Decline of science by politics

WSJ Science needs critics, not cheerleaders.

I have often been aghast at the decline of what passes as science in the popular press, and recently, even in peer reviewed publications. Richard Feynman warned that “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” and sometimes it appears that many politically biased scientists have taken that as encouragement.

Prof. John Staddon of Duke has had enough.

18 thoughts on “Decline of science by politics

  1. Bad science abounds and has always been a bane on moving forward to a factual consensus. Most of those working in the sciences are relentlessly vigilant in calling out and condemning those who use “bad” science for personal or political gain.

    Dr. Staddon was and is correct in his calling out of the Duke President who I think has good intentions, but isn’t interested in digging into the actual problems to find effective solutions. IMO.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Dr Staddon’s comments are mostly in line with my thinking. Those who complain about systemic racism can’t really provide any proof of it beyond anecdotal evidence or claims that statistics are the result of such. As an example, I was reading about average household net worth where blacks didnt fair as well as others. Racism that the article claimed or most black people are materialistic and just don’t save? My experience with coworkers is the latter. They make just as much or more than I do but have to have the latest Audi, BMW or whatever. It’s emotions over fact.


    1. Staddon attempts to lump Structural and Systemic racism together and suggests evidence is “minimal”. He fails to acknowledge the uneven/racist application of the rule of law structure that represents “systemic” racism and is extremely prevalent in our society.

      As to proof; try the internet, as a simple search will provide any open mind extensive information on the topic.

      Here, I’ll get you started…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ok, racism still exists. So?

        Does the existence of racism mean that is the cause of the nihilism and violence that plagues so much of the Black community?

        When I practiced in Hampton VA, I provided dental care for Tuskegee Airman Walter Brown and Katherine Johnson who was portrayed in the movie “Hidden Figures”. Growing up in the south in the 30s, I’m going to guess they encountered significant racism, but that didn’t stop them, more likely it forged them into something stronger.

        If we’re going to improve the lot of the Black community, should we not take care to avoid fixing the wrong thing? Is racism the problem? Or could it be the Great Society, or the Drug War.

        A lot of things have happened in our times, which one is really the one we need to fix?

        That’s not to say we shouldn’t purge racism to the extent that is possible, for the benefit of all our hearts, but we don’t really know if that is going to solve the problem.

        If the family destroying programs of the Great Society are the real cause, we can do all the hand wringing and navel gazing we want and the problem will still be there.

        So, the presumption that ‘systemic racism’ is the cause of all problems doesn’t just waste time and energy, it distracts us from doing what works.

        Assuaging White Guilt is not the same thing as fixing the decline of the Black family.


        1. I certainly didn’t intend to suggest that “systemic racism” is the cause of all, or even the bulk of racial problems. I actually agree with your perspective here.

          As Len pointed out it’s “problematic” and complicated, but needs thoughtful and EFFECTIVE action now.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Again, here racism is just the example. The problem is the sloppy social science that has led so much of the academic and political world to focus entirely on that issue to the exclusion of other approaches.

            You have to go beyond correlation to find solutions.


          2. “go beyond correlation to find solutions.“ Ya think?

            Social science(?) will ALWAYS be “sloppy”,

            However, no matter how you choose to downplay it, it IS a major and fundamental problem humans MUST solve.

            Liked by 2 people

        2. “Does the existence of racism mean that is the cause of the nihilism and violence that plagues so much of the Black community?”

          Not directly.

          I would say that a far more important cause of social ills is poverty. Especially hopeless poverty. I would then add that racism makes it significantly more difficult for people-of-color born into poverty to climb out of it compared to past white under-classes of Irish, Italian and Polish origin whose communities suffered with the same social ills caused by poverty.

          I would also say that attributing “nihilism to and violence” to a community based on race rather than on economic status is a manifestation of deeply rooted and maybe unconscious negative assumptions.

          The Democratic Party pushes policies that are about fighting poverty, income inequality and the functionally unequal opportunities facing the poor. A lot of the resistance those policies encounter from “conservatives” is that a lot of the beneficiaries are not white. So, in the real word, racism is a real problem.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. No, Democrats do not push policies that fight poverty, they push policy that subsidizes poverty, or at least the bad choices that lead to it.

            Support policies that preserve the family and poverty will take care of itself.

            The same choices that elevate people from poverty, marriage and stability before children and self reliance, work for Blacks and whites and anyone else.

            Liberals measure success by how many poor people they help, conservatives measure success by how few people need help.


          2. “No, Democrats do not push policies that fight poverty, they push policy that subsidizes poverty, or at least the bad choices that lead to it.”

            You have a very, very ugly view of the world. I’ve got mine so you get yours. Period. Here is a heads up for the willfully ignorant – There are many other ways to be trapped in poverty besides making poor choices. Duh!

            Democrats push policies to promote . . .
            living wages.
            universal and affordable healthcare.
            early childhood education
            EARNED income tax credit.
            affordable post-secondary education
            better funding for public education
            more infrastructure spending to create WORK.

            NONE of these policies can be fairly described as “subsidizing poverty.” They are about finding ways to enable people to escape it. So what is it that you think you are talking about?

            Liked by 1 person

      2. Your article is a prime example of results without true identification of causation beyond blaming some over arching grand conspiracy against blacks. Are the Asians and Latinos in this conspiracy too since they also faired better in the article. Is any of the black culture experience of their own doing? Short answer, absolutely and probably much more than admitted to but it’s much easier to blame a boogeyman.
        If you truly want to be honest about racism, every race has its racists, including blacks but racists are the extreme minority of each.


  3. From the article: “This isn’t the first time Mr. Staddon, 83, a tall, English-born American, has challenged the dogma of his peers. A professor of psychology, neuroscience and biology, he is something of a modern Cassandra, warning for more than three decades of the corruption of academia by political activists.”

    I blame Dr. Spock’s baby book and the scourge of pop psychology it inspired. Once psychology itself became culturally popular, the science of it became endangered by newsworthiness, which tends to be political.


  4. I suppose behavioral science will continue to be a whipping boy for the foreseeable future. And perhaps there is evidence that such fields are more susceptible to bias than say biology or astrophysics.

    Yet as biology, chemistry, genetics and other live sciences progress, we are finding more and more that chemical balances in our own bodies are often responsible for behavior.

    Just like epileptics from centuries ago might have been considered possessed, we know otherwise today. It does not change the symptoms as much as treatment and cultural acceptance.

    Personally, I think that eventually we will know that every bit of both individual and societal behavior is just a matter of chemicals and microbes. At that point, how we deal with such will be less speculative and biased and more a matter of understanding the environmental and biological impacts on us.

    Meanwhile, the search for a more peaceful world in the face of human behavior will continue with fits and starts.

    I think the debate from the opinion is that trying to quantify human behavior, good and bad, can be problematic. And yet, there are certain statistics that beg for explanations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Problematic” Certainly true.

      Staddon is over-the-top IMO, but I understand his concerns. I started in the “soft” sciences (Industrial Psych) up to post-doc and turned to the “hard” sciences (CS) for reasons similar to his. He does bring a needed perspective which highlights the complexity and vagaries of the mosaic that makes up “human”.

      However, your point about certain “statistics” is spot on, and we MUST for our own National self-interest both, get answers, and then do something useful with them…

      Liked by 1 person

    2. RE: “I think the debate from the opinion is that trying to quantify human behavior, good and bad, can be problematic.”

      The “replication crisis” that exists in all scientific displines is especially acute in psychology.

      There’s no good reason for this. The scientific method is the same in every field.


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