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erigena
19-10-2010, 05:22 PM
We have reached a Kuhnian “crisis” in several disciplines, if current discourse is anything to go by. The visible universe is now said to contain only 5% of the total mass/energy; the rest is “dark”, of a type we do not know. Quantum Mechanics(QM) remains as incomprehensible as ever, and the ether is making a sneaky comeback. Even the HGP head Francis Collins now talks about the “dark” non-coding areas of the genome, as distinct from the 3% implicated in coding proteins. Neuroscience has followed the trend in speaking about the “dark energy” of the brain which absorbs at least 18% of the organism's metabolism.

Unfortunately, the very disciplines that should be providing a sense-giving commentary have lapsed into faddism; in particular, those who claim to study “science and society” in general think that they can remain innocent of science. The Sokal incident, wherein a parody paper on QM was accepted in “Social text”, is only the tip of the iceberg; the list of gobbledygook providers from France alone would include the herculean obscurantism of Kristeva, Derrida, Foucault; what those of us in the Anglo-Saxon world often miss is that they are all highly privileged civil servants, in a state where riots break out if they are asked to “work” to 62.

Science is funded in a manner guaranteed to preserve outdated paradigms, and to foster corruption. The shock evinced by the climate “researchers” at East Anglia for criminal activity that would have ensured a prosecution in any other field was because what they did was simply academic business as usual; massaging of data, marginalization of intellectual opponents, and “professional” relationships that resembled criminal conspiracy.

So what can be done? It is in fact very easy to resolve all these issues;

1.Set up a set of open-source journals
2.Do not allow reviewers to remain anonymous. In fact, insist that the reviews and the reviewers' names be put on the website.
3.Allow an open discussion to begin. As it continues, reputation will be established in an organic and true way

At a guess, this would cost about 0.01% of the budget of national science funding agencies like SFI, and produce better science.

yehbut_nobut
19-10-2010, 05:26 PM
...and the ether is making a sneaky comeback...

VERY intrigued by that bit, in an overall very interesting post - can you exand there - any current references or links to this "ether-science" please?

Christy Walsh
19-10-2010, 05:30 PM
Overcome with dark matter, or humour, I must point out that we know the names of bankers and politicians but that has done little to inspire confidence, why would scientists be different --especially as they talk in jargon(specific knowledge) few understand.

C. Flower
19-10-2010, 06:40 PM
We have reached a Kuhnian “crisis” in several disciplines, if current discourse is anything to go by. The visible universe is now said to contain only 5% of the total mass/energy; the rest is “dark”, of a type we do not know. Quantum Mechanics(QM) remains as incomprehensible as ever, and the ether is making a sneaky comeback. Even the HGP head Francis Collins now talks about the “dark” non-coding areas of the genome, as distinct from the 3% implicated in coding proteins. Neuroscience has followed the trend in speaking about the “dark energy” of the brain which absorbs at least 18% of the organism's metabolism.

Unfortunately, the very disciplines that should be providing a sense-giving commentary have lapsed into faddism; in particular, those who claim to study “science and society” in general think that they can remain innocent of science. The Sokal incident, wherein a parody paper on QM was accepted in “Social text”, is only the tip of the iceberg; the list of gobbledygook providers from France alone would include the herculean obscurantism of Kristeva, Derrida, Foucault; what those of us in the Anglo-Saxon world often miss is that they are all highly privileged civil servants, in a state where riots break out if they are asked to “work” to 62.

Science is funded in a manner guaranteed to preserve outdated paradigms, and to foster corruption. The shock evinced by the climate “researchers” at East Anglia for criminal activity that would have ensured a prosecution in any other field was because what they did was simply academic business as usual; massaging of data, marginalization of intellectual opponents, and “professional” relationships that resembled criminal conspiracy.

So what can be done? It is in fact very easy to resolve all these issues;

1.Set up a set of open-source journals
2.Do not allow reviewers to remain anonymous. In fact, insist that the reviews and the reviewers' names be put on the website.
3.Allow an open discussion to begin. As it continues, reputation will be established in an organic and true way

At a guess, this would cost about 0.01% of the budget of national science funding agencies like SFI, and produce better science.

I'm loving this post, and the proposals at the end of it, but at the same time, there appears to be an influx of new knowledge, even from the few science threads here so far - study of dna - IT - new technologies enabling us to measure and analyse things, big international ecological surveys... is the problem at the level of analysis and the inadequacy of philosophy ?

Captain Con O'Sullivan
19-10-2010, 07:27 PM
I agree with the OP's comment on faddism in science. That does not mean I am a climate change denier (I think we really do have a problem there).

From being involved in an ongoing public policy debate where there were scientists or more properly medical researchers and sociologists on both sides of the debate I found it alarming how science could be distorted in the media to suit a political purpose.

I don't know whether it was a form of messiah complex among some medical researchers but I have seen them present true data but proceed to spin it blatantly for audiences including politicos at conferences.

I know of a small number of doctors who are connected with one global organisation who are unremittingly dishonest in fitting any research that comes along with their overriding political purpose.

I don't believe climate change is subject to the same dishonesty. I do believe however that there is an arrogance among some technical experts which gives rise to a feeling that they are free to exaggerate or reach for the killer public statement which is not justified by the research.

I think this may have infected the climate change debate more than any organised conspiracy and this is sadly the consequence of giving scientists and researchers too much of a free hand in presentation of non peer-reviewed work or a lack of informed challenge before publication.

Munnkeyman
19-10-2010, 08:11 PM
My qualifications are in Physics and I feel that it has totally lost its meaning in the modern
world. Money and fame mean as much to some as quality and pertinency of work.
I do believe that since World War II all areas and aspects of science have been geared towards mass production and profiteering.

All of that aside.........

Did anyone read the letter of resignation from the APS
sent by Hal Lewis?




From: Hal Lewis, University of California, Santa Barbara

To: Curtis G. Callan, Jr., Princeton University, President of the American Physical Society

6 October 2010

Dear Curt:

When I first joined the American Physical Society sixty-seven years ago it was much smaller, much gentler, and as yet uncorrupted by the money flood (a threat against which Dwight Eisenhower warned a half-century ago). Indeed, the choice of physics as a profession was then a guarantor of a life of poverty and abstinence---it was World War II that changed all that. The prospect of worldly gain drove few physicists. As recently as thirty-five years ago, when I chaired the first APS study of a contentious social/scientific issue, The Reactor Safety Study, though there were zealots aplenty on the outside there was no hint of inordinate pressure on us as physicists. We were therefore able to produce what I believe was and is an honest appraisal of the situation at that time. We were further enabled by the presence of an oversight committee consisting of Pief Panofsky, Vicki Weisskopf, and Hans Bethe, all towering physicists beyond reproach. I was proud of what we did in a charged atmosphere. In the end the oversight committee, in its report to the APS President, noted the complete independence in which we did the job, and predicted that the report would be attacked from both sides. What greater tribute could there be?

How different it is now. The giants no longer walk the earth, and the money flood has become the raison d'être of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs. For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford's book organizes the facts very well.) I don't believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.

So what has the APS, as an organization, done in the face of this challenge? It has accepted the corruption as the norm, and gone along with it. For example:

1. About a year ago a few of us sent an e-mail on the subject to a fraction of the membership. APS ignored the issues, but the then President immediately launched a hostile investigation of where we got the e-mail addresses. In its better days, APS used to encourage discussion of important issues, and indeed the Constitution cites that as its principal purpose. No more. Everything that has been done in the last year has been designed to silence debate

2. The appallingly tendentious APS statement on Climate Change was apparently written in a hurry by a few people over lunch, and is certainly not representative of the talents of APS members as I have long known them. So a few of us petitioned the Council to reconsider it. One of the outstanding marks of (in)distinction in the Statement was the poison word incontrovertible, which describes few items in physics, certainly not this one. In response APS appointed a secret committee that never met, never troubled to speak to any skeptics, yet endorsed the Statement in its entirety. (They did admit that the tone was a bit strong, but amazingly kept the poison word incontrovertible to describe the evidence, a position supported by no one.) In the end, the Council kept the original statement, word for word, but approved a far longer "explanatory" screed, admitting that there were uncertainties, but brushing them aside to give blanket approval to the original. The original Statement, which still stands as the APS position, also contains what I consider pompous and asinine advice to all world governments, as if the APS were master of the universe. It is not, and I am embarrassed that our leaders seem to think it is. This is not fun and games, these are serious matters involving vast fractions of our national substance, and the reputation of the Society as a scientific society is at stake.

3. In the interim the ClimateGate scandal broke into the news, and the machinations of the principal alarmists were revealed to the world. It was a fraud on a scale I have never seen, and I lack the words to describe its enormity. Effect on the APS position: none. None at all. This is not science; other forces are at work.

4. So a few of us tried to bring science into the act (that is, after all, the alleged and historic purpose of APS), and collected the necessary 200+ signatures to bring to the Council a proposal for a Topical Group on Climate Science, thinking that open discussion of the scientific issues, in the best tradition of physics, would be beneficial to all, and also a contribution to the nation. I might note that it was not easy to collect the signatures, since you denied us the use of the APS membership list. We conformed in every way with the requirements of the APS Constitution, and described in great detail what we had in mind---simply to bring the subject into the open.

5. To our amazement, Constitution be damned, you declined to accept our petition, but instead used your own control of the mailing list to run a poll on the members' interest in a TG on Climate and the Environment. You did ask the members if they would sign a petition to form a TG on your yet-to-be-defined subject, but provided no petition, and got lots of affirmative responses. (If you had asked about sex you would have gotten more expressions of interest.) There was of course no such petition or proposal, and you have now dropped the Environment part, so the whole matter is moot. (Any lawyer will tell you that you cannot collect signatures on a vague petition, and then fill in whatever you like.) The entire purpose of this exercise was to avoid your constitutional responsibility to take our petition to the Council.

6. As of now you have formed still another secret and stacked committee to organize your own TG, simply ignoring our lawful petition.

APS management has gamed the problem from the beginning, to suppress serious conversation about the merits of the climate change claims. Do you wonder that I have lost confidence in the organization?

I do feel the need to add one note, and this is conjecture, since it is always risky to discuss other people's motives. This scheming at APS HQ is so bizarre that there cannot be a simple explanation for it. Some have held that the physicists of today are not as smart as they used to be, but I don't think that is an issue. I think it is the money, exactly what Eisenhower warned about a half-century ago. There are indeed trillions of dollars involved, to say nothing of the fame and glory (and frequent trips to exotic islands) that go with being a member of the club. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst. When Penn State absolved Mike Mann of wrongdoing, and the University of East Anglia did the same for Phil Jones, they cannot have been unaware of the financial penalty for doing otherwise. As the old saying goes, you don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. Since I am no philosopher, I'm not going to explore at just which point enlightened self-interest crosses the line into corruption, but a careful reading of the ClimateGate releases makes it clear that this is not an academic question.

I want no part of it, so please accept my resignation. APS no longer represents me, but I hope we are still friends.

Hal
http://thegwpf.org/ipcc-news/1670-hal-lewis-my-resignation-from-the-american-physical-society.html

C. Flower
19-10-2010, 08:20 PM
My qualifications are in Physics and I feel that it has totally lost its meaning in the modern
world. Money and fame mean as much to some as quality and pertinency of work.
I do believe that since World War II all areas and aspects of science have been geared towards mass production and profiteering.

All of that aside.........

Did anyone read the letter of resignation from the APS
sent by Hal Lewis?


That's a difficult one for me. He sounds very genuine, and I see the fudges and compromising of data and analysis that have gone on - we have a nice thread here on this. But I'm far from convinced that there isn't a problem with "greenhouse gases".

Munnkeyman
19-10-2010, 08:29 PM
That's a difficult one for me. He sounds very genuine, and I see the fudges and compromising of data and analysis that have gone on - we have a nice thread here on this. But I'm far from convinced that there isn't a problem with "greenhouse gases".

Absolutely agree with that.
I do believe in AGW to a certain degree.
But there has been quite a degree of data fudging.
The relationship between science and politics is on the precipice of falling
into a relationship similar to church and politics.

Captain Con O'Sullivan
19-10-2010, 08:51 PM
Interesting comparison Munnkeyman and the more I think about it I feel you've got a really good analogy there.

I suppose science has become a cynically viewed profession as an extension of the lies, more lies and damned statistics problem. If you look at any government consultation which are readily available on any subject where a scientific view is required you can see the problem where scientists on both sides seem to work from their preferred objective and slot the research underneath. It gets worse when you think of the think-tanks paid for the by the right and left to produce just that data.

Its not any better really in states where they have an independent statistics office such as in Sweden. Swedish alcohol policy for example is touted around the world as the way to go by prohibitionists- a government monopoly, hard to get alcohol, high taxes apparently to discourage consumption and the local and international supporters of such policies trumpet what a success it is and try to get it adopted at Euro level.

Trouble is that a large proportion of the Swedish population don't bother with the Monopoly shops and just buy from unofficial sources- as much as a third of alcohol in one province comes across the Danish border and is sold by people with no interest in age restrictions or quality control.

And they have an independent state statistics agency and it just keeps its head down where the lies about Swedish alcohol policy are trumpeted at home and abroad.

The lie is there in the stats but they won't speak about it. Why? Because they'd draw fire from prohibitionists and be accused of attacking a Swedish institution.

morticia
19-10-2010, 09:36 PM
I am a scientist by training and I'd have to agree with many of the criticisms. Following the trend du jour has now become de rigeur, meaning that new techniques are rushed out in order to fire out publications in order to meet the next grant deadline. Accuracy and real objective criticism can wait years, especially as it is difficult to publish negative data, especially if contradicts stuff emanating from one of les grand fromages in the field in question. Furthermore I'd heartily endorse the suggestion that we take down anonymity of peer reviewers; especially since the slump, it has allowed competitors to shaft each other; I suspect a "if I'm not gonna get funded to do that, why should you be" mentality in many cases. People are becoming very bitter. The list of criticisms can also be lengthened by pointing out that in most UK and Irish science departments, one can number the faculty with double X chromosome syndrome and/or from ethnic minority origins on the fingers of a leprous hand. Despite the fact that in biology (unlike chemistry, physics and engineering), the intake of women exceeds that of men, they outnumber the boys up to and including postdoctoral level. Women in science groups tend to describe this effect as "the scissors graph".

Having said all that though, valuable work is still being done. The Wellcome Trust may be moving in the right direction, they are starting to consider awarding grants based more on track record than on future plans (avoids the temptation to enhance the impact of preliminary data in grant applications), and may also discourage to some degree, slavish trend following. However, many fields of science are very expensive (astrophysics and molecular biology stand out in that regard) and given the impacts of the credit crunch in most countries, allied with reduced charity funds, our ability to come up with new technology is undoubtedly taking a major hit. Just when we need it the most. Especially on the novel energy sources front

Captain Con O'Sullivan
19-10-2010, 09:42 PM
I'd agree with morticia very much ... I'm glad to hear of the Wellcome Trust proposals as they are so influential and also do a great job of communicating science and scientists to the public.

Its strange that where science and public policy intersect there is no such thing as a Risk Impact Assessment or common duty to present the science as is without having it shaped to meet the desired outcomes of policymakers. It seems intuitively wrong and anti-scientific. There has to be somewhere a moment where its 'here's the data- deal with it' crisis.

erigena
20-10-2010, 02:44 AM
I am a scientist by training and I'd have to agree with many of the criticisms. Following the trend du jour has now become de rigeur, meaning that new techniques are rushed out in order to fire out publications in order to meet the next grant deadline. Accuracy and real objective criticism can wait years, especially as it is difficult to publish negative data, especially if contradicts stuff emanating from one of les grand fromages in the field in question. Furthermore I'd heartily endorse the suggestion that we take down anonymity of peer reviewers; especially since the slump, it has allowed competitors to shaft each other; I suspect a "if I'm not gonna get funded to do that, why should you be" mentality in many cases. People are becoming very bitter. The list of criticisms can also be lengthened by pointing out that in most UK and Irish science departments, one can number the faculty with double X chromosome syndrome and/or from ethnic minority origins on the fingers of a leprous hand. Despite the fact that in biology (unlike chemistry, physics and engineering), the intake of women exceeds that of men, they outnumber the boys up to and including postdoctoral level. Women in science groups tend to describe this effect as "the scissors graph".

Having said all that though, valuable work is still being done. The Wellcome Trust may be moving in the right direction, they are starting to consider awarding grants based more on track record than on future plans (avoids the temptation to enhance the impact of preliminary data in grant applications), and may also discourage to some degree, slavish trend following. However, many fields of science are very expensive (astrophysics and molecular biology stand out in that regard) and given the impacts of the credit crunch in most countries, allied with reduced charity funds, our ability to come up with new technology is undoubtedly taking a major hit. Just when we need it the most. Especially on the novel energy sources front

Thanks to everyone for the intelligent and thoughtful comments

To clear up a few points;

1. The "ether" is returning via Wilczek's "grid" and indeed the idea of a repulsive force countering gravity

2. On CF's point - what we are experiencing is a data tsunami, with often premature closure as careers demand stridency. Thus, much of what gets published in Nature and Science is a joke

FF saw science as a new part of civil society to take over and they f_ked it up mainly because they are uneducated *********; their "solution", of course, is to throw more money at it

Our money

Captain Con O'Sullivan
20-10-2010, 09:02 AM
Fianna Fail is not overburdened with the well-educated. They may claim lots of qualifications but those qualifications don't stand up to examination in too many cases.

morticia
20-10-2010, 09:39 PM
They're not the only ones. One can also count the scientists in the House of Commons on the fingers of a leprous hand. The whole western system encourages the election of lawyers, accountants, businesspeople and money men (and in this country, teachers and doctors) into the body politic. Technocrats are usually conspicuous by their absence (apologies to Margaret Thatcher (masters) and Dr. Angela Merkel, both with scientific qualifications). Are there any ex-scientists other than Emmett Stagg in the Dail??

By contrast, the Chinese government is full of scientists and engineers. Having re-read my above para, I am also struck by the fact that both of the very few female leaders of major countries have been scientists....and women are a minority in the upper echelons of science. Could it be that the glass ceiling is more porous in politics than in science?? Surely not! And why have so few male Taoisigh, PMs and Presidents had a scientific background?? This is weird.......any thoughts??