So much going on. Too much. But I have the day off. It’s another cold and clammy spring day in DC, perfect for stewing over crackpot ideas. Another day of mole man life, alone in a hole deep underground.
A legion of nerds marched for science yesterday. Well, climate change science, more specifically. People on the spectrum tucked their shirts into their underwear and their highwater pants into their socks and goonwalked to the capitol. With their gangly manners, inhalers and braces, slobbering dorks whined and held up signs on behalf of truth and objectivity.
At least of a sort. On one issue where they do have some high ground. Maybe. I don’t follow the climate change debate. But my cursory take is that there is data to support the idea of man made climate change. Fossil fuel industries want to continue strip mining the earth, and they don’t want alternative energy sources to cut into their profits. I accept this. So I’m not going to defend oil and coal companies just because people I despise also oppose them.
And that’s an equal opportunity lesson. Don’t become so obsessed with defeating something that you support something even worse. On the rare occasions when leftists make sense, it’s okay to agree with them. Rise above your mental muscle memory and reflex driven opposition. When a leftist fights against the corporate earth raping machine, I’m sympathetic. I’m far from a nature worshipper, but I can also admit that merciless, profit driven economic imperatives might be hurting humanity more than helping.
Anyway, it’s possible that scientists are onto something with climate change, as well as the need for alternative energy sources. But what I’m more interested in is the way left leaning culture is currently appropriating science.
It’s the growing, sideline sitting, pine riding, seat sniffing, cheerleading movement for the idea of science. In the same way that you have people unfit for sports obsessing over professional athletes, hordes of dinguses unfit for scientific research gush over science.
The high minded image of the scientist they want to promote is that of the tireless researcher, the noble discoverer free from corrupting influences and material incentives. Scientists are selflessly in love with knowledge for its own sake. They are willing to follow the twisting paths of truth into forbidden territory.
Scientists are independent and brave. They fight prejudice and superstition, leading lesser humanity into a golden age of enlightened prosperity. The fruits of their labor make life easier and more comfortable.
But this image of the scientist is imbalanced. Allow me to shine a light on the dark side. Scientists are in some ways exceptional and in other ways all too typical. And what makes them exceptional isn’t necessarily cause for cheer. Science is a human activity, but it isn’t something most humans naturally take to.
Few people have an aptitude for long hours of isolated study. For working with numbers, calculating, reasoning, and classifying. Experimenting and collecting data, observation and abstraction. Most people don’t care about these things and will never be good at them even if they did care.
Humanity in general will never become scientific. The immense power of science will always be in the hands of a shifty minority that people rightfully mistrust. And those with scientific power are themselves at the mercy of overwhelming social scale and complexity. Market and governmental interests pull the sciences in different directions. There is no unified, unilateral science with a single set of objectives or practices. The vaunted scientific method has a complicated history and varied versions and applications.
Science is chaos. A healing hand and a devastating, world warping power.
Individual scientists are often suspicious rat people. What are their darker motives for pursuing knowledge? It’s not all childlike wonder and love of discovery. It’s also their distrustful, self isolating character. Their corrosive, weedy doubt and anti social impulse to contradict widely held opinion. It’s festering, cankerous resentment of religion and tradition. Perverse pleasure in destroying shared experiences and beliefs and then replacing them with counter intuitive abstractions. And the masochism and self hatred of preferring and pushing painful truths to comforting myths.
There’s also diabolical pride and sweltering envy. Lust for power and the cruelty of dehumanizing objectification. Arrogance and contempt. Scientists are often social simpletons as well as shrewd schemers. Comically naive and idiotic when they try to philosophize. But all too cunning and unscrupulous when advancing their careers. They behave as though scientific competence in one narrow branch of a specialized field gives them a lordly, sweeping perspective on life in general.
Scientists can be careless and sloppy even in their own blinkered, tethered pursuits. So it’s not that they are correct in their chosen fields but wrong about the bigger picture; they are often wrong about their own projects as well. And when they aren’t spitting acid on the past they are often dupes of the political fashions and popular sentiments of the present.
There’s nothing wrong with being wrong. I’m frequently wrong and don’t always care to be right. But let’s not sit here thinking that scientists are especially correct most of the time, even in their narrow domains.
People love to act like skeptics because it makes them feel smart. They love to love science because it makes them feel evolved and superior. It’s an embarrassing act put on to compensate for a weak personality and lack of grounding. It’s also a shaky, inconsistent performance for contemporary leftists because of the way they’re supposed to feel about objectivity and truth. They’ve recently forgotten their own teaching about the value of science.
It’s a commonplace of postmodern leftism that science and objectivity are western myths, instruments of colonizing oppressors.Not long ago they were saying that the idea of truth as independent of perspective is culturally constructed, the product of historically mediated power relations. Truth crushes the marginal and excluded, functioning as justification for oppression and inequality.
But then everything changed when they thought the facts were on their side. And now science is objective truth, and objective truth is real regardless of feelings and perspective. The left loves hard facts now, have you caught up? The radical, uncompromising skeptics of yesterday are the credulous hard heads of today. Marching for something they only believe in when it conveniently produces data they can use against their enemies.
But when science uncovers data that contradict their cherished, childish worldview? Well, they’ll return to their feverish, deluded ravings about perspective and oppression. Science will be a tool of imperial power once again. Or, it will just be racist or sexist individual scientists practicing bad science. Science in itself is pure; the truth couldn’t possibly uphold injustice.
The left said there was no truth, only power. And the right took them at their word. Now that they’re losing power, leftists want to take back truth. They have no right to it.
None of these statements are scientific or results of the scientific method. They are free floating rhetorical exercises intended to outline the weaknesses of scientists and science lovers, as well as people on the left who use science strategically. There have been no peer reviews or double blind studies.