I Made a New Word LXII

Not too pleased with the idea of creating potentially a third thread-that-won’t-die, when I already have two. But this thing needs naming, and it needs naming rather badly:

Anti-Science (n.)

Whereas real science is a disciplined accumulation of knowledge, toward a more useful and complete understanding of the world around us, this is the exact opposite. It starts at the opposite end and runs perfectly backwards. The conclusion comes first, and then as evidence arrives it is compared to this conclusion. If the evidence doesn’t support the desired conclusion, an elaborate anti-treatise will be prepared giving reasons why the evidence has to be discarded. There is an extremely low bar of adequacy for this anti-treatise. It can be entirely an appeal to emotion, or an appeal to authority, a bunch of ad hom attacks, or it can be a complaint that some paper making entirely legitimate points was not properly “vetted” or peer-reviewed, or that its author is “on the take” from the oil companies. Or, has never written up an article that has been published in a peer-reviewed journal. But the common and indispensable element to the anti-treatise is that the problematic information has to be discarded. It is like a lawyer arguing that evidence has been contaminated and is not to be allowed in court.

By way of these anti-treatises that remove information while pretending to add it, anti-science anti-learns about nature and the world around us, by pretending to learn it. It functions exactly the same way as a sculptor creating an image of a horse by starting with a block and removing everything that doesn’t look like a horse.

The “color wheel” is never too far from my mind when I get in these arguments with liberals. When you create colors by way of pigment, you subtract some colors from solid white, to leave a residual which is the antithesis of what you’ve removed. Do it some more, and you leave a smaller residual. When you create colors by way of light, you add some colors to form others. Pigment subtracts, color adds. This turns everything around: You overlay a blue film over a yellow film you get green, so green seems to be a composite color. What a simple experiment, and what a certain result you have. It’s right in front of you, how can you deny it? But in reality it’s the yellow that is a product of the green and the red. Green is not a product, it is a primary color. Things look entirely upside-down when you take things away, as opposed to putting them together.

Now it is certainly true that in real science, certain disciplines have to be followed. That’s where a lot of the effort goes. Entire experiments have to be started over again, with their data sets thrown out, after it’s discovered something wasn’t done quite right. Anyone who’s ever conducted a phone survey, is going to understand this. It can be truly exasperating. But only in anti-science is there this obligation to pretend something never happened, when it did, and even though there is arguably some kind of tainting that happened it still means something. Only in anti-science do things start to resemble a courtroom, in which the judge sternly lectures the jury to disregard the testimony.

The Zachriel objected to my noticing that science was being hijacked, and we had this exchange:

mkfreeberg: But when the theory says something, and practical experience says the opposite, and the science starts to “preach” much like a religious order would preach, that this observed practical experience should be invalidated, discarded, discredited, nudged aside, whatever is necessary to make the dogma come out right…that is an event that has the virtue of being testable.

Zachriel: …modern climate science does not meet your definition of “faux-science”. As we said, climate scientists collect observational evidence, often under difficult conditions, work across multiple disciplines, providing important cross-checks, subject their hypotheses to rigorous empirical testing, publish for their peers, and change their positions as new data becomes available. That’s contrary to your definition.

Line by line, I demonstrated the obvious: Not a single one of these glittering-generality statements about the noble work of the climate scientists, is mutually exclusive in any way from my testable complaint about this chisel-from-the-block-of-marble anti-science, that I called “faux science.” I’m sure counterfeiters do hard work across multiple disciplines in difficult conditions, too. And yet The Zachriel came back with a mixture of squid ink and “not sure what you mean by.”

Observation to be made here — and it is meaningful, for The Zachriel are not alone in doing this, by any means — in the course of denying there is any such thing as this counterfeit science, which “proves” things by taking knowledge away instead of by gathering it…they use this process to make their point. I point out the obvious and they come up with some kind of anti-treatise to “block” the information. Starting with the block, chiseling down to the horse. In exactly the same moment, in the same sentence, as insisting that is not what the climate scientists do.

It’s like yelling into a microphone to deny the existence of microphones.

What we’re seeing practiced with anti-science is not science at all, but modern liberalism. Information is treated as a contaminant, with the weird understanding in place that true wisdom is a vestigial remnant to be left standing, like the horse, after all the undesirable knowledge has been stripped away. Yes, our friends the liberals seem to think you are wiser when you know less. And learning, therefore, is a disciplined process of forgetting. Once one achieves wisdom in this way, by forgetting enough stuff, one is supposed to see the light and spread the knowledge around, by dissuading others from ever learning in the first place, what the original “learner” spent all that effort to forget. I know. Quite bizarre. But it explains quite a few of the things they do.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.

9 thoughts on “I Made a New Word LXII

  1. Pingback: House of Eratosthenes

  2. mkfreeberg: The conclusion comes first, and then as evidence arrives it is compared to this conclusion.

    Zachriel: change their positions as new data becomes available

    Are those two statement compatible?

    By the way, you do realize that the hypothesis comes before the test?

  3. Xposted from Eratosthenes:

    mkfreeberg: It’s already been established that this faux-science arrives at its conclusions not by accumulating additional knowledge, but by discarding knowledge.

    That’s your definition, not a determination. May as well add that, although you’ve defined “anti-science”, you haven’t applied the definition to any particular.

  4. Of course the hypothesis comes before the test. But the test then is, does new data verify the hypothesis? You lot get it backwards: you test the data, and discard that instead of discrediting the hypothesis.

    In this case, the hypothesis is not “Does technology permanently damage Earth’s climate, making it eventually unlivable?” The real hypothesis is that mankind is bad for everything else. They cause global cooling! Overpopulation! Alar! Etc etc. When those things become obviously false, then humanity causes… well, something else bad instead. And that “hypothesis” never changes, only the means by which it may be forwarded.

  5. nightfly: You lot get it backwards: you test the data, and discard that instead of discrediting the hypothesis.

    Well, no. One tests the entailments of the hypothesis to determine whether the hypothesis is consistent with the evidence. If not, the hypothesis is either modified or discarded.

    nightfly: The real hypothesis is that mankind is bad for everything else.

    One problem with that hypothesis is the ambiguous term “bad”, which is not an empirical concept.

  6. “One problem with that hypothesis is the ambiguous term “bad”, which is not an empirical concept.”

    As the kids no longer like to say – that’s not a bug, that’s a feature. The more nebulous the conept, the harder it is to pin down and thus the easier it is to believe, in the face of anything. It’s a fog. It’s not meant to hide the light; just to scatter and diffuse it, so it’s impossible to find its source and get out into the clear day.

  7. nightfly: As the kids no longer like to say – that’s not a bug, that’s a feature.

    Well, that won’t make in the science department, but good luck it.

  8. “You lot get it backwards: you test the data, and discard that instead of discrediting the hypothesis.”

    That’s it in a nutshell. It was the guiding principle in human history, with only a few shining examples in the Ancient World, until the Enlightenment. After that, the new approach here and there began to be to trust the data and doubt the hypothesis. But it’s still not as widespread as you might think. There’s a reason people stuck to the errors of Classical physics and medicine for over a thousand years: the new way of thinking is very hard. It does not come naturally to most people. In every generation there’s someone crying “heresy!” who has a good reason to shout down critics and label certain positions as beyond the pale, to be censored rather than confronted. Look at the spectacle in our public schools. You can’t mention evolution! No, you can’t mention creationism! Such a fear of ideas. It’s a little understandable when people are trying to protect children, but it spills over into adult life. “We have to shade the truth, or the taxpayers won’t vote for the right funds!”

    At least people who advocate that last bit of fraud may be keeping the truth straight in their own minds. What’s more alarming is the ones who think they’ve mastered the scientific method, but are in fact hacks parroting the party line, too incurious to dig into the real basis of anything.

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