Saturday, December 11, 2010

Do GOP scientists need affirmative action?

My answer is "No" but you surely want to hear some details, too.

A writer named Daniel Sarewitz wrote a text for Slate:
Lab Politics

Most scientists in this country are Democrats. That's a problem.
It's being mentioned that only 6 percent of the U.S. scientists classify themselves as Republicans. Sarewitz suggests that this fact leads the public to distrust the institutionalized science. He even notices that the leftist scientific community has systematically defended scientific conclusions that support the idea that the government should be bigger. And he even dares to ask whether it is a coincidence or a sign of causation.

Of course, he is not brave enough to offer the obvious answer. ;-)

Well, try to answer this question yourself. Invent about 20 independent scientific questions that may determine a policy. What is the probability that all of the right answers support a bigger government? And what is the probability that the scientists are honest if they choose this "bigger government answer" despite the fact that in at least 15 of the questions, it's been established that the opposite answer was right?




Chris Mooney agrees that the U.S. scientific community is hugely politically distorted. But he doesn't consider it a problem; on the contrary, it's a big achievement in his eyes. Moonbat thinks that it's enough to fill the Republican Party itself by leftists as well and the problem is solved.

This is, of course, a preposterous recipe. If the Republican Party becomes compatible with immoral Nazi far left-wing jerks such as himself, much like the Democrat Party, it will lose the support and will be superseded by a more functional party, e.g. a Tea "Party".

Can left-wing communities do science?

My answer is a resounding "Yes", at least in principle. The scientific method is impersonal and, by its very definition, decoupled from non-scientific issues such as the gender, ethnicity, or political values of the scientist. The objective data and universal, impersonal logical and mathematical reasoning lead the scientists to their conclusions - at least if they are genuine scientists.

Science requires some skills and passions, among other conditions. So it's a well-established fact that in a meritocratic physics research community, less than 20% of the scientists will be female and races will be represented highly unequally, too. These are facts mostly determined by genetics. But even if the causes had a social component, this social component is operating at such long timescales that it's impossible to change the numbers in any foreseeable future. The numbers reflect the reality.



Quiz: this is the elevator going from the LHC tunnel, 100 meters below the ground, in December 2010. Which of the people is an artist and the author of the #1 November 2010 bestseller in the Czech Republic, a book of nine physics fables called "A Magpie in the Land of Entropy"? Use the fast comments to guess. While your chances are about 1/12 to guess it right, my theory is that a much higher percentage than 1/12 will find the right answer. :-) I was honored to write the preface for the book and "check the science".

It is not hard to see that the conservatives are much more underrepresented in the current Western scientific establishment than women - and even than blacks. Clearly, the reasons are mostly social in this case. The scientific establishment has become a part of the "big government" with lots of bureaucracy, egalitarianism, redistribution, and political groupthink. And it's been filled by leftists who are often nasty jerks who make the life of decent conservatives impossible. Look at the picture at the very top what the leftists are doing to the conservatives: the verb starts with an "s".

These jerks sometimes appear inside the scientific community itself. However, a large part of the science community is still composed of modest people who silently work in their ivory towers. So more typically, the jerks are omnipresent in the societal groups that surround the scientific community - the scientific bureaucracy, science journalists, science writers, and others. For example, Mooney is the Left's counterpart of the Islamic terrorists. He has no idea about science but he has decided to transform science into a whore whose job is to support what he really cares about, namely his fascist attacks against the conservatives and the propagandist support for deluded left-wing policies.

Do you want a more balanced scientific community? Just punish Mooney, CommunistStalinistSwine, and a few others for their long-term crimes against the humanity. Whether electric chairs are the right tools should be decided by the experts. Decent conservative people clearly don't want to become members of a community whose most vocal - and generally tolerated - members or "de facto members" treat them just like the Nazis treated the Jews.

If the society dares to protect the basic human dignity of the conservatives at least as much as it wants to protect the rights of the Islamic terrorists, i.e. if it manages to shut down the Mooney-like scum that actually deliberately hurts other people all the time, and sometimes does so for a salary (Mooney is an example), namely the leftist activists surrounding the Academia, and if other artifacts of the left-wing thinking (or, more accurately, left-wing lack of thinking) are reduced, of course that the number of conservative people in that group will surge.

Of course, it would be nice for pure scientific yet conservative types such as myself if we could actually professionally work on our favorite questions without sacrificing their basic human dignity and values but I realize that this is totally unrealistic in any foreseeable future, so I am not fighting for this chimera in any way. The political composition of the Western Academia is totally screwed and will remain so at least for decades.

No one has warned me how insane it was in advance ;-) so I couldn't take this information into account but I don't regret any decisions of this type I ever did. When it comes to the younger people who find freedom and conservative values important and who are interested in pure science, my recommendation for them is to avoid the Academia because it is not an environment hospitable for life and it won't become hospitable too soon.

It's sad that this is what I have to recommend, especially because my recommendation will make the imbalance even worse - but I have honestly evaluated what can happen and what cannot and, as suggested above, I don't really care whether science is advanced by leftists or rightists.

Historical swings

There is nothing eternal or biological about the underrepresentation of conservatives in science. Some of the key scientists in the history were conservatives. That includes most of the pre-20th-century giants but also many important scientists of the 20th century. In Germany of the 1930s, it was fashionable for every scientist to endorse the Nazi establishment which was, at least from some viewpoint, not left-wing. Of course that politics does influence such things.

In the Soviet bloc, the intellectuals - which overlapped with scientists to a large extent - were thought of by the regime as a key dangerous group that threatened the survival of communism. The communists were right in their suspicion. Of course, it was playwrights and philosophers who mattered in the fall of communism. But important dissidents were found among natural scientists as well.

So unlike the underrepresentation of women, the underrepresentation of the conservatives is clearly not of a lasting nature. It is just a feature of the post-war and post-modern Western society.

But do I really care about a higher number of conservatives? Well, when it comes to some emotional aspects of this question, I do. Just like I would prefer if many more good scientists were Czech, I would prefer if they were conservatives because I could identify with many more aspects of their personality. I could view them as both intellectual and moral role models - and let me admit that the number of living scientists who satisfy both conditions for me is just tiny.

However, from a scientific viewpoint, I don't care. I think it is totally obvious that the left-wing people may do good science just like everyone else. If they do it right, they are led to the same conclusions as a scientist from any other group you could imagine. There is nothing that could prevent any left-wing person from learning cutting-edge physics or mathematics. So I don't think that the progress in science requires some balance.

There is another issue that should be mentioned here: if you restrict the pool from which the scientists are being chosen to 1/2 of the population - the leftists - by making the environment inhospitable to the conservatives who have arguably the same innate talents in average, the competition obviously weakens and the quality and efficiency may decrease as a result. I am not sure how important this effect actually is - how much more efficient the scientific progress would be if the conservatives found the scientific community hospitable to life.

While they surely have the same - or comparable (with uncertain ordering) - IQ as the leftists, there can be other non-IQ-related but also non-social quantities that actually explain that some fields are currently advanced mostly by leftists. One of the likely aspects will be mentioned in the following section.

Undistorted scientific disciplines

For an ideal scientist, his political beliefs shouldn't matter, regardless of the discipline he or she studies. However, in the real world, scientists are not ideal people. How much are real scientists affected by their political beliefs?

Obviously, I believe that in the disciplines that are as abstract and pure as possible - that are separated from any conceivable political applications -, the politics doesn't play much role. High-energy physics is the most obvious example. Exactly because it doesn't have any applications now or in any foreseeable future, people don't look and can't look what political consequences one conclusion or another could have.

By the way, it is plausible that because these pure scientific disciplines have no practical applications, they attract a smaller percentage of the right-wing people because the right-wing people, as a group, could actually prefer activities that lead to material benefits: this is one aspect I announced in the previous section.

Your humble correspondent clearly doesn't share this view but it is totally plausible that this effect is statistically real and helps to explain the dominance of leftists in high-energy physics and other disciplines: I would agree - and I find it likely - that the conservatives also have a bigger problem to distinguish "true" from "useful" or "working". The leftists may be better in distinguishing these two in average but the price they pay is that they can't really "feel" what is useful or working.

By the way, I should add that politics may affect even theoretical physics (and probably other disciplines of pure science), but not at the professional level. Lee Smolin fights to insert minorities or "seers" who try to destroy existing science, whether or not there exists a glimpse of evidence that this should be done, and he promotes "original young thinkers" who spend their lives saying "Yes Mr Smolin" while climbing deeply inside his buttocks.

Smolin is therefore pretty much overlapping with the postmodern feminist anti-science babblers who say that science is a social construct imposed by white males, and all this stinky stuff. But all real physicists know that he is just a hippie crackpot - only dumb readers of his "popular" books may fail to see this obvious fact; just because the real scientists believe in the same left-wing ideas about the society as Smolin doesn't mean that they will believe the junk he spreads about science. One must be really stupid or amazingly dishonest to do so - and being a normal left-wing person simply isn't "enough".

Distorted scientific disciplines

I have just argued that the disciplines of pure science are essentially immune with respect to political pressures (religious pressures would deserve an extra article, however).

Obviously, the opposite extreme type of the disciplines are those whose existence is pretty much justified by their applications - especially applications in policymaking. Climatology, overtaken by the irrational fears two decades ago or so, is the most obvious contemporary example. But there exist other, less striking examples, too.

Once again, an ideally honest scientist is able to investigate phenomena impartially, regardless of his or her political values. That is true for the climate science, too.

The reality has produced a climatological community that is as separated from a community of the ideal scientists as you can get. The elevated funding and the political strength of the discipline has attracted thousands of sub-par people who have nothing to do with the quality science and who prefer the politics, the money, and the power that the discipline has offered them.

The public mostly distrusts this community - and for a good reason. The community sucks. It is a predominantly corrupt group of criminals, semi-criminals, and opportunist hypocrites and almost everyone outside this group is able to figure this fact out. If you're an alarmist - imagine an honest one, even though it is extremely hard to imagine - and you want to increase the public confidence in the climatological community, what fixes may you invent?

Alarmists trying to regain the public support

For example, you may try to elevate the number of Republicans in the climate science. Will it help to increase the public confidence in the climatologists' honesty?

You bet: it will. But at the same moment, you will also change the scientific conclusions that the community is producing. The community is producing the absurd warnings exactly because it is controlled by left-wing politics. The community had expanded by an order of magnitude - so a vast majority of the people who work in it today joined because of the climate hysteria.

So of course that if you start to hire Republicans and pay them to balance the political colors of the discipline, you will be hiring totally different people with totally different political opinions. And because politics will still matter, even though with the nearly opposite sign, their scientific opinions will still be hugely affected by their politics.

It could be helpful if a politicized discipline such as the climate science were politically pH-neutralized. However, it's just masking the true source of the wrongness: the true source of wrongness is that scientists distort their work by politics. This is wrong whether the politics is left-wing or right-wing. So the pH-neutralization fix may only work as an ad hoc solution but it won't make the community able to systematically find new and valid scientific insights.

The desire of some people to increase regulation and to justify it by the climate threat is clearly a political desire. It has nothing to do with the science. Science doesn't - and actually cannot - tell us that we should increase the powers of the government. The only scientific discipline that can say something of the sort is economics - and be sure that any slightly decent economics says that it is generally better to reduce the government, not to extend it.

As many of us have known and said for years, the climate wars are not about science. They're all about politics. The "attacking side" - the people who suddenly want to impose new bans and regulations - is driven by the political goals. That's why they invented the threat. So it is obvious that the "defending side", one that wants to preserve the civilization, is obviously driven by politics, too.

The amount of political noise in the climate science discipline makes the research mostly useless. Even if there are good papers and "signals", they're just overwhelmed by the political noise and bias. The alarmist side doesn't want any honesty and balance to return to climatology because they claim that the "threat is urgent" - and "action" is needed within years.

Obviously, as long as people who are not arrested will be forcing others to okay this preposterous statement, climatology cannot regain its status of a legitimate scientific discipline. So from this viewpoint, even if you imagined that there was something right about the climate worries, it is absolutely critical for science that the skeptics "win" at least at the decadal scale.

Relevant people simply have to agree that the threat is not "looming" and that we can really afford to do the science properly and without hysteria - and dedicate years of extra research whenever it's helpful or needed. A tie is simply not enough in this sense. If the skeptics don't "win" this particular battle, climate science - and maybe not just climate science - is just permanently doomed.

And that's the memo.

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