Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cargo cult science: a video

Many of us love Richard Feymman's 1974 commencement speech about cargo cult sciences, disciplines that seemingly seem to follow the scientific method but something must be wrong because no airplanes land.

Feynman was trying to explain what's wrong with various careless, agenda-driven, biased, preconceived mental frameworks that try to pretend that they are scientific but they don't honestly eliminate falsified hypotheses according to the results of objective tests. Feynman also predicted the global warming pseudoscience and warned scientists against being abused by the politicians:
I say that's also important in giving certain types of government advice. Supposing a senator asked you for advice about whether drilling a hole should be done in his state; and you decide it would be better in some other state. If you don't publish such a result, it seems to me you're not giving scientific advice. You're being used. If your answer happens to come out in the direction the government or the politicians like, they can use it as an argument in their favor; if it comes out the other way, they don't publish at all. That's not giving scientific advice.
Just replace "drilling a hole in the state" by "regulating carbon dioxide emissions" and you will see a very urgent warning by Feynman for our contemporaries.

But have you ever seen the details of the prototype cargo cult science? I find this social phenomenon rather amazing.



Video 1: From Mondo Cane, an Italian documentary (1962)

Go to 4:50 of this video for another footage of the cult.

What are you waiting for? Women making up 50% of Fields medal winners because someone thinks it would be nice and natural for women to be equally stellar mathematicians as men? Eggs that are both breaking and unbreaking because it would be nice to restore the time-reversal symmetry in the macroscopic world? Or are you looking for a stable, permanently happy, and flat Earth's climate without any variations that will follow the ban on sinful SUVs? Are you waiting for loop quantum gravity to make manifestly cutoff-dependent objects finite and unique?

If you do, see the video above to understand how you approximately look like from my reference frame.

Bonus

Rush Limbaugh, one of the most effective preachers in the world, tells you to prepare for the Large Hadron Collider. Write your will etc. Very funny. ;-) My understanding is that Rush wants to humiliate the warming alarmists and he views the LHC alarmists as even more ludicrous than the warming alarmists. But if Rush intended to be serious about the threat, it is even more funny! ;-)

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