Sunday, April 06, 2008

About "Science"...
We'd like to think that we're objective, realistic, even-handed, and far beyond the intellectual dark ages of burning Galileo, but in reality...

The "establishment" is still there. The "establishment" simply has a different set of beliefs now: instead of a rigid, fundamentalist, dogmatic, religious viewpoint, it has a rigid, fundamentalist, dogmatic, atheistic viewpoint. This is more than just religion, though. It is the "ditto"-ism of the scientific establishment, the desire to appease the majority and confirm what everyone "already knows", the desire to not lose tenure and funding and publication, where evolution, not revolution, is the norm.

How can we fix this? Damned if I know. There were some hopes that the Internet would make large-scale distribution of research and peer review a possibility, breaking the stranglehold that (paper) academic journals currently hold. But look at how Wikipedia is demonized, despite studies showing on average it is at least as accurate as the Encyclopedia Britannica (much more so in its data on lightsabers or Arrested Development).

The Ben Stein film "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" (
makes the claim that evidence of intelligent design is being deliberately suppressed by Antarctic Space Nazis- I mean, the intellectual establishment. It is unfortunate that the topic of repression in academia in this film is centered around some dubious scientific theory that not only claims that there are serious problems with evolution as we know and teach it (a perfectly legit point) but that these flaws necessarily imply the existence of God (needs a little work there, sparky). But for those of you for whom the "G-word" immediately makes you shudder in horror, first of all, PLEASE learn to be a little more open-minded, and second of all, consider the following case, not religion-related at all:

Jeffrey Taubenberger was a molecular biologist at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology who in 1996 identified the virus that caused the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic from preserved tissues. He and his team wrote a paper on the topic and documented their research, and sent it off to Nature, one of the two leading scientific journals in molecular biology [in research in general, publication of a paper in a scientific journal means that it is peer-reviewed and accepted as fact by the community at large]. It was flatly rejected, for being "not interesting enough for review". It didn't even get a chance.

They shrugged, and sent it to Science, Nature's rival magazine. Flat rejection.

According to Gina Kolata's excellent history of flu research, aptly titled "Flu", Taubenberger later realized that "it gave the flu community a shock to think that a non-flu person was working on this flu project" (216). It was only after Taubenberger requested the intervention of some more highly-regarded scientists that the paper was finally accepted for review and publication. After all, it's not like anything coming from a research institute you've never heard of is going to ever amount to anything, right?

*shakes head*

Not convinced? Read up on Ryuzo Yanagimachi's difficulties in getting published. Or read the article on Wikipedia about opposition to climate change:
Ever heard of these guys? Didn't think so.

Welcome to our Brave New World, folks. We've always been teaching abiogenesis to Eastasia.

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