The Scientific Reality of the Scientism Religion

I am a scientist, you need to listen to me!

I am a Scientist, you need to listen to me! I know the way we know The Truth!

The Scientism cultist believes he loves science. Sadly, he only dimly understands science, so ironically, he tends to harm science by bringing unearned discredit to it.

Science, which can only demonstrate things by observation and measurement in the physical world, can by definition only tell us so much about anything. Real scientists understand this completely. But the Scientism cultist does not understand this; he treats science like a divine force, the source of all truth and enlightenment, as well as miracles he only dimly undestands like iPhones and the Internet.

I frequently meet people today who deny that “Scientism” exists as a religious philosophy. Then they’ll turn around and make the most dogmatic assertions of faith you will ever hear in your life, such as “Science is how we know things are true” and “Science can be trusted unlike the dark superstitious beliefs of the past.”

The belief that science is how we know things are True (as opposed to one way we know some things to be true) is, ironically, unsupportable scientifically. When you point this out, Scientismists will then respond with “well, it’s the best we have.” Which they also offer, ironically, without scientific proof. It too is a dogmatic faith statement, you see.

It’s just like their faith that there’s nothing running the laws of probability or physics. They just believe that, and somehow experience no cognitive dissonance. Or at least pretend to have no cognitive dissonance.

Probably the biggest reliable indicator of the Scientismist religion is the dogged fascination its adherents have with credentialed scientists. A Master’s degree in some area of science appears to make you eligible for Deacon status in the Scientism Church, with a PhD entitling you to full priesthood. Bishop status is accorded by large research grants or at least a tenured faculty position in some area of the sciences. Either that or a big media presence at least.

The laity of the Church of Scientism tends to look at scientists not as people doing research who sometimes finding useful or interesting results, but as moral and intellectual and even spiritual (they prefer the term “psychological”) authorities the rest of us should listen to because, supposedly, the credentialed scientist is wiser or more moral or more trustworthy or more incorruptible than the rest of us.

Especially if they have a high IQ, since supposedly the high IQ is the indicator of worthiness or at least wisdom as a human being. It’s another unstated part of the Scientism creed, you see. One every Scientismist believes, though he rarely is bold enough to say it aloud.

Scientism cultists also almost always claim that religion was primarily science’s enemy for most of human history. This is the great Creation Myth of the Scientism religion. Unfortunately for them, it’s pure superstition, a superstition utterly unsupportable by any scientific look at history.

History does indeed show religious people getting in the way of science sometimes, but nonreligious people doing it as often if not moreso, as we see whenever there is a vested monetary or ideological interest in a scientific theory that may be bunk. In the meantime, it remains that for thousands of years, it was ancient organized religion and philosophy that spurred most interest in, and funding for, the development of education and science. Rulers were busy fighting each other; it was the religious and philosophical who were off “wasting time” doing odd things like figuring out how the laws of physics actually worked.

Another big sign of the Scientism cultist? He views criticism of his religion as an attack on science. Proving once again that he does not know what science is and is not. The most rabid, frothing Fundamentalists of the Scientism cult will use the phrase “Science Denier!” and “Conspiracy Theorist!” to shut off all criticism and dissent, and discredit all who would dare question the Holy Word of what they call “science.” (But which, I remind you again, is often not science at all.)

Meanwhile, in the land of actual science, institutional science is in a shambles. At this point, with any given scientific paper, you can basically flip a coin as to whether or not it’s got anything valid or is total garbage. Literally, following scientific literature is now about as good as following astrologers, since research in too many areas of institutional science is no longer reliable at all.

But what have the Scientismist cultists been doing the last couple of decades, instead of cleaning house? Terrifying the public with fears of the “Creation Science” fringe loons, and against the horrifying danger that someone, somewhere might take a homeopathic remedy and feel a positive effect*. While they were chasing down theological clowns and fringe medicine, institutional science was, and still is, falling apart at the seams.

As someone who’s love science his whole life and still does, it’s hard not to curse the Scientism cultists for being a big part of the problem. They put Science where God and humility were supposed to go, to be blunt. As a result, they did massive harm to people’s ability to trust science at all, by turning it into an intolerant, money and status-obsessed cult.

For those who doubt Scientism is real, or doubt what I’m saying about the increasing shambles the sciences are in, here are a few references from completely credible scientific sources. I’ll probably add to them over time as more objections pop up and more comes to my attention. The crisis in the sciences is huge, and escalating, in the Western world, and the Scientism cultists are in deep denial about it. It’s more important to them to obsess over fringe ideas like Michael Behe’s ID theories* or the thought that someone, somewhere, might be getting positive results with acupuncture*.

Links:

American Academy for the Advancement of Science: What is Scientism?

Clinical Chemistry journal: A Critique of the Hypothesis, and a Defense of the Question.

New Scientist: Why so much science research is flawed – and what to do about it.

The Lancet: About half of medical science is total garbage at publication.

Science (world’s most prestitious science journal): Pretty much no reason to believe most psychological studies.

Why the corruption? Editors, Publishers, Impact Factors, and Reprint Income

Why trust science when scientists can’t be trusted? Most published research findings are false. Why?

By the way, it is highly predictable that I will, once again, be accused of “attacking science” for writing any of this. That should really tell you something about how widespread the superstitions of the Scientism Cult really are. In the meantime, if you need an actual scientist to tell you more about the Scientism religion, this presentation by Professor Lawrence Principe of Johns Hopkins.

*NB: I have never met a homeopathy fan or taken a homeopathic remedy in my life and I give it no endorsement. Ditto stuff like acupuncture or ID. What’s telling, though, is I scientifically predict with confidence that Scientism Cultists reading this will denounce me as a “Science Denier” for “defending homeopathy and acupuncture and ID.” Those fringe fields are among the bigger names in Scientism Demonology, you see, and the behavior of Scientism cultists is quite scientifically predictable.

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The Lancet: About half of scientific papers may be bogus

“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.”

(Emphasis mine.)

Read more from The Lancet.

It’s funny how every time I link an article like this from a scientific publication, and note that the peer review system as currently constructed has too many opportunities for corruption, I’m told that I’m a conspiracy theorist. Whatever. I have had multiple working scientists (and retired scientists) tell me this. Yet apparently I’m wrong to bring it up. Oh well.

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Will Global Warming skeptics ever get the apologies they deserve?

It’s all over the news; we’ve gone about 17 years without any meaningful increase in global temperatures, and the experts are now declaring we’re in the middle of a “pause” based on factors they think maybe they can explain and maybe they can’t; the consensus seems to be to try to explain it away by the oceans, but this is as sloppy as anything they ever accused the skeptics of.

They’re now suggesting that it may be 10 years before temperatures resume their supposed escalation–10 years being the classic prediction people use when they have no real idea,  because it sounds reasonably in the foreseeable future but in reality, in 10 years no one will remember you predicted something 10 years ago. And a lot of these people will be retired by that point and won’t really have to directly answer for anything they might have got horribly wrong all those years ago.

Those who expressed skepticism all along were viciously attacked, mocked, in some cases careers ruined, as “anti-science” and “denialists” all for saying “hold on a second.” And no, those who accused pro-Global Warming scientists were not “just as guilty”; one side held most of the money and power, the other was little but a bunch of upstarts saying the Emperor appeared to possibly be missing some clothing,  and they were severely punished for daring to hint that maybe there was some problem with those fancy garments.

You can read a pretty good summary of where we are now here on Forbes.

Yes, the skeptical upstarts got a little bit of money here and there from vested interests themselves, but it was dwarfed by the money gotten by the establishment who declared Ex Cathedra that they had The Truth.

Money pollutes science. It just does. So once there’s a strong vested monetary or political interest in one side or the other of a hypothesis–as there always was here–you have to work more diligently than ever to focus on the data, and making that data as transparent as possible, and predictable, falsifiable results, not what you want to believe.

Maybe there still is warming caused by humans. If so, those who say so should be making their assertions with a great deal more humility and reflection on the possibility that they may be wrong and that in being wrong they can potentially cause damage too. We can only hope they do, anyway.

Those of you who called everyone who had any doubts crackpots, lunatics, “science denialists,” whatever? You lost the plot on how science is supposed to work, which is by testing and questioning and probing and debating and transparency and reproducible predictions. Instead you turned it into a religion with Bishops and Imams who were Not To Be Questioned lest the Wrathful Gods of Climate Change should destroy humanity.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The history of science is filled with this kind of closed-minded bullying of doubters and skeptics. Why would we think human nature has changed now in our supposedly more enlightened age?

In any case, one thing’s for certain: The Climate Change establishment has its tail between its legs. Good. It’s needed it for some time. Now I hope they keep studying the climate, and start giving more respect to dissent and skepticism, and allow much greater transparency in how they collect their data and how they do their calculations.

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Over 100 fraudulent peer-reviewed papers discovered…

by accident.

And these were only cases of blatant cases of obvious fraud in one area.

When “science” is an industry that depends largely on “publish or perish” just to get government and corporate funding en masse, why is it crazy or “conspiracy-theorist” to think that reforms are needed and that there’s not much good reason for the public at large should trust something just because it’s from “Scientists” with a capital “S?”

This is, frequently, taxpayer money on the line, and I’m rather sick of hearing that the general public is out of line to even ask questions like this, or just trust that because someone’s a scientist, they know what they’re talking about and are telling the truth.

Question: if you had a few million dollars in funding on the line, and you discovered the hypotheses you were working on were failed and had reached a dead end, but you had your own career and those of many under you on the line, how likely would you be to do the noble thing and say “this is all wrong, we need to start over from scratch,” versus, trying to find every way you could to justify continuing to support a failed paradigm or hypothesis?

I think this incident goes to show what at least some would do.

And please don’t use “but they were found out!” as a defense. This crap got right past the reviewers, they were found by computer search. No one else even frickin’ noticed.

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Dishonesty by the “Encyclopedia of American Loons”

I recently discovered that in random Google searches on my name, some obscure blog called the “Encyclopedia of American Loons” comes up with a posting about me full of half-truths and distortions and irrational ad hominems about public positions I’ve taken in years past.

There was a period 5-10 years ago where I was getting pretty incoherent in my blogging, while in the depths of a bad marriage and trying to soothe it with alcohol, and therefore occasionally ranting hyperbolically more than I should have. I was also regularly getting gang-slammed and trolled by people on the internet, mostly on other blogs, saying nasty things about me that probably (no, definitely) exacerbated my temper. Nevertheless almost none of those assertions in the “Encyclopedia of American Loons” are really true–and if the “Encyclopedia of American Loons” were linking the original articles I wrote, quoting me directly instead of what other people were saying about me, or what other people were quote-mining me on, or what other people were imputing to be my positions instead of just asking me what they were, it would be at least a lot more honest. I know I’ve said things in the past that embarrassed me, especially when speaking or writing in haste, but anyone who asked me to clarify my positions would know where I really stand.

In any case, yes 1) it’s true that I respect Peter Duesberg, Professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology at the University of California at Berkeley, and believe he has been sorely mistreated by the scientific establishment, and that many (not all) so-called “AIDS Denialists” deserve more respect than they get, 2) I did at one time argue that running to court to throw silly Creationist literature and idiotic Creationist stickers out of the schools was more destructive than allowing their nonsense to be discussed in science classes–because banning it by force just feeds the Creationist paranoia that scientists are censoring them and leads to more parents pulling their kids out of the public schools and/or telling their children that their science teachers are lying to them (and that this essay by Michael Baltar is spot on, and 3) yes, I do indeed believe that in many (not all) areas of the sciences, the peer review process (which I know a great deal about actually) has been terribly corrupted by money. This, apparently, makes me a “loon” and a “crackpot” and a “conspiracy theorist.”

The fact that on #1 I talked to multiple fully credentialed scientists and mainstream journalists who supported Duesberg in whole or in part is not of course mentioned, the fact that on #2 I made it repeatedly clear that I think Creationism is stupid and that “Intelligent Design” is not a science, and the fact that on #3 my criticism about money polluting the peer review process merely echoes what a lot of other working scientists will tell you isn’t mentioned either. Neither do they mention my regular writing about how toxic conspiracy theories are, and my repeat explanation that “corruption” is not a “conspiracy,” it’s corruption.

But it’s clear that the “Encyclopedia of American Loons” isn’t really interested in being truthful. It’s interested in well-poisoning. I guess if you’re going to take public iconoclastic positions on the internet, you should get used to it. So in a way, I’m honored to be so important to them. I just wanted to mention, for the record, this “encyclopedia” entry is dishonest, and it would make me question anything written by or about anyone else on it. But hey, at least I’m honored to be noticeable and prominent enough in their eyes to merit an article.

*Update* You know, upon reflection, I’m a little surprised that the “Encyclopedia of American Loons” editors did not also note my frequent assertion that the overwhelming evidence from the peer reviewed scientific literature is that eating fewer calories and exercising more is not an effective cure for obesity — maybe because they know that’s not really refutable — or that I think Bjorn Lomborg has the most sensible attitude about Global Warming and that Watt’s Up With That and that Climate Audit are both important sites if you’re actually interested in rational skepticism about the subject of Global Warming. I imagine on the latter, they also almost certainly consider all of the above “crackpots” and “conspiracy theorists” too.

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