The Dogmatism of Science

This post could probably be filed under “sun also rises in the east’ but you saw the post at Watts-Up some time back on Science and Dogmatism.

There is so much that has been written on this now and it has been my contention for a long time that there is so much BS under the name of Science [with a capital S], as distinct from real science [with a lower case s]:

Actually, there was a fair comment there and I quote:

Don QuiScottie, on October 21st, 2012 at 18:07 said:

You say… “it establishes that we can’t trust either science or scientists anymore”

Be careful. I suggest that you can and always will be able to trust The Scientific Method, which is what I understand by the word “Science”. But you should never uncritically trust those frail and sometimes fraudulent humans who try (or in some cases just pretend) to apply the scientific method, which is probably what you mean by “scientists”. And if by “science” you mean what scientist do, then ok, but there is often a big difference between what many scientist do and what real “science” actually is.

And AKH in An Epidemic of False Claims:

Over recent decades there have been increasing signs of concern about scientific integrity, particularly in medical and climate research, but in many other scientific areas too.

This is a large and complex issue where those interested have to do their own digging, because much of the material lies below the mainstream radar. Evidently journalists find it quicker and easier to copy and paste the official scientific press release rather than check it out.

A name of particular significance in medical science is that of Professor John P. A. Ioannidis. Last year (June 2011) Ioannidis published An Epidemic of False Claims in Scientific American.

False positives and exaggerated results in peer-reviewed scientific studies have reached epidemic proportions in recent years. The problem is rampant in economics, the social sciences and even the natural sciences, but it is particularly egregious in biomedicine. Many studies that claim some drug or treatment is beneficial have turned out not to be true. We need only look to conflicting findings about beta-carotene, vitamin E, hormone treatments, Vioxx and Avandia. Even when effects are genuine, their true magnitude is often smaller than originally claimed.

Much research is conducted for reasons other than the pursuit of truth.

To which this comment was made:

A lot of the problems with science ‘research’ is that it is politically motivated, especially in things like climate research, by academics that have little or no knowledge of the real world. In many cases it is almost as if it is a religion for them.

We could go on and on but let’s get back to Watts-Up:

Unwarranted dogmatism has taken over in many fields of science: in Big-Bang cosmology, dinosaur extinction, theory of smell, string theory, Alzheimer’s amyloid theory, specificity and efficacy of psychotropic drugs, cold fusion, second-hand smoke, continental drift . . . The list goes on and on.

Dissenting views are dismissed without further ado, and dissenters’ careers are badly affected. Where public policy is involved — as with human-caused global warming and HIV/AIDS — the excommunication and harassment of dissenters reaches a fever pitch with charges of “denialism” and “denialists”, a deliberate ploy of association with the no-no of Holocaust denying.

I’ve noted that in the field of education too, particularly in research methods and many an academic of the good variety has written on this.   A view gets in, it’s then pushed by ideologues or people with money [e.g. Rockefellers] and it never lets up, it then crosses generations and slowly it becomes the orthodoxy, though it is based on BS in the first place.

Wundtian psychology is just such an educational theory, Evidence Based Medicine is another.

The comment I keep coming back to over and over is DQS – that the method is fine.   Of course it is – the empirical method is fair, balanced and in my eyes, that equals “good”.

It’s that these other people don’t follow it and then become dogmatic about skewed results based on invalid premises.

3 comments for “The Dogmatism of Science

  1. November 23, 2012 at 12:49

    Was it not ever thus? Snake oil salesmen etc.

    And is it not now, as is so much else, just government assisted?

    Best regards

  2. November 23, 2012 at 13:54

    Very much so, Nigel.

  3. Amfortas
    November 23, 2012 at 14:28

    I recall overhearing Holmes saying to Watson, “It is a Capital error, Watson, to make the facts fit the theory: we must make the Theory fit the facts.”

    He was right, you know.

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