public policy actually had to think about the classically liberal approach to government from time to time. Maybe quote John Locke or Montesquieu or something. But political science in the universities and public policies are now thoughtless garbage. It’s not just that they are left-wing, but they actively go out of their way to avoid learning about right-wing or classically liberal arguments. Getting a social science degree now doesn’t make you learned. It makes you indoctrinated. 

    • #21
  22. Headedwest Inactive
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    Headedwest (View Comment):

    A diagnosis of this process from some years ago:

    Thanks for all the likes. My subscription ends in 7 hours, and while I would have reversed my decision to leave and been willing to renew to see how current events in FL will play out, apparently the system is holding me to my decision.

    • #22
  23. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Hey, thanks for listening to the podcast! And for bringing this editorial to our attention. 

    I don’t think she believes anything she wrote is a leftist position. It’s simply a correct position, there being correct positions, and right-wing opinions.

    This is the part that made me laugh:

    If the majority of Americans continue to strongly disagree with the court’s decisions, then the public may well turn against it, which may not only lead to greater political conflict but also undermine the rule of law.

    Apparently the constitutionality of a statute is now determined by the opinions of the majority of Americans. And so, the rule of law is undermined by returning to the rule of law. it really does take an academic to come up with this stuff.

    To put it another way: SCOTUS invents a right or contorts the Constitution to approve something about which the document is silent: RULE OF LAW, ALL BOW DOWN.

    SCOTUS  rejects a popular law because it plainly violates the Constitution: RULE OF LAW IN PERIL. 

    Got it, Prof. 

    • #23
  24. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    navyjag (View Comment):

    Recall all Paul Erlich’s 1970’s predictions – no oil by 1990, mass starvations, etc. And what do you know there are starvations in 2022. In Sri Lanka, where they outlawed fertilizer. Who’d a thunk it?

    I think Erlich et al are given a pass because they raised consciousness, and got people thinking about important things

    Yeah, but he was wrong, and – 

    Sssshhh. Consciousnesses were raised. 

     

    • #24
  25. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    You articulate something I’ve been dreading – science becoming just another field of politics.  I’ve wanted to be in scientific research since I was a kid, and I have spent most of my life in academic labs.   If you toss out critical evaluation, science is dead.  If someone is publishing a total synthesis and it is garbage because they only “identify” as an organic chemist, I suppose I will get cancelled for pointing out it does not work and might get you blown into pieces by heating diazomethane.  

    @mikeizenson  Do you work in the research field?

    • #25
  26. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    navyjag (View Comment):

    Recall all Paul Erlich’s 1970’s predictions – no oil by 1990, mass starvations, etc. And what do you know there are starvations in 2022. In Sri Lanka, where they outlawed fertilizer. Who’d a thunk it?

    I think Erlich et al are given a pass because they raised consciousness, and got people thinking about important things.

    Yeah, but he was wrong, and –

    Sssshhh. Consciousnesses were raised.

    Working on all the J. Hansen and Michael Mann predictions that never happened re: climate disasters. These idiots are about 0 for 120 now. Worse than my pitiful batting average when I was a 12 year old. On an unbeaten championship team I might add. Thanks to my AA team mates. 

    • #26
  27. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward
    @StevenSeward

    The same happened to a science magazine I used to subscribe to, 20 years ago.

    “The Skeptical Inquirer” is the magazine published by the “Center for Scientific Inquiry.”  It is devoted to the idea of rational thought and the debunking of all things considered to be “pseudoscientific,” like belief in Bigfoot, ESP, Quack Medicines, etc…  They devoted a lot of space to teaching people how to think rationally and how to spot irrational nonsense.  I actually learned a lot about critical thinking by reading their material.   Probably their most famous contributor was “The Amazing” James Randi, a well-known magician and public spokesman against pervasive public frauds.  They were once sued by spoon-bender Uri Geller for exposing him as a fraud.

    Around 2002, when George Bush was starting to stir up the wrath of the Left, the editor of the magazine, Paul Kurtz, came out with a ground-breaking (for them) editorial that stated specifically that the organization had up to that point been purposefully non-political, but with the ascension of the “evil” George Bush to the Presidency, the organization must start speaking out against right-wing fanaticism, blah, blah, blah……

    The whole magazine went downhill from there on.  They starting publishing opinion pieces on gay marriage that didn’t have a thing to do with their mission statement of science.  They began pushing the theory of Global Warming while suppressing dissenting voices.  They abandoned all their previous principles of scientific skepticism and critical thought.  I got out.  It was a pitiful deterioration of a once robust and principled organization into a bunch of weasely leftists who no longer followed their honorable ideals.

    • #27
  28. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Steven Seward (View Comment):

    The same happened to a science magazine I used to subscribe to, 20 years ago.

    “The Skeptical Inquirer” is the magazine published by the “Center for Scientific Inquiry.” It is devoted to the idea of rational thought and the debunking of all things considered to be “pseudoscientific,” like belief in Bigfoot, ESP, Quack Medicines, etc… They devoted a lot of space to teaching people how to think rationally and how to spot irrational nonsense. I actually learned a lot about critical thinking by reading their material. Probably their most famous contributor was “The Amazing” James Randi, a well-known magician and public spokesman against pervasive public frauds.

    Around 2002, when George Bush was starting to stir up the wrath of the Left, the editor of the magazine, Paul Kurtz, came out with a ground-breaking (for them) editorial that stated specifically that the organization had up to that point been purposefully non-political, but with the ascension of the “evil” George Bush to the Presidency, the organization must start speaking out against right-wing fanaticism, blah, blah, blah……

    The whole magazine went downhill from there on. They starting publishing opinion pieces on gay marriage that didn’t have a thing to do with their mission statement of science. They began pushing the theory of Global Warming while suppressing dissenting voices. They abandoned all their previous principles of scientific skepticism and critical thought. I got out. It was a pitiful deterioration of a once robust and principled organization into a bunch of weasely leftists who no longer followed their honorable ideals.

    Same for me. I mean I was sure they were all leftists,  but this was about something else. 

    Global warming is such an obvious hoax. Yet, there they were. 

    Being on the left means having no honor. It is the sin of Pride. Then first sin. Dr. Peterson talks about the sin of falling in love with your own reason. 

    • #28
  29. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Creative science, like creative anything, can’t be top down.  It can take place in top down institutions but it’s creative people playing with ideas, stuff, notions, humans, animals anything that turns them on and sometimes they come up with something that they or others develop.  What human creativity has come from top down bureaucracies, ever?   OK ways to kill people, but other than that?

    • #29
  30. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    I think there is something to the “smartest person in the room” comment by @dougwatt above (#12). Smart people seem often to forget that even the smartest person has limitations, particularly of what they know. No one, no matter how smart, can know enough information to be able to apply their smarts to every subject that exists.

    My son-in-law works in the realm of nuclear weapons. The scientists who originally created the atomic bomb in The Manhattan Project during World War II believed that their knowledge of how to create an atomic bomb meant that they had the best knowledge of when, where, and why to use the atomic bomb, and they tried to insist on being involved in the decisions of when, where, and why to use the technology they had created. They failed to recognize that those questions involved a lot of knowledge that the scientists didn’t have, and analytical processes that were different from the analytical processes of the science of creating the atomic bomb. 

    Even if the best expert on infectious diseases knows the most effective techniques to minimize the spread of an infectious disease, it is unlikely that expert knows enough about the collateral effects of those techniques to justify putting that expert in charge of every aspect of peoples’ lives, even if minimizing the spread of the infectious disease is society’s highest priority. And that expert in infectious diseases doesn’t know enough about all the other issues that affect people as to make that expert the arbiter of whether minimizing the spread of that infectious disease is or should be society’s highest priority.

    I worked professionally as a corporate lawyer (intellectual property) for forty years. I had a couple of very smart lawyers on my staff who would get upset when business executives made decisions different from the lawyers’ recommendations. I kept having to remind those lawyers that our area of expertise was limited. We know legal risks, but the executives also had to take in recommendations from experts in manufacturing, marketing, transportation, and other topics about which we lawyers didn’t know much about.   

    [Side note, opining on court decisions seems about as far away from hard science as you can get. But if the writer really is a professor of “public policy” at a “school of government,” she is already pretty far from hard science.]

    • #30
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