Settled by "Scientism"

Science cannot settle all policy debates.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

I encourage everyone to read Professor John McGinnis's essay, Blinded by Scientism. He explains that it is not possible to resolve policy debates by "following the science." Policy debates implicate a lot of values that should not be delegated to apparent experts. Indeed, the views of experts are often shaped by their values. As a result, McGinnis writes, politically accountable leaders, and not scientists, should make those tough decisions.

But the mantra of "follow the science" is even more problematic when applied to politics than administration. It is not possible to make politics subsidiary to science. First, the facts are open to dispute as are some of those about climate change, for instance. Second, no one set of facts is likely to dictate any result. Policies on climate change affect economic growth and that is another set of facts that must investigated. And as James Rogers has noted at this site, the radical uncertainty present in most judgments about human affairs requires prudential judgments, not just scientific modeling.

But most importantly, politics demands debate about values, not just facts. There are tradeoffs between different policies. The Green New Deal may hamper economic growth and thus harm generations to come. As a result, it may be wiser to adapt to a warming climate rather than try to prevent it at great cost. Moreover, it is a question of value, not fact, as to who should bear the burden of climate changes policies—this generation or future generations who, because of technological acceleration, may be substantially richer.

John introduces a term I had not heard before: scientism.

Scientism is an attempt to shut down political debates.  It shifts the discussion from questions of value, which are accessible to all, to questions of facts which are in the domain of the experts, thus shifting the terrain of the debate. It also hampers the evolution of expert consensus, because when science becomes a front for politics, dissenting from the party lines becomes harder even for experts. And it allows progressives to portray their opponents as ignorant. That has been a common trope of progressive politics: conservatives are the stupid party.

I have long encountered the notion of "scientism" in the Second Amendment context. Gun control advocates have long described gun control as a public health issue. On face value, this characterization may make some sense. Guns can lead to health problems. But the import of this statement is very different. When something is a public health issue, it should be resolved by public health experts. In short this slogan shuts down any political debate. #Science. The decision to enact, or not enact certain gun control laws cannot be based entirely on counting. This decision must incorporate competing values, for which elected officials can stake their position. I wrote about some of these issues years ago in an article titled, The Shooting Cycle.

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  1. Related to this is the concept of expanding expertise. Individuals who legitimately have expertise in one area suddenly claim, or are looked to, for input in areas far beyond their expertise.

    Simple example. Many states and localities have struggled with whether and how to open schools this fall in light of the Coronavirus. This question requires balancing the risks of spreading the disease, which includes the likely ameliorative effects of protective efforts, against the real educational and psychological harms to millions of chidlren from closing schools or operating remotely.

    No one person has expertise to opine on all aspects of the issue. The most knowledgeable epidemiologist in the world (Dr. Fauci?) has no special knowledge of child psychology or education. The notion that someone like that gets to decide whether schools will be closed or how they will be open is absurd. Input, surely. Decision, not.

    1. “The most knowledgeable epidemiologist in the world (Dr. Fauci?) has no special knowledge of child psychology or education.”

      So you agree that we need people with special knowledge of child psychology or education to help inform any decision?

      1. Yes. They have some, but not all of the input. Parents also have knowledge about that.

        1. Are you a parent? I’m a parent, and I have no special knowledge of child psychology or education, at least by dint of being a parent. If anything parents make remarkably unreliable sources of knowledge on objective facts about child development, since parents are overcome by anecdote and emotion on the topic.

          But if being a parent is sufficient qualification for expertise, why did you say we shouldn’t listen to Dr. Fauci? He’s a parent.

          1. Nobody said we shouldn’t listen to Dr. Fauci.

          2. Loving parents always makes better decisions than a panel of 100 child psycologists. “Experts” have never succeeded in rearing children other than their own,.

  2. “As a result, McGinnis writes, politically accountable leaders, and not scientists, should make those tough decisions.”

    Of course and nobody is saying otherwise.

    Instead, politically accountable leaders should USE science and reliable data when making tough decisions while adding in cost/benefit analysis, and yes, their own (and their constituents’) goals and beliefs.

    Sheesh…

    1. Exactly.

      Of course there is a lot of political disagreement on issues, but all sides have the obligation to base their arguments on actual science and data, not make stuff up.

      1. The question is who’s science and who’s data?

        1. Or even whose data

          1. The guy from Star Trek?

      2. The problem is that those who most vocally proclaim, “Believe the science” have no idea what the actual science says, and instead mean, “Believe my favorite version of someone else’s interpretation of what they think the science is.” As soon as you hear phrases like, “The science is settled” you know you’re dealing with someone who has absolutely no understanding of what “science” even is.

    2. Read the article. McGinnis agrees with you, and is pointing out that for many politicians, that is not what is happening. They are instead using “science” as an excuse to force decisions that the electorate does not want.

      Or, worse, is wanted by special interests. Here is a paragraph that was not posted here that is very telling:

      Nor can determining the necessarily fine-grained rules for an optimal policy toward the virus possibly be made simply on the basis of science. Should a city permit the opening of bars and restaurants during the time of the virus to support these businesses and workers, but not open schools for small children who cannot easily learn online? Science cannot answer that question, but that is what my city of Chicago is doing. In fact, a study shows that whether public schools are open in a jurisdiction has more to do with the strength of the teachers’ union there than the local conditions of the virus. It is much better for a politician to claim she is following science when she is closing the schoolhouse door than admit that she is in bed with the teachers’ union.

      1. “Science cannot answer that question…”

        Science is the only thing that can inform our answers. What alternative are you suggesting? We roll dice? Prayer? McGinnis obviously agrees, since he relies on “a study” to make his point.

        1. “Science is the only thing that can inform our answers. What alternative are you suggesting?”

          I believe that he’s suggesting that we use science to inform our answers.

          1. Correct. Science can inform policy decisions with low-confidence factual information, and over time, science can provide objective facts with increasing confidence, but NOT policy recommendations. Science tells you the outside air temperature, but not whether you should wear a jacket.

            Also, science =/= scientists. The scientific method is was specifically designed to (and is very good at) correcting for the biases of individual scientists over time, which biases are presumed to exist. Individual scientists offering policy recommendations are way out of their lane.

            1. ” Individual scientists offering policy recommendations are way out of their lane.”

              Unless they happen to live in a democracy or some kind of political system derived from democracy.

        2. Science can not answer questions that are about values, morals, or ethics.

          1. “Science can not answer questions that are about values, morals, or ethics.”

            Sure it can. But the results may not match your values, morals, or ethics.

        3. Are you sure you understand the is/ought divide?

          Sometimes science appears to lead to an “ought” but in reality there’s always a subjective value judgment buried in there. Very often the hidden value judgment is that “the body count must always be minimized” but of course that’s not a scientific fact.

          1. How to minimize a body count is something science can answer better than any alternative.

            1. That is an unproved assertion. In fact it may even be unprovable.

              You do know about Gödel’s theroem

              1. Do you know about Gödel’s theroem?

    3. “nobody is saying otherwise.”

      Yes, they are. That is the whole point of his article. That YOU are not saying otherwise does not mean that nobody is.

    4. Politically accountable leaders too often don’t *want* to make those tough decisions. Too many people get elected to play Santa Claus with other people’s money, and that has allowed the bureaucratic Administrative State to grow.

      1. ^ Ding. Winner.

      2. Hence all these independent agencies with lawmaking powers.

    5. Actually, quite a lot of people have said and continue to say otherwise. Or weren’t you paying attention to all the “Science is Settled” rants and shouts.

    6. apedad…I think it comes down to which science, which data, and how to interpret both/either.

      Case in point. Where I live, the People’s Republic of NJ, our governor made a decision in March to compel nursing homes to accept covid-19+ patients. Thousands of nursing home died, a family member of my own included. Now the governor issued that executive order despite the raft of scientific data that was available at that moment in time from South Korea, China, Spain, Italy and Germany clearly indicting the dramatically higher mortality rate for the elderly, and more specifically nursing home patients. That executive order was a terrible blunder, if not outright negligence.

      So when I say which science and which data…there is a very good reason for it. It has consequences that we can measure in human lives. I don’t know how to answer those questions = which science, which data, how to interpret either/both. Does anyone, really?

      I want the option to hold Phailing Phil Murphy, governor of the People’s Republic of NJ accountable for his terrible decision. We get to do exactly that next year, in 2021. My regret is we cannot hold him personally liable for his gross incompetence.

      1. So you’re in favor of voting out office-holders who made ex ante stupid decisions wrt the pandemic? Good. Me too.

        I take it you’re voting for Biden?

        1. No, I am voting for Jo Jorgensen. 🙂

        2. So you’re in favor of voting out office-holders who made ex ante stupid decisions wrt the pandemic?

          I would be, but I’m not a resident of NY, NJ, MI nor any of the other Dem-led states where the worst decisions were made in terms of responding to Covid-19..

          1. We have a leader at the national level, who didn’t exactly set out a strong policy about dealing with the coronavirus. According to him, anyone who gets a case of COVID should just take a taxpayer-funded ride to the taxpayer-funded hospital to get treated, before returning to the taxpayer-funded housing they occupy.

  3. Speaking of the 2nd amendment, that is also often used as a way of shutting down debate.

    Q: “Why is gun control bad?”
    A: “Because it’s unconstitutional!”

    (This also happens with the 1st amendment, but as far as I can tell less so with the rest of the Bill of Rights. Jury trials, maybe.)

    1. Probably more so with abortion.

      1. As far as I can tell the pro-abortion argument usually involves back-alley abortions, rather than stopping at Roe v. Wade.

        1. No, the PRO-CHOICE argument is one that centers on value. Is it a person? And who decides?
          I personally have conveyed person-hood on my dogs (don’t mess with my dogs!).
          I don’t do the same just because 2 cells have become one organism. I also eat steak and agree some people are so evil they no longer fit in society (they lost their person-hood)

        2. “As far as I can tell the pro-abortion argument […]”

          It’s kind of hard to find someone making a pro-abortion argument. I’ve never seen one, and I bet you haven’t either.

    2. “Bad” has multiple meanings.

      “Prohibited by the Constitution” is pretty “bad” when one is proposing laws, no?

      If the question was “why is gun control bad in and of itself?”, it would be a terrible answer, but the question is always more “why do you oppose MY preferred real-now-in-America gun control scheme?”

      And “it is repugnant to the Constitution” is a fine answer, so long as we have a Constitutional Republic?

      1. FAR too many people adopt a “The Constitution says what I imagine it says and thus anything I don’t like is Unconstitutional” stance.
        Witness the idiots trying to claim that Costco not letting them into the store without a mask on as being “unconstitutional”.

    3. Because the honest means to get it done is with a constitutional amendment but the gun controllers want to get it done by a different means.

      Show us your amendment text.

      1. If Heller was good enough to give us the status quo, then nobody needs an amendment to change the status quo.

        1. We already knew you were dishonest

      2. “Show us your amendment text.”
        Not a problem. We’ll just add the words “well-regulated” to the Second Amendment.

    4. Depends what you mean by “bad”
      If you mean morally evil, the constitutionality is irrelevant.
      If you mean “illegal” then that is a different story

    5. Speaking of the 2nd amendment, that is also often used as a way of shutting down debate.

      Q: “Why is gun control bad?”
      A: “Because it’s unconstitutional!”

      If by “often” you mean, “often in vacuous environments like Twitter, Facebook, Mrs. Leary’s 3rd grade class, et al” (you know, environments in which you usually find yourself to be intellectually challenged) then, yeah. But if you mean in environments like this one? No, and you know you’re lying.

  4. “Scientism” has been used in the social sciences for decades, to describe studies or points of view which mimic the outward forms of science but which are not rigorous, reliable or valid.

    1. Indeed. And a law professor had never heard of it?

      1. If Law and Psychology was as pervasive in law schools as Law and Economics, he would have heard of it.

        I can’t find the original material at the moment, but behaviorism was derided by people like Noam Chomsky and Thomas Szasz as “scientistic” as far back as the 1960’s. B. F. Skinner discussed this objection in his book “About Behaviorism” (1974).

        1. Hayek published “Scientism and the Study of Society” in Economica in the 40s. He later incorporated that essay into his book (1952) The Counter-Revolution of Science: Studies on the Abuse of Reason.

    2. “studies or points of view which mimic the outward forms of science but which are not rigorous, reliable or valid”

      Why use “scientism” when you already have the phrase “social sciences” to describe those studies?

      1. Economics, anthropology, linguistics, political science, all “scientism”?

      2. Bob,
        Because one is talking about an ideological stance to enforce a dogma.
        Social sciences are fields of study with recognized methods and bodies of evidence. They do not ipso fact make truth claims.

    3. captcrisis, similarly, “American exceptionalism.” I first encountered that term in a history seminar in the early 1970s. Students were warned against it, as an error in historical reasoning. Later, Ronald Reagan’s speech writers propagandized that error into a must-endorse litmus test for conservatives.

      Amusingly, it turns out the term dates back farther, to conflicts between American Communist Party members and Soviet political theorists. The Americans had trouble selling Soviet dogma in the U.S. They tried to plead American conditions were different, requiring adjustments in the Party’s universalist approach to historical analysis. Party overlords in Russia rebuked the Americans as “American exceptionalists,” and informed them sternly that American exceptionalism was plain error.

      So in a way, we can view Reagan’s speechwriters as patriots, taking sides on behalf of American Communists in their dispute with nasty foreign Communists. I have long wondered whether there were at least one or two among the speechwriters who actually knew about the term’s background in a Communist Party dispute.

      1. When I first heard it, in the 1970’s, it meant “the rules don’t apply to us”. Somebody used it during the 1980 Olympics opening ceremony when, as always, the American delegation was the only one not to dip their flag when passing the Olympic torch.

  5. Scientism often assumes we “know what the problem is”, and thus know what the shape of a solution might be. As, for example, with Global Warming. Global warming is obviously bad because [list three effects]. The status quo will be altered!
    McGinnis does a good job arguing that the problem of scientistism isn’t just that ‘amateurs’ (politcians, policy-makers, judges…) have to make choices about which scientists believe, but that even before the ‘scientific’ issues, there are societal questions with moral implications transcending ‘science.’ Turning the debate into a problem of ‘science’ too early on is a way of dodging the moral questions.

    1. The problem with scientism is that it is an excuse for the politician’s syllogism. Science says that something must be done, and this is something, therefore we must do this.

      1. ” Science says that something must be done”

        Science doesn’t say that. For example, antropogenic global warming science says that continuing to burn fossil fuels will create several changes in the Earth’s biosphere. These include more and bigger tropical storms, more and bigger wildfires on the North American continent, and colder winters for the North-central and northeastern portions of North America. It doesn’t say we have to do anything about them (economics says to start shorting insurance companies, though).

  6. LISTEN TO THE SCIENTISTS!!!!

    Except:
    1. The ones that don’t support all of left wing public policy.
    2. The ones that have studies which don’t support left wing policy conclusions.
    3. Anyone who won’t parrot lines about climate change, ice age, or whatever we are calling it now.

  7. Michael Crichton warned about this back in the early 2000s. See his speech “Aliens Caused Global Warming”

    https://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Publications/PDF_Papers/Crichton2003.pdf

    1. Ronald Bailey, please pick up a white courtesy phone.

    2. I read that years ago, but never saved it. Thanks for the link.

  8. This following the “Science” (capital S) in many ways resembles how previous generations followed the mandates of Religion. People believe it because they’re told “it’s right” without really fully understanding it.

    One of the big issues is the misapplication of “Science”. Science (as in the scientific method) involves the generation of a hypothesis followed by the testing of the hypothesis in a controlled experiment. Repeated testing in controlled experiments that validate the hypothesis and validate the experiment works.

    This allows, for example, a new method of chemistry, or genetic engineering to be developed. Controlled clinical trials allow for proof that a drug works, and how well it works. This allows for the development and testing of new materials, electronics, etc.

    Where Science (capital S) gets into big problems is the extrapolation of concepts that work in small controlled systems, into larger, uncontrolled systems, where repeated experiments become impossible. This is what really hurts Global Warming for example. While the basis fact of CO2 (and H20) acting as a greenhouse gasses is well understood, the extrapolation and application to a global system is poorly understood. Ideally, a series of controlled experiments could be run on a global system, but in practice, that’s impossible. That in turn leads to a lot of guesswork and “models” that can turn out to be wildly wrong. And you’re not really testing a hypothesis anymore as according to the scientific method but guessing instead, without any testing. So… it’s not really the scientific method anymore. Instead it’s “Science” capital S.

    1. That in turn leads to a lot of guesswork and “models” that can turn out to be wildly wrong. And you’re not really testing a hypothesis anymore as according to the scientific method but guessing instead, without any testing. So… it’s not really the scientific method anymore.

      That’s ridiculous. Of course modelling and making predictions is science. Not everything lends itself to carefully controlled experimentation. Is astronomy not a science?

      1. “Of course modelling and making predictions is science.”
        You left off a key part, the “without any testing” part.

        Make models, make predictions. But TEST them. Only after they are tested and validated can they really be proven and considered real science. Science is 1. Observe. 2. Hypothesis/model. 3. Test, validate, confirm.

        What you often get are models that aren’t tested, but are instead assumed to be correct. And that’s wrong. Let’s take your example of Astronomy through a four key examples of this process. Classical Gravity, The discovery of Neptune, The “discovery” of Planet X, the “Discovery” of Vulcan.

        Classical gravity
        1. Observe planets rotating around the sun.
        2. Theorize a model of gravity that accounts for their movement.
        3. Continue to observe planets, confirming that they conform to the model.
        —Science confirms—

        Discovery of Neptune
        1. Observe errors in Uranus’s orbit that can’t be accounted for alone
        2. Hypothesize the presence of a trans-Uranic planet that is distorting the orbit
        3. Discover Neptune.
        —Science confirms—

        Discovery of Planet X
        1. Observe errors in Neptune’s orbit
        2. Hypothesize a large planet that’s distorting the orbit
        3. No planet large enough found. (Pluto wasn’t big enough).
        —Hypothesis fails— (In fact, the mass estimates of Neptune were off)

        Discovery of Vulcan.
        1. Observe errors in Mercury’s orbit
        2. Hypothesize a small planet closer to the sun.
        3. No planet found.
        —Hypothesis fails.— (In this case, the distortion would be accounted for due to General relativity).

        Where Global warming Science (capital S) goes wrong is the following:
        1. Observe CO2 acts as a Greenhouse Gas.
        2. Create a model saying that this much gas will lead to this much heating.
        3. Fail to CHECK the model properly.
        4. Tell anyone who doesn’t listen that you’re denying science if you don’t trust the model before it’s been checked.

      2. It is an observational science. It does make falsifiable predictions and does carry out experiments.

    2. “One of the big issues is the misapplication of “Science”. Science (as in the scientific method) involves the generation of a hypothesis followed by the testing of the hypothesis in a controlled experiment. Repeated testing in controlled experiments that validate the hypothesis and validate the experiment works. ”

      Not really.
      The Scientific Method is:
      Gather observations
      form a hypothesis
      Use the hypothesis to predict future observations
      Then, if the future observations check out, the hypothesis is considered accurate (until supplanted by newer, more accurate ones)
      Most of the history of science is people refining the hypotheses of others, to make more and more accurate predictions of future observations. Laboratory experimentation is only one form of observations that can be made.

      1. But Science (capital S) is

        1. Gather observations
        2. Form a hypothesis or model
        3. Say “We can’t wait for the future to check our model, you need to trust our model, it’s SCIENCE, and it you don’t trust it, you’re denying Science.

        1. If you can’t win by being right, win by redefining terms to suit your preferred outcome.

    3. Minor point: In your second paragraph where you start the sentence with “[s]cience” it is preferable to open with a loose word since the distinction of capitalization is central to your user comment here.

  9. Politicism is an attempt to shut down scientific debates. It shifts the discussion from objective questions of fact, which are in the domain of experts, to questions of values, which are subjective, thus shifting the terrain of the debate. It also hampers the effectiveness of politics, because when politics replaces science, science will have no special claims to even objective facts. And it allows politicians to portray science as their opponent. That has been a common trope of anti-science: science’s observable and provable claims about reality can never rebut any value I hold.

    1. What “observable and provable claims about reality” can themselves decide the question of whether it is worth the risk to open the local public school in light of the COVID pandemic?

      1. None. But we do have estimates of the consequences in lives, and the consequences to the economy.

        Insisting those are lies or clearly wrong because they don’t make your preferred policy choice costless is pretty common. (See below)

        1. ?? Whether data and inferences about data are accurate is a valid question. People, including scientists and experts, can’t just make assertions, they have to make arguments, show their work, and convince people of their claims.

          1. The problem is that showing the work doesn’t help people who can’t, or won’t, follow the lead.
            Science is about “this is what we know, and how we know it”, while policy is about “this is what we should do” and ultimately, “this is what we WILL do”.

            1. Science is about “this is what we know, and how we know it”

              Wrong. Science is about, “This is what some of us currently think is most likely to be true, given the best available data. Though there are others of us who believe that something else is more likely to be true given that same data, but using different hypothesis and even some intuition to fill in the gaps in knowledge that we all have. Those of us who believe the former to be more likely currently outnumber those who do not, but that in no way means that we are in possession of ‘the truth’. It’s just that we think we hold the belief that is more likely to be correct than theirs is.”

              1. Whether your think it is true doesn’t make it any more likely to actually be true. Note that science provides a mechanic for determining the truth of a hypothesis. It is true if it can be used to predict future observations.

          2. Accuracy is a fine thing to question, provided you bring arguments and evidence and not knee-jerking, ad hominem, and nonsense. But the latter is what you see around here, and that’s not what has gone on from the Trump White House.

            As I said, check out below below.

            1. “Accuracy is a fine thing to question, provided you bring arguments and evidence…”

              Isn’t the burden on those claiming to be accurate?

              1. We have peer review because laypeople being skeptical doesn’t cut it.

                I expect you trust some theories you yourself have not derived.

                1. “We have peer review because laypeople being skeptical doesn’t cut it.”

                  It always comes down to an assertion.

                  “I expect you trust some theories you yourself have not derived.”

                  Sure. If it sounds plausible, I trust it. If it sounds like bullshit, I don’t. That’s how everybody makes the vast majority of judgements that they make, because its too costly to do formal analysis on every question. It’s not scientific, but that’s how people form the vast majority of their opinions. To pretend otherwise is scientism.

                  1. If your science agrees with my preconceived beliefs, then it “sounds plausible.” If not, it “sounds like bullshit.” What you just said is exactly what SarcastrO is saying. And it’s also why Covid is out of control in this country.

                    1. If your “science” sounds like bullshit, I’m going to either spend a bunch of time figuring out if it’s really science, or assume that it’s not really science. And I have a limited amount of time.

                      What do you do when someone says that they arrived at some conclusion via science, but it sounds like bullshit?

                    2. Twelve,

                      What method did you use to determine “sounds like bullshit”? Was it prayer?

                    3. How did you ever manage to believe the earth revolves around the sun, TiP?

                    4. “What method did you use to determine “sounds like bullshit”? Was it prayer?”

                      How do you determine if something sounds like bullshit.

                    5. “How did you ever manage to believe the earth revolves around the sun, TiP?”

                      Well, it wasn’t by checking Copernicus’s predictions for star positions against Ptolemy’s.

                    6. “If your “science” sounds like bullshit, I’m going to either spend a bunch of time figuring out if it’s really science, or assume that it’s not really science. And I have a limited amount of time.”

                      The human brain operates by pattern-matching, at which it is surprisingly good. However, if the data being matched against is crap, so will all the conclusions derived from it be. And that’s your pattern-matching computer of a brain working…. stuff that doesn’t fit what you already believe sets off your bullshit detector makes your gut all rumbly. Whether or not this is actually significant depends on how good your pattern-matching dataset is. If it’s full of magical thinking, you will have no “knack” for science.

                  2. That’s awful science.

                    Human intuition is *bad* about most of the predictions science makes these days.

                    1. “That’s awful science.”

                      It’s not science. Do you believe something that sounds like bullshit just because some nimrod says they figured it out with science? Of course not. As I said, most conclusions aren’t arrived at with science.

                    2. Your claim boils down to “if it doesn’t match my preconceptions, it isn’t science”. That is not how science works. It has an independent truth checking mechanism built into it.

              2. The burden is equal.

                Those making claims bring arguments and evidence, of course. But if you want to say they’re wrong you need evidence also, not just, “Hey, experts are often wrong, so we don’t believe you,” which seems to be the preferred argument of lots of commenters around here.

                1. Science has error-checking built into it. Astonomers accurately predict when and where eclipses will be visible, which suggests that their understanding of how the Sun and Moon work is accurate.

        2. True enough, S0.
          But is does not justify the know-nothing slogan “In this house we believe in science.”

          1. I mean, only in response to someone who is rolling in with nonsense. Which happens a lot, as it turns out.

            1. “My faith is as good as your facts”

      2. Note that you can’t ask the question of how to resolve a value question without referring to observable and provable claims about reality. What any individual considers is “worth” some “risk” may be different, but the concepts can only be informed by objective reality. Is it worth crippling the economy to save 100,000 lives? I don’t know, but we can’t even ask the question unless we know on the one hand what “crippling the economy” means and on the other whether 100,000 lives are really at stake. Do you suppose that politics can inform that? Does the assertion of my values really loudly affect whether 99,999 or 100,001 people will die from any course of action? Do my values as a steel manufacturer define the effect of tariffs (or not) on the steel industry?

        We can have science without politics. We cannot have value discussions without science. Or if we do, we’re just cavemen arguing over whether it is worth it to sacrifice to the gods 1 or 10 virgins in order to end the drought.

        1. We can have science without politics.

          This may be the dumbest thing I’ve ever read at Reason.

          1. Explain why politics is necessarily a part of quantitative observations about the universe.

            1. Simple S0,
              Because setting funding priorities is a political act deciding that some scientific inquiry is more important to support or more deserving of support than other inquiry.

              1. Choosing which avenue of scientific inquiry is not science.

                The inquiry is the science. And that will have pretty apolitical results.

                1. You might want to speak to scientists that have wanted to study politically risky/disfavored questions. They would tell you that science is far from the pristine apolitical world that you seem to think it is. Follow things like retraction watch, the old and new Sokal hoaxes, the recent spate of papers being published and then pulled because of mainly political complaints, replication issues and disincentives to do replication studies, failure to report null results, etc. Science like most competitive and worthy areas of endeavor has internal and external political forces impacting what is studied, how it is studied, what happens to the results, how uncertainty is discussed especially with public, and many other effects that make science in the real world political.

                  1. I work with scientists. There are academic fights to be sure, and no doubt politics both office and national. But do not pretend the final papers are somehow political theses.

                    Or just look a the scientific edifice we stand on today. Is technology inherently political? If not, then you can have science without politics.

                    1. You work with scientists but apparently have never seen politics impact what gets published? Sure. Care to tell me what field these scientists work in? If you are telling the truth i doubt it is one focused on humans or human behavior. My background is in neuropsych and pubpol. Psychology is mired in politics that can sometimes even impact the hard science side of the field. The soft science side is a mess because of politics which is part of the reason it has replication issues. I can’t help but notice you didn’t address paper retractions, Sokal, etc that i mentioned. I assume that is because they make it clear that politics is impacting science. Our current mix of technologies is the result of complex interactions between science, government, business, and individuals and is absolutely partially a reflection of political influences. Look at how war and cold wars drove technological development as one example.

                    2. If you are telling the truth

                      The odds are better that you will win the main prize in the next PowerBall drawing.

            2. Explain why politics is necessarily a part of quantitative observations about the universe.

              Because unless/until the machines take over, those observations AND the conclusions being drawn from them are being conducted by humans.

        2. “We can have science without politics. We cannot have value discussions without science.”

          Nobody’s suggesting we should have value discussions without science.

          The article addresses people who are claiming that many questions related to the epidemic can be settled by science alone, without politics. This is wrong. The policy questions are political questions that should be informed by science, not merely scientific judgements that should be made by scientists.

          1. “The article addresses people who are claiming that many questions related to the epidemic can be settled by science alone, without politics. This is wrong. The policy questions are political questions that should be informed by science, not merely scientific judgements that should be made by scientists.”

            Alas, what we actually have are policy decisions made by people who refuse to be informed (by any source), who prefer to substitute their own “facts”.

          2. “The article addresses people who are claiming that many questions related to the epidemic can be settled by science alone, without politics. This is wrong.”

            How is this wrong? There are “many questions related to the epidemic [that] can be settled by science alone[.]” For example, the question: “What is the IFR of COVID?” is not something that politics can answer. “How many people will lose their job if we shut down all schools for 2 years?” is not something that politics can answer.

            This entire exercise is a waste of time. The article itself just assumes that politicians who say “I’m following the science” haven’t engaged in a cost-benefit analysis that incorporates cross-disciplinary concerns. While I’m sure some of those people exist, the response to them is not “You’re into scientism, man.” It’s to point out cross-disciplinary concerns. The viciously hard work of engaging other human beings on complicated policy questions isn’t going to be answered by labeling others with isms. When people who disagree with you say you’re engaged in racism, does that persuade you?

            Not every policy disagreement needs to be about some meta issue. If there’s a Democratic governor somewhere saying they’re just following settled science, the response should be to show them the goods that demonstrates the harms that make these value tradeoffs. Resorting to “sciencism” makes me think the speaker just doesn’t have the goods.

            1. “There are “many questions related to the epidemic [that] can be settled by science alone[.]” ”

              Sigh. Fine. Policy questions cannot be settled by science alone. The premise is that people often claim that a particular policy outcome is required by science, in order to shut down debate. For example, “The science says wear a mask.”

              You are of course free to dispute the premise.

              1. I think you’re trying to use anti-scientism to silence me!

              2. ” Policy questions cannot be settled by science alone. The premise is that people often claim that a particular policy outcome is required by science, in order to shut down debate. For example, ‘The science says wear a mask.’ ”

                People often claim all sorts of things. For example, the science says “if you want to reduce the spread of COVID, stay as far away from other people as you can and wear a mask if you have to get close.”
                Some people leave out the desired outcome when referring to what science says, because they think it should be inferred. Example: Don’t drink bleach.

        3. “We cannot have value discussions without science”

          If this means that there is some scientifically-validated fact or set of facts that is needed in order to pronounce a value judgment, this is unlikely, and certainly not related to any understanding of ‘science’ with which I am familiar. What would be a scientific fact that would be required to arrive at a value judgement proposing that we ought to study science? What science could improve a discussion of whether we are obliged to keep promises?

          1. Here is a value judgment:
            The number of acceptable cases of police officers killing unarmed black men is ____. How does science offer a way to fill in the blank?

      3. As long as we have agreed-on, honest, estimates of transmission rates, mortality and morbidity, economic costs, damage to education, etc. then those should be, of course, inputs to the decision-making process.

        The difficulty we face is that we have a President who, along with his supporters, declines to accept the reality of Covid. That’s not going to lead to sensible decisions.

        1. Would you be willing to compare those “agreed-on honest estimates of transmission [etc.]” to those of past outbreaks of flu and other re-curring diseases? for that matter, how often is the covid mortality rate put in context with the usual rate of mortality from natural causes? Too often, the perceived “reality of Covid” has been inflated to justify political positions.

          1. The concept of “inflated” makes no sense unless you first accept that there is an actual, observable rate of mortality. And only science can inform that.

            1. Sometimes there are two sets of data to choose from. Sometimes even more.

              Sometimes choosing one set of data over the other leads to a preferred outcome

              1. Agree. And when people cherry-pick data sets to fit their preferred outcome, the only way to address that is to reveal the cherry-picking with other, more reliable data sets. But it would be monumentally stupid to reject any data-reliant argument because of “sciencism” or “sometimes people cherry-pick data”.

                1. And what happens when it’s not clear if the data set was cherry picked, because the scientists refuse to share the raw data?

                  1. Then the claim likely isn’t replicable, in which event there’s no reason to rely on the “scientists” assurance. What do you propose instead? That we consult a witchdoctor?

                    1. -I’m of course referring to the CRU Global Climate Dataset, which is the most cited surface temperature record by the UN IPCC.
                      -But when people request the raw data, here’s the response

                      “Even if WMO agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.”

                      Uh huh….

                    2. Except there are other datasets, and they also agree with the models.

                    3. CRU released the raw data in 2011.

                    4. But I’m still mad about 2010.

            2. ” unless you first accept that there is an actual, observable rate of mortality. And only science can inform that.”

              No, you can go to Biblical text for that.
              “the span of a man’s years is threescore and ten”. If you cherrypick that out and ignore all the bits about people going around casting out devils to cure disease you get a baseline you can work with.

          2. I am glad to place mortality from Covid in context with normal rates of mortality. That’s what the “excess deaths” discussions are all about.

            I think if you do that you find that there are more, not fewer, deaths from Covid than have been officially reported.

            1. I think if you do that you find that there are more, not fewer, deaths from Covid than have been officially reported.

              Only if you pretend that the system of overbearing interventions put in place over the past 7 months have themselves not caused a significant number of excess deaths. As one simple example of many, people who deferred or completely forewent treatment for other ultimately fatal conditions.

              That takes a stunning level of faith in the COVID religion.

              1. Whether the interventions were “overbearing” or not is not clear. Don’t forget that even without the interventions the pandemic would have changed people’s behavior.

                Still, I’m sure there are offsetting numbers.

                As to people deferring treatment, that may, of course, be a rational response to the increased risks, during hospitalization, from the pandemic, or even a result, in some places at some times, of medical resources being overstretched.

                That doesn’t account for it all, of course, but should be part of the calculation. and of course

                1. “and of course” there is no edit or preview available.

                2. ” Don’t forget that even without the interventions the pandemic would have changed people’s behavior.”

                  For some of them, the behavior change was “stopped breathing”.

            2. bernard,
              I did that in the last week. the results are not as one-sided as you seem to think.

              1. Could be, though that will depend on your assumptions.

                I’m glad to look at calculations of this sort. My main point is that it is excess deaths that need to be looked at, and some excess deaths are caused by the pandemic even if not by Covid. Plus, for all the complaints about the count, there have no doubt been Covid deaths not recorded as such.

          3. “how often is the covid mortality rate put in context with the usual rate of mortality from natural causes?”

            The rate of mortality from natural causes is 100%, not counting the occasional Highlander (who can only die from being beheaded by a sword) or MI-6 agent (some of whom are known to live twice).

            1. Wrong.
              Murders, suicides, accidental deaths, deaths due to misadventure are not classified as natural causes.

              1. Depends on who’s doing the classifying. If a person is in the way of a bullet’s path (whether murder, suicide, or accident) the cause of death is injury due to penetration by solid object. That’s all ordinary physics, nothing supernatural about it.

        2. “As long as we have agreed-on, honest, estimates of transmission rates, mortality and morbidity, economic costs, damage to education, etc. then those should be, of course, inputs to the decision-making process. ”

          Bernard,
          The difficulty is that those quantities are not agreed on or at least have large statistical errors attached and often unevaluated systematic errors.

          1. That’s true. But we have to make do with the best honest estimates we can make, allowing for the error.

            Start by taking out the policy-oriented BS, of which there will surely be some (on both sides of the discussion.)

    2. “science’s observable and provable claims”

      Apply this statement to the science of transgenderism.

      1. Questions:

        1) What is it you think “the science of transgenderism” is?

        2) Do you think there are observable and provable claims about transgenderism or gender or sex or human biology? If so, how did you come to these observable and provable claims?

        1. Transgenderism defines gender as how one identifies.

          Hypothetical:

          A naked male with a penis enters the female shower at the public pool. The little girls shriek, the naked male calms them and says “I belong here, I believe I am a woman.”

          How does a 3rd party observe that belief? How does one nullify their claim?

          I assume you accept that empiricism and nullification are foundational to science.

          1. “How does a 3rd party observe that belief?”

            I can’t tell what pointless pedantry this is, but I assume the shrieking girl observed the belief when she heard the subject say it.

            “How does one nullify their claim?”

            Read the sentence you wrote starting with “A naked…” very slowly.

            1. Obviously science says the girl is a bigot because she has not been trained (brainwashed) near enough to cleanse her of those thoughts. More brainwashing is clearly necessary.

              1. “Obviously science says[…]”
                Obviously science has nothing to say about the entire matter.

                1. Shut up you anti-sciencier!

                  1. Is it opposite day already?

            2. A naked male with a penis can be a real authentic woman if he believes himself to be.

              His words are not his belief. A belief is something one holds in their consciousness. Something unobservable.

              1. I see now. You’re right. Science can’t speak to things that are unobservable. Like angels, ghosts, or what you think a “belief” is.

          2. I’m not sure what the scientific issue is supposed to be in the hypo. It’s a question of weighing the man’s desire to feel accepted as a woman vs the girls desire not to shower with someone that they perceive as a man.

            Of course, there is plenty of scientism surrounding trans issues on both sides, such as “science says we should base our pronoun usage on people’s chromosomes” or “science says gender is a spectrum” or whatever.

            1. “I’m not sure what the scientific issue is supposed to be in the hypo.”

              Whatever causes the man to want to be accepted as a woman, or the girl desiring not to shower with someone they perceive as a man, is based on objective, biological facts about the two. She perceives as a man why? Because he has a penis. That’s biology. He wants to be a woman. Why? I don’t fucking know, but presumably it has something to do with the squishy thing in his skull.

              Why is it so important that he be in the bathroom? Is the likelihood he will commit suicide higher if he is not allowed to be treated like a woman? That’s an empirical question. Why does she not want to be in a bathroom with a penis? Is it because that will increase incidents of rape? Empirical question. Is it ickyness? Ok well we should endeavor to figure out what the effect of ickyness is on life outcomes. And not with prayer.

              1. All true, and relatively trivial. Maybe it’s not much of a hypo.

            2. Gender identity is not scientific.

              We can’t peer into ones mind and observe a belief.

              We also cannot nullify a belief.

              1. You keep trying to switch the discussion from the phenomenon to a hypothetical individual.

                That’s a pretty needed slight of hand to pull off your nonsense, eh?

              2. “Gender identity is not scientific”

                Seems like a fertile ground for scientific inquiry.

                “We can’t peer into ones mind and observe a belief.”

                Several thousand years ago we invented this technology called “language” which does, in fact, allow some investigation of what’s in a person’s mind.

          3. “Hypothetical:

            A naked male with a penis enters the female shower at the public pool. The little girls shriek, the naked male calms them and says ‘I belong here, I believe I am a woman.’”

            Counter-hypothetical:

            A naked male with a penis enters the female shower at the public pool. Nobody pays it much attention, and everybody accomplishes what they were there to do, and leaves without fuss.

            Why does any third-party take an interest in these events?

            1. Usually because of counter-hypothetical 3

              A naked male with a penis enters the female shower at the public pool. He then overpowers and sexually assaults a little girl

              1. Enough about your rich fantasy life.

            2. Do you think women have a right to bodily privacy or can anyone see their naked bodies?

              1. Neither of those options is true.

  10. The notorious quack, Fauci, refused to quarantine the early AIDS patients. He allowed an epidemic that cost $trillion and killed 20 million people. During this election, this Democrat dunce supported locking down normal people. That economic lockdown for the purpose of defeating Trump, and to destroy his economic achievements, cost the world $4 trillion in lost GDP. It will cause 130 million to starve. This expert caused the biggest enocide in history, in the shortest time.

  11. I had a very interesting conversation with a Geologist at a university once.

    We were talking about ways to extract coal from reserves deep within mountains. His answer was that it was an easy process. Using high explosives or a controlled nuclear explosion would easily open up these pockets and produce years if not decades worth of coal resources for the United States.

    Many were taken aback by his extreme statements and asked what about the environmental impact or other such negative side effects of such a tactic. His answer was simple, “I am a Geologist. You asked me how to get to the coal reserves. I gave you an answer that solves your problem. It isn’t my job is answer those other questions.”

    And this is why we don’t let “scientists” drive our public policy.

    1. Ask a scientist an engineering question and you’ll get crap answers like that.

      1. Ask a scientist an engineering question and you’ll get crap answers like that.

        Yup — just as in this year’s societal engineering debacle.

      2. “Ask a scientist an engineering question and you’ll get crap answers like that.”

        Yup. That’s why we don’t just defer decision-making to scientists.

        1. No one here seems to be disputing that.

          The left is saying don’t ignore the cost-benefit facts science is providing, and the right is saying that’s just scientists making policy via scientism.

          It’s not a very good debate.

          1. I don’t think there is much of a debate to the fact that science can add to public policy. But it shouldn’t make public policy and we shouldn’t rely on those narrowly trained to investigate certain subjects to be “sages of public policy.”

            1. Way to prove how we’re talking past each other. That is literally what I said:

              the right is saying that’s just scientists making policy via scientism.

              1. “the right is saying that’s just scientists making policy via scientism.”

                Can you point to someone on the right who is saying that, Sarcastro? I would point you to your buddy Kirkland, who believes that all his value judgements are the product of science and exalted reason, and anybody who disagrees with him is a superstitions clinger.

                1. 12″
                  I whistle for a foul. Asking anyone to defend Kirkland is manifestly unsportsmanlike conduct

                  1. TY much.

                    That kind of nutpicking we can all do without.

          2. “The left is saying don’t ignore the cost-benefit facts science is providing, and the right is saying that’s just scientists making policy via scientism.”

            That may be your perception. Other people perceive that the right is saying don’t ignore the cost-benefit facts science is providing, and the left is saying let’s defer our decision making to scientists.

            But no matter who is saying what, the argument is against the claim that we can rely on science to make policy, not the claim that we should use science to inform our value judgements when we make policy.

            1. ” the argument is against the claim that we can rely on science to make policy, not the claim that we should use science to inform our value judgements when we make policy.”

              Except for the people who are for the claim that you should ignore whatever arguments are against what we want to do, and if those arguments are informed by science that doesn’t mean we should pay them any attention, because scientists are all in a conspiracy against us.

              1. Whether the output of institutions that purport to engage in scientific inquiry is reliable is an entirely different question. But a valid one.

                1. So much for “Creation Science”…

          3. The left is saying…
            The right is saying…

            LOL! This from the lying sack who is always tut-tutting about others painting with such broad brushes.

    2. Did the Geologist actually advocate blowing holes in mountains or did he simply say that this is how it could be done if anyone wanted to do it?

      1. What are you, one of those leftists who wants to drag detail and nuance into everything? What we need is policy goals that fit on bumper stickers, not carefully formulated policy positions that take actual reality into account!

    3. What the world and public policy needs is more of Jimmy the Dane’s folk wisdom. GMAFB

      1. “What the world and public policy needs is more of Jimmy the Dane’s folk wisdom.”

        I agree!

        1. That’s one of us.

          1. I once had a conversation with a pollack who said the same thing too!

            1. Talking fish. That’s cool.

              1. Talking fish. That’s cool.

                “Pollock” = a fish.
                “Pollack” = not a fish.

                1. Actually,
                  Pollock = someone who lives near the water

            2. could it spell better than you can?
              j/k, obviously it could.

  12. Why is all scientism always supportive of left wing causes? What a coincidence. Why has all scientism been wrong 90% of the time, eg, the Population Bomb. Things have never been better in the world. Scientism is a masking ideology for Marxism, and is almost always wrong.

    1. Because the left are the ones trying to push people into accepting things. Everyone else — middle, right, and other — want you to make up your own mind and mostly to choose for yourself.

    2. The scientific investigation of Everything-is-a-social-construct(TM) has been dangerous and led to factual conclusions that doesn’t at all support the hypothesis. No the less, people still incorporate this mumbo-jumbo into diversity philosophy (except when it comes to sexual preference that is not a social construct apparently.)

    3. “Why is all scientism always supportive of left wing causes? What a coincidence.”

      Because you ignore the cases that don’t fit your preferred narrative about how everyone’s against you?

  13. One explanation for the leftist bias of scientism is that academics depend on government funding. They are rent seeking, tax sucking parasites. Their statistics and conclusions will always support the expansion of government power and higher taxation.

    1. “One explanation for the leftist bias of scientism is that academics depend on government funding.”

      Except where they don’t. Why does anyone care about Silicon Valley? Because of all the large corporations that operate there. Why do they operate there? Because it’s near Stanford University. A good research university is an engine of economic development.

  14. I hope we’ll see more of this thinking in public debate. Lockdowns are an unfortunate but good example of where science can answer some questions about hazards and expected outcomes, but cannot complete the risk analysis and policy choices.

    1. “Lockdowns are an unfortunate but good example of where science can answer some questions about hazards and expected outcomes”

      If you start by assuming that the course of action that should be taken is the one that minimizes the spread of infectious disease (based on whatever policy manipulation leads you to decide that more people dying is bad), then science can and does give guidance on how to limit the spread of infectious disease.
      If you haven’t bought into the whole “more dead people = bad” thing, or attach a corollary of “unless it keeps me from doing something I really wanna do”, then there’s nothing that science can do for you.

  15. Any science that touches some left-wing policy issue has already been corrupted.

    Just look at any scientific topic where debate is verboten.

    e.g.

    Man made climate change
    Homosexuality
    Transgenderism

    In fact, they’ll erase decades of science and well accepted facts such as the notion that adopted kids have worse outcomes than kids in natural families. Completely erased once homosexuals wanted to appropriate normal culture.

    Down the memory are also the studies that show orientation can change. Completely erased to support the political need for someone to be “born that way”.

    Completely ignored was the APAs position that this whole reduction of stigma for transes was really a grand treatment hypothesis based upon the reduction of stigma for the gays. Even though the reduction of stigma hasn’t produced the outcomes they desire, homosexuals still suffer worse outcomes than normal people. Even with all this tolerance and acceptance.

    And look at what happens when a researcher doesn’t support the AGW narrative. They get burned at the stake.

    Science without debate isn’t science.

    1. “…they’ll erase decades of science and well accepted facts…”

      Would you say that the matter had been settled, by science, prior to the new science?

      1. I think there isn’t much in science that is completely and ultimately and finally settled once and for all.

        Kids needing mommies and daddies is pretty close to that standard though. But that got erased.

        1. “Kids needing mommies and daddies…”

          Setting aside “needing”, are you sure the science is settled that children of gay parents fare worse than children with biological mommies and daddies? If so, can you share the evidence?

          1. Or that children of single parents or of step-parents fare worse than children of biological parents. You can easily make an argument that most children of single parents are disadvantaged by lowered economic earning capacity of the single parent they’re left with, but the same is true of single-earner households with two parents.

            Kids need “mommies and daddies” at the point of conception, and after that they need mommies for seven to nine months and then are dependent on others for approximately 18 years. (YMMV)

            1. Children of single parents and in blended families did do worse.

              Until politics needed a different outcome.

              1. “Children of single parents and in blended families did do worse.”

                Do worse than what? What are you comparing them to, and what defines “worse”?

                1. Oh, it seems your claim was rectally-sourced.

          2. They claim adopted children actually fare better with gay parents.

            Adopted children, as a class, up until now, had poorer outcomes. Apparently gay adoptive parents are some sort of super parent hitherto unforeseen in human history.

            1. “They claim adopted children actually fare better with gay parents.”

              Who is “they” and “fare better” than what?

              1. I see. More rectal sourcing. Never mind, then.

        2. Your choice of language as ‘mommies and daddies’ is a clue you’re not actually talking about science, but wallowing culture.

          1. More tone policing from you. Something I genuinely don’t give a crap about.

            1. So why should anyone give a crap about what you think?

            2. Oh, use whatever tone you want. It just tells us something about where you’re really coming from.

    2. Don’t even mention demographic correlation with any sort of ability.

    3. Science says that every cell of the trans has an XY chromosome. The forced acceptance of a false belief is the imposition of a mental illness on others.

      1. If every trans had XY in their 46th chromosome pair, this would be true. But those pesky scientists won’t just take your word for it that it IS true, and feel the need to check.

      2. “Science says that every cell of the trans has an XY chromosome. The forced acceptance of a false belief is the imposition of a mental illness on others.”

        Let’s count the mistakes here.

        1. there is no such thing as an XY chromosome.
        Most human cells come with 46 chromosomes in 23 pairs. “XY” refers to a pair of chromosomes.
        .
        2. Science knows that some human cells are diploid, and some are haploid. The haploid cells have exactly half the chromosomes that the diploid cells have. In other words, no pairs, and specifically, no “XY” pairs.

        3. Trans men have “XX” pairs, not “XY”. If they had “XY” pairs they’d just be men, not trans men.

        4. Lecturing anybody about “false belief” when you don’t understand anything is foolish, not mental illness (although mental illness can’t be ruled out.)

    4. “In fact, they’ll erase decades of science and well accepted facts such as the notion that adopted kids have worse outcomes than kids in natural families. Completely erased once homosexuals wanted to appropriate normal culture.”

      Surely all those fairy tales with evil stepmothers are well-accepted facts sufficient to show that children have worse outcomes with adopted parents than the ones who have their natural parents.

    5. “Any science that touches some left-wing policy issue has already been corrupted.”

      By rightwingers’ intense desire that left-wing policy can’t possibly ever be right.

    6. “Just look at any scientific topic where debate is verboten.”

      There aren’t any scientific topic where debate is verboten. Just areas where people who don’t have facts aren’t welcome to offer their ideological perspective. Your fantasy turns not to not be just as good as the actual scientists’ fact.

    7. IOW, if scientific conclusions don’t support Sam’s ideas they are wrong.

      That’s pretty much his argument.

  16. This is obvious to any rational person.

    1. And to ML, as well.

  17. From an economic perspective paying reparations to descendants of American slaves would be a no-brainer in 2021…but we won’t do it because many Americans are racists and would rather cut off their nose to spite their face.

    1. Those people need to repay us for their high bastardy, high crime and high dependency rates. They owe us $trillions in damages.

    2. From an economic perspective…please explain.

      1. Stimulus. So Keynes spoke of burying jars of money for people to find and Milton Friedman spoke of helicopter drops and you are doing those things to increase aggregate demand. So if the goal is stimulus in order to increase aggregate demand descendants of American slaves just so happens to be a tailor made group to target due to high % people living paycheck to paycheck. So guess what people that live paycheck to paycheck do?? Spend money which ends up in the pockets of productive Americans.

        1. Sigh. Stimulus isn’t like beer.

          1. It doesn’t “trickle down”?

  18. Science isn’t usually all that great at showing what we should do. But science can be very very useful for identifying things we should not do.

  19. People who don’t know how climate models work: “If you don’t believe in climate model predictions, you’re ignorant.”

  20. And not a single mention of Asimov.

    1. “And not a single mention of Asimov.”

      Which is significant because?

  21. As Bertrand Russell famously said, he believed that his dislike of broccolli is a different kind of dislike from his dislike of torture, but he could see no way to prove this.

    Behavior we would consider morally abhorrent, from rape to cannibalism, is perfectly normal in other species and there’s no scientific basis for saying it shouldn’t be normal in ours.

    There are people who can start with existing values and then work backwards and come up with plausible-sounding evolutionary based reasons why. But if they started with different existing values, they could come up with other evolution-based narratives to create equally plausible-sounding stories to explain those as well, much as different theologians can ground different present-day values or courses of action in different parts of the same sacred text. The stories sound plausible, but they are not falsifiable. They are not science.

    1. Behavior we would consider morally abhorrent, from rape to cannibalism, is perfectly normal in other species and there’s no scientific basis for saying it shouldn’t be normal in ours.

      Oh, there you go spoiling the next act.

  22. What science is often good at is assessing the consequences of proposed course of action, the prices that we will need to pay for different alternatives. But even there, our ability to predict the future and understand the consequences of our actions is often less than we think it is.

    1. Yes, the law of unintended consequences. 🙂

  23. Science, of course, is value-neutral, but can provide solutions to problems for some, and problems to solutions for others. The latter is where scientism comes in. For example, Natural gas from fracking and nuclear power could significantly reduce carbon emissions without a huge cost to our electric bills or mobility , but the progs don’t like them because they conflict with their preference for hippy dippy wind and solar. So they find “scientists” who will support them as the only legitimate scientific solution. It’s the tail wagging the dog.

    1. Of course, hippy-dippy solar power IS nuclear power, as the scientists would point out for you. They also might take issue with your claim that natural gas from fracking reduces carbon emissions, on the technical point that it does exactly the opposite.

        1. For which claim, that the sun operates by nuclear reaction, or that burning natural gas releases carbon dioxide? Or are you just clutching at straws?

          1. The nuclear fusion that powers the sun has yet to be replicated on earth.

            Yes, burning natural gas emits carbon dioxide-I never said otherwise, but half as much as coal. Not perfect, but it has helped reduce emissions more than anything else.

            Going by your snarkiness, you sound like you can’t be older than 12

            1. “The nuclear fusion that powers the sun has yet to be replicated on earth. ”

              Unless you count all the times that it has.

              “Yes, burning natural gas emits carbon dioxide-I never said otherwise”

              Except when you did. You said fracking natural gas would reduce carbon emissions, without raising your electric bill.

              ” Not perfect, but it has helped reduce emissions more than anything else. ”

              Unless you count the various “anything else”‘s that don’t release any carbon emissions, such as hydroelectric, hippy-dippy wind, and hippy-dippy solar arrays.

              “Going by your snarkiness, you sound like you can’t be older than 12”
              Going by your choice to double-down when you were wrong, your IQ can’t be higher than 12.

      1. By your logic T-Bone steaks come from solar power. Cows take sunshine and turn it into tasty protien.

        1. some interesting science you have there in Iowa. How long have cows been photosynthesizing proteins?

      2. “Of course, hippy-dippy solar power IS nuclear power…”

        No, solar power is not nuclear power. Not in this context.

        1. It’s power that comes from nuclear reactions. In what context is nuclear power not nuclear power?

          1. You are perhaps conflating nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. If it matters.

            1. fission and fusion are both nuclear reactions. If you are near where the reaction is happening, the difference might be quite significant. This is why we keep the Sun around one Astronomical Unit away from all habitable portions of Earth.

  24. “Science cannot settle all policy debates.”

    It cannot settle any policy debates.
    The scientific method is a tool for discovering truth. It has nothing to do with procedures of decision-making.
    It is axiomatic that informed decision-making outperforms uninformed decision-making, but gathering information is still a different step from using it.

  25. Scientism is value-laden politico-religion using PC-comporting models and stats in service to an eco-social Progressive technocracy to come. It brooks no dissent, because it is the Truthiness, as the Media tells us so unrelentingly. Shut up, they say, if you question anything, because you must be ignorant, while we have the models and numbers on our side.

    If you remember the dubious hockey stick model and corrupted data of the University of East Anglia climate change emails, you’d never take at face Neil Ferguson’s ridiculous and devastating model of Covid mortality, nor any of the stats collected and collated since then.

    Misinformation, lies, and verifiable statistics are differentiated with impartial rigor in real Science, and even then are never used to declare any science as “settled.” Legitimate science has its practioners in constant, good faith debate and ready to admit the unknowables, inadequacies, and failings, along with conjecture and hypothesis. Real scientists don’t fall back upon credentials and political bullying to bolster their findings.

    But science as we once thought we knew it has been captured by emotion and team politics, (perhaps has always been thus?), and, additionally, is becoming undermined and untrustworthy by way of working on behalf of vested interests through State, Corporation, and University directed research, grant-funding, and profit-sharing.

    Needing mention, also, are the peer-reviewing, paradigm-controlling publications in Science with their own political or financial interests which, these days, trend strongly in line with the prevailing techno-political fashion.

    If you can’t question it without being vilified and being called a “denier” who should be censored or imprisoned, if you can’t ask it to take us through the evidence and proofs, if you cannot audit its data or point out its inconsistencies and instances of corruption, if other scientists and doctors who disagree are shunted aside or discredited without data-sharing and genuine discourse, it isn’t Science.

    Facts are slippery commodities. Funny how often we rely upon mythical empirical miracle and call it an antidote to Superstition and Religion, when practicing Scientism.

  26. I have disagreed with Phd’s in my area of expertise. They are never 100% correct, and to often fail spectacularly. I pointed out a simple math error to an entomologist, that panned the effectiveness of Bt corn. Opting for a scout and treat, ‘integrated pest management” science based solution. Their math problem was the 80% efficacy of IPM, vs the 99% efficacy of the Bt GMO event. Scientist have extreme tunnel vision and often lack basic knowledge of ALL periphery sciences.

    1. in my area of expertise

      Which rather speaks for science, rather than against it, eh?

      1. What was the Gipper’s line … ‘Trust but Verify’?

        I have a book, the title is something about ‘Innumeracy’, sorry, too lazy to dig it out and get the exact title. In the foreword the author describes the worst case he had ever heard. It was in 2000 or so, and he was at a PhD defense. And the candidate mentioned in passing, ‘Child deaths from gun violence have doubled every year since 1950’.

        I’m just a dweeb with a B.S., but I know for darn sure we don’t have 2**50 child deaths annually … among other reasons, we don’t have 2**50 children. That’s off by many orders of magnitude. That someone was getting a science PhD w/o realizing that number had to be waaaaayyyy off …

        I have a well founded sense of my ignorance – I’m not the world’s leading authority on anything. But OTOH I’m going to critically examine every source, no matter their credentials. Richard Feynman explaining the finer points of quantum electrodynamics …, OK, I’m all ears. The CDC saying, early on, ‘masks only work for nurses, not for anyone else’. Uh huh.

        That’s aside from the fact that science changes. I was going to post earlier that in high school I read Wegener’s book on continental drift and was totally convinced. My geology teacher – who had a geol degree, wasn’t. He had lots of company – at the time, the consensus was just passing 50% that continental drift was accurate. Now, of course, it’s fundamental to geology. Somewhere in this thread there is a link to a Crichton essay which mentions that, inter alia; if you haven’t read it it’s worth the time. Science has been wrong over and over (one of many examples from the essay – beri beri was long thought to be an infectious disease, rather than a vitamin deficiency, even in the face of strong evidence). ‘Settled science’ is kind of an oxymoron; by definition science means throwing out the current wisdom when new evidence comes along. Skepticism ought to be baked into every scientist’s bones.

        1. Sure, scientists screw up.

          But they are trained in protocols and principles that will make them less likely to be wrong than a random person. Sure, try and verify if you happen on some kind of math you *can* verify, but that’s not going to happen very often.

          All the people on here eschewing experts and relying on their common sense/intuition/gut are legit ignoring facts in favor of their feelings.
          And I will note all those people are not on the left. The left abuses science some, but it doesn’t have this war on expertise leading to some of the sillier posts on here.

          1. “But they are trained in protocols and principles that will make them less likely to be wrong than a random person. Sure, try and verify if you happen on some kind of math you *can* verify, but that’s not going to happen very often.”

            This is a topic too big for a blog comment, but scientists are people, who frequently have motives/incentives that aren’t completely saintly. I’ll just leave you with this as a starting point (not the best source, but accessible).

            “And I will note all those people are not on the left. The left abuses science some, but it doesn’t have this war on expertise leading to some of the sillier posts on here.”

            If ‘here’ means ‘the VC’ … let’s remember, say, some of the discussions about the likely impact of shall issue CCW laws. I recall a lot of people offering ‘blood in the streets/shootouts over parking spaces’ arguments. Now, that might have been a reasonable predictive guess when the first few dozen states switched – but it was still being confidently offered when states #40, 41, 42, … were switching. That was long after there was hard data that emphatically disagreed with that position.

            1. Oh, I know. I’m currently reading Laboratory Life.

              My point is that this is a differential decision. Scientists, however flawed, are working with a technological and methodological toolset that others are not. Are they always right? Not hardly. But they are more likely to be correct that some rando. And that’s why they should be consulted when making policy decisions.

              Your example isn’t really a war on expertise, is it? It’s just an opinion you don’t think comports with the facts, not attacking the messenger and elevating your horse-sense BS detector as the one true factfinder. Which is all over the place on the right. Not just here.

              1. “Scientists, however flawed, are working with a technological and methodological toolset that others are not.”

                Maybe that depends on who you are classifying as a ‘scientist’. For example, consider the scandal around the Cornell Food Science p-hacking scandal. He was a professor at a prestigious university, and I’m a dweeb with a B.S. in stats … but I know what he was doing wasn’t science. Anyone who has takes Stats 101 knows that. So, no, I’m not going to get all doe-eyed and think, well, he’s the scientist, and I’m not, so he must be right. Scientists, like Catholic priests, aren’t above suspicion, alas.

                If you define ‘scientist’ as ‘everyone who looks at the evidence and forms their guesses about how the world works based on the observable evidence, as opposed to blind faith in something’, then, sure, I’ll agree. But that mindset isn’t all that strongly correlated with credentials.

                (I couldn’t really understand your final paragraph, fwiw)

                1. I don’t understand why you think that anecdote is generalizable at any kind of scale.

                  I define scientist by their profession and training – i.e. access to protocols and methods others do not have. Citizen scientists are great, but without peer review there’s a crapload of chaff in with that wheat.

                  1. “I don’t understand why you think that anecdote is generalizable at any kind of scale.”

                    “A survey by Nature revealed that 52% of researchers believed there was a “significant reproducibility crisis” and 38% said there was a “slight crisis”. Source: phys.org.

                    “access to protocols and methods others do not have.”

                    Say whut? Observing the world around you and testing hypotheses against those observations is open to all.

                    “without peer review there’s a crapload of chaff in with that wheat”

                    Unfortunately, even with peer review there seems to be a lot of chaff.

                    1. …con’t because of link limit

                      For example, weren’tBrian Wansink’s studies peer reviewed?

                      Vox link, just for you 🙂

                    2. “Unfortunately, even with peer review there seems to be a lot of chaff.”

                      Indeed there is. This is a side effect of people with agendas that don’t require strict adherence to reality. So, for example, you get tobacco interests publishing claims that smoking is not unhealthy, and ditto for sugar interests claiming that sugar is not linked to health issues, and fossil fuel extractors not wanting to find out that burning fossil fuels causes noticeable climate change, and so on and so on.

                2. One of the toolsets that scientists have is haven taken Stats 101. When someone who lacks the tools tries to “correct” the stats, the problem is less likely the professional scientist and more likely the ideological objector to whatever-it-is that the scientist has found that doesn’t match the ideology.

              2. (not a specific reply, but I thought I’d address why I am kind of on a tear with this topic)

                For millennia, humans asked priests why things were, or uncritically read some ancient text. Then there were the first glimmerings of what came to be called science – look at the evidence, make a hypothesis, test it. That war was fought from Galileo to the Scopes trial, and science won. Science became the goose that lays the golden eggs – germ theory, antibiotics, vaccines, anesthetics making surgery practical, radio, airplanes, the industrial revolution. In a century we moved out of plumbing-free shacks into suburbia. It is an unbelievable leap of progress. People got in the habit of believing the scientists because their magic worked, over and over. But then maybe a little hubris crept in … DDT, Thalidomide, Atoms for Peace. And post WWII, science became a big business, and popularized. Instead of scientists working in obscurity, they could become celebrities. I remember reading Erlich’s newly published ‘The Population Bomb’ and being terrified about the nasty end just ahead. I mean, he’s a Stanford prof, he must be right, right? Well, ooooops.

                And science became something that the news reported on routinely. So you see a headline ‘Coffee prevents toenail fungus!!!’. If you dig, you find out that some prof doing the publish or perish thing p-hacked a study of 20 people, and a barely significant result for coffee was all he could squeeze out. And the J-School stats whiz doesn’t know any better, and breathlessly reports it as gospel. Unfortunately, next year there will be another headline ‘Coffee causes toenail fungus!!!’ as the statistical odds even out. All of us have personally experienced this – coffee is/isn’t good for cancer/heart disease, the safest sweetener in cola is sugar/saccharine/aspartame/a couple of others/back to sugar. Etc, etc.

                Credibility is hard to acquire and easy to lose. I really worry that sloppy science (and sloppy science reporting) is eroding the hard won confidence the public has in science. That would be a tragedy of the first order.

                I don’t see it as a short term political issue; I’m worried people will hear enough conflicting ‘science’ – and especially so when, eventually, something that is ‘settled science’ is proven to be bunk. For example, as recently as the 70’s there were scientists predicting a new ice age from pollution reflecting solar rays. Fortunately that didn’t turn into a political litmus test, but imagine that it had, with new ice age supporters claiming ‘settled science’ and ‘ice age deniers’ claiming the world wasn’t going to freeze … what would the public be thinking now?

                I guess I am old enough to have seen various ‘settled science’ topics get completely overturned. Feynman famously said ‘If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong’. Nothing in science is settled; you never want to have ‘faith in science’. You want to always stand ready to throw it all in the dustbin when new evidence emerges.

                1. “Credibility is hard to acquire and easy to lose. I really worry that sloppy science (and sloppy science reporting) is eroding the hard won confidence the public has in science. That would be a tragedy of the first order.”

                  The main problem is in science education. The focus is on the facts of whatever, instead of spending time developing how we know the facts.

        2. “Scientists are sometimes wrong” does not imply, “We should ignore what scientists say and rely on our own opinions instead.”

          That’s what an awful lot of the argument here sounds like. “This Ph. D. said something dumb, so don’t tell me the earth isn’t flat.”

        3. ” Science has been wrong over and over (one of many examples from the essay – beri beri was long thought to be an infectious disease, rather than a vitamin deficiency, even in the face of strong evidence”

          Go find a collection of Asimov’s science columns from the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, then find the specific one titled “The relativity of wrong”. The history of science has a good number of mistaken ideas: phlogiston, luminiferous ether, Larmarckian evolotion as examples, but the historical trend is that they get more and more accurate with time.

      2. It gets pretty deep into the weeds, but the reasons behind the “scientists” position had little to do with a simple mistake, but rather a blind adherence to IPM, “integrated pest management” due to PC anti chemical stance of land grant universities. Again, making this much less nuanced than it really is, the scientists were ignoring the science in favor of an old standard. A standard that was a sop to environmentalists

        1. Sure, that happens. See also the lack of studies of nuclear power, and even the initial screwup about masks in the US.

          But that doesn’t mean we roll in assuming each scientific finding that we don’t like or find odd must be wrong. Which a lot of people around here do.

          1. “Which a lot of people around here do.”

            Which a lot of people everywhere do. The mask think is a case in point. I have used N100 masks for years for welding, sanding drywall, etc. I haven’t had a professional fitting, training, or anything else – I just read the directions on the package. And, with apologies for being a little gross, they work, and you get experimental verification of that when you blow your nose after a welding session with/without a mask.

            So when I heard the ‘masks only protect nurses, not normal people’ line, my immediate reaction was ‘bollocks’. But friends from across the political spectrum we’re all ‘no, that’s what the CDC says, they must be right, because science'[1].

            When science says ‘the sun rises in the east’, there isn’t anything anti-science about going out tomorrow morning and checking for yourself. In fact, doing so is the essence of science. Skepticism isn’t anti-science, it is the living heart of science.

            [1]In fact, the L friends were a bit more likely to think that, because I think that my R friends were a bit more likely to have used masks themselves.

            1. when I heard the ‘masks only protect nurses, not normal people’ line

              Funny. That’s not what I heard. What I heard was that there was severe shortage of N95 masks, and it was best to let medical professionals who were treating Covid patients use the ones available. This was confirmed to me, by the way, by a friend who is an ER doc, and was reusing masks against the usual restrictions.

              1. “when I heard the ‘masks only protect nurses, not normal people’ line”

                Oddly, I never heard that line before now, and it sounds like something you’d make up to support your position.

              2. Here is the surgeon general:

                “They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”

                Let’s unpack that. Do you agree we have a high government official saying that masks “are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus”?

                Do you think that it’s fair to read “if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!” as implying that masks work to protect medical people?

                1. Still sounds like something you just made up to support your position. If anything, even moreso with you doubling down on it.

            2. Except you are doing skepticism wrong. Skepticism when you cannot validate is just substituting your own gut for science. Your sun example is where you can validate. That’s not what we’re talking about here.

              What I heard was that masks were not useful, due to a 2009 study. And ignoring a crapload of studies from Japan and China because they were biased towards masks. This study was later shown to be flawed as later studies came out.

              You know, science.

              1. “What I heard was that masks were not useful, due to a 2009 study.”

                To be clear, that study said that
                1)masks were effective for medical personnel, and
                2)weren’t effective for anyone else?

                I’d love to understand the physics there.

                FWIW, I spent a couple of days reading mask studies early on. None, of course, were about covid yet – they were all about flu. I found a couple of dozen. They results varied quite a bit. The general conclusion was that a lot of the medical professionals (mostly nurses) ended up touching faces behind the mask, taking them off to use a phone, etc, and so on, and that made for a lot of confounding.

                But none of them posited a mechanism where they worked differently for nurses and the general population.

                1. “But none of them posited a mechanism where they worked differently for nurses and the general population.”

                  Until you came along, to spread this story…

                2. “1)masks were effective for medical personnel, and
                  2)weren’t effective for anyone else?

                  I’d love to understand the physics there.”

                  tools work for people who know how to use them correctly.

    2. “I have disagreed with Phd’s in my area of expertise.”

      would that be about whether cows photosynthesize proteins?

  27. My favorite example is Breyer’s claim that certain words might be less protected by the first amendment than other words because they supposedly originate in a different part of the brain than other words. Of course, what part of the brain words originate in has nothing to do with the first amendment.

    1. Was he talking about fighting words or something else?

    2. Your favorite example of what?

      And do you have a cite?

    3. You are misrepresenting what Breyer wrote. I’m not surprised.

      First, the case was not about barring the use of some words, it was about whether the statute barring the PTO from registering “trademarks that “[c]onsist[ ] of or comprise[ ] immoral[ ] or scandalous matter,” violated the 1A. While Breyer thinks this is OK he limits this to the actual registration.

      How much harm to First Amendment interests does a bar on registering highly vulgar or obscene trademarks work? Not much. The statute leaves businesses free to use highly vulgar or obscene words on their products, and even to use such words directly next to other registered marks. Indeed, a business owner might even use a vulgar word as a trademark, provided that he or she is willing to forgo the benefits of registration.

      More important, he does not at all argue that it is the place in the brain where the words originate that is relevant, but their emotional impact. Further, that is only a part of his reasoning.

      The case is here.

  28. I sense a right-wing professor missing the point and trying to score some hollow points about liberals.

    ‘Follow the science’ frequently is heard from those properly exasperated by dullards and knuckle-draggers whose belligerent ignorance derives from silly disdain for science, expertise, credentials, experience, reason, and the reality-based world.

    1. Do you know any actual scientists, Reverend, or are they all just idealized superheros you jerk off to?

      I’ve known many, and I’m afraid you would be dissapointed to hear that one enjoyed going to strip clubs and smoking, another had a gun collection, and several were very devout religious people. All are very successful scientists though-they publish and get grants.

      1. Wow! They publish and get grants? That is successful!

        1. Defining success, is tricky, so you provide the accepted metric, that will be easy for anybody. I have understood research scientist operate under a ‘publish or parish’ system of meritocracy. So being published regualarly and attaining grants, seems like a good measure of a successful a ‘scientist’.

          1. Is, “publish or parish,” a suggested method to unify the nation’s divisions, by uniting fans of science with fans of religion? If so, it could be improved. You could call it, “publish and parish.”

            1. Publish and parish is how science is done in Louisiana, a leftover relic of their history as part of the French dominions rather than the other states’ history as English colonies*

              *void in the Southwest, obviously, because of the Spanish history, and in Hawaii, because all 8 islands were the Kingdom of Hawai’i before becoming part of the U.S., and Alaska which used to be Russian.

  29. Re: RALK at 7:22 pm

    Just like a moth to a flame, RALK.

    “…ignorance derives from silly disdain for science, expertise, credentials, experience, reason, and the reality-based world…”

    The compulsory sterilization movement in the US had scientists and advocates that excelled in expertise, credentials, experience, and reason. Following the “science” drove that policy, which was adopted by many states.

    The same goes for a very different area, that being how the Kaibab Plateau deer heard irrupted and then crashed due to starvation in the 1910s/1920s. It was a political decision to create the Kaibab game preserve, but federal government scientists provided the scientific “umph” for the decision by the US Forest Service to remove nature predators on a large scale (much larger than had been accomplished by farmers and ranchers), and prohibit the hunting of mule deer. Funny how several non-scientists at the time predicted what would happen when a lack of predators and a ban on almost all hunting would lead to.

    Try -reading- the article (perhaps again), RALK.

    1. Science is not always correct. Therefore we should act like science is never correct.

      1. Re: Sarcastr0 @ 9:41 pm – Uh, if that’s what you conclude from the post, then I wish you well.

        The main takeaway is to maintain a healthy skepticism of science based decision-making where the scientists involved have a policy bias.

        1. How does a healthy skepticism operate? How do you validate science you’re skeptical of?

        2. “The main takeaway is to maintain a healthy skepticism of science based decision-making where the scientists involved have a policy bias.”

          the ideal takeaway is that science is a tool for finding facts, not a tool for making decisions. If someone is determined to make decisions without checking facts, then no amount of science can help them make better decisions.

        3. “The main takeaway is to maintain a healthy skepticism of science based decision-making where the scientists involved have a policy bias.”

          corollary: If the scientists are saying something you don’t want to hear, you can always just presume a policy bias and discount what they have to say because you just don’t like it.

    2. Kagami supplies a distorted account of a famous occurrence which was described better a long time ago by naturalist (and government scientist) Aldo Leopold.

      1. ????

        Kagami accurately reports the classic explanation popularized by Leopold.

        Ironically, the classic/Leopold explanation was deprecated starting maybe in the 70’s, but now seems to be being rehabilitated. This is getting off topic for a law blog, but here is one study that offers an overview.

        But always remember, as new data causes the theories to change, that the science is settled.

      2. Re: Stephen Lathrop @ 4:34 am

        It was described better by Leopold, as he changed his position on the science of deer / predator management over a period of 20-30 years data collection and research. In the 1920’s he was an advocate of the extirpation of wolves and mountain lions from large areas of the Western US and wrote publicly about it. He modified his position and parts of his “A Sand County Almanac” can be seen as part confessional that he had been very wrong about predator control.

        I believe he also understand later in his life that politics had pressured/influenced scientists for a desired recommendation and used that recommendation to implement a public policy that turned out to have unintended consequences (removal of predators being a contributing factor to irruptive cycles and subsequent starvation of deer).

        Leopold used more than science to come to some of the conclusions he did; he made value judgements on a land ethic being “right” based on several factors including “beauty”. I’m sure that to some here that makes him a slobbering clinger, but I see his position and his writings over the years as an acknowledgment that science alone is sometimes not sufficient to solve problems and select the desired course of action. In some cases (in the case of ungulate population dynamics and control -many- cases), science has gotten it horrifically wrong time after time.

  30. Anyone who wants preparation to discuss, “Scientism,” in government ought first to read Michael Oakeshott’s essay, “Rationalism in Politics.” It is a complicated subject, and Oakeshott nails it all. Google it, and buy it on Amazon.

  31. – Stephen Lathrop @ 4:38 am – thanks for the tip on Oakeshott, and ordered.

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