The slow suicide of American science

C C Offline

EXCERPTS: . . . Without a change in the direction of our culture, American technological supremacy is facing an existential threat. I've always been bullish about American scientific and technological supremacy, not in some starry-eyed, jingoistic way, but due to the simple reality that the United States remains the world's research and development engine.

This is true for at least four reasons, which I detailed previously: (1) Superior higher education; (2) A cultural attitude that encourages innovation; (3) Substantial funding and financial incentives; and (4) A legal framework that protects intellectual property and tolerates failure through efficient bankruptcy laws. There's a fifth, fuzzier reason, namely that smart and talented people have long gravitated toward the U.S.

[...] Unfortunately, there are a confluence of factors that, when combined, constitute an existential threat to American science: Postmodernism, political partisanship, and trial lawyers.

Postmodernism. Though nobody can actually define postmodernism, it is characterized by a rejection of objective truth. This toxic ideology is [see article]...

Political partisanship. There was a time when scientists knew better than to deal in politics. That time is now gone... [see article]

Trial lawyers. Like vultures hunting for a carcass on a desert highway, trial lawyers lurk in the background, swooping down to win jackpot verdicts against large firms, often those in the agricultural technology and pharmaceutical industries. The pattern is always the same [see artcile]...

Self-Inflicted Wounds Cut the Deepest. Societal decline is a choice. [...] The good news is that, though these self-inflicted wounds are substantial, they are not irreversible... But these things require effort and a change in mindset... (MORE - details)
Yazata Offline
It isn't just the slow suicide of science. It's the slow suicide of civilization itself.

The biggest problem is the politicization of every aspect of life. So every choice a person makes starts to have political significance and carries with it political sanctions. (That's almost the definition of totalitarianism.)

Add in the growing tendency to conceive of all political questions in terms of morality (the activists call it "justice") turning realism, what once would have been practical questions  of what does and doesn't work, into questions of which course of action is good and which is evil.

So reason starts to give way to rationalization.

I fear that we are headed for the end of Western civilization at least as it's flourished since the Renaissance, in favor of something darker and more medieval.
Yazata Offline
Here's an example of why scholarship and "the Academy" are increasingly controversial, and rightfully so. Who ever thought that mathematics, the most abstract of disciplines, could be politicized? But apparently it can. (Left-politicized mathematics is a little reminiscent of Hitler-style Aryan physics.)

When science starts to become a theological style authority that laypeople must always believe (or else) and must never ever doubt or challenge, and when science ceases being an open-minded and unbiased search for knowledge and somehow becomes a vehicle for value-laden moral condemnation and social change exhortation, when it starts to look more like an instrument of thought control it starts to become something not so faintly totalitarian.

I don't trust intellectuals or higher education and I think that strong a-priori skepticism is probably the best approach to whatever the professors tell us. (So much of it is bullshit these days...) Professors may or may not be knowledgeable about their own areas of expertise, mathematics or whatever it is. So they can be useful to students as resource people for that limited purpose. But any idea that they know any more than you do about right and wrong or good and evil, about how you should live your life, or about how society should evolve in the future, is doubtful in the extreme.

Any suggestion that they and not the sovereign citizenry, the voting public, should control government policy, is a direct attack on the fundamental principle of democracy.
Ben the Donkey Offline
(Oct 4, 2020 04:36 PM)Yazata Wrote: It isn't just the slow suicide of science. It's the slow suicide of civilization itself.

This more or less encapsulates the issue. Better to view it as a symptom. 
The use of the word "civilisation" in a universal sense might be problematic, though. That's a highly subjective term to use in this context.

Cultural suicide is at the heart of it. I have in mind the American founding fathers, and how they might react when confronted with the long-term results of their own lofty idealism. 
But I'm beyond expanding upon that at this point in time.
Zinjanthropos Offline
I don't think it's suicide, science would have to intentionally off itself. Not happening. It's more like murder.
Ben the Donkey Offline
Murder would imply outside agency.
Wouldn't you say it's suffering from the conflicting ideals espoused by its own society, though?
Syne Offline
Political motives destroying science would be murder.
Zinjanthropos Offline
(Oct 9, 2020 05:44 PM)Ben the Donkey Wrote: Murder would imply outside agency.
Wouldn't you say it's suffering from the conflicting ideals espoused by its own society, though?

Probably right. I'm thinking of things like a creationist museum, premeditated. Such an affront is a conflicting ideal in my mind.
Leigha Offline
I'd also add apathy to that list. Our culture as a whole, seems to be indifferent to facts.

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