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Anti-Science Dogmatism

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From Galileo to the present, dogmatism has been the greatest threat to science.  In this post last month I noted the distortion of criminology by political correctness.  The threat is not limited to the sciences we usually think of as social sciences, though.  Biologist Heather Heying has this op-ed in the WSJ:

The revolution on college campuses, which seeks to eradicate individuals and ideas that are considered unsavory, constitutes a hostile takeover by fringe elements on the extreme left. Last spring at the Evergreen State College, where I was a professor for 15 years, the revolution was televised--proudly and intentionally--by the radicals. Opinions not fitting with the currently accepted dogma--that all white people are racist, that questioning policy changes aimed at achieving "equity" is itself an act of white supremacy--would not be tolerated, and those who disagreed were shouted down, hunted, assaulted, even battered. Similar eruptions have happened all over the country.

What may not be obvious from outside academia is that this revolution is an attack on Enlightenment values: reason, inquiry and dissent. Extremists on the left are going after science. Why? Because science seeks truth, and truth isn't always convenient.

The left has long pointed to deniers of climate change and evolution to demonstrate that over here, science is a core value. But increasingly, that's patently not true.
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Postmodernism, and specifically its offspring, critical race theory, have abandoned rigor and replaced it with "lived experience" as the primary source of knowledge. Little credence is given to the idea of objective reality. Science has long understood that observation can never be perfectly objective, but it also provides the ultimate tool kit with which to distinguish signal from noise--and from bias. Scientists generate complete lists of alternative hypotheses, with testable predictions, and we try to falsify our own cherished ideas.
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Despite the benevolent-sounding label, the equity movement is a highly virulent social pathogen, an autoimmune disease of the academy. Diversity offices, the very places that were supposed to address bigotry and harassment, have been weaponized and repurposed to catch and cull all who disagree. And the attack on STEM is no accident. Once scientists are silenced, narratives can be fully unhooked from any expectation that they be put to the test of evidence. Last month, Evergreen made it clear that they wanted two of its scientists gone--my husband, Bret Weinstein, and me, despite our stellar reputations with the students they claimed to be protecting. First, they came for the biologists . . .

Science has sometimes been used to rationalize both atrocity and inaction in its face. But conflating science with its abuse has become a favorite trope of extremists on the left. It's a cheap rhetorical trick, and not, dare I say, very logical.

Science creates space for the free exchange of ideas, for discovery, for progress. What has postmodernism done for you lately?

9 Comments

I was once scolded by Kent for discussing this very topic here. lol ;-)

The two best examples of science denial from the left are when human life begins and gender. They are even better examples than things like "critical race theory" is because the latter is a vague, unprovable concept meaning that it also can never be disproven.

Science knows a human life starts at conception. Any embryology textbook will tell you so. We also know that you are a male or female based on testable biological markers, not how you "feel." Chelsea Manning is his name because he had it legally changed, but he is a man and the use of "she" or "her" is a lie.

Defensive dysregulation (The individual has lost most or all contact with reality.)
Psychotic denial (A more severe form of denial, with no or little contact with reality.)
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~ When presented with the naked ugliness of their emperor with no clothes,
the bold modern-day purveryors of Piltdown choose to advance into further delusion.
{ Check-out the reaction in the 2nd headline ! }
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1.] OPINION -- Netflix: We didn't edit that Bill Nye episode
by Becket Adams | May 5, 2017| WashExaminer

The 1996 episode, "Probability," originally featured a cast member saying,
"I'm a girl .. See, there are only two possibilities: XX, a girl, or XY, a boy."

That segment has since been removed, and it is not available
in the version that is now streaming on Netflix,..

Disney and Netflix officials said Friday they're not sure why references to chromosomes and gender were removed from a 21-year-old episode of
"Bill Nye the Science Guy" ...

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.... In contrast, viewers today are now treated to Nye's theories on gender fluidity .. "Gender is like sex, it's on the spectrum," Nye said in one of his newer episodes.
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2.] Bill Nye Didn't 'Censor' Gender Science, He Updated it
Because That's How Science Works

Science evolves. We used to think the Earth was flat, remember?
Kaliegh Rogers| May 5 2017 | Motherboard

For the last couple weeks, right-wing trolls have been delighting in what they consider to be a "gotcha" moment against Bill Nye the science guy. But the irony of this whole mess is that their campaign has only served to reveal how dedicated Nye is to science, ...
... right-wing bloggers and trolls quickly pointed out that in a different episode of Nye's 90s show, there was a segment that did state that gender is determined by your chromosomes, and there are only two options. That's true, the segment
does exist
...
...These days .. combinations make up a variety of possibilities along a spectrum between male and female.

I don't think so, though admittedly sometimes "topic" is in the eye of the beholder.

I share this post's concern about universities turning away from science. But it troubles me even more when government does --- e.g., the prohibitions on private medical research on marijuana created by its Schedule 1 status.

Will Kent and others commenting here join the call by many to foster scientific inquiry free from federal government prohibition in this arena?

I think that research should be conducted on medical uses of marijuana, including research on whether some other route of administration delivers beneficial substances better than smoking the leaves.

I do not pretend to have the medical knowledge to take a stand on the actual medical controversy. Assuming for the sake of argument that this plant does contain one or more substances with genuine medicinal value, I find it very difficult to believe that smoking raw weed is the best way to deliver them.

Is anyone researching that? If not, why not? Is it because finding a better way to use marijuana medicinally would undercut medicinal use as the camel's nose under the tent to full legalization?

I know that lots of folks would like to study closely "delivery methods" for medical marijuana, but doing so freely and effectively is right now impossible. Consequently, we have a lot of advocates making lots of questionable assertions about this.

Notably, there is clear evidence that smoking/vaping gets active ingredients into the bloodstream faster than an ingested edible. Whether that should matter for medical delivery and other uses is another important issue that should be guided by science and medical professionals, not criminal justice officials. The AMA and APA and lots of other folks have been calling on rescheduling because of these problems for decades. Generally speaking, folks on the right rather than those on the left have been dismissive of science in this setting.

The discussion got me interested enough to go over to PubMed and poke around a bit. There is some research going on, including this study on pot-vaping mice.

As I noted above, I would favor research on isolating the beneficial substances and determining the best route of administration. If that is vaping, fine. I don't believe that smoking leaves is the best way, see this article, and I expect that research would bear that out.

I agree, and this would get proven much quicker if federal prohibition was repealed/reformed so we could more readily run these test on humans as well as mice.

I come to the conversation late, but with a few observations.

-- The reason people want pot, and various avenues of normalizing pot, is to get stoned. This really should be admitted up front, but almost never is.

-- Yes, THC does have a few legitimate medical uses. This is why the government approved the prescription pill Marinol decades ago.

-- As Kent correctly points out, the government ALREADY has approved research into the putative medical benefits of pot. Indeed, it was doing so before I became Counselor to the head of the DEA 14 years ago.

-- Pro-drug advocates, like liberals generally, incessantly call for "more research" and "more data." Then when the data surface -- like the data showing the dreadful murder spike over at least the last two years -- their first move is to dismiss and minimize what two minutes before they were telling us was so important.

Their second move is to say we all need to take a deep breath, not jump to conclusions, and do more searching analysis....upon the conclusion of which they'll get back to us. This will be in the year 8000.

Sorry, I've been around this track too many times before.

P.S. What they actually want is legalization, and thus more widespread use, of smack, Ecstasy, LSD and the rest of it. Pot is the camel's nose.

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