Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Science by consensus is barbarism

Jerry Stratton, April 17, 2019

Climate in Space

Scientists have again landed a spacecraft on a proverbial dime on a planet 40 million miles away that rotates at 241 meters per second. Think I’m gonna trust them on this climate change stuff.

“Sound reasoning” was the comment. But there is no reason in that paragraph. It’s about as far from science and reason as you can get. Regardless of how you feel about spacecraft engineers and climate researchers, they are not the same people, and science does not work by some magical transference of authority. That’s its whole point. Science is not a tribe. It’s a method.

Tribalism as science is unsound, unreasoning, and barbarous. That because these engineers over here built something that works, those researchers over there must be right, merely because they are part of some fungible tribe of scientists. Science by consensus is literally—and I use the word literally, literally—anti-scientific thinking and about as unsound, unreasoning, and barbaric a method of solving problems as you can find; it will create far more problems than it solves, and some of them will be deadly.

Science is about the scientific method; it is the opposite of tribal consensus. It’s “the belief in the ignorance of experts.”1

Belief in the infallibility of experts is pre-scientific thought. Only priests are never wrong. Science by consensus is and always has been barbarism. Everyone knows the earth is flat. Only hicks believe in flaming rocks that fall from the sky. Some people are not people, and so can be treated as animals.

And the flip side of that, that people are people, and are more important than animals, is a civilized value easily lost to the new barbarism.

The scientific method is pure, distilled civilization, and it is completely unnatural. Constructing a theory and then trying as hard as possible to prove it wrong is completely unnatural behavior. But it is the only way science works.

We are entering a new witch-hunt in which scientists are derided as deniers, and tribalists proclaim themselves worshippers of science. To paraphrase Mencken and Chesterton, it is one thing to believe in witches, entirely another to believe in witch smellers. When barbarism comes, it will come in the name of a scientific consensus that scientific thinking must be ostracized. The witch-smellers, the barbarians, will redefine science to mean religion—as they always have when the thread of civilization frays.

The left requires a belief in the authority of experts. If you go to the site of the group that made this meme, it is filled with things that only work if people trust experts more than they trust their own eyes and their own experiences. Experts who make your decisions for you, and put you in jail if you don’t listen. In order to accept their vision of a government-run life from cradle to grave, it is imperative to trust in the expertise of politicians. Observation—the life-blood of science—tells us that policymakers do not deserve that kind of unreasoning deference. So observation, science, must be denigrated; the term must come to mean something more friendly to authoritarianism.

Science is about never being right. Science is about only being able to prove that a theory is wrong2. Pressuring everyone to believe in a consensus, on pain of ostracism or even death, is the epitome of the left’s barbaric perversion of science. Science by consensus is religious barbarism.

This is not a new idea; this is the idea of the age of reason. This is the philosophy that guided the men that made the democracy that we live under. The idea that no one really knew how to run a government led to the idea that we should arrange a system by which new ideas could be developed, tried out, and tossed out if necessary, with more new ideas brought in—a trial and error system. — Richard Feynman (What Do You Care What Other People Think?)

In response to 2019 in Photos: For photos, memes, and perhaps other quick notes sent from my mobile device or written on the fly during 2019.

  1. I quote Richard Feynman not because he is an expert but because he said it best, and to avoid plagiarizing the right way to say it.

    Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts. — Richard Feynman (What Is Science?)

  2. Quoting Feynman again.

    We never are right. We can only be sure we’re wrong. — Richard Feynman (Richard Feynman on Scientific Method (1964))

  1. <- Vicious racism
  2. Collusion Network ->