Don’t Trust Scientists Who Were Wrong; Fire Them
The best scam is to keep fooling people into trusting your latest ideas even after you’ve admitted you’ve been wrong all along.
Sunday News Editorial by David Coppedge
Science seems to be the only profession where you can keep your job after teaching falsehoods for years, just because you carry the label scientist. Are cult leaders this fortunate? Here are some of the tricks of the trade:
“Now We Know Better”
Few scientists will actually come out and say they were wrong. Congratulations to Chris Stringer for being one of those few. After the shocking revelation of modern humans 100,000 Darwin Years older than evolutionary paleoanthropologists had believed (was 200,000, now 300,000 – both unobservable and incredible), he told Pallab Ghosh of the BBC News,
Prof Stringer says it is not inconceivable that primitive humans who had smaller brains, bigger faces, stronger brow ridges and bigger teeth – but who were nonetheless Homo sapiens – may have existed even earlier in time, possibly as far back as half a million years ago. This is a startling shift in what those who study human origins believed not so long ago.
“I was saying 20 years ago that the only thing we should be calling Homo sapiens are humans that look like us. This was a view that Homo sapiens suddenly appeared in Africa at some point in time and that was the beginning of our species. But it now looks like I was wrong,” Prof Stringer told BBC News.
This was no small flub. Read the article to see how massive a paradigm shift this represents. The ramifications are monumental:
- The discoverer of the Moroccan skulls says “the discovery would ‘rewrite the textbooks’ about our emergence as a species.”
- It’s possible that many of the individuals labeled as primitive were actually Homo sapiens with some particular anatomical quirks.
- Because modern humans were all over Africa, the stone tools attributed to primitive ancestors because of their age could have been made by Homo sapiens.
- It’s likely that true Homo sapiens were existing all over Africa alongside their alleged ‘ancestors’, involved in trade and travel.
- “By contrast, the mainstream view has been that Homo sapiens evolved suddenly from more primitive humans in East Africa around 200,000 years ago; and it is at that point that we assumed, broadly speaking, the features we display now. What is more, only then do we spread throughout Africa and eventually to the rest of the planet. Prof Hublin’s discoveries would appear to shatter this view.“
- Stringer adds, the Morocco discovery “raises the possibility that Homo sapiens may even have existed outside of Africa at the same time: ‘We have fossils from Israel that are probably the same age and they show what could be described as proto-Homo sapiens features.'”
- “‘We now have to modify the vision of how the first modern humans emerged,’ Prof Hublin told [Ghosh] with an impish grin.“
And yet Chris Stringer doesn’t give any indication he will be stepping down as a scientist. Nor does Pallab Ghosh, who has reported all this fake science with glee for many years. Are they not false teachers? Have they not misled the public for decades? Why shouldn’t they hang their heads in shame, and do something honest with the rest of their lives, like pick avocados? Society could even offer lenience to those who admit they were wrong, but throw the book at the unrepentant ones who still dominate evolutionary paleoanthropology.
mainstream view has been… appears to shatter this view… we now have to modify the vision…
The first reason they will likely get away with it and carry on is a mistaken view of science. It still predominates in society: the view that science is progressive. Unlike industry, where you have to produce something that works to stay employed, scientists thrive on the dubious assumption that each new discovery improves our knowledge. Sometimes it does, but science is not immune from having to backtrack off of dead ends. But even when the old “knowledge” proves to have been fake, the progressive view of science gives the researcher license to be wrong again and again, and still maintain the respectable label of scientist. “Now we know better,” they will say, peddling the latest new-and-improved snake oil to the same gullible customers. It’s a scam that deserves to be exposed.
This is why so many stories couch their error with the two words, “… than thought.” Reporters will say, Such-and-such a creature appeared x million years earlier “than thought.” Than who thought? Did I think that? Did you think that? The passive voice of the sentence gives the impression that everybody thought so, when really it was the peddlers of fake science who thought wrongly. When you see those two words, translate the sentence to clear the air: “Dr Scientist used to think that, but he was wrong.”
We see similar examples of complete turnarounds in other sciences. In the 1970s, the experts said the earth was entering an ice age. Now, they say global warming will kill us all. Where’s the accountability? In 1968, biologist Paul Ehrlich wrote a book called The Population Bomb that said the planet would run out of resources in just a few years. Concerns like that led to China’s disastrous one-child policy with all its social shrapnel. Now, experts are worried that not enough children are being born to support the needs of China and western civilizations. Good thing false prophets aren’t stoned these days. At age 85, Ehrlich is still highly respected by fellow leftists in academia, giving speeches on the dangers of overpopulation.
“My Peers Were Wrong”
We clearly have left these ideas behind.
Another way scientists can shirk responsibility for wrongness is by pointing the finger at others who have been proven wrong, even though they share the same worldview presuppositions. For instance, atheist behavioral psychologist Robert Sapolsky has a new book out titled simply, Behave. In Science Magazine, Sapolsky gets the kid-glove treatment by reviewer Franz de Waal, who points to a very influential predecessor of them both, the atheist and behaviorist B. F. Skinner:
Sapolsky remains mercifully brief about B. F. Skinner and his followers, who dominated behavioral science with strikingly unbiological approaches for most of last century. We clearly have left these ideas behind.
So B. F. Skinner was wrong. But he was a highly respected behavioral scientist of his day. Now Robert Sapolsky stands in his stead, sharing Skinner’s atheism and his belief that all of human thought, behavior and spirituality goes no further than the biological cells of the brain. Like Skinner, Sapolsky denies human exceptionalism. De Waal writes, “Sapolsky places what makes us special in the wider context of humans as animals with brains that are fundamentally similar to those of other species.” In his view, it’s just atoms all the way down:
Behave begins with the brain, examining the role of everything from the frontal cortex to the limbic system in human decision-making. Subsequent sections describe the influence of testosterone and other hormones, as well as neurotransmitters. This basic knowledge, which provides an essential background for the chapters that follow, is interspersed with notes about moral development, the role of mothers, and aggressive behavior.
Subsequent chapters delve into the genetics of behavioral evolution, the in-group/out-group distinction, social hierarchies, moral reasoning, and war and peace. Sapolsky moves smoothly from the latest social science studies by psychologists and anthropologists to the neural underpinnings of each phenomenon.
It’s convenient for Sapolsky and de Waal to point the finger at Skinner and say ‘He was wrong,’ but what’s the difference? They’re building on the same foundation of quicksand. Undoubtedly some future behavioral scientist will shirk off Sapolsky’s views with the same words, “We clearly have left those ideas behind.” The scam will continue, with no accountability. Sapolsky will make money off his book of Fake Science v. 2017, retire with a comfortable stipend, and be remembered fondly by the next crew of hucksters.
“We’re Still Looking”
Another scam in science is the open-ended quest. Decades can go by with no fruit, but customers will still pay with their trust anyway. It’s the Nigeria scam in scientific dress. Case in point is SETI. How long do we give them to look at nothing? Mindy Weisberger at Live Science asks, “Is It Time to Rethink How We Search for Alien Life?” Notice that she doesn’t ask “whether” we search for alien life, but “how” we search for it, after over 50 years of nothing. And who’s “we”, paleface? Have you, dear CEH reader, set up your radio dish in your back yard to tune in to the sound of silence? Her use of the plural pronoun gives Mindy cover for SETI’s nakedness, as if we are all naked together. Sorry; so far, the only ones who should be ashamed are the searchers who have zero empirical evidence for alien life and yet call it ‘Live Science’. If Ms Weisberger were writing for ‘Dead Dogma’, that might be excusable. This is the same reporter who goes to Future Con and wonders if Harry Potter‘s powers of wizardry are embedded in his DNA. Maybe Present Con (as in con job) would be more appropriate for Lie Science.
I acknowledge the right of SETI cultists to spend OPM (other people’s money) on the fruitless search, but it is not science—and will not become science—until it has some evidence. Let me pre-empt any angry emails by pointing out that dead exoplanets like those the Kepler spacecraft has been finding do not constitute evidence for aliens. SETI advocate Seth Shostak builds his hope on the number of exoplanets out there, shifting the burden of proof on his critics by saying that the position, “‘I don’t believe in aliens’ is a daring position to take.” Yes, and failing to send more money to Nigeria after you’ve already spent your life savings wouldn’t make sense now either, would it? (nudge, nudge– 1/11/17). So on that dare, Seth continues further into fantasyland, speculating about the aliens being robots. It seems to me the null hypothesis should be employed for good scientific practice. There are no aliens until proven otherwise, and Shostak is not a scientist until he has evidence.
Speaking of exoplanets, the National Academy of Sciences hit a new low by publishing Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb’s latest panspermia theory in its proceedings. It would be one thing if he wrote for the National Academy of Imagineers, but does his personal hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy belong in America’s leading science journal? Loeb (who can be a thoughtful guy; see article on ENST) and his colleague Manasvi Lingam took an irrational leap from evidence for five planetary bodies orbiting the TRAPPIST-1 star to a vision of aliens who care and share:
Our paper addresses the possibility that life on one of these planets can spread to others through the transfer of rocky material. We conclude that this process has a high probability of being operational, implying that this planetary system may possess multiple life-bearing planets.
Has science come to this? With absolute zero evidence for life on any of those planets, and zero evidence for earth life spreading to Mars or anywhere else in our own solar system, these guys have pole-vaulted their imaginations into far-out space, visualizing life hitchhiking around a distant star. Neither SETI nor Astrobiology have a speck of evidence for their view, but they continue to hock their wares with the excuse, “We’re still looking.” Pity the poor Europeans being forced to fork up multiple-million euros for another exoplanet mission sold on the hope that “it could eventually even lead to the detection of extra-terrestrial life.” Many a scientific quest began with hope, but science is not hope. It is not even hypothesis. It is demonstration.
Practitioners of the dark arts (i.e., dark matter and dark energy), continue looking at nothing. In fact, Jesse Emspak at Space.com writes, “Dark Energy May Lurk in the Nothingness of Space.” Sure it “may” lurk there. So may unicorns. So may gnomes. “Dark energy may emerge from fluctuations in the nothingness of empty space, a new hypothesis suggests.” Keep staring, and call back when you see something. We’ll be in the lab.