Friday, 4 June 2010

Anti-denialism - The return of Lysenkoism?

Real science was built on a search for truth that was cooperative and competitive at the same time. Popper emphasized the mixture of hypothesis and testing, conjecture and refutation, testing for consistence and predictive ability and discarding of error.

Bronowski emphasized the need for tolerance of honest error, and that contributors to the scientific process should be respected even after their views have been refuted. Otherwise, scientists would not risk being accused/ convicted of being wrong and so would never challenge consensus; and consensus would never yield to refutation. (Which is precisely the situation in mainstream medical research.)

So we still respect Isaac Newton despite him having been superseded by Einstein; and Newton is not usually mocked or derided for having not been correct for all time.

But this balance has been difficult for many scientists, and even more difficult for those outside of science. Lamarck ranks all-time third in importance as a biologist according to Charles Murray's method in Human Accomplishment - behind Darwin and Aristotle - but Lamarck’s views on evolution are often (it seems to me) treated as a joke.

Of course, ignorant disrespect is part of growing-up. But although it has to be tolerated in teenagers, it is not an admirable trait; being a result of pride and aggression fuelled by insecurity.

Adolescents love to hate, and there are an awful lot of adolescents interested in science and working in and around science and is journalism and as pundits - many of them adolescents of advanced middle age.

Adolescents also form gangs, and gangs assert their status by seeking and beating-up victims (the victims of course ‘deserve’ this – for being who they are).

There is an awful lot of ignorant disrespect in science nowadays, and an awful lot of gangsterism. Real science used to be all about individuals – it really did! – but now science is all about gangs.

The reason for so much ignorant disrespect in science is mostly that there is so much ignorance, due to the abundance of low quality people and their micro-specialized perspective. Such have no concept of excellence higher than the standard, prevailing technical practices of their micro-discipline; anyone who does not adhere to these prevailing practices is regarded as either incompetent or wicked - hence despicable hence deserving of punishment. They deserve ‘what is coming to them’ – in gang parlance.

There is always disagreement in science, but the basis of real science was that scientific disagreement was conducted by scientific means. What is *not* acceptable to real science is that scientific disputes should be settled by non scientific methods.

Scientists must be allowed to make mistakes, to be wrong, or science cannot function.

This is necessary because in the first place they may not really have made a mistake and they may be right (or partly right) – but this may not be apparent for a while. Mainstream science may be in error, but this situation may be recoverable if dissent is tolerated.

However, in a system of real science, mistakes are tolerated only when they are *honest* mistakes – lying and deceptions are absolutely forbidden in real science; and will lead to exclusion from the community of real scientists. And incompetent errors are simply a waste of everybody’s time. So dishonesty and incompetence are rightly sanctioned by leading to a scientist’s work being disregarded by others in the field as probably unreliable or unsound.

This is why the dishonest thugs of modern pseudo-science always try to portray dissent and disagreement as always a result of incompetence or dishonesty.

The gangsters of pseudo-science cannot acknowledge even the *possibility* of an honest and competent scientist reaching a different conclusion from the one they themselves support. This is because the gangsters are transparently looking for an excuse to attack and to coerce; after all, gangsters need to make public displays of their power, or else they would soon lose it.

Gang-leaders need to beat-up dissenters, and they need people to know that this is happening, and they need these dissenters to be portrayed as deserving victims of attack.

Consequently the whole concept of honest and competent disagreement has been banished from modern bureaucratic pseudo-science.

In the world of bureaucratic pseudo-science there are only two kinds of view – the correct view which is defined and enforced by the peer review cartel; and wrong views which are held by those either too stupid to understand, or those corrupted by evil.

Lysenko was a scientific gangster in the Soviet Union – Stalin’s henchman - His scientific sin was to suppress scientific opposition using non-scientific means; up to and including jail and death for his opponents. The justification for Lysenko’s use of coercion to suppress and silence dissent was that the opponents’ opposition was harmful to people, caused millions of death etc.

Modern science is just a couple of small steps away from full-blown Lysenkoism. Scientific opposition is suppressed using non-scientific means ranging from defunding, exclusion of publications and other blocks on dissemination, public humiliation, sacking and other legal threats. In many areas of science gangsterism is rife, with intimidation and threats and the administration of media ‘beatings’.

What does it mean? Many would regard the situation as regrettable – but it is much worse than regrettable. It is conclusive evidence of non-science.

A field in which the use of non-scientific modes of argument are rife is simply *not a science*. Not a science at all. It does not work. Gangsterism is incompatible with science.

For example, ‘climate science’ is not a science *at all*; as a field it does not function as a real science, it uses intimidation and coercion as a matter of routine. Therefore nothing in it can be trusted, the good and bad cannot be discriminated.

To clarify - because in general terms climate science does not settle disputes using scientific methods, but by using extra-scientific methods, therefore it is not a real science, but actually is whatever the main influence on its content happens to be: politics, mostly.

The main innovation of ‘climate science’ has been to legitimate the mass use of the hate-term ‘denialism’ to signal who ‘deserves’ a punishment-beating from the gang.

Let us call the phenomenon of labeling and beating up ‘denialists’ by the name of ‘anti-denialism’.

Anti-denialism is no accident, nor is it eradicable without massive reform because anti-denialism is functionally necessary for the cohesion of modern bureaucratic pseudo-science. Without victims to gang-up on, the gangs would fall apart into warring sects. They would fight each other because these gangs are composed of ignorant, egotistical, power-worshipping adolescents. What best holds such people together is pure hatred, and pure hatred needs victims.

With the phenomenon of anti-denialism rife in mainstream discourse, we are just a couple of small steps away from full blown Lysenkoism. We already have systematic intimidation of scientific opposition at every level short of the physical. But I have seen demands from the gangsters of science that the sanctions against denialists be escalated. Destroying livelihoods is no longer enough. Soon, perhaps very soon, unless the tide turns, we may be seeing scientists jailed for their views.

Since honest and competent dissent is not recognized, anyone who disagrees with the peer review cartel is either labeled as too stupid to understand or as competent but wicked. It is the competent dissenters who are most at risk under Lysenkoism, since disagreement with the mainstream coming from a competent scientist marks them out as evil and deserving of punishment.

Anti-denialism needs high profile victims. Lysenkoism needed to punish top scientists like Vavilov, who died following three years in prison

On present trends we may expect to see prominent denialists and dissenters jailed for being ‘wrong’ (as judged by peer review), jailed for the public good, jailed ‘to save ‘millions of lives’ – but in reality jailed for opposition to the ruling gangsters of bureaucratic pseudo-science, and because anti-denialists absolutely require a continuous supply of victims to beat-up on.