Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Skeptics stick to soft targets

SciAm blogger John Horgan has infuriated the "skeptic" by saying they only go after soft targets, and not harder questions like bogus modern physics and the necessity of war.

He has a point. I am always amazed when these over-educated academic skeptics endorse some totally goofy theory like many-worlds quantum mechanics.

Steve Pinker rebuts the war argument:
John Horgan says that he “hates” the deep roots theory of war, and that it “drives him nuts,” because “it encourages fatalism toward war.” ...

Gat shows how the evidence has been steadily forcing the “anthropologists of peace” to retreat from denying that pre-state peoples engaged in lethal violence, to denying that they engage in “war,” to denying that they engage in it very often. Thus in a recent book Ferguson writes, “If there are people out there who believe that violence and war did not exist until after the advent of Western colonialism, or of the state, or agriculture, this volume proves them wrong.” ...

And speaking of false dichotomies, the question of whether we should blame “Muslim fanaticism” or the United States as “the greatest threat to peace” is hardly a sophisticated way for skeptical scientists to analyze war, as Horgan exhorts them to do. Certainly the reckless American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq led to incompetent governments, failed states, or outright anarchy that allowed Sunni-vs-Shiite and other internecine violence to explode — but this is true only because these regions harbored fanatical hatreds which nothing short of a brutal dictatorship could repress. According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Project, out of the 11 ongoing wars in 2014, 8 (73%) involved radical Muslim forces as one of the combatants, another 2 involved Putin-backed militias against Ukraine, and the 11th was the tribal war in South Sudan. (Results for 2015 will be similar.) To blame all these wars, together with ISIS atrocities, on the United States, may be cathartic to those with certain political sensibilities, but it’s hardly the way for scientists to understand the complex causes of war and peace in the world today.
I would not blame the USA for all those wars, but it has been the Clinton-Bush-Obama policy to destabilize Mideast governments, aid the radical Muslim forces of our choosing, and to provoke Putin. This has been a disaster in Libya, Syria, Egypt, and now also Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Sometimes I think that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are seeking a World War III between Islam and Christendom. Or maybe just to flood the West with Moslem migrants and refugees.

Pinker has his own dubious theories about war.

I do agree with Horgan that these supposed skeptics are not really very skeptical about genuine science issues.

Another problem with them is that they are dominated by leftist politics. They will ignore any facts which conflict with their leftist worldview, and even purge anyone who says the wrong thing.

The conference where Horgan spoke had disinvited Richard Dawkins because he retweeted a video that had some obscure cultural references that did not pass some leftist ideological purity test. They did not like Horgan either and denounced him on the stage. It is fair to assume that he will not be invited back.


  1. I think academia as a whole is presently going through a self imposed dark ages of sorts. Both my parents described a very different experience in higher education than what I encountered, they told me how ideas were tested and challenged openly, while understanding the past was also encouraged. To hell with that fantasy. Everything has become dogmatically and politically determined in a very one sided manner. No matter the subject, you are required to adhere to a very left sided political perspective, you are told which words you are allowed to use, and what they mean according to various identity driven groups. Expulsion for even perceived offense is possible with any actual due process, and questioning such premises is considered out of the question because only 'ignorant' or 'backwards' people think otherwise. I do not think great discoveries will arise in such an environment that embraces "1984" thought control like a desperate lover.

    I also think it quite likely that an underground academia will form outside of government controlled and financed education. People who truly think for themselves do not flourish and discover when knee deep in leftist agitprop and groupthink.

  2. "counterproductive... speech"

    Indeed. Wouldn't want that. I'm actually starting to like Richard Dawkins...

  3. History shows clearly that the advances of science have always been frustrated by the tyrannical influences of certain preconceived notions which were turned into unassailable dogmas. For that reason alone, every serious scientist should periodically make a profound reexamination of his basic principles.

    —Louis de Broglie
    New Perspectives in Physics
    Basic Books, New York, 1962

  4. These people are not very educated in areas outside science. For instance, many of the complaints "lodged" at the United States and its "American messianism" are exact duplicates of arguments against "Russian messianism." They may study languages but they apparently aren't polyglots. See No. 97 of the Vestnik Russkogo Khristianskogo Studencheskogo Dvizhenia and you will find the familiar claim that the home country has brought about all the evils of the world and must disown its entire identity: "More Evil has been brought into the world by Russia than any other country." It's familiar self-hate that lumps everything good and bad together.

    The current crop of neo-conservatives (lapsed Marxists) are really what Claes Ryn rightly calls Jacobins. Internationalism is a tenet of Marxist revolution and attacks on nationalism or patriotism are largely backwards. The current wars in the Middle East were authored by pro-Israeli politicians:

    In an Administration devoted to the notion of "Feith-based intelligence," Wurmser was ideal. For years, he'd been a shrill ideologue, part of the minority crusade during the 1990s that was beating the drums for war against Iraq. Along with Perle and Feith, in 1996 Wurmser and his wife, Meyrav, wrote a provocative strategy paper for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm." It called on Israel to work with Jordan and Turkey to "contain, destabilize and roll back" various states in the region, overthrow Saddam Hussein in Iraq, press Jordan to restore a scion of the Hashemite dynasty to the Iraqi throne, and, above all, launch military assaults against Lebanon and Syria as a "prelude to a redrawing of the map of the Middle East which would threaten Syria's territorial integrity."

    ...Feith, a former aide to Richard Perle at the Pentagon in the 1980s and an activist in far-right Zionist circles, held the view that there was no difference between U.S. and Israeli security policy and that the best way to secure both countries' future was to solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem not by serving as a broker, but with the United States as a force for "regime change" in the region. (source)