Friday, 27 June 2008

The Yellow Standard

By analogy to the decline of journalism, James Kerian in The Wall Street Journal sums up the decline of science into what he calls yellow science [1], wherein the scientific method submits to sensationalism, with particular reference to the theory of anthropogenic global warming — a theory which is at least proving successful as the foundation of a thriving ad-hoc-hypothesis industry, keen to make hay whilst the sun of failed predictions still shines, and which has already turned the innocent but dull pleasure of talking about the weather into a thrilling pseudoscience for everyone to enjoy.
.....Sensationalism is employed in a public milieu to inculcate a sense of significance of some information at even the lowest level of understanding, competing for the attention of even the dullest or most jaded minds. It is an employment that, through the neglect and dilapidation of the faculty for discernment that it abets, has the effect of rendering such minds even more incapable of understanding, and so making them more in need of sensation.
.....Now that science has become an industry largely dependent on the supply of public money, as regulated by governments largely dependent on public demands, it is not unlikely that, given no ethos of resistance to extraneous demands, the information that this industry supplies in return for its money will be to some extent determined by those demands, and, as anyone with an ounce of discernment who has read any newspaper recently can testify, the public demands sensation — which is a demand for the significance of the information that is put before it, understandable as significant at the lowest level.
.....
[1] James Kerian, “Yellow Science”, The Wall Street Journal, 25th June 2008.

5 comments:

Peter Horne said...

Although you've probably already read this essay by John Brignell, if you haven't you might find it amusing...
http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/religion.htm

dearieme said...

It's been my experience that scientists often draw a sharp distinction between private and public discourse. In private, especially when lubricated, all manner of sharp practice is alluded to, or even confessed to. In public, though, Science is presented as a Stern Mistress, who demands the utmost propriety. My own conclusion is simple: not only is the "controlled experiment" vital for all the conventional reasons, it's also vital as the only way to keep the buggers honest. Save, of course, for Nature's Presbyterians, such as, ahem, me.

Deogolwulf said...

Thanks for the link, Mr Horne. I hadn't read it.

Nicely put, Dearieme.

Lord James Bigglesworth said...

Now that science has become an industry largely dependent on the supply of public money...

What do you mean "now"?

By the way, did you enjoy your working break?

Deogolwulf said...

"What do you mean "now"?"

It wasn't always that way.

"By the way, did you enjoy your working break?"

I did, but work was not involved.