Monday, 23 November 2009

In the Same Fume

“We are no gods, but shortsighted men and must be content with finding out a little bit of truth in wading through a sea of errors,” wrote the chemist Christian Friedrich Schönbein. [1] Sad to say that governmental policy-setters, political interest-groups, and image-impressed masses demand great and all-at-once truths to bolster their swift-rising needs and desires, or, failing such truths, great and unanimous falsehoods vouchsafed by the authority of self-reviewing idols, who are fancied to reside at a lofty remove, but who breathe the same poisonous fume of ideology amidst the thin air of expedience as do their all-too-corrupted demand-makers. Junk-philosophy, junk-literature, junk-art, junk-scholarship, junk-music, junk-religion, junk-statecraft, and junk-science: we can expect little else from the liberal disorder of modernism, except that it will continue to be vigorously defended as progress by junk-humanity.

[1] Letter to Michael Faraday, 17th September 1857, The letters of Faraday and Schoenbein, 1836-1862, ed. G.W.A. Kahlbaum & F.V. Darbishire (London: Williams & Norgate, 1899), p.289. (For an understanding of the present state of science, philosophers and sociologists of science will of course find more illumination, if less edification, in the emails of modern climate-scientists than in the old letters of long-dead gentlemen-scientists.)

14 comments:

James Higham said...

No argument about the new world some sort of Warhol dystopia.

dearieme said...

Top man, Faraday, but not a gentleman-scientist. One of the greatest professionals.

Deogolwulf said...

Yes, I suppose he cannot be called a gentleman-scientist in the sense of an amateur. I was being a little mischievous in contrasting gentlemen-scientists with climate-scientists. (I spent much of my weekend reading the emails of the latter.)

I was reading a book by Max Born the other week. Unsurprisingly he had a very high opinion of Faraday: a "rare genius . . . who saw the inner connection of nature by intuition like a child".* Either a very high opinion, or he thought Faraday was a simpleton.

* Max Born, “Physical Reality”, Physics in My Generation: A Selection of Papers (London and New York: Pergamon Press, 1956), p.162

euphemia said...

And are you lot still unaware of Deogolwulf's other lives? I refer you to his profile page.... Especially recommended is A Vibrant Corpse. Vintage D.

bgc said...

You say Junk, I say Zombie - but we mean the same...

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2009/08/zombie-science-of-evidence-based.html

I became aware of the exact same tactics as the Climate pseudo-scientists deploy in health promotion/ public health/ epidemiology/ health service research when I was active in that area 15 years ago.

One characterization of Junk/ Zombie science is the attitude that the scientific literature should itself be shaped, rather than that the scientist be guided by the literature.

Another is a willingness to influence science by non-scientific methods: regulation and laws (and threats of regulation and legal action); behind the scenes pressure on scientists, editors, conference organizers, publishers, librarians etc.; exclusion of papers rather than refutation of papers; refusal to engage in rational debate (instead either ignoring or suppressing dissent); moralization (opponents are characterized as evil - if they are not simply imbecilic)...

The same tactics, in other words, as the IQ/ Class Gender/ Race debates - and indeed I think it was with IQ suppression that the rot set into science in the mid 1960s. It has just taken a while for the rot to spread.

dearieme said...

It's said that the three portraits that Einstein kept on his wall were of Newton, Clerk Maxwell and Faraday.

dearieme said...

I've just looked at your spiel, bgc; I particularly enjoyed "There is no evidence (and unlikely ever to be) that evidence-based medicine provides better medical care ..". It reminds me of the fine point that introduction of the precautionary principle violates the precautionary principle.

Deogolwulf said...

Very interesting article, bgc. I particulaly like this part:

“The EBM zombie has such a thin skin of plausibility that it is transparent, and observers can actually see the money circulating beneath it. The plausibility was miraculously thin! This meant that EBM-type plausibility was democratically available to everyone: to the ignorant and to the unintelligent as well as the informed and the expert. How marvelously empowering! What a radical poke in the eye for the arrogant ‘establishment! (And the EBM founders are all outspoken advocates of the tenured radicalism of the ‘60s student generation.)

“Compared with learning a Real science, it was facile to learn the few threads of EBM jargon required to stitch-together your own Zombie skin using bits and pieces of your own expertise (however limited); then along would come the UK government and pump this diaphanous membrane full of cash to create a fairly-realistic Zombie of pseudo-science. In a world where scientific identity can be self-defined, and scientific status is a matter of grant income [11], then the resulting inflatable monster bears a sufficient resemblance to Real science to perform the necessary functions such as securing jobs or promotions, enhancing salary and status.

“The fact that EBM was based upon pure and untested assertions therefore did not weaken it in the slightest; rather the scientific weakness was itself a source of political strength. Because, in a situation where belief in EBM was so heavily subsidized, it was up to critics conclusively to prove the negative: that EBM could not work. And even when conclusive proof was forthcoming, it could easily be ignored. After all, who cares about the views of a bunch of losers who can’t recognize a major funding opportunity when they see it?”

I take the revolutionaries of the nineteen-sixties to be potentially the most ruinous bunch of blighters ever to break loose upon the world, far more so than their eighteenth- and nineteenth-century predecessors, and more so even than the Bolsheviks. They are a far more insidious species of blighter, less like the ravenous beast of old, well-tagged and marked, and more like a wasting disease still awaiting classification. The generally unviolent nature of the destruction, and the absolute conviction that they themselves are the agents of rectitude, rather than the germs of social, cultural, and intellectual death, brings to them no consciousness of what they are doing. They are not brought visibly to confront the lines of cause and effect in their ideas and deeds in the way that, say, a Bolshevik would be when he got spattered in blood and brains. The Revolution has had to adapt to a cowardly and squeamish breed of men who pride themselves on an image of humane sophistication and who would avoid any of the old images of evil. The scale of the destruction will not be fully appreciated until a later date, though naturally the survival of the ability to appreciate such things will depend on how wide and how deep the destruction goes.

xlbrl said...

bgc completes the understanding of Tocqueville's fear--that while in many forms of non-democratic government men would be free to think what they like, the natural conclusion of democracies was a democratic socialism, where the people were nominally sovereign, and a sovereign does not criticize itself.

Deogolwulf said...

Euphemia, shhh! I haven't officially opened them yet.

Dearieme, I suppose he didn't have a picture of his daughter.

Xlbrl, quite so. And once all are "liberated", it becomes necessary to determine what they think.

euphemia said...

Sorry. Didn't know there was an official opening. Am I invited?

Deogolwulf said...

Of course.

xlbrl said...

BTW, dearieme, your takedown of the 60's generation revolutionaries is masterful.

xlbrl said...

Whoops, that was Deogowulf. Of course dearieme is masterful also.