Science is in trouble. Symptoms include bickering and hesitation about COVID, as well as ongoing climate change hysteria. Science also has internal problems.reproducibilityfor example, the ability to repeat an experiment and get the same result. scientific fact this is a result that is 100% repeatable. However, over the past decade and a half, 60 percent or more of the results in the social and biomedical sciences have been unique.
There are other internal problems as well. One hundred and fifty years ago, there were only a few scientific specialties and a few dozen scientific journals. The expansion was resisted. Now the dam has been broken. Only in the social sciences there are more than 100 narrow specialties. They have their own journals and peer review standards and have developed their own jargon. Together, these two things severely limit criticism, which is the lifeblood of science. Sociologists mostly preach to their private choirs. There are also religious and philosophical disputes about Darwinian evolution: evolutionary biology does not offer an ethical system, but some secular humanists think there is.
Other problems reflect problems in society as a whole. Facts can cause people to react emotionally. Sometimes it’s appropriate: the discovery of a fire in your basement should set off an alarm and cause you to run and warn your neighbors. This is an emergency. But what about this isfrom a letter to the editor of a college magazine?
I don’t think racism is entirely responsible for the plight of minority victims. Groups of any color fare better when their men marry women they have children with and stay around to raise them, when they stay away from drugs, stay out of trouble and prefer a paycheck to charity, and when they realize that “acting like whites” “Study, let’s say, is not bad …
What should we do in response to these comments?
David Hume, star of the Scottish Enlightenment, made a simple distinction, vital to science, between data as well as Vera, between is as well as must. .Fact science; must it’s something else. Both of these examples have facts or statements about facts. In the first case, the facts are indisputable. A fire has broken out and emergency assistance is required. But in the second case there is nothing extraordinary and the facts are not self-evident. Science requires claims to be verified. Are family relationships a problem for the success of poor blacks? Do these communities have unproductive attitudes towards work and education? What are the consequences of these things? Some actions are only justified if the claims are true.
However, the immediate reaction to these comments was not a question, but condemnation and reflex cries of “racism”. And this applies not only to the high-profile categories of race and gender, but also to climate change and just about everything to do with “health and safety.” Some topics should not be studied or analyzed only with a preconceived conclusion. In the constant struggle between facts and passion, passion too often wins. This trend threatens the integrity of science, especially the social sciences.
Many public policy issues raise what physicist Alvin Weinberg, in a nearly forgotten paper, called trans science, by which he meant questions that are scientific but, for practical or ethical reasons, cannot yet be definitively resolved by scientific methods, at least not yet. Examples are the small long-term effects of low concentration pollutants, the causes of climate change, and the role of genes in human behavior. When decisive science is not possible, other factors dominate. Weak science confuses the dogs of unreason. Many sociologists find it difficult to separate data from Vera, the reality of how they would like things to be. Critical research itself has become taboo, which in turn means that politicians make decisions based more on ideologically motivated political pressure than on scientific facts.
In addition to the inherent difficulties of the social sciences, race in particular has become a topic where disinterested exploration of the causes of, for example, racial differences has become almost impossible. “Scientific” conclusions increasingly reflect ideological predispositions rather than cautious enough conclusions from obviously inadequate data. The result was the emergence of the influential concept of systemic racism. Systemic racism is immeasurable, and therefore ineradicable. Its growth has been accompanied by a suppression of research that could shed real light on racial and gender differences. This suppression bears an unfortunate resemblance to the tragedy of Soviet Lysenkoism.
The history of science was once a field for real scientists who understood the science they wrote about. Now Harvard and elsewhere are dominated by good writers whose scientific understanding is limited. Their focus is on politics rather than science, and as a result, their books feel like docudramas “based on true events”. rather than accurate descriptions of the vicissitudes, tragedies and joys of real discoveries.
My recent book Science in the Age of Unreason (Regnery, 2022) is an attempt to address these issues.