Thursday, 5 July 2018

QotD: On the anti-reason corruption of science

There is a limit to how far [scientists] can stray when you are forced to face the results of observations or experiments that give clear answers. So sciences that are closest to reality—-to definitive, objective tests of its theories and claims—-are the most resilient. Or if nobody is trying to impose an agenda beyond the truth, you are reasonably safe just following the clues where they lead.    Physics is a good example. Experimental physics is one of the most rigorous sciences, and the facts rule. Yet speculative theoretical physics is often unbounded by even the possibility of an experiment, and can run wild. And even with experimental physics, we have to distinguish between the facts and their interpretations, and know where one ends and the other begins. But where the facts are more debatable, there is both the temptation to claim more certainty than you have, and the temptation to bend them to an agenda (whether that is monetary, political, or philosophical). So a field with big political implications—big implications for someone’s power—is more easily corrupted, both by pressure from outside (e.g. funding) and pressure from within (e.g. luminaries who agree with the political ends or are chasing the bandwagon).    Dare I mention climate science? Here we have an immature science—I’d put it around the level of geology before the proof of continental drift. Its greatest experts are experts in … computer modelling. What real world data there is, is ambiguous, and explanatory theories have big unknowns. Couple that with the advantages to a variety of groups to either talking up the certainty and threat or simply going along with it, and the field is ripe for corruption.
~ scientist Rob Craig, from his interview on 'The Anti-Reason Assault on Science'

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