Big Science Is Losing Even More Credibility
Give up on the old-fashioned notion of influence-free, reliable science. This is 2020.
If you ever thought scientific institutions were the most reliable knowledge-discoverers in the world, wake up. Big Science is now a political power group with human foibles of its own that rival some of the biggest scandals in history.
Science as a Tool for Theft and Oppression
Exclusive: US National Science foundation reveals first details on foreign-influence investigations (Nature). The NSF has dirt on its hands. Andrew Silver reports, “The funding agency has taken action in 16-20 cases where foreign ties were not properly reported.” Of these, all but two had ties to China, which is well-known for stealing technology from other countries and using it sometimes for military purposes. The agency has a research security integrity officer for the first time, Rebecca Keiser.
“We’re only starting to understand these issues,” says Keiser, who was appointed to the position in March to tackle foreign interference. All but two of the cases involved ties to China, although a majority of the scientists in cases referred by the Inspector General are US citizens and are not ethnically Chinese.”
Most of the cases involve well-known academics, she says, admitting she was caught by surprise at the security breaches. Could it be that the guilty scientists are enriching themselves at the expense of their country’s security? Perhaps they are ignorant of the risks. Or maybe they lack the courage to stand up to political pressure. The fear is that “US intellectual property, including basic research, is being pilfered,” Silver writes. Basic research sometimes has “dual use” qualification, i.e., civilian and military application. This leakage could have been going on for years and is just now becoming known because of the current “high alert about the influence of foreign governments in federally funded basic research.” See footnote* for examples.
China’s massive effort to collect its people’s DNA concerns scientists (Nature). Here’s a case where scientists cannot claim moral neutrality. The world is watching alarming practices in China: concentration camps, forced sterilizations and abortions, technology theft, the take-over of Hong Kong contrary to treaty, growing fears of totalitarian dominance, and mass surveillance on frightening scales. In addition, concerns about Chinese infiltration have been making the news, such as making popular apps like TikTok that target children and teens with foreign surveillance through their smartphones, and data harvesting in 5G network equipment. But collecting DNA from its male citizens with no criminal history, without their consent, to store in a vast database is an “unprecedented” move:
“This is really unique. No other country is doing it,” says Mechthild Prinz, a forensic geneticist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “They just go and get people that are regular citizens. It is very heavy-handed,” she says.
Researchers also fear that police might use the database to persecute people who criticize the government. “This collection has nothing to do with crime — it has to do with oppression,” says Maya Wang, a researcher at the non-profit group Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong.
* “So NSF, the US National Institutes of Health and other funders have been actively pushing universities and scientists to disclose ties, and the FBI has been actively seeking out undisclosed or inappropriate connections. Many scientists with financial ties in China have come under scrutiny, particularly those involved in China’s Thousand Talents programme, a talent recruitment programme sponsored by the Chinese government. The FBI dragnet has resulted in many researchers being fired, and at least one high-profile arrest, that of Harvard chemist, Charles Leiber. In June, the NIH said that 189 researchers may have violated grant or institutional rules regarding research integrity, with 93% having support from China.”
Science as Chaotic Sniping
One would think science is competent with the human body and with viruses. The coronavirus pandemic has revealed, instead, a chaotic battle of parties constantly changing their minds and driving the public crazy with conflicting stories. For a sense of certainty, some lay people turn to individual TV ‘experts’ for advice; others rely on institutions that turn out to have conflicts of interest. The US just decided to withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO) after revelations about its ties to China (the ones who first covered up the seriousness of the virus). How can a “world health organization” presumably in existence to help people lose its credibility so completely?
Without trying to take sides here, a few headlines illustrate some of the posturing and attacking going on. UC Davis claims that your mask cuts down risk of contracting the disease by 65%, but how can they measure that without specifying the conditions? What kind of mask? How often is it cleaned? The Scientist pitched in, too, with an infographic. But Dr Anthony Fauci, the acclaimed world expert on infectious diseases, first denied the effectiveness of masks and now strongly advocates them. The bickering over masks has taken a political turn, with conservatives often denying their effectiveness, and liberals using masks as virtue signals to shame those who don’t use them. Some say UV kills the virus, others say it doesn’t. The University of Houston has an air filter they claim can kill the virus. The Mayo Clinic puffs itself up in the role of authority, “Debunking COVID-19 Myths,” but who will debunk the debunkers? Much of its advice appears commonsense, but the ‘experts’ have blundered big time publicly for months now, with mainstream media behind them. They promoted then retracted a claim about hydrochloroquine causing harm, because it made President Trump, who promoted HCQ, look bad—a political motivation. (See negative analysis by Mary McCullough, and compare it with claims of success from a Henry Ford study reported in the New York Post; see how CNN’s coverage immediately casts doubt on it, revealing their knee-jerk bias against the president). A preprint on bioRxiv finds that HCQ is theoretically and experimentally good after all. Today, there is a controversy going on about whether the virus is airborne (e.g., Nature, BBC News, Live Science). Why is such a simple observational test so hard for the world’s greatest medical scientists to figure out, using state-of-the-art equipment?
People caught up in the HCQ controversy seem to forget that the large rise in prescriptions during February and March was not mandated or even recommended by President Trump, but were individual decisions made by doctors for their patients (Medical Xpress). Trump’s own doctor prescribed it for him as a prophylactic. Mark O’Brian at The Conversation admits that the controversy and retraction over hydrochloroquine was somewhat politically based, because scientists and media seemed eager to make Trump look bad, but then turns around and says that the chaos shows “the process of science is working as it should.” As it should? Really? Is chaotic sniping the new normal in science? O’Brian pushes the myth that “science is self-correcting” again. Well, it sure wasn’t at the NSF until outside investigators took a look at rampant conflicts of interest, lack of transparency and foreign influence from China. With such a bad track record this year of self-correction, who will correct the correctors? The issue is that hydroxychloroquine has been around for decades, and world experts still can’t decide if it helps. The reflexive attack against the President using fake science has cast a cloud on the impartiality and credibility of Big Science that even they admit was embarrassing.
Republicans have had a field day pointing out that Democrats were all for “the science” when it was politically expedient to keep people from going to church in May, but allowed protestors and rioters to engage in mass gatherings, looting, and attacks on police and innocent bystanders in June. All the cities that had the worst damage and death, they like to point out, are run by Democrats. Now, these same Democrats, facing the aftermath of carnage and destruction, are wagging their fingers at Christians, telling them they are not allowed to sing if they gather for worship, because “science says” that virus particles can travel through the air while singing. Apparently the viruses don’t travel as far when shouting obscenities at police. The situation reveals the public’s distrust of science, and their willingness to quote their own desired experts contra what Big Science says.
Science as a Two-Faced Goofy
Scientists think the environment will make people happy. Whoops; a new study at the Michigan State finds that “characteristics of your neighborhood have little to do with how satisfied you are with it.”
“Trigger Warnings” were instituted at many institutions to protect the delicate psyches of people. Whoops; a Harvard Study shows they may actually do more harm than good. (Medical Xpress)
The 2016 polls, fed by so-called “scientific polling” statistical methods were so wrong, the failure will go down as a “‘game-changer’ for reporters,” the University of Missouri now says in retrospect. (Phys.org)
Agriculture has contributed to our climate crisis; the “UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claims that agriculture is one of the main sources of greenhouse gases, and is thus by many observers considered as a climate villain.” Whoops; maybe not, says a scientist at Linköping University. (Phys.org) It’s a “paradigm that has never been questioned,” he says; better results can be achieved by innovation.
Plate tectonics is one of the great intellectual achievements of 20th century geology, we are taught (even though the theory’s first proponent, Alfred Wegener, was ridiculed by the establishment in his day). Whoops; Australian scientists are calling for a rewrite of Earth history.
Curtin University-led research has found new evidence to suggest that the Earth’s first continents were not formed by subduction in a modern-like plate tectonics environment as previously thought, and instead may have been created by an entirely different process.
Science As Leftist Advocacy Group
As we have reported before (25 Jan 2020, 13 June 2020 etc.), examples of leftist bias in Big Science and Big Media are so common and frequent, almost everybody admits it now. Whatever President Trump and conservatives are for, they are against. A few recent examples suffice as illustrations. (Keep in mind that sites like Phys.org are amalgamators of the science press releases of universities.)
- The President is against mail-in ballots; University of Chicago says the potential for fraud is real, but it’s not a real problem. (Phys.org).
- Conservatives want voter integrity and feel that opposition to voter ID laws is insulting to minorities. UC San Diego repeats the liberal position that voter ID laws “discriminate against racial and ethnic minorities” according to a “new study” (prepare to be hoodwinked). (Phys.org)
- Conservatives deplore biased liberal media about ‘racist cops’ and murder in Democrat-run cities like Chicago; the University of Alberta puts the fault of bias on conservative headlines and says crime is really not that bad. The article specifically undermines statements by Trump and Fox News (Phys.org)
- Conservatives emphasize the freedom of opportunity in America, and the good nature of most of its people. Liberals are fixated on America’s flaws, especially racism, ignoring the progress since over 600,000 Americans died in a Civil War to end slavery 155 years ago, and the progress since the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. A scientist at Indiana University assumes, without evidence, that “systemic racism exists in healthcare” and uses graffiti of a clenched fist (communist imagery) alongside its call for solutions. (Phys.org)
- Liberals see everything through the lens of race, class and gender, describing minorities as victims of white privilege. The University of Chicago continues the line that no matter what happens to the whole country, economic shocks “disproportionately affected minority racial and ethnic communities.” (Phys.org).
- Conservatives value individual liberty and responsibility, and deplore socialism and communism. Liberals see everyone as a member of a group. An article from the University of Kent posted on Phys.org almost qualifies as communist propaganda, overtly promoting “collectivism” as a better response to the pandemic. “Promoting collectivism could make a positive difference to future public health crises too, as leaders look to improve response strategies,” the article says. “A collectivist mindset might also make people less susceptible to conspiracy theories and misinformation that can negatively affect their behavior.” In the Ministry of Truth, there is no misinformation, and there are no conspiracy theories. Why? Because everybody has been thoroughly indoctrinated into the Party position.
- Conservatives are pro-life; liberals are pro-abortion. Guess on which side of the issue this article from the University of Manchester will land: “New research calls for relaxation of abortion care laws in Britain and the USA.” (Phys.org)
- Scientific institutions are rushing to support “Black Lives Matter” which is a Marxist organization with terrorist roots (see Breitbart, and hear co-founder say so on The Gateway Pundit). For example, Nature Methods published an Editorial, “Why Black Lives Matter in Science” as a bow to the movement that is toppling statues, defunding police and dismantling Western history.
- Anthropologists at the University of Vienna analyze “the appeal of far-right politics” but—guess what?— they ignore the appeal of far-left politics! This speaks volumes about the political filter that science uses to analyze the world, and the media lets them get away with it. (Phys.org)
That’s enough for now; suffice it to say there is no shortage of examples of leftist bias in the “science news” business. One would think that by chance alone the political bias would balance out as the number of articles increases. That has not been the experience of CEH at all; articles that have any bearing on political discourse uniformly and universally land on the liberal side. Readers are invited to find exceptions.
When half or more of the population hears “science” repeating the talking points of the Left, are they likely to distrust the pronouncements of the institutions that repeat the same talking points of the people they fear are destroying the country? Are they likely to distrust the ones who insist we are all evolved apes who arrived by chance and are going nowhere? Are they going to distrust the ones whose Darwinist theories contradict the Declaration of Independence that says we are all created equal, and endowed by our Creator with rights?
Big Science and Big Media are in a chaotic mess right now. Individual scientists often do good work, but the trust of the public is largely gone, and scientists have no one to blame but themselves.