Thursday, June 23, 2005

Cargo Cult Science

Why is the West in a state of self-imposed dhimmitude? Why have we struck the attitude, not the deep belief nor the idea of knowledge but simply the uncritical attitude, that we are somehow bad in comparison to the 'Other?' Few outside the clique of highly motivated and entrenched professional Leftists actually go home at night thinking that the West is evil and committed to genocide in its insatiable greed for oil and the trees of the tropical rainforests. Most people simply hold the attitude of a cocktail party guest, a pose for the occasion, that we are so deeply concerned about this or that particular issue--while in sight of company we wish to impress. It's a pose that we will do well to exercise less often, even not at all, in favor of real exercise of our grey matters. Let's skip the dhimmi stuff and try to get real.

Most Westerners, all but a tiny minority of lunatics on the Right who've hijacked religion as a platform from which to shoot at doctors and geologists, feel comfortable with liberal social values; and if we are incautious we will lose those values in place of rabid reactionary values in a violent backlash against our strained smiling in the face of our dhimmitude.We're letting ourselves be taken for a ride by extremist hijackers, and the ride isn't amusing any longer. Someone else is piloting our fates, and it's not looking like we're in for a safe landing. In fact, the situation is so extreme that it's time for us to call 911.

And there we have it: no one wants to be the first to panic.

Is the theatre crowded?


Let's stop pretending that Islam is a religion at all. It isn't; Islam is a poligion, a political ideology of fascism, and it's dangerous to limb and life. All of our pretty noises aren't going to soothe it. Islam is fascism, and those who practice it are not moderate, cannot be moderate, and will never be moderate. Islam is fascism, a new form of Nazi ideology in the old form of Islam. I'm not smiling anymore. Are you?

We might like to recall that we've worked hard over the past 500 years to make progress in the general Human condition, and that progress is under attack not only by barbarians but by our own reactionaries on the Left.

Below we see some of the greatness of our recent past, ideas that came as a result of thousands of years of intellectual struggle against the herd instinct of Islam and its evil relatives. We'll start by including some writing by Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, writing that is in itself not only brilliant but beautiful:

Aphorisms Concerning the Interpretation of Nature and the Kingdom of Man

* * *

The idols and false notions which are now in possession of the human understanding, and have taken deep root therein, not only so beset men's minds that truth can hardly find entrance, but even after entrance is obtained, they will again in the very instauration of the sciences meet and trouble us, unless men being forewarned of the danger fortify themselves as far as may be against their assaults.

There are four classes of idols which beset men's minds. To these for distinction's sake I have assigned names,--calling the first class Idols of the Tribe; the second, Idols of the Cave; the third, Idols of the Market-place; the fourth, Idols of the Theater.

The formation of ideas and axioms by true induction is no doubt the proper remedy to be applied for the keeping off and clearing away of idols. To point them out, however, is of great use, for the doctrine of idols is to the interpretation of nature what the doctrine of the refutation of sophisms is to common logic.

The Idols of the Tribe have their foundation in human nature itself, and in the tribe or race of men. For it is a false assertion that the sense of man is the measure of things. On the contrary, all perceptions, as well of the sense as of the mind, are according to the measure of the individual and not according to the measure of the universe. And the human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolors the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it.

The Idols of the Cave are the idols of the individual man. For everyone (besides the errors common to human nature in general) has a cave or den of his own, which refracts and discolors the light of nature; owing either to his own proper and peculiar nature or to his education and conversation with others; or to the reading of books, and the authority of those whom he esteems and admires; or to the differences of impressions, accordingly as they take place in a mind preoccupied and predisposed or in a mind indifferent and settled; or the like. So that the spirit of man (according as it is meted out to different individuals) is in fact a thing variable and full of perturbation, and governed as it were by chance. Whence it was well observed by Heraclitus that men look for sciences in their own lesser worlds, and not in the greater or common world.

There are also idols formed by the intercourse and association of men with each other, which I call Idols of the Market-place, on account of the commerce and consort of men there. For it is by discourse that men associate; and words are imposed according to the apprehension of the vulgar. And therefore the ill and unfit choice of words wonderfully obstructs the understanding. Nor do the definitions or explanations wherewith in some things learned men are wont to guard and defend themselves, by any means set the matter right. But words plainly force and overrule the understanding, and throw all into confusion, and lead men away into numberless empty controversies and idle fancies.

Lastly, there are idols which have immigrated into men's minds from the various dogmas of philosophies, and also from wrong laws of demonstration. These I call Idols of the Theater; because in my judgment all the received systems are but so many stage-plays, representing worlds of their own creation after an unreal and scenic fashion. Nor is it only of the systems now in vogue, or only of the ancient sects and philosophies, that I speak: for many more plays of the same kind may yet be composed and in like artificial manner set forth; seeing that errors the most widely different have nevertheless causes for the most part alike. Neither again do I mean this only of entire systems, but also of many principles and axioms in science, which by tradition, credulity, and negligence have come to be received.

But of these several kinds of idols I must speak more largely and exactly, that the understanding may be duly cautioned.
To continue with the Idols of the Mind, please search Francis Bacon:

Bacon's "New Learning" set the forms for a new paradigm in critical thinking. Rather than continuing to muck about in an Aristotlean swamp as before, Bacon devised a new way of looking at the world and testing the results for verity. For all the pretentions of the modern Left they are pseudo-scientists every bit as backward and committed to that backwardness as any witch doctor from Haiti, those who are, as a rule, our leftwing social scientist Ph. D holders. Feynman makes some nice observations below:

Richard Feynman
From a Caltech commencement address given in 1974
Also in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

During the Middle Ages there were all kinds of crazy ideas, such as that a piece of of rhinoceros horn would increase potency. Then a method was discovered for separating the ideas--which was to try one to see if it worked, and if it didn't work, to eliminate it. This method became organized, of course, into science. And it developed very well, so that we are now in the scientific age. It is such a scientific age, in fact, that we have difficulty in understanding how witch doctors could ever have existed, when nothing that they proposed ever really worked--or very little of it did.

But even today I meet lots of people who sooner or later get me into a conversation about UFO's, or astrology, or some form of mysticism, expanded consciousness, new types of awareness, ESP, and so forth. And I've concluded that it's not a scientific world.

Most people believe so many wonderful things that I decided to investigate why they did. And what has been referred to as my curiosity for investigation has landed me in a difficulty where I found so much junk that I'm overwhelmed. First I started out by investigating various ideas of mysticism and mystic experiences. I went into isolation tanks and got many hours of hallucinations, so I know something about that. Then I went to Esalen, which is a hotbed of this kind of thought (it's a wonderful place; you should go visit there). Then I became overwhelmed. I didn't realize how MUCH there was.

At Esalen there are some large baths fed by hot springs situated on a ledge about thirty feet above the ocean. One of my most pleasurable experiences has been to sit in one of those baths and watch the waves crashing onto the rocky slope below, to gaze into the clear blue sky above, and to study a beautiful nude as she quietly appears and settles into the bath with me.

One time I sat down in a bath where there was a beatiful girl sitting with a guy who didn't seem to know her. Right away I began thinking, "Gee! How am I gonna get started talking to this beautiful nude woman?"

I'm trying to figure out what to say, when the guy says to her, "I'm, uh, studying massage. Could I practice on you?" "Sure," she says. They get out of the bath and she lies down on a massage table nearby. I think to myself, "What a nifty line! I can never think of anything like that!" He starts to rub her big toe. "I think I feel it," he says. "I feel a kind of dent--is that the pituitary?" I blurt out, "You're a helluva long way from the pituitary, man!" They looked at me, horrified--I had blown my cover--and said, "It's reflexology!" I quickly closed my eyes and appeared to be meditating.

That's just an example of the kind of things that overwhelm me. I also looked into extrasensory perception, and PSI phenomena, and the latest craze there was Uri Geller, a man who is supposed to be able to bend keys by rubbing them with his finger. So I went to his hotel room, on his invitation, to see a demonstration of both mindreading and bending keys. He didn't do any mindreading that succeeded; nobody can read my mind, I guess. And my boy held a key and Geller rubbed it, and nothing happened. Then he told us it works better under water, and so you can picture all of us standing in the bathroom with the water turned on and the key under it, and him rubbing the key with his finger. Nothing happened. So I was unable to investigate that phenomenon.

But then I began to think, what else is there that we believe? (And I thought then about the witch doctors, and how easy it would have been to check on them by noticing that nothing really worked.) So I found things that even more people believe, such as that we have some knowledge of how to educate. There are big schools of reading methods and mathematics methods, and so forth, but if you notice, you'll see the reading scores keep going down--or hardly going up--in spite of the fact that we continually use these same people to improve the methods. There's a witch doctor remedy that doesn't work. It ought to be looked into; how do they know that their method should work? Another example is how to treat criminals. We obviously have made no progress--lots of theory, but no progress--in decreasing the amount of crime by the method that we use to handle criminals.

Yet these things are said to be scientific. We study them. And I think ordinary people with commonsense ideas are intimidated by this pseudoscience. A teacher who has some good idea of how to teach her children to read is forced by the school system to do it some other way--or is even fooled by the school system into thinking that her method is not necessarily a good one. Or a parent of bad boys, after disciplining them in one way or another, feels guilty for the rest of her life because she didn't do "the right thing," according to the experts.

So we really ought to look into theories that don't work, and science that isn't science.

I think the educational and psychological studies I mentioned are examples of what I would like to call cargo cult science. In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they've arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head to headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas--he's the controller--and they wait for the airplanes to land. They're doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn't work. No airplanes land. So I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they're missing something essential, because the planes don't land.

Now it behooves me, of course, to tell you what they're missing. But it would be just about as difficult to explain to the South Sea islanders how they have to arrange things so that they get some wealth in their system. It is not something simple like telling them how to improve the shapes of the earphones. But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science. That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school--we never say explicitly what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly. It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty--a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid--not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked--to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can--if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong--to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.

In summary, the idea is to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgement in one particular direction or another.

To continue this article, please go to:
Although the excerpt below is an ordinary observation it does articulate clearly a common attitudinal problem in the Left's attachment to barbarism. After putting in too many years learning the stupidest damned stuff, finding a position that pays for doling it back out, and gaining ones sense of personal and societal worth, well, who's going to give that up just because it's stupid stuff?

The Enchantment of Reason
Pierre Schlag
(Byron White Professor Constitutional Law, UC Boulder)
Published by Duke University Press/NC in 1998
Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2005

[page 11] The discipline [of law] can begin to seem somewhat solipsistic. The thought arises that it may be the sort of discipline destined to find the answers it seeks because it has already constructed the answers. This is not a pleasant thought. It is particularly unpleasant and yet particularly applicable to those disciplines that look the most like the "methods" of the police.

Understandably, few disciplinary thinkers can be counted upon to consider the emptiness of their own disciplines with great enthusiasm. The disciplinary thinkers will resist this possibility for three reasons.

First, those who, like thinkers in law, have invested hard, painful labor into the mastery of dry, obscure, and maddeningly intricate grids are unlikely to consider such a thought for very long. On the contrary, what one would expect from such thinkers is a certain ressentiment against those who have not experienced the dreary toiling in the disciplinary trenches. As a general matter, the more painful the mastery of a discipline was to acquire, the less its practitioners will be willing to give it up.

There is a second reason that disciplinary thinkers will fail to own up to the possibility. For disciplinary thinkers to pursue the possibility that their discipline is organized in solipsistic lines would be to relinquish the advantages that their discipline has bestowed upon them. The cost is highest among those who have been most successful. These leaders are the least likely to turn against their discipline. In American law, loyalty to the discipline is particularly alluring because the discipline is understood (however erroneously) to feed into the channels of worldly power: high government office.

There is a third, perhaps even stronger, reason that disciplinary thinkers will not consider the emptiness of their discipline. It turns out that the solipsism of the search that always finds the object it constructs is not a problem specific to any particular discipline, but rather one that is more or less common to all. If the problem is well nigh unavoidable, why then not stay with the grid that one knows rather than switch to the ones that one doesn't? Why turn against the grid?

Why not simply run the academic mazes like the police and continue the "exaggerated application of a principle or a set of principles"? Why not continue to polish the grid, monitor its relays, supervise its connections?

Philosophy, the philo of Sophia, love of wisdom, is in short supply among our dhimmi philobarbarist comrades, and they aren't about to give up a good scam even if it brings the house down in ruins around them. We as a society have to find our own courage as individuals to create a revolution of attitude to bring things round to a new paradigm of attitude, one that will in all liklihood eventually be just as ridiculous as is the one now but one that we can leave for our children to combat. For us, for now, the struggle is against this version of fascism, this dhimmitude and philobarbarism, this collaboration with fascist Islam. It akes some clear thinking, some honesty, and a willingness to suffer the scorn of ones fellows for not conforming to the current cocktail party dress code.

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