Is Science “Self-Correcting”?

On Vox Day’s blog space, he is engaged in a trialogue with two scientists–one a physicist and the other a biochemist–over the validity of the premise that science is self-correcting. I’ve been following from a distance. It is a very good discussion.

The physicist recently had this to say:

However, the the character of the corrections in accounting and science are somewhat different. The rules of accounting are set by accountants, lawyers, and legislators. Errors and corrections happen within that known framework, which can itself be adjusted. In science the framework is the laws of nature, which are not known a priori and can’t be adjusted. (Citigroup can rewrite accounting law, Virgin Galactic can’t rewrite gravity.) So sure, you could say accounting is self-correcting. That description might not be as useful as it is for the scientific study of natural laws, but it wouldn’t be wrong.

While the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) can (and does) indeed revise Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), there are some differences in the comparison that the physicist provides:

(1) If a non-accountant questions the integrity of the changes, he or she is not dismissed for not being a CPA. This is because accounting, among other things, involves assessing the integrity of the operations of an economic entity. And almost anyone–due to disclosure laws–can do this.

If you can read a 10-K, which includes a balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement, and retained earnings statement (in addition to material disclosures in footnotes), you can make an educated assessment for the condition of a business, irrespective of (a) the marketing efforts and (b) the GAAP rules.

(2) For that reason, if FASB redefines or reclassifies certain items–or, as they have recently done, change rules to allow banks to improperly value their assets–it does not change the nature of what is being done. People who denounce that tactic–such as Denninger–are not likely to be dismissed for not being CPAs.

Instead, their ideas are allowed to be tested in the free market. Denninger has made truth claims, as has Vox Day. (For the record, I agree with them most of the time.)

If their truth claims don’t come to pass, then they have to answer for this in the free market of ideas.

For scientists, the rules are somewhat different. They have made truth claims which include bald assertions, misrepresentation of data (sometimes intentional), doomsday predictions for the world and for civilization, and proclamations of fact that were based on known fraudulent “research”.

And yet (a) the very system that ought to be holding them accountable does not do this–largely because they are comprised of fellow scientists who are dependent on government largesse for their career paths, and (b) they attack critics–who point out obvious errors that call their very hypotheses into question–for “not being scientists”.

This is not to say that all scientists are so intellectually dishonest; the problem, however, is that the system itself is one that economically encourages–and in some fields requires–such.

The larger question is how to reform the scientific community to ensure that they are more vigilant about the integrity of the scientific method.

I would submit that breaking the government-academic complex will go a long way toward that end.

This is because without the gravy train–which foments the existing paradigm of obfuscation and demonization of critics who recognize the naked emperor–there will be no economic incentive for the naked to go unclothed.

Too Many Scientists

And yes, Vox Day is correct: this is a consequence of government-stoked malinvestment.

One of the interesting things about the problem with American science is that those reviewing the situation are entirely forthright about the way the best and brightest have avoided pursuing scientific careers for decades now. To put it simply, the smartest students are not dumb enough to fail to notice the way in which the supply of science degrees considerably outstrips the number of jobs available in the various scientific fields or that there are far more remunerative and intellectually satisfying fields in which to pursue employment.

And yet, those who weren’t smart enough or aware enough to consider their future employment possibilities are the very individuals who tend to claim that those who were are less intelligent and their opinions about scientific and non-scientific matters alike are less valid because they do not have science degrees. (Never mind that I do, in fact, have a Bachelor of Science, that’s beside the point.)

So, this tends to suggest that in addition to whatever structural changes are being proposed by the various parties that are interested in solving the problem, a course or two in logic would not be amiss. And for a group of people who claim to be better educated and more highly intelligent than the norm, they do tend to expose a shocking ignorance of some very basic economic concepts that were solidly established more than 200 years ago. The reality is that the problem is simply a variant of the conventional one of malinvestment caused by credit expansion; the huge and unsustainable government allocation of financial resources to the scientific sector in the thirty years from 1940 to 1970 clearly sent a false signal about the market’s demand for scientists to students pursuing science degrees over the subsequent three decades.

This is true in other fields, but especially science. The glut in science funding during the Cold War–for good or ill–set in motion a funding apparatus that handed us our current dilemma: far more trained scientists than there are available jobs at the prevailing wages. Many scientists are going to be faced with some awful choices: (a) be willing to settle for less money and job stability than you hoped for, (b) switch professions, (c) hope something opens up while you languish in postdoc hell.

When I started college in 1985, I majored in aeronautical engineering. The future looked bright: Reagan was President, the Cold War was on, defense spending was high, morale in the military was outstanding–I was aspiring to go either Army or Air Force ROTC–and EVERYONE was hiring aeronautical engineers. I saw those graduating seniors going on to careers as Air Force pilots, Army engineers, and private-sector engineers for Boeing, Lockheed, McDonnell-Douglass, Rockwell International, Grumman, Northop, and Martin Marietta. (Many of those companies have merged since then, but you get the picture.)

When I graduated in 1990, Reagan was no longer President, the Berlin Wall was rubble, the Cold War was over, the Soviet Union was one year away from extinction, defense spending was heading south, and aerospace engineering jobs were quite scarce. Many ROTC scholarship grads were being given the option of walking away–with an all-expenses-paid education, courtesy of Uncle Sam–with no military obligation. (This is because the number of graduating Second Lieutenants exceeded the Army’s need for them.) Two weeks before I graduated, Northrop had flown many of us to Los Angeles to interview for positions with the B-2 program. All but two of us received rejection letters. Right before my final exams, I received an offer from EDS, and I jumped on it.

I was leaving engineering–which I enjoyed–for IT, which I would learn to enjoy.

My career has nothing to do with my chosen fields of study. At the same time, I might be the only person working in my venue where I can answer a wise ass who asks me, “What do you think you are, a rocket scientist?” in the affirmative.

My point in all of this: in the economy we have, we all gots decisions to make. No one said that life was fair. Sometimes, we must make adjustments. College degrees are all well and good, but the bottom line is earning potential. You either need to go where the jobs are, or find a way to create the job of your choosing.

But if you are willing to spend at nearly 20 years in undergrad, masters, doctorate, and postdoc studies, just so you can get a tenure-track position in a higher-ed system that is teetering on the verge of financial collapse, you go right on ahead.

Just don’t say you weren’t warned.

String them Up by the Toenails

They attempted to foist a fascist governmental system on the world, all under the pretense of saving the planet. They did it with fraudulent, cherry-picked data. They deliberately hid the truth from governments, as they sought hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money, which they used to promote a socialist agenda cross-dressed in scientific veneer.

The truth is out, now it’s long past freaking time to demand accountability.

Another Potential Victory for Stem Cell Research

ADULT stem cells, that is. This time, it appears that we may be looking at a breakthrough in treating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better-known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Of course, Gehrig was not the only Yankee hall-of-famer to die of the disease, as Jim “Catfish” Hunter–one of the best MLB pitchers in the 1970s, who won World Series titles with the Oakland A’s and New York Yankees–also succumbed to ALS.

This Could Get Interesting

Whenever there is an early announcement of a “major discovery” that demonstrates “missing links” in evolution, or that “disprove Biblical accounts”, I always am skeptical. Why? every time this happens, the “discovery” either (a) turns out to be more sizzle than steak, or (b) turns out to be fraudulent, or (c) turns out to be more nebulous than advertised and therefore subject to the bias of the interpreter of the “evidence”.

Sometimes, even the “discoveries” that either “prove” or “give weight” to Scripture, ought to be regarded cautiously. The latest case–the announcement of ancient Egyptian coins that contain references to Joseph, and his interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream–is no exception.

Still, while the validity of the Biblical account does not hinge on the validity of the discovery, if the coins are genuine it would certainly give substantial merit to the Biblical account. After all, we are talking about a very significant portion of the very first book of the Bible. A portion that is absolutely critical to the unfolding of God’s providence to Man.