Category Archives: science

Kung Fu flu kick-starts a thousand PhD theses

Bonking boffin: the discredited and disgraced epidemiologist Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, London. He touted his alleged expertise on the Wuhan flu but his real interest lay in the legover arena

The theses about the epidemic will settle nothing once and for all, Dalrymple observes. There will always be a need for further research. Science, he points out,

is not a body of doctrine, an orthodoxy from which dissent is heresy. Its truths are multiform, contradictory, and provisional.

If politicians merely followed the science,

they would zigzag or careen like a drunken sailor; they would be at the mercy of the last qualified person to whom they spoke.

Politicians,

despised as they are (they are lower in public esteem even than journalists), are expected to deliver us from death, and if death supervenes it is they who are to blame. We hate them, but we run to them.

It is hard to feel sorry for politicians, says Dalrymple, for

they have chosen their career and (especially in modern conditions) have generally pursued power to the exclusion of all other possible goals, which is not admirable. As often as not, they have not much cultural or psychological hinterland, for they have no time or energy for it, which is why they are mostly not very interesting people. The trouble is that they are important (though perhaps not as important as they think they are), and for the rest of us to have to think about people who are important but not interesting is a kind of torture.

He notes that the problem for politicians in the time of the Chinese virus is that

they are faced with a population of experts. In only a few weeks, millions have become epidemiologists of the first rank, even those who in December would have been hard put to define what epidemiology was — if they had heard of it.

Bruce Lee

Newton need not apply

Could not have secured even the most modest teaching post in any modern Western university

Human Resources Maoism

You might have thought, writes Dalrymple,

that there was little opportunity for Diversity Thought in disciplines such as biology, the physical sciences, or engineering. You would be wrong. The applicant has to promise to promote racial, sexual, and class diversity in the physics lab, though this would mean discriminating against the best people as established by such socially retrograde criteria as research record.

He cites the opening sentence of a diversity statement recommended as a model for those who are applying for a post in a university department of science and engineering:

I am well aware that being a scientist or researcher does not mean just being successful in research. At the same time one should be excellent in his/her interactions with the community and the students, in his/her role to lead the academic society and in responsibilities to transform the community.

Dalrymple comments:

No Isaac Newton need apply, then, because he was notably not excellent in his interactions with the community, nor were his numerological and alchemical speculations likely to transform it.

Information without perspective is a higher form of ignorance

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 10.02.47In our current climate, writes Dalrymple, the misuse of science, or of scientific information,

is bound to flourish.

The antidote is

not yet more information, but wisdom, which in this instance consists of a sense of perspective. For information without perspective is like a graph the meaning of whose axes is unknown.

Science and superstition

Dalrymple points out that several medical advances

have resulted from doctors conducting experiments on folk remedies about which they had heard. William Withering discovered the use of digitalis in this way, and Edward Jenner the use of cowpox inoculation – which eventually led to the elimination of smallpox.

But

science is required to distinguish between folk wisdom and folk superstition.

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As for the thief, both male and female, cut off their hands

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Menninger: ‘All the crimes committed by all the jailed criminals do not equal in social damage that of the crimes committed against them.’

Menningerialism is fully compatible with the most revolting severity

Leafing through Karl Menninger’s The Crime of Punishment (1968), Dalrymple comes across this passage:

The very word justice irritates scientists….Behavioural scientists regard it as…absurd to invoke the question of justice in deciding what to do with a woman who cannot resist her propensity to shoplift….This sort of behavior has to be controlled; it has to be discouraged; it has to be stopped.

Dalrymple comments:

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 07.55.01Cutting off her hands would not only do the trick in her case, but would surely deter others, especially if carried out in public. What objection, then, could there be? That the treatment (not punishment, of course) was disproportionate? But disproportionality depends upon the notion of justice, the very mention of which irritates behavioural scientists. That such treatment would be brutal? But brutality is a moral category, not a scientific one, that must likewise irritate Menningerial behavioural scientists.

Menningerialism

involves an attempt in the name of science to empty the world of moral categories, and its failure is pre-ordained by our very nature as human beings.

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Web of the Cultural Revolution

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(by Rowlandson)

The spider needs its prey to live

Dalrymple writes:

When a Nobel prize winner can be hounded from his university chair by the harridans of the internet (or any other self-constituted group of fanatics), the outlook for freedom of speech is not good. The West, having undergone its own Cultural Revolution, has taken up the baton of Maoist self-criticism.

What was Professor Sir Timothy Hunt’s wrongdoing? During a speech at a luncheon for women scientists, he remarked lightly, ironically,

Self-criticism

Self-criticism

Let me tell you about my trouble with girls…things happen when they are in the lab…You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them, they cry.

Hunted down

Such is the modern thirst, writes Dalrymple,

for moral or political outrage, which is the tool of the mediocre to bring about their revenge upon the gifted, that words are now taken in the most literal sense and given thereby the worst possible interpretation. The mediocre wait to take offence as a spider awaits its prey in a web; the spider needs its prey to live, the mediocre their offendedness to feel a sense of purpose to their lives.

Struggle session

Struggle session

Red guards of the internet

Professor Hunt was forced to resign

by what in effect was a witch hunt, or a lynch mob.

Dalrymple points out that

science doesn’t need women, it needs scientists, just as art needs artists and literature needs writers; whether they are men or women is irrelevant. There is no female science any more than there was Jewish or bourgeois science, of late unhappy memory.

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 08.52.07Heresy

It is not truth

that is the aim, but power. That is the purpose of propaganda in totalitarian regimes: to force starving people to acquiesce to the proposition that they have never eaten so well.

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 08.53.27It is

a totalitarian demand that a cell biologist, in order to be able to work at all, should subscribe to the current political orthodoxy, whether it be right or wrong. It is constitutive of these times in which diversity is claimed as the highest good that there should exist a demand that everyone should think alike or at least not utter heresies in public.

Orwellian

The aim, says Dalrymple, is that of Newspeak in Nineteen Eighty-Four:

that certain things should not only be unsayable but unthinkable.

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Goddess of climatic destruction

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The climatic Kali, bringer-about of global catastrophe: do not seek to deny her, for all our sages say that prayer rituals and sacrifice are the only means by which she may be appeased

How the climate theology has taken hold of people’s minds

Dalrymple comes across this paragraph in an article in the British Journal of Psychiatry:

Climate change is the largest global health threat of the 21st century, and despite limited empirical evidence, it is expected directly and indirectly to harm communities’ psychosocial wellbeing.

Dalrymple comments:

This is not so much science as religion, in which the destructive bringer-about of catastrophe, a kind of Kali, must be appeased by word, puja and sacrifice.

Latrine cleaning needs left-handers

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 10.47.37Moreover,

Science needs foot fetishists

Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 21.58.04Also,

Science, glory of our civilisation

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 17.28.47Science

as a self-conscious, experimental inquiry into nature was for hundreds of years an almost exclusively Western phenomenon. This is so no longer, and it may well be that the torch has passed, or will soon pass, to other hands; but I very much doubt that such a catalogue could be produced in any other region.