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Lysenkoism
July 8, 2004 6:30 PM   Subscribe

Scientific Integrity in Policy Making. The Union of Concerned Scientists have an update to their February report (discussed here) accusing the Bush administration of engaging in Lysenkoism, which Bush's top science adviser denied. [Via The Intersection.]
posted by homunculus (16 comments total)

 


Soon, they'll have these folks looking into whether Democrats cause cancer.

Anyway, what do you expect? Half his base thinks the world is only 10,000 years old and the other half couldn't care less when it ends as long as they get to cash out and head to that big trading floor in the sky before Judgment Day.
posted by trondant at 7:39 PM on July 8, 2004


Efforts to corrupt science have deep roots, far deeper than politics. For example, there are objective scientists, call them "hard" scientists, who strongly object to the expression "social sciences", saying that they should instead be called "social studies." Studies such as history, psychology, anthropology, etc., while having elements of "hard" science, are not in themselves scientific endeavors.

This seemingly innocuous debate matters, however, when the government tries to legislate, and bureaucrats pass regulations, based on *subjective*, rather than *objective* information obtained by "social scientists." It is one thing to be convicted of a crime based on objective evidence. It is a far different thing to be convicted solely on subjective opinion, say by a phrenologist, who testifies that the lumps on your head prove your guilt.

The American Psychological Association decided on its own to subvert the US justice system by subjectively declaring almost any mental state to be excusable for breaking the law. And while it is obvious that a *seriously* mentally ill person cannot be entirely blamed for their actions, it is also common sense that minor eccentricities do not excuse major crimes. The APAs irresponsibility not only resulted in guilty people going unpunished for a while; it then resulted in seriously mentally ill people being treated as criminals instead as the infirm, needing treatment.

Otherwise, it should always be remembered that scientists are not always scientific; nor because they are experts in one field are they universal experts. Very few people maintain a constant air of objectivity *or* subjectivity for that matter.

So scientific credibility relies on several things. First and foremost the credentials of the scientist. Second, that their axioms, experiments, and deductions be displayed for both peer review and common scrutiny. And third, that they be published in a serious science journal, whose purpose is to check facts, vett conclusions, and eliminate conjecture, interpolation and extrapolation.

As a process, this works reasonably well in getting accurate scientific information disseminated. It then stands head and shoulders above any "press release science" generated by lesser lights.
posted by kablam at 8:01 PM on July 8, 2004


(possible conflict of interest disclaimer)

The Union of Concerned Scientists is partially funded by the Tides Foundation. The Tides Foundation has received more than $4-million in recent years from the Howard Heinz Endowment, whose board is chaired by Teresa Heinz Kerry.
posted by kablam at 8:11 PM on July 8, 2004


How does the funding by the Tides Foundation explain why so many reputable scientists would attach their name and reputation to the organization?
The Tides foundation may indeed have an interest in supporting an organization which quite fairly and objectively spotlights the fradulent scientific practices of the administration. This does not necessarily imply a conflict.
The associated scientists do not seem to have much to gain from the Heinz Endowment, other than their publicly stated goal of reforming the practices of the administration.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:32 PM on July 8, 2004


Who are you going to believe, a bunch of scientists or GW Bush?
posted by rks404 at 9:14 PM on July 8, 2004


It is one thing to be convicted of a crime based on objective evidence. It is a far different thing to be convicted solely on subjective opinion, say by a phrenologist, who testifies that the lumps on your head prove your guilt.
The American Psychological Association decided on its own to subvert the US justice system by subjectively declaring almost any mental state to be excusable for breaking the law. And while it is obvious that a *seriously* mentally ill person cannot be entirely blamed for their actions, it is also common sense that minor eccentricities do not excuse major crimes. The APAs irresponsibility not only resulted in guilty people going unpunished for a while; it then resulted in seriously mentally ill people being treated as criminals instead as the infirm, needing treatment.


Oh really? This is pretty earth shattering news. I really doubt any of us were aware that the APA determined guilt and punishment in criminal trials. Maybe you could also tell us exactly where you found evidence that the APA caused guilty people to go unpunished, and in a strange twist, also caused the mentally ill to be treated as criminals. Sounds like they're really working both ends, eh?


"Common sense". Yeah. After all, what do doctors and psychologists know about people with mental illness? Really. Let's get back to "common sense" ideas like executing the mentally ill and retarded. Why, common sense ideas like that have surely made America a less violent society, right?

Very few people maintain a constant air of objectivity *or* subjectivity for that matter.

Oh. And getting back to the post topic, you therefore think politicians should be the arbiters of science? How about business people? Surely they're more objective than those subjective scientists on matters that reflect business bottom lines. Surely.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 12:02 AM on July 9, 2004


when the government tries to legislate, and bureaucrats pass regulations, based on *subjective*, rather than *objective* information obtained by "social scientists."

You mean like all economic policy?
posted by batboy at 6:38 AM on July 9, 2004


America is devolving into a nation of heavily armed pseudo-New Age cargo cultists.
posted by troutfishing at 6:50 AM on July 9, 2004


How about business people?

Which leads to one of my favorite pet peeves: Prediction through futures markets.

There's this notion out there, driven out of the free-market camp, primarily, that the best way to predict an outcome is to set up a futures market on that outcome. The Wisdom of the Allmighty Market will do its magic and the real future will be predicted.

Oh, I understand the theory behind this, and I realize that it's a valid concept, if it is properly understood. But it's exactly the kind of idea that begs for a cargo-cultist/lysenkoist understanding -- to be percevied, effectively, as magic.

I can just see what will happen if this idea catches on: "Predictive markets" will be set up and traded more or less publicly to do things like determine policy -- I'll bet there's even a movement afoot to exchange our free election system for a predictive market.

But folks, despite the fact that the technique works, this is still cargo cult science, for one simple reason: The technique only works if qualified people are driving the market. If the practice becomes widespread, then the qualification barriers will almost certainly erode (or even be replaced by irrelevant qualification criteria, like the amount of grant money you control, or who your network connections are).

Which leads-in to the second major problem with a predictive market approach: Especially as money becomes involved, they will tend to make real what they predict.
posted by lodurr at 7:55 AM on July 9, 2004


Studies such as history, psychology, anthropology, etc., while having elements of "hard" science, are not in themselves scientific endeavors.

Psychology is clearly as scientific an endeavor as, say, biology. It's just that good data are harder to come by. For some subsets like Freudian theory which aren't based in empiricism I'd agree with you.
posted by callmejay at 9:05 AM on July 9, 2004


Yeah, its all about BushCo questioning scientific methods. I found the evidence here. So you Bush haters just shut up!

A relevant excerpt:

Two recently appointed members to the National Advisory Council for Human Genome Research, Dr. Richard Myers of Stanford University in California and Dr. George Weinstock of Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, said they had been asked inappropriate questions when they were nominated.

Weinstock said a staffer at the Health and Human Services Department called to ask "leading political questions."

"There is no doubt in my mind that these questions represented a political litmus test," he said in a statement.

Myers said he received a similar call in which he was asked about his opinion of embryonic stem cell research, which the White House opposes.

"Then the staffer asked questions that really shocked me," Myers is quoted as saying in the report. "She wanted to know what I thought about President Bush: Did I like him, what did I think of the job he was doing."


See? Relevant questioning of the soundness of their scientific methods of inquiry! Move along, nothing to see here.
posted by nofundy at 9:05 AM on July 9, 2004


Who are you going to believe, a bunch of scientists or GW Bush?

Definitely my quote of the week!
posted by jacobsee at 2:09 PM on July 9, 2004


To clarify the APA remarks, earlier. What I mentioned happened over the course of years, and there were earnest efforts all around--and some bad faith--and yet, "science" ended up being the whipping boy for the whole situation.

First of all, years ago the US had bloated psychiatric institutions. The APA and other organizations realized that a lot of people in them shouldn't have been there, and lobbied hard to have them released.
But then the States realized that they could save tons of money by *not* institutionalizing people, putting the worst cases in prison instead of a mental institution, and rejecting most criminal insanity pleas.
So *then* the APA downgraded the definition of "insane", to try to force the States to treat people who needed treatment, rather than locking them up in prison.
For a time, then, criminals used the weakened definition to escape punishment; but the States responded by almost eliminating the insanity defense entirely.

What has been resolved? Not a heck of a lot. The States are still refusing to put most insane people who need treatment in decent psychiatric facilities. The APA refused to reform their guidelines to help establish who really needs to be incarcerated in mental hospitals for their own good, or the good of society.

Worst of all, expert testimony to show insanity or competance can just be purchased, depending how much money you have and how much they want to prosecute you. If you are poor and seriously mentally ill, you will most likely be put in prison.

This is one of those subjects that can sour you up pretty quickly.
posted by kablam at 4:45 PM on July 9, 2004


If you are poor and seriously mentally ill, you will most likely be put in prison.

More here: U.S. Prisons and Offenders with Mental Illness
posted by homunculus at 4:54 PM on July 9, 2004




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