Ideological science

Tom Nelson is running a series of YouTube interviews with climate sceptics. I note with interest that his own scepticism came, as an amateur ornithologist, from discovering to his surprise that “peer-reviewed science” was telling unreliable tales about a particular bird species, and then being told by a professional meteorologist that the same problems existed in climate science.

A quote on his blog from NYT journalist Jack Hitt contains a profound truth relevant to my topic:

Amateurs are more likely to see what is actually there because there’s no money, no power, no prestige (at least not immediately) attached to seeing anything else. Amateurs mainly just want to know.

A good example of this is his interview with John Droz, a scientist who was able to become an “amateur” at a young age through successful investments, and who has consequently been able to explore whatever subjects interest him. If this sounds “unprofessional” remember that it’s how all science was done in the past, the instance par excellence being Charles Darwin, whose independent income enabled just such an “amateur” approach to his research.

Droz contrasts his own open-ended approach to science with what he calls “political science,” meaning not the scientific study of politics, of course, but science serving political ends. The obvious current examples he gives are “The Science” surrounding COVID, masks, vaccines and so on, and the climate science generating such damaging government programmes, and irrational fear, around the world. Both rely heavily on government money, and both fulfill the well-known warnings of President Eisenhower on the dangers looming once science, politics and big business get into bed together.

Droz rightly describes true science as a “process,” enabling solutions to be found to technical problems by the proposal of hypotheses, and their rigorous examination by unrestricted experimental or other investigations and unfettered argument about their interpretation. His “political” science truncates that process by deciding in advance what answers are required, and making the investigations fit the desired conclusions.

But I would suggest Droz’s terminology is too restricted to give a full picture of the kind of prostituted science he has in mind. I would prefer the term “ideological science,” which includes the political corruption but goes beyond it to include other power-structures, notably money and religion. My term has the additional advantage that, since the actual political or other ideology involved can be difficult to identify, this type of science is primarily identified as ideological by its methods rather than by the unpacking of the motives behind it. Let me expand that by example.

COVID science may, from one angle, be seen as arising from a technocratic ideology of righting the wrongs of the world by identifying an endless succession of pathogens generated by an unkind nature, and defeating them by vaccine technology.

From another angle, though, the prominent role of intelligence agencies obsessed with biological weapons in the origin of these policies a couple of decades ago, as tellingly revealed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and others, may reveal an ideology of xenophobic paranoia about China or Russia’s murderous intentions against America. A slight shift in emphasis suggests a more purely political ideology of American exceptionalism and the belief in US hegemony, weaponising viruses and their management as a means of ruling the world. Or rinse and repeat that last idea with the WEF or the CPC as those secretly behind the whole thing.

A third equally valid viewpoint, though, looks at the corruption of Big Pharma and its allies, together with the government’s captured regulatory bodies. The MHRA, for example, is 88% funded by the the industry it regulates.This too, though less obviously, is ideological at root – the belief that corporations exist to maximise profits, and nothing else, is as strong a motivation for personal greed as “Once saved always saved” Christianity is for feckless sin.

It’s easy to see all of these overlapping ideologies at play in the prostitution of science over COVID, or to argue for or against any of them as significant. The lack of openness about ideological commitments is actually a common feature of ideological science, because the ideology is parasitic on science’s reputation for dispassionate objectivity. Remember that Marxism’s original sales pitch was as a scientific theory of history. Hence the repeated injunctions during COVID to “Follow The Science.”

But what reveals the science as ideological is the unscientific weaponry it uses to establish itself: the now-familiar tools of censorship, character-assassination, financial penalising and professional, or even legal, sanctions against those questioning the narrative (always presented as a scientific “consensus”).

Just as Tom Nelson came to doubt “official science” through such an apparently apolitical subject as birdwatching, so I came to it from several years of study of the sociology of evolutionary theory. Amongst the mainstream, there was an undue overemphasis on the dangers of Creationism not only to science and education, but to the fabric of society itself. In one sense, Creation Science in its classical form is clearly “ideological,” in that it starts with a literal interpretation of Genesis and seeks to establish that the scientific evidence supports that.

Yet in reality that merely makes it “minority science” as long as it is open to examination and refutation (or not) within the scientific community. It only becomes “ideological” (in my sense) if, by the exercise of power or money, it bans the pursuit of any other form of science. And there is no political situation in the world, so far as I know, where this is even a plausible risk: the worst it threatens is the banning of evolution in churches or local schools.

On the other hand, I found that the weapons of ideology were, and still are, in full play against Intelligent Design theorists, many of them fully qualified in the relevant academic fields. In fact, it is these dirty tricks that enabled me quickly to recognise the same things in relation to COVID, to climate and, latterly, to the imposition of Cultural Marxist Intersectionality even on the physical sciences. On the latter, only today I read about the attempts of British universities to “decolonise mathematics“. How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?

These weapons included the refusal of journals to publish design-orientated papers, the dismissal of academics like William Dembski from their positions, the refusal to debate, or even discuss, the ideas presented with the excuse that it would only encourage bigots (like negotiations with Vladimir Putin to stop a war!), and even the alteration (and sometimes erasure) of Wikipedia entries to remove academic credentials and, generally, assassinate the characters of these people. I must add to that the phenomenon of scientists quietly saying to the ID folks, “I agree with you,” but too afraid to speak out. There are other strategies, but you can fill the blanks from your knowledge of how folks have been treated over COVID and climate change.

In this case the underlying ideology of this pioneering field of science-abuse is clearly naturalistic materialism. The admission of design would give God a foot in the door, and that would never do – not least because it discloses that there are unwarranted metaphysical assumptions behind secular science as it is actually practised. You’ll have to work out whether governments’ complicity in the suppression of ID is the result of sharing an ideological opposition to religion, or just a foolish ideological belief that mainstream scientists are always pure and objective.

This commitment to naturalism is not directed solely against “Creationism.” The same dirty tricks have been played against mavericks like Rupert Sheldrake, who although professing Christian faith has mainly been interested in subjects like telepathy as counter-evidence to materialism. It is open to those who disagree with him to refute his evidence, give a different account of it or whatever other tools science, as a process, has. But instead he has had TED posts taken down, Wikipedia entries doctored and all the other signs that it is his opponents, not him, who are engaged in “ideological science.”

As a caveat, let me add that, like the particular Christian commitments of Creation Science, there is nothing scientifically wrong with a scientist being a naturalistic materialist, or even a militant atheist. It is true that Christians, Hindus or agnostics can all do the same science. Personal greed or ambition need not interfere with good science (though they frequently do). Technocrats wanting to rule the world are a political, and moral, problem, but not a scientific one. Vaccines as the answer to every human ill might, perhaps, be a valid scientific conclusion; but it is doubtful, and the real issue is that ideological science prevents those conclusions being reached scientifically.

What’s to do about it? It seems to me that any science in which one can find signs of my “ideological methodology” is by that very fact suspect to the point of being dismissed of necessity. A politician or news outlet that you know to be lying 50% of the time must be treated as lying 100% of the time, and alternatives sought. A prophet of the Lord who gives 20% of his oracles for personal gain is, simpliciter, a false prophet, a splintered walking-stick.

Science ought to be repeatable (though it currently has a severe replication crisis, largely because of ideological science). But nobody can repeat everything: without trust there can be no scientific progress.

The problem then becomes, in an age when ideology controls governments, universities, corporations and the scientific publishers, how can one find any reliable source of scientific knowledge? Perhaps true science is once again becoming the domain of the retired, the gentleman scholar – and the amateur enthusiast.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
This entry was posted in Philosophy, Politics and sociology, Science. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Ideological science

  1. Robert Byers says:

    I also deny climate change from man is a fact or possible. The globe is too great for our puffs of smoke or Canadian forest fires to make a dent in such a renewing planet god has created. it would surprise people how many claims of hurting this or losing that have been made about the planet in the last hundred years. someone could write a book if they still writes books these days. or supertweet etc.
    Another flaw in climate change is using past climate change but this is poorly done as its based on concepts rejected by creationism.
    its very cold in toronto today and not warmed up relative to the warm up claimed to have befgun decades ago. its funny. they want a cleaner greener planet for the upper clas folks third home. Fine but don’t claim fossil fuels etc hurt anything. or prove it with real proof.

  2. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    Our own Sy Garte wrote a now rare book called Where We Stand outlining how many of the problems identified in “the environment” around the world have been solved by the application of a bit of ingenuity and effort – and for the reason that they were harming people, rather than because of some predictions of future doom. I don’t think he covered climate change, but others like Shellenberger and Kooning have done that admirably.

    My brother (fully committed to climate orthodoxy) told me darkly about how some station in Britain recorded the highest ever November temperature last week. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that in the US they were recording the coldest November temperatures on record – as has the South Pole, I read this morning. Meanwhile the enthusiasts are oblivious to the fact that the temperature has been dropping for several years.

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