Sunday, April 15, 2012

Why Popular Science Is Bad Science

Demotists (oooh, I haven't used that word in a while) love to claim that democracy enriches the sciences by getting more people involved with science. Their excuse being that more people involved means more independent discoveries and more scrutiny in general.

In fact, the higher percent of the unwashed masses that are are involved in science, the worse off science is. Demotists love to assume that democracy encourages more people to be scientists, when in fact it encourages more people to exercise authority in science. There is a very dangerous difference between those two things. Surely a larger number of actual rational, trained scientists is a good thing, in general. However, when the mob, unversed in rational thought and unconcerned with the search for truth, becomes involved, only bad things happen.

The mob loves to promote its pet ideas, whether true or not. Even if those ideas are discredited by actual science, the mob can bludgeon their way to popularity, by the sheer force of their social influence. Soon, you have a bogus science feedback loop, where the mob supports a wrong idea, men of power court the mob and the idea, and soon, one scientists fails against the monster of desire for status. Then another, then another, until true science is buried under a mound of make-believe. At best, the scientists are simply cloistered away from popular opinion, where they can do no harm, and at worst, they are subsumed entirely by the creeping mold.

Who knows what ideas we hold today that have gained prominence this way? Some are easily recognizable, but are others?

There is no way to insulate scientific thought from authority. The only way to seek truth freely is to ensure that authority seeks truth as well.


  1. "Surely a larger number of actual rational, trained scientists is a good thing, in general."

    I just learned to ask something. What's the opportunity cost? What would those people become if they weren't being trained as scientists? Obviously no scientists is fatal, but what happens at all-scientists?

    1. Hence the "in general" disclaimer.

      I am certainly not implying a society of a higher percentage scientists is always a good thing, but rather that a larger quantity of scientists, all other roles being filled, is.

    2. More Oppenheimers to make neat weapons for you.

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