Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Science is for Stupid People

Every ideology needs to believe in its inevitability. Religions get their inevitability from prophecies; secular ideologies get theirs from the modernist fallacy.

The modernist fallacy says that history is moving on an inevitable track toward their ideology. Resistance is futile, you will be liberalized. Marxism predicted the inevitable breakdown of capitalism. Obama keeps talking about being “on the right side of history” as if history, like a university history curriculum, has a right side and a wrong side. All everyone has to do is grab a sign and march “Forward!” to the future.

The bad economics and sociology around which the left builds its Socialist sand castles assume that technological progress will mean improved control. Capitalism with its mass production convinced budding Socialists that the entire world could be run like a giant factory under technocrats who would use industrial techniques to control the economic production of mankind in line with their ideals.

The USSR and moribund European economies broke that theory into a million little pieces.

The dot com revolution with its databases and subtle tools for manipulating individuals on a collective basis led to a Facebook Socialism that crowdsources its culture wars and “nudges” everyone into better habits, lower body masses and conveniently available death panels.

The iSocialist, like his industrial predecessor, assumes that technology gives superintelligent leftists better tools for controlling everything. The planned economy failed in the twentieth because the tools of propaganda posters, quotas and gulags were too crude. This time he is certain that it will work.

Intelligence is to leftists what divine right was to the crowned kings of Europe. They frantically brand themselves as smart because in a technocracy, superiority comes from intelligence. Their vision is the right one because they are the smart ones. Their shiny future is backed by what they call “science”.

Science, the magic of the secular age, is their church. But science isn’t anyone’s church. Science is much better at disproving things than at proving them. It’s a useful tool for skeptics, but a dangerous tool for rulers. Like art, science is inherently subversive and like art, when it’s restricted and controlled, it stops being interesting.

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s defenders reacted to his basic errors by asserting that even if he had made a mistake, science, collectively, was right. Science is of course neither right nor wrong; its methodology can be used to determine whether something is right or wrong.

In Tyson’s case, science determined long ago that at least one of his claims was wrong. Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t embody science. No individual does. What Tyson embodies is manufactured intelligence. Manufactured intelligence is how we knew that Obama was smart. But manufactured intelligence has the same relationship to intelligence as a painting of the ocean does to the real thing.

The real ocean is complicated and messy. So is real intelligence. Manufactured intelligence is the fashion model playing a genius in a movie. Real intelligence is an awkward man obsessing over a handful of ideas, some of them ridiculously wrong, but one of which will change the world.

Real intelligence isn’t marketable because it doesn’t make an elite feel good about its power.

Biblical fake prophets were often preferred to real prophets because they made rulers feel comfortable about the future. The modern technoprophet assures a secular elite that it can effectively control people and that it even has the obligation to do so. It tells them that “science” is on their side.

The easy way to tell real religion from fake religion is that real religion doesn’t make you feel good. It doesn’t assure you that everything you’re doing is right and that you ought to keep on doing it.

The same holds true for science. Real science doesn’t make you feel smart. Fake science does.

No matter how smart you think you are, real science will make you feel stupid far more often than it will make you feel smart. Real science not only tells us how much more we don’t know than we know, a state of affairs that will continue for all of human history, but it tells us how fragile the knowledge that we have gained is, how prone we are to making childish mistakes and allowing our biases to think for us.

Science is a rigorous way of making fewer mistakes. It’s not very useful to people who already know everything. Science is for stupid people who know how much they don’t know.

A look back at the march of science doesn’t show an even line of progress led by smooth-talking popularizers who are never wrong. Instead the cabinets of science are full of oddballs, unqualified, jealous, obsessed and eccentric, whose pivotal discoveries sometimes came about by accident. Science, like so much of human accomplishment, often depended on lucky accidents to provide a result that could then be isolated and systematized into a useful understanding of the process.

Modernism is a style that offers a seamless vision of perfection that doesn’t exist. The accomplishments of our age haven’t changed human nature and they have not made us infallible.

Real science tells us that we are basically stupid. A close study of history proves it. And that’s a good thing. Stupid people can learn from their mistakes. Self-assured elites convinced of their own superior intelligence can’t. Everyone makes mistakes. The future belongs to those who recognize them.

The inability of Neil deGrasse Tyson and his defenders to acknowledge that he is wrong is a revealing look at the rotten core of the liberal elite which is incapable of admitting its errors, but sneers and smears its way out of a moral reckoning every time. Its ideology with its assumption of central control over lives and economies is too dependent on its own illusion of genius not to lie about its failures.

It is too big to fail and that makes its failure inevitable.

Tysonism is why ObamaCare suffered a disastrous launch, why the VA reorganization didn’t work and why we’re back in Iraq. Technocrats don’t make mistakes. They can’t. They’re only at the top because they’re smart. If they ever admitted to being stupid, they would lose their right to rule.

Like Lysenkoism, Tysonism uses ideology to determine the outcomes of science. That’s how we keep ending up with Global Warming as settled science no matter how often the actual science contradicts it.

Tysonism appropriates science without understanding it. Its science consists of factoids, some right and some wrong, which simplify and clarify everything. Its manufactured intelligence makes people feel smart without actually giving them the critical tools to question the false assumptions of a Tyson.

What the left calls science is really a hypothesis accepted as a fact without the skepticism. Its intelligence is a conclusion without bothering to determine whether it’s true. Science and intelligence are perpetual processes that are never truly settled. But in law and government, as in all other fields, the left discards the process and asserts an inevitable outcome by virtue of its superiority.

Intelligence as ideology is at the heart of the left. Its Orwellian twist discards the need for using intelligence to question its ideology by asserting that the issue is settled. To be smart is to be left and to be left is to be smart. And only stupid people would question that.

There is no need to think about anything because the smart people have already done all the thinking. You can show you are smart by accepting their conclusions or show your stupidity by questioning them.

Science and skepticism are the tools of stupid people. As Socrates put it, I know that I know nothing. We have the most to fear from the smart people who don’t know and will never admit how little they know.


Mari said...

I recently saw a Firing Line show in which Mr. William F. Buckley interviewed David Susskind. Susskind spent the entire hour insisting that Liberals were intelligent because they were liberal. Non-liberals were not intelligent because they were non-liberal. Universities were liberal because that is where intelligent people were. Graduates of liberal universities were liberal because they were educated (to be liberal). Mr. Buckley could never get Mr. Susskind off that circular saw of an argument . He was finally able to get Mr. Susskind to admit that there were indeed intelligent conservatives in existence, but they were too boring for his show.

mindRider said...

Your column hits the nail on the head again, I just had a Disqus discussion on the JPost on why science would have transformed, nothing, nowhere and never into something, somewhere and ever. To which he claimed that science had already proven such while I claimed science can never laboratory prove non reproducible events with even input data lacking making religion as plausible an answer. From his arrogance and derogatory riposte I deducted that politically he must be a member of the silly left to which he readily admitted, claiming no scientific progress would have ever been made without the left.

Joan of Argghh! said...

One could tweet just about every line from here, so succinct and brilliant is each sentence. And I just might... :)

Anonymous said...

Brilliant, as usual. Thanks, Daniel.

Kurt Klimisch said...


Ellen Shipley said...

I've missed something. What is your beef with Tyson?

Anonymous said...

Jeeebus, you completely missed what science and skepticism are. Not only that, you take a single data point of "Tyson" and turn it into an ideology and extrapolate it to all of science. The lack of brevity shows you've never published anything peer-reviewed. I'll forgive you for making crass assumptions with little science background; but for love of science, please write about things you know and stay away from those which are uneducated opinions.

Johnny said...

Education in the United States is science based and college graduates very commonly have a degree in one or another of the sciences. But graduating with a degree in science does not make you a scientist. A person with a degree in chemistry who ends up working as an insurance salesperson will be called and regarded as an insurance salesperson, not an scientist.

What makes a person a scientist is not the educational background but the employment. If our insurance salesperson with a degree in chemistry were to get lucky and land a job that involved research in chemistry, he could and might well call himself a scientist. If our insurance person were to land a job with a university as a professor in chemistry, he would then be called a professor and would easily be able to presume to speak for the science of chemistry. In fact, if he teaches, that is exactly what he would be doing. By the source of his employment he would gain the right to speak for science.

To sum it up, being called a scientist or presuming the right to speak for science in the United States is not based primarily on knowledge or background. More than anything else, what allows a person to speak for science is employment. Get the right job and you are a scientist. That being the case, the people who actually get to determine who the scientists are, are the people who hire the people who are called scientists. And so it is actually the people who hire the so called scientists who get to determine what science is. They do it by who they decide to employ. If the scientist works for an environmental group, expect the science to favor their agenda. Or if the scientist works for industry, science is unlikely to work against the interests of the particular industry.

Now of course the biggest employer of scientists is the government, mainly through subsidies to universities. And surprise, surprise, the science that emanates from our universities has a curious way of working to the interest of an expanded and more powerful government.

Norman Allen Guy said...


BRILLIANT! Amazing essay sir!

I can now say I am thrilled and happy to be stupid...


Anonymous said...

To the extent that the Left holds to mankind contributing to Global Warming, while the conservative Right holds to the Earth experiencing climate change regardless of man's intervention shows that the Left is NOT being determinist while the Right is. Not that I think that the Left is correct. I am merely saying that, within the narrow confines of the issue regarding mankind contributing to Global Warming, the Left is displaying an understanding that the Earth's climate does not display a straight line of progress, while the Right is displaying the fallacy that the Earth's climate is inevitably moving towards its destiny.

King Western Man

Y. Ben-David said...

(1) Nice piece, but I should point out that "right-wingers" in the US also believe in the inevitability of history. They were the ones who said that if only we could get rid of the Communist regime in the USSR or Saddam Hussein's rule in Iraq, those countries would become democracies since supposedly everyone in the world wants what I want....that is, democracy. Well, we see the Russians and Iraqis (and Egyptians, for that matter) don't want democracy, they want dictators who treat the nicely or belong to whatever sect they belong to.

(2) Obama's repeated use of the phrase "you are on the wrong side of history" is taken straight out of the Marxist-Leninist playbook and is a beautiful illustration of where he and his acolytes are coming from.

(3) George Orwell wrote an article decrying those who, after the invention of the A-Bomb were demanding more "scientific education". What they meant was more education about technical matters, but Orwell insisted that people need to be taught more how to think critically which many, many scientists don't do. Studying science doesn't make people think more clearly by itself.

Anonymous said...

This has to be a joke. Nobody could really be so ignorant and stupid as to discount the truth and validity of the scientific method, right? Tell me people that stupid do not really walk the earth. When you declare religion to be wrong, they try to kill you. When you declare science to be wrong, they investigate, and if a problem is really found, any good scientist chucks that theory out without a second thought, never putting his trust into something proven wrong, and starts over, attempting to create a new theory that fits the new facts and evidence. If science was wrong, do you think your cell phone would work? Or your TV? Or your car? Science is only concerned with the truth. Religion is only concerned with keeping its leaders comfortably taken care of, with all the comforts and conveniences they enjoy coming from your donations and tithes, which is much better than actually getting a job and having to work for a living. Telling fairy tales and fantasy to a congregation of brain-dead fools is much easier than getting a real job, and it pays well, too.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

KWM - Cycles in the natural world are simply science. They are the result of knowable laws. Determinism when it comes to human history is what is dubious.

Ben David - I wouldn't exactly call those people the right. Center-right at best and barely that.

Anon - You should probably read the article first

Chana said...

I really should read the other comments before adding mine, but I just have to say how much I liked this. Excellent summation of modern skeptical conservative thought. Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

To Ms. Shipley:

As a high-school physics teacher holding both a bachelor's and master's degree, I feel I have earned the right to say that I know at least a little of how my discipline works. When I heard that they were coming out with a new version of Cosmos, I became quite excited and looked forward to watching the series. I watched only the first episode, however. And it was painful to watch. What horrible "science". Here are just a few key points: The multiverse. What??? That is NOT science; it is neither provable nor un-provable. So religions are looked down upon for creating an afterlife and heaven and hell, etc., but Tyson feels free to create his many alternative realities! Absurd. Moving on: That whole cartoon about Bruno was really just trying to attack religion and, as an extension, say that science (or his brand of "appeal-to-my-authority" kind of science) has been thwarted by religion. Hard to enumerate how this cartoon within the "documentary" was wrong in so many ways in a concise manner, but, basically, he had to hold Bruno up and say that Bruno was more important to science than Kepler or Galileo (he most certainly was not, and he was not even a scientist). He had to do that because Copernicus and Galileo died peacefully in their sleep and they are not a good example of "science good/religion bad". He had to resort to using a non-scientist to make his point. There are quite a few more irritating things that made Tyson and his presentation on Cosmos bad science, but those are the main ones. And what is more, he has this air about "It is that way because I said so. If you can't understand me, you are clearly stupid and your shoe-size is larger than your IQ."

To Mr. Greenfield: Agreed.

King Western Man

Anonymous said...

A true scientist is usually a skeptic, two of my children are researchers who readily admit that the more they study a thing, the more they see the complications, coincidences, and flaws. However, in some circles, there is kind of a strange bedfellows arrangement between science, and what I would call P.R. The P.R. is needed to raise funds and sometimes make soothing noises for the public, and political P.R. to get elected representatives to help with gov't funding. The latter seems to be the case in a subject like climate change.
Conversely, the more enlightened religions have been key in keeping large mostly illiterate, groups from killing each other, or diminishing the food supply, or eating their camels and marrying their daughters....Religion has surely advanced civil society and given hopeless people comfort.
It has generated philanthropy, service to others, not to mention much of the great art of our ancestors. The argument , as we see daily, is that in some cases, it has been used a a weapon of murder and misery.
This is not a zero sum equation, it is possible to support science and have faith too, all that is required is an open mind.
Problems arise because most of us see no reason to keep two seemingly disparate balls in the air at once, so we often choose one or the other, which is logical, as long as our choices remain personal, and we don't attempt to impose our chosen belief system on everyone else.


Anonymous said...

"Science is of course neither right nor wrong; its methodology can be used to determine whether something is right or wrong." Minor quibble. Actually science never determines what is right, ONLY what is wrong. What is right is always under suspicion, doubt, investigation, and sceptical inquiry. That is why we have the Theory of Gravity, and the Therry of Evolution, rather than the facts of either. A fact (the truth) is simply an indisputable measurement of something. It is data. Everything else is conjecture.

Gringo said...

Ellen Shipley :
I've missed something. What is your beef with Tyson?

Google neil degrasse tyson bush quote.

MadRocketSci said...

As an engineer/student:

No matter how smart you think you are, real science will make you feel stupid far more often than it will make you feel smart.

This. THIS THIS THIS THIS. I’ve spent the past 20 years of my life feeling outrageously stupid, one mind-bending class/paradox/problem/domain at a time. I don’t know about any of these wunderkind prodigies who show up in popular culture, magically imbued in the cradle with penetrating understanding of everything; but how things worked for me is that I’d be introduced to something, not understand it, work my ass off until I did understand it, get bugged by apparent clashes and contradictions with previous knowledge, chase down these contradictions and figure out where I was going wrong (or discover some new subtlety that even the books I’m learning from don’t consider or gloss over), eventually work up to the point where I can apply the new concept in an intuitive manner. Then these tools would enable me to tackle the next layer of weirdness. And so on for 20 years of layers.

I’ve never taken a flying leap of logic more than a layer or two deep and felt *confident* in the correctness of where I’ve landed any more than I’ve coded 5000 line complex programs before and had them run bug free on the first compile.

Azenrain said...

Thank you. Your effort is very much appreciated.


Here another thing about science that is stupid. The principle of faliability. All theories must be able to be disproven for it to be acceptable.

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