Monday, December 13, 2021

Cargo Cult Science, Updated for Diversity

Leif Rasmussen reports:
Richard Feynman introduced a concept he called “cargo cult science” during a commencement speech at Caltech in 1974.1 ...

The NSF, an independent federal agency, has a stated mission “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense.”4 It has an annual budget of around $8.5 billion and funds approximately a quarter of all federally funded basic research at colleges and universities in the US. ...

The following figures demonstrate a considerable rise in the frequency of award abstracts that contain selected politicized terms over the past 30 years. ...

As of 2020, across all fields 30.4% of successful grant abstracts contained at least one of the terms “equity,” “diversity,” “inclusion,” “gender,” “marginalize,” “underrepresented,” or “disparity.” This is up from 2.9% in 1990 (Figure 2). This increase is seen in every field. As of 2020, the two most politicized fields seem to be Education & Human Resources (53.8%, up from 4.3% in 1990) and Biological Sciences (43.8%, up from 6.6%), although “diversity” may sometimes have non-political connotations in the latter. Even the fields that should be most disconnected from politics have seen a massive jump in these terms: Mathematical & Physical Sciences went from 0.9% to 22.6%, and Engineering from 1.6% to 25.4%.

It is not so bad in the hard sciences. Not yet, anyway.

New Zealand is now teaching crackpot science, just because it is popular among its darker-skinned natives

the government and universities in New Zealand are standing firm in their resolve to teach mātauranga Māori, or “Maori ways of knowing” alongside and coequal to modern (i.e., real) science in both high schools and universities. ...

The argument — facile beyond comprehension — is that science has been used by white, western, developed nations to underpin colonialism and is therefore tainted by its association with white supremacy. As Dawkins pointed out, science is not “white”. (The assumption that it is is surely racist.) Nor is it imperialist. It is simply a rather beautiful tool for discerning the truth.

It is not just New Zealand. Science is under attack in America and indeed here. Rochelle Gutierrez, an Illinois professor, has argued that algebra and trigonometry perpetuate white power and that maths is, effectively, racist.

Oxford University has announced that it intends to “decolonise” maths: “This includes steps such as integrating race and gender questions into topics.”

A lunacy has gripped our academics. They would be happy to throw out centuries of learning and brilliance for the sake of being temporarily right-on, and thus signalling their admirable piety to a young, approving audience.

1 comment:

  1. "In the beginning there was the word..."

    Terrible things happen when people forget what words mean. Lack of a comprehensive vocabulary cuts an individual off from the ability to understand and the collective hard won knowledge of human history. We now have several generations of people who believe the inner dialog of their fleeting emotions determines the very definitions of words and concepts, and they are unable to accept a greater external reality that is not informed by their 'feelings'.

    Lack of comprehension leads to sloppy thinking leads to bad decisions that leads to even more destructive consequences. Rinse and repeat this process long enough, and things fall apart quickly.

    Twisting words into controlling political weapons is very efficient at paving the road to perdition.

    “You are a slow learner, Winston."
    "How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four."
    "Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”
    ― George Orwell, 1984

    “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”
    ― George Orwell, 1984