Why our laws lag behind the needs of science

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by ZoddyDoz, May 4, 2017.

  1. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    US scientists with academic tenure and government standing are among the least dependent, most secure human beings on this planet. And that is one of the key factors that has allowed them to research and publish about AGW, in defiance of the Party line so far - although Trump's election is bringing a great deal more pressure to bear.

    You can compare their public stances with those of corporate researchers in the fossil fuel industry, whose findings on AGW were suppressed and are only now becoming public through leaks and secondhand recountings. These unfortunates were held to the Party line for decades - as has happened in other capitalist corporation dominated fields of research in which physical reality conflicted with the Party line (leaded gas, trans fats, ozone destruction, artificial sweeteners, nuclear power, etc).
    And once primed to dismiss them as biased in a particular way, you are unable to register physical reality as discovered and reported by them.

    An example of the crippling effects of an absurd denial.
    Last edited: May 11, 2017
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  3. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

    But this tenure they get after a lot of years of insecurity, which they have survived, and with success, by following the mainstream fads. Why would one expect that they change their behavior after tenure? Moreover, it has been noted that their position in the university also depends on getting grants for their own research groups. Ok, this is no longer endangering the job, but to classify them as "least dependent" is not justified. The least dependent are clearly those who don't need a job at all, because they can live on their own money.

    Tenure to old persons is a nice idea if you want to preserve traditions, not if you want something new. If one would be interested in something new, one would have to give young scientists job security. Of course, they need some time to learn the basics, but once they have learned them, they need job security first of all. This is simply a necessity if you want to try a new approach, because it is obvious that 99% of all new approaches will be failures - and if failure means you loose your job, it means trying a new approach is extreme stupidity.
    You are unable to write a post without laughable fantasies about what I think?
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  5. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I prefer to call it healthy skepticism. It can just as easily be called 'critical thinking'. Students in secondary school and beginning university are taught to practice critical thinking which is presented to them as a valuable skill that should be applied throughout life.

    But especially in the last few years, that is taking a u-turn. Today the average person (and everyone, no matter how impressive their university diploma, is a layman in subjects other than their own) are being told to shut up and just believe whatever they are told by ostensible authority figures. A new social divide is growing. It's no longer rich/poor or owners/workers and it certainly doesn't revolve around race, class or gender. It's authorities vs. the people. It's a new eruption of old-style aristocracy in new dress, rule by those who imagine themselves to be a better sort of person. As for me, I'm stoutly on the side of democracy.

    A big part of it is people with narrow technical training and expertise in a particular subject (I'm thinking of scientists here, but it applies to any professional) trying to export the authority of their profession to opinions on subjects remote and largely unrelated from their expertise. We see that when evolutionary biologists like Dawkins set themselves up as experts on religion, or when scientists start expressing political opinions.

    Journalists are just a worst case example of that since studying journalism doesn't seem to confer any special expertise in anything, yet it leaves journalists posing as society's authorities on everything.

    Stop doing it? If university professors want to express their opinions about subjects in which they are laymen like the next guy on the street, they should leave off mentioning their institutional affiliations and their grand impressive professorships and stop trying to imply that they are speaking with the full social-prestige of Science. Otherwise, when average people notice that many of their opinions are crude and rather sophomoric, skepticism about everything that scientists say will grow.

    It starts to become doubly dangerous when the scientific process itself becomes subverted to produce results to illustrate conclusions that were held before the research even commences. Then the results are presented to laypeople as "proof" of particular positions on what may be controversial subjects, while the underlying reasoning is oftentimes circular.

    We saw that with tobacco companies funding research to show that smoking isn't dangerous and I think that we see it in many research projects in the 'social sciences' today, which are often little more than arguments designed to support predetermined conclusions.

    And I think that we see it illustrated with the "reproducibility crisis". In order to find a permanent position, a young newly graduated PhD, adjunct or post-doc needs to have a strong publication history that includes widely-cited papers that show important results. So there's going to be huge pressure to produce those kind of results when one's entire career depends on it. Even after tenure is attained, it's still what drives funding, choice job offers from competing institutions, and it's what determines reputation, separating the perceived hacks from the leaders of one's subject.


    Last edited: May 11, 2017
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  7. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    So we agree that they are not, as we speak, insecure and dependent.
    That also describes many scientists with academic tenure.
    You seem to be describing corporate employment, not academic research. Academic tenure is not granted to old persons as a defense of the status quo, for example. One of the surest ways of getting tenure is by making bold and dramatic advances in one's field, overturning the status quo.

    The relevance here is that the AGW researchers you are talking about have been bucking the Party line, not backing it, in the US.
    That was an observation, based on your posting here. I assumed it reflected what you think. If your posting here does not reflect what you think, I apologize - another kind of disparagement was in order.
    - - -
    Except it commonly isn't skepticism (it's denial), and it isn't critical (that requires analysis), and it isn't thinking (it's propaganda swallowing).

    So it isn't healthy.
    Where did you get the idea that journalists were posing as authorities when they reported on stuff?
    Pay better attention to the tobacco company example: the common subversion of scientific integrity is still the old favorite - money. Follow the money. Which side is the large, wealthy, powerful corporation on? That's where to concentrate your initial doubts. Check there first, for trouble.

    Notice how the reproducibility crisis seems to revolve around areas of large corporate profits? Health care, for example. New drugs.
  8. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

    Those few who have tenure.
    One cannot exclude this. Have you numbers?
    I'm describing those who live on grants. The key phrase is "in one's field". The field is predefined, it is the field which controls the grants as well as the tenure positions. This this what makes string theory strong even after years of permanent failure. And, just for your information, I'm not talking about AGW researchers, because I don't know them. The problem with many young researchers living on grants is, afaik, a quite general one.
    In fundamental physics, the result is quite harmless, all the young physicists interested in fundamental things have no choice but doing string theory. So, the final result is, given that string theory is nothing but nice mathematics, simply empty but not harmful (look at the wages simply as a sort of unemployment benefit). If some political interest is involved, the result may be much more fatal.
    Ok, I correct myself, if fantasies are confused with observation, the appropriate name for this seems hallucination.
  9. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    There are thousands of professors in the relevant physical sciences with tenure in the US. There are also many working in civil service jobs, for the US government - these have many protections as well.
    All these scientists are far more securely employed, independent, and able to follow their own curiosities, than the corporate employed ("at will") researchers who must deliver pre-described results that pay off management's investment in their research.
    And I'm talking about the researchers involved in establishing and describing and analyzing and investigating AGW - the ones you asserted were insecure and being pressured by the "globalists" to present the "Party line", thereby getting the basic situation in the US backwards as well as confused.
    I'm not the guy dismissing AGW as some kind of "Party line". You are.
    Hold that thought.
  10. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

    And what is the percentage of those researchers with tenure? What I have found with a quick research is:

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    But this is tenure-track, not tenure. Decrease in 40 years 45%. If we extrapolate this tendency, you would have 25% now. So, tenure is for a minority, and a minority which was many years under mainstream control (tenure track means, afaiu, another 6-7 years without job security) and has survived the "publish or perish" as well as the competition for getting grants for the university. So, tenure is for the scientific establishment, and you first have to become part of the establishment, and then you get tenure.

    As usual, you lie. I'm not. That there is a pro-AGW Party line does not mean that any research in favor of AGW has to be dismissed. It means you need a lot of time to check it, that to simply accept any review article (which would be usually sufficient to get the main results) is not enough. How many times I would have to repeat this correction of your repeated lies?
  11. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    In the US AGW field, most of the major figures have been securely employed and independent scientists - tenure, civil service, private foundation backing, etc. Like this guy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Hansen

    And they better be, because their findings have threatened some enormous profit streams and industrial powers in the US - they are under even more pressure than the IPCC, to tone down and soft-pedal the implications of their discoveries.
    But you have in fact dismissed it. Right here. I have quoted you, pointed directly at your dismissal.
    At the end of your little rant there, we return to the fact that you have posted, and I have quoted you as posting, dismissals of research findings and discoveries and physical fact as biased media reports of what you label a "Party line". You have denied AGW, explicitly, right here on this forum.

    As for the relevance of the laws to this arena of science - one of the obvious major obstacles to getting laws aligned with the needs of science has been the pressure to get them aligned with the needs of industry.

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