About two months ago I received a forward from a friend with the subject: “Science needs your voice.”
Of course it was baloney. They didn’t need my voice, they were asking for my money. The implied assumption is that their voice is my voice, and what science needs is their political advocacy. Both assumptions are questionable.
I don’t think they would give a lab-rat’s ass for my voice, but I will make it heard anyway.
The fundraising campaign was sent out by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a political lobby organization masquerading as a charity. This is what it looked like:
“More than 30% of the EPA’s budget will be slashed. Nearly 20% of NIH’s funds will be taken. 70% of the funding for renewable energy R+D will be cut under this plan.
We can’t sit by while Congress considers delivering such a harsh blow to the organizations that protect our health, infrastructure, and planet. Become an AAAS member right now to join our community of science advocates fighting to preserve evidence-based decision making and innovation. “
I never knew that science was about “evidence-based decision making.” Or that it was about decision making at all. I always thought that science was about understanding and explaining the world, but never mind the Bullspeak. There are more important questions at hand. Who does this organization represent? What does their representation mean? Does science have any interest? Can it have any? Can we equate the interest of science with that of scientists and their financial interest?
I answered the sender with a question:
“What do you think my position is, and what is the argument behind it?”
I asked the question hoping to start a conversation, but I did not get an answer. I repeated the question a few more time in subsequent exchanges, but eventually gave up, understanding that I will never get it.
The background of the question and the original appeal to support ‘evidence-based decision making’ was an attempt to set me on the righteous path, to support climate change science, gender identity science and other, purely evidence based scientific endeavors. Especially in the ‘anti-science’ age of Trump.
Now I could easily go on for the rest of this post talking about the AAAS. What they are doing right, what they are doing wrong; how hopelessly political and self-serving they are, how most (95% +) of their directors and advisors are dependent for their very livelihood on the advocacy work of the organization. They are not impartial advocates of science. Just check their web-site and form your own opinion. Check their governance page, look at their finances and browse their policy positions.
I could focus on them, but AAAS is not the point.
I could, at an equal length, talk about the libertarian position on government financed science, the immorality of using tax dollars to do politicised science, but that is not the point either. Not entirely, anyway. On the other hand, before I continue, I should spell out what my position actually is:
- I would never support political pimps (a.k.a. lobbying organizations) such as the AAAS.
- If it was in my power, I would eliminate any kind of government involvement in science, arts and education.
- I would do that because I care, not because I don’t. I believe that we would have better (and possibly even more) scientific research without the corrupting effect of politics.
The above is obviously debatable, but that is the point. Science is important and we should make evidence based decisions about it. We should understand how science and scientists function, how scientific advances are made, what sort of political, economic and cultural environment is the most conducive to scientific productivity, and so on. We could also ask:
How much science do we actually need and how do we know how much we need? Is more science always better? What kind of science do we need the most? Does government involvement create better science? Does it create more?
My answer is a simple libertarian one: let the market and society decide how much and what kind of science we need. Let civil society pay for it.
The real concern about government funded science is corruption. Not the obvious kind, like the one you would expect from government construction contracts, but a subtle one, the kind that corrupts the principles of scientists. We have scary examples of this happening around us.
While some fields are relatively immune to politics (physics, astronomy, mathematics, material sciences, etc.), many are highly susceptible to political influence. Medical science, pharmacology, environmental science, energy research, and every single one of the social sciences can be easily corrupted by politics.
To understand the degree to which a branch of science is corruptible, we only need to reflect on the quote on Marx’s tombstone:
“The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point however is to change it.”
Marx subjugated philosophy to politics, his modern-day followers want to subjugate science to it as well.
Every politician has at least a bit of the Marxist attitude, every politician claims to want to change the world. They just need our money to do it.
Science still has a fairly high degree of respectability and the trust of society which politicians are all too ready to exploit. Money always come with strings attached, the question is how strong those strings are and how dependent a scientific project is on any one of them. Government funding has a tendency of crowding out other funding alternatives.
Any hooker can tell you that having one rich John is better than dealing with 20, but it is also true that the one has far more power over her than any of the twenty would.
What the actual goals of politicians are does not even matter. Most of the time they are mundane, like having the support of the science community or endorsement of organizations such as the AAAS, but quite often it can be more demanding.
Science and politics have different aims and methods. Science should be, and most often is, about the non-compromising search for ever better understanding, the evolution of knowledge through thesis, antithesis and synthesis; theory, observation and analysis; concept, test and proof.
The moment it ventures into policy prescription, it betrays its elementary mission of objectivity.
Politics can never be free of ideology, but science can, and should be.
Politics is about power, actions, decisions and compromises, in search for an acceptable consensus. Ideology gives direction to politics. Still, politics is primarily about power, but power needs legitimacy.
The practical aim of politics is the legitimization of political power.
Politicians don’t give a damn about the poor, but claiming that they do will legitimize robbing one half of society to pay off the other for their support.
Politicians don’t give a damn about the transgender, but claiming that they do will legitimize the atomization and control of the individual.
Politicians don’t give a damn about the climate, but claiming that they do can give them enormous amount of power. Nothing legitimizes a political power grab as well as “scientific consensus”. It is almost like the divine grace that gave power to the kings of old.
Politicians can use science to support their ideological aims. All they need to do is to finance scientists and their research projects selectively.
If the official dogma of the state is that we are all equal and all differences are the result of socialization, then much money will be given to projects aiming to prove the dogma and little to none researching innate differences. Certain hot political issues will get priority.
At the height of the AIDS epidemic, the money spent on AIDS research was proportionally ten times more then what was spent on more prevalent, more deadly diseases.
When it comes to researching gender dysphoria, all the money is going into finding better ways to improve gender reassignment surgery and none into researching the wisdom and the effects of doing it in the first place.
When it comes to medical research and pharmacology, most research money is directed toward patentable products and procedures. Alternatives are not only ignored, but actively supressed. Just read “The Cancer Industry”
With climate science, the degree of corruption is unparalleled.
The same person who sent me the appeal of the AAAS for some money to have my voice heard, knowing what an evil climate change denier I am, and with a hope to open my eyes, sent me a document to use as an evidence-based science reference. Few things exemplify the problem better than this 673 pages long “Climate Science Special Report” of the Paris conference. It is shamelessly political, disgracefully used and badly tainted science to serve nakedly political ambitions. The only thing I found evidence for in it is that money corrupt just as badly as power.
If we can call the AAAS the pimps of the prostitution of science, then we could call climate scientists its ten-dollar crack whores.
I will NOT analyze the document and its sleazy language, but reading my earlier posts on the subject (“What do I know”, “What will it take to convince me” and “The politics of global warming”) will give you some hints and many references.
Power corrupts. Politics corrupt. Money corrupt. Subjugating science to politics is very dangerous.
The corruption in climate science is so bad, that it could jeopardize the credibility of science and scientists in general. Respect for public institutions are already waning. Politicians, lawyers and journalists have lost most of the respect they had fifty years ago. Scientists are on the verge of losing the public’s trust and respect as well.
In several international surveys, climate change ranks dead last as a public concern, despite the political and “scientific” hype. To restore the public’s trust, scientists must fiercely fight for their independence and the integrity of their discipline.
I am a geek at heart. A big fan of science and technology, science fiction and futurism.
But I am also a libertarian who understands the corrupting power of politics.
We have good reasons to be concerned about the future and the integrity of science.
This was the point I wanted to make in the conversation that never happened.
We need to have that conversation, and in the end, I think science does need my voice. If you agree, help me make it heard by sharing this post widely.