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Palin and the Future The Poisoned Chalice

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So Michael Mann is a Bully?

by Christopher Chantrill
December 12, 2009 at 5:09 pm


THE ONLY thing that has taken a pounding in the last two weeks of Climategate is the fantasy PR image that scientists have maintained for so long.

Of course scientists fake results. Of course they bully other scientists. Of course they toady up to politicians. Of course they try to get people fired when they don’t agree with them. Of course theythreaten journalists with the “Big Cutoff.”

What do you think they are? Monks or something? The only surprising thing is that the scientists kept people fooled for so long. On second thoughts, it’s not surprising. Given what scientists dangle in front of us as they ask for money: a world without suffering, a world without physical labor, maybe even to know the inner secrets of the universe and the mind of God, why wouldn’t we believe in them?

But there ain’t no such thing as an impartial scientist. Ain’t no such thing as settled science.

In the first place, as Thomas Kuhn related in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, science is a social endeavor. Here is one plausible explanation of the scientific process:

One reason science is social is that it is a difficult task to create a plausible and satisfying scientific culture, and therefore any science... is usually the product of many contributors. For this reason sciences are most effectively sustained by dedicated specialists. The second reason that sciences are social is that the universal problem of science is confidence—the need to convince people that its teachings are true and that its practices are effective.

Actually that last paragraph was taken from a study of religion, For the Glory of God: How monotheism led to reformations, science, witch-hunts and the end of slavery by Rodney Stark. For “science” substitute “religion” in the paragraph above.

In the second place, scientists are completely in bed with government. It’s a relationship that is useful to both scientists and politicians. Scientists want to do important work, and politicians want the fruits of science when it gives them more power.

Just as religious leaders have often turned to politicians and kings when the going got rough, so scientists have turned to government for help. After all, that’s where the money is.

But just as an establishment of religion is a bad thing, so is an establishment of science. Today, if Thomas Jefferson were alive, he’d probably be calling for a separation of science and state—in The New York Times Science section.

Physics offered the politicians bombs of unimaginable power, and they offered the scientists budgets of unimaginable size. It’s a pity the bombs are so powerful they can’t be used. And it’s a pity that science-based war is now so expensive that the low-rent political actors have turned to terrorism, warfare on the cheap.

Macroeconomics offered the politicians the hope of manipulating the economy to reward their supporters without tears. It offered economists a seat in the citadel of power. Yet under the reign of the macroeconomic expertise the value of money has fallen faster than in the bad old days when kings and princes merely debased the coinage without the help of scientists.

There is nothing mysterious about this. The world is full of good ideas: scientific ideas, political ideas, business ideas. But what about good ideas that actually work? Not so many.

People with merely “good ideas” tend to sell them to the political world rather than the business world.

Conservative politicians have always been cautious about expertise. Edmund Burke railed against economists, sophisters, and calculators. Lord Salisbury, Conservative Prime Minister of Britain, wrote in a letter to a friend in 1877:

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.

If you believe the climate scientists, nothing is as warm as today. So James Hansen, Michael “The Bruiser” Mann, and Phil Jones are nothing new. What is new is the cruel way in which Climategate is humiliating the Manns and the Joneses.

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn asserts that a scientific field truly becomes a “science” when its practitioners can “take the foundations of their field for granted” and report their results in articles addressed to and understandable only by other specialists.

When a man like Steve McIntyre can come in from another field and rock the foundations of hockey-stickology with his critique, then he is telling the Manns and the Joneses that they don’t have a “science.” All they have is a religion.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990

Mutual Aid

In 1911... at least nine million of the 12 million covered by national insurance were already members of voluntary sick pay schemes. A similar proportion were also eligible for medical care.
Green, Reinventing Civil Society


“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State

Living Under Law

Law being too tenuous to rely upon in [Ulster and the Scottish borderlands], people developed patterns of settling differences by personal fighting and family feuds.
Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures

German Philosophy

The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since 1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be inadequate. 
F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West


Inquiry does not start unless there is a problem... It is the problem and its characteristics revealed by analysis which guides one first to the relevant facts and then, once the relevant facts are known, to the relevant hypotheses.
F.S.C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities


“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison

Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh

Living Law

The recognition and integration of extralegal property rights [in the Homestead Act] was a key element in the United States becoming the most important market economy and producer of capital in the world.
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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