Bourgeois Science Fascists – ‘Comfortable Origins’ – Carbon Emissions Is An Elitist Thing – Making Life Difficult For The ‘Ignorami’ – Reactionaries
George Soros, a man who makes billions from speculating on the stock markets, is a key funder of (as it were) ‘pro-Global Warming’ research. According to the Global Warming campaign newsletter, aka The Guardian, he is planning to create an organization to ‘advise policy makers on environmental issues’, which will receive an annual stipend of $10 million over the next 10 years.
Source: Philosophical Investigations
A collection of young, (middle aged really) British reactionaries and wannabe-intellectuals, centred around London.
But what motivates them?
Several things are notable. First of all, the bourgeois origins of these ‘science fascists’.
Many of them have privileged backgrounds, proceeding smoothly through the British private school system to the ‘elite’ colleges, particularly Oxford, Cambridge and (to a lesser extent) London Universities. This is a the path followed by most of the editors and columnists (but not of course the reporters) for the London-based newspapers and the BBC.
Their comfortable origins have encouraged them to assume a kind of ‘intellectual superiority’ over the rest of the world, which results in them pontificating ‘out of area’ on matters they know little about and conducting long-running campaigns for their hobby-horses. Mind you – they make sure they get paid for it!
But do they deserve to be called ‘Fascists’, after the 20th century political movement? The term is bandied about carelessly elsewhere. But we use it very, ah ‘scientifically’, as these reactionary thinkers share with the original fascists:
• a superficial and ideological commitment to Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection, which they attempt to adopt for political ends
• an inappropriate and dangerous reverence for scientific ‘progress’, coupled with an unwillingness to accept an ethical dimension to science
• an objectionable version of the history of science
• an even more objectionable distinction between ‘Rational Man’ and ‘irrational deviants’, with an often vicious antipathy towards the latter.
• hair on their arms and legs
Many of them current crop write for the Guardian newspaper. Through their media links, they have exerted a disproportionate influence on the public perception of science.
Here are some of the most ubiquitous ones, with their particular hobby horses:
motto: I’ve no wish to take comfort and hope away from people, but science is about what’s true. 1
London University’s Chris French is a Professor of Psychology who co-edits the Skeptic magazine (founded by Wendy Grossman, a misguided New York hippy), and imagines he is on a virtuous crusade against ‘pseudoscience’. In an article for… (where else) The Guardian, he trots out merrily the usual scientifically ignorant and politically dangerous call for ‘rational’ thought to eliminate ’emotional’ biases.
…where will this new found scepticism end? Are we on the verge of a new age of enlightenment? Or is the rise in scepticism just another Hush Puppies fad that will have its moment and pass? Human beings are in many ways inherently irrational and almost certainly always will be. But we can only hope that the sceptical message continues to spread more widely and grow in influence for at least some time yet. Rationality is not our natural mode of thought. We are ruled by our emotions and by self-serving cognitive biases. But it is not overstating the case to say that our very survival may depend upon our ability to rise above that and to think differently’ 2
Also known as, ‘Dr Ben Goldacre’, for example, in his media work. But is he a ‘doctor’?
motto: Stick with me. Science is fun when you’re making people look stupid 3
Ultra-posh Oxford Man (the son of Michael Goldacre, professor of public health at the University of Oxford, the nephew of science journalist Robyn Williams, and the great-great-grandson of Sir Henry Parkes) whose degree is medicine, which puts him in the right place for his attacks on ‘quackery’, as he describes Alternative Medicine, but is a stretch for all his other interests: notably “Climate change denialists” and anything vaguely science related.
His bestselling, much hyped book, ‘Bad Science’, is a potted summary of what conventional medicine has against unconventional…Amazon allows one reader, Mr. N. (REAL NAME!) to summarise the book’s style for us (saving our bother..)
“I agree with many of the points that Ben makes, but his style is so puerile as to be excruciating. I found it so patronising and self-aggrandising.The book could be 2 chapters long he repeats himself so often. I was once told not to write a book that reads like a collection of articles, so why did Bad Science’s editors allow this guy to make the same mistake.
It’s so easy to sound clever by mocking people and concepts, but what i find most interesting is that the central theme of the book is rigorous and exhaustive research (which I agree with), yet it is quite clear that Ben has a closed mind on what is possible within the realms of human conciousness and he hasn’t allowed this in his own research.”
Ben’s caring-profession style is shown in this exchange of emails with someone who runs a site concerned with treatment of cancer. 4 The ‘blogger’ thought he had found support for homeopathy in a (flawed) study which seemed to show that cancer cells in a dish died after contact with homepathic remedies. The problem was that homeopathic remedies are made with ethanol, and it was this, in fact, that had the effect. But here is Ben’s one line response:
“You do understand these aren’t people, these are cells in a dish?”
This is interesting as it is:
2. misses the real issue
3. appears to reject evidence from studies based on cells rather than ‘people’. What sort of science is that? Bad, maybe?
Another perfect example of fascists’ ‘bad faith’5: when confronted with the self-evident notion that his belief system (clinical epidemiology, now pretentiously called ‘evidence-based medicine’ or EBM), a statistics-based hierarchy of facts, is exclusionary, he responds in line with his motto.
… the way they bang on about the Cochrane collaboration (EBM’s center) and hierarchies of knowledge, rather triumphantly, but without demonstrating that they understand the reasons why a good meta-analysis provides more compelling evidence than a good systematic review, which in turn provides more compelling evidence than an individual trial, and so on. 6
But Goldacre doesn’t demonstrate why they should demonstrate EBM 101 notions! Is it a rite of passage? An IQ test?
Only after a long character assassination does he drop “Oh, and the ex-head of NIH (the US National Institutes of Health7) favourably quoted the Holmes microfascism article recently” as a sign that ‘his gang’ tolerates opposing views. But what are these views?
This concern underlies a scathing commentary on the EBM movement in the International Journal of Evidence-Based Healthcare by Dave Holmes, a professor of nursing at the University of Ottawa. He and his colleagues argue that EBM is “outrageously exclusionary” and even “microfascism” in the way it sifts knowledge. Though harsh, he makes a point: By anointing only a small sliver of research as best evidence and discarding or devaluing physician judgment and more than 90 percent of the medical literature, patients are forced into a one-size-fits-all straitjacket. Ironically, this comes at a time when both human genomics and informed patients are demanding more tailored and personal prescriptions for care.
What, Goldacre doesn’t criticize her failure to demonstrate that she understands the cherished EBM hierarchy?
Bad faith, really.
motto: [We are] carrying the flame of the Enlightenment.
PhD in Philosophy from London University which qualifies him to talk about the effectiveness of Alternative Medicine. 8
Those who claim to be carrying the flame of the Enlightenment often ignore the insight of one of that movement’s greatest thinkers. We have become reluctant to admit that knowledge is essentially framed by the human mind for fear of sliding down a slippery slope that ends with the irrationality of total relativism. But unless we take into account Kant’s Copernican revolution, our paeans to reason and truth will amount to no more than naïve praise of a long-dead myth. 9
Has enthusiastically supported the Invasion of Iran, regularly harks back to the good old days of the Scottish ‘Enlightenment’, and thinks the term ‘Paki’ is not offensive. As part of his theory of “The British Psyche”, he says: “It was during my first conversation in the local pub that a former steelworker, Reg, mentioned the “Paki shop”. The effect was magnified by the fact that he said it so casually. It was not part of some racist diatribe, but was simply a matter-of-fact description of the ethnic origins of the shop’s proprietor.” 10
Baggini speaks down to the ignorami from his perch at… the Guardian.
Why does alternative medicine seem to switch off people’s rational faculties? Perhaps that is its appeal. The world of rationality and science is too harsh and uncompromising. We want something more inclusive, less willing to tell us when we’re wrong, or have only a 10% chance of survival. What’s more, we want the world to be safe and soft, where nature is our friend and not the mortal enemy that humans have been struggling against for millions of years….
I don’t object to all things alternative, only the “everything goes”, wishy-washy embrace of everything that falls under the description.
Just fancy that!
Baginni reviews the work of Goldacre in his Magazine:
“All intelligent, reflective people know that the news full of sloppy reporting, hasty inferences and dubious statistics. You might think it used to be different or that it was forever thus. Either way, what we now need are valiant knights of truth to expose BS wherever it is found and shame the news services into upping their game. Philosophers, perhaps, ready to step up and become heroes?
Not quite…. the template for this rigorous dissection of the media, in the media, was established by a then junior doctor, Ben Goldacre.” 11
Madeleine Bunting [Token Woman]
motto: Rationality has been downgraded, emotion rules. The arbiter of life is how you feel, not how you can analyse and assemble a rational argument 12
Against atheist advocates of Evolutionary Theory
Cambridge Woman, who studies history, which has led smoothly to writing on ‘science and ethics’ amongst other things.
Two things are different about her: she is a woman, and she is a Catholic. That makes her on the ‘irrational’ side in the religious wars. She has also argued that the Enlightenment is a ‘made-up’ pseudo concept, which it is. In fact, she doesn’t belong in this list, but just fell in her because of her popping up regularly to support her ‘colleagues’.
Madeleine Bunting is a Guardian columnist AND associate editor AND was married to the Guardian’s Political Editor, Patrick Wintour.
Nonetheless, doesn’t belong here.
Another female Jouno evidently not in the ‘men only club’ of the BSF, is Melanie Phillips. She fell out with Goldacre over his tendentious misuse of a newly published review of the MMR vaccine. Goldacre, who has shall we say ‘links’ to the manufacturers of the vaccine, had successfully spun to give the impression MMR was ‘completely’ safe. In 2005, writing in the Daily Mail, Phillips, alone in the journalistic profession, correctly spied the weakness in the Cochrane review of MMR – the real findings were that after sifting 5000 related studies and reviewing the 31 best the evidence base for MMR safety was “largely inadequate”. Goldacre berated Phillips for knowing nothing about science, but the reality was that she was the only journalist who had taken the trouble to read the small print. There is the usual message here from Goldacre of ‘leave it to the scientists’. 13
Phillips is exiled from the Guardian – permanently.
motto: I have lived among London’s liberal intelligentsia long enough to know that … history of how leftish people had ended up apologizing for the ultra-right. 14
Hates liberals and greens. Loved the Iraq War.
Oxford man, studied PPE, which is a mish-mash of Philosophy, Politics and Economics intended as a general grounding for top-people.
This has enabled him to be an expert on everything, of course. Perhaps his pet hate is environmentalists who he has described as part of a “pagan movement, whose mystic tropes are repeated by new age healers, vegetarians and greens.” Has enthusiastically supported the Invasion of Iran.
Columnist for the Observer… guess what! part of the Guardian newspaper group.
motto: We need less emotion and more thought. 15
Richard Dawkins has successfully combined his day job, Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, with being the prophet of a new religion, the sole deity of which is Charles Darwin. His aim is to produce the ‘definitive’ account of why people are wrong not only to continue to believe in God (which is a disgraceful affront to him ‘as a scientist’) but even to entertain the possibility that there might be some kind of supernatural deity regulating human affairs. Add into that any ‘unscientific’ belief, of course.
His theory is that ideas, just like the genes for hair colour or fatness, are passed on both ‘vertically and horizontally’ within families. These ‘memes’, self-replicating cultural transmissions – “viruses of the mind” – are supposed to follow Darwin’s law, and die out. Scientific values SHOULD replace religious or philosophical ones. That is the ‘law of nature’. But he thinks these days he is important enough to be able to speed up the inexorable progress of human development a bit. Hence those ‘Atheist’ London buses.
motto: You can sustain a belief in these propositions only by ignoring the overwhelming body of contradictory data. 16
Oxford man, who read Zoology. This makes him an expert on the complex science of climate change, of course. His theory is that ‘Climate Change deniers’, are funded by the Tobacco industry. 17 Amongst his ‘true-believer’ views is the desire to impose on every citizen ‘a carbon ration’.
Monbiot says the campaign against climate change is ‘unlike almost all the public protests’ that came before it:
It is a campaign not for abundance but for austerity. It is a campaign not for more freedom but for less. Strangest of all, it is a campaign not just against other people, but against ourselves.’ 18
A columnist for the Guardian.
motto: It’s taken me a couple of years, but at last I have finished writing Big Bang, my history of the theory that describes the origin and evolution of the universe. 20
PhD in particle physics at Cambridge University which qualifies him to talk about Alternative Medicine, especially Chiropractice. His book Trick Or Treatment dismisses the lot. Came a cropper recently for saying that this was a ‘bogus’ therapy with dangerous side-effects. 21
Author of a dull book about a dull subject written in a dull way called Fermat’s Last Theorem – which did rather well. Which only goes to show that you can sell anything if you have the right marketing back-up.
Influential position in the BBC’s Science and Features Department, where he was a producer and director working on programmes such as Tomorrow’s World and Horizon. Against Climate Change ‘deniers’ who he calls wittily numpties.
I suspect that climate numpties (numpty (noun): a reckless, absent-minded or unwise person) are far more common than we might think, and they can be found in the most surprising of places.
In a laughably bad ‘investigation’, Singh and others contacted homeopathic quacks, told them they suffered dangerous side effects from malaria tablets, and then asked what they should do? The homeopaths advised homeopathic treatments… Shame on them!
Working with Alice Tuff and the charity Sense About Science, we developed a storyline in which Tuff would be making a ten week overland trip through West Africa, where there is a high prevalence of the most dangerous strain of malaria, which can result in death within three days. Tuff, a young graduate, would explain to homeopaths that she had previously suffered side-effects from conventional malaria tablets and wondered if there was a homeopathic alternative.
….Tuff found a variety of homeopaths by searching on the internet, just as any young student might do. She then visited or phoned ten of them, mainly based in and around London. In each case, Tuff secretly recorded the conversations in order to document the consultation. The results were shocking. Seven out of the ten homeopaths failed to ask about the patient’s medical background and also failed to offer any general advice about bite prevention. Worse still, ten out of ten homeopaths were willing to advise homeopathic protection against malaria instead of conventional treatment, which would have put our pretend traveller’s life at risk.
see note 22
motto: Postmodernism is more than just a “philosophy”. It is an assault on knowledge itself. 23
PhD from the British ‘technocrats’ college, the London School of Economics in Sociology, a subject which normally leads to liberal views, but seems to have stuck in his craw 24, leading him to join the ‘reaction’ instead. On the other hand, as he says, he really went to very few lectures – not that there were lectures for a PhD at the LSE – but still feels himself qualified to have expert opinions on all our usual topics (and indeed on many other topics into the bargain). Indeed he has even edited books called ‘What Scientists Think’ and ‘What Philosophers Think’.
‘Not keen on’ but not ‘Against’: religious belief, people and criticism of evolutionary theory. ‘Not keen on’ and definitely ‘Against’: alternative medicine, The Guardian, vegetables, dialectical biology, placards saying “We Are All Hezbollah Now”, sex after marriage and gerbils 25
Those who say “It is always possible to think of alternative explanations for any set of data”, must understand that this is a tactic of the “Enemies of the Enlightenment project” as he melodramatically puts it in a book (coauthored with Ophelia Benson) called disingenuously ‘Why Truth Matters’.26
Stangroom tries to dissassociate himself from the literati, let alone the British establishment, by saying did not go to Oxford (or Cambridge) doesn’t own a house or a car, and has never written anything for The Guardian, although he spoils that by adding:
I don’t think I ever will (indeed, I’ve turned them down when they’ve asked).27
Less influential, but tries to make up for it by the sheer venom of his pronouncements. Fails miserably.
Does not even read the Guardian
motto: …what sentences judges might hand down at future international criminal tribunals on those who will be partially but directly responsible for millions of deaths from starvation, famine and disease in decades ahead.
Studied history at Edinburgh University, but now lives in Oxford.
Lynas’ keynote polemic, High Tide: The Truth About Our Climate Crisis was published by big shot Macmillan Publishers on its Picador imprint in 2004. He has also contributed to a book called Fragile Earth: Views of a Changing World which presents before-and-after images of the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina as ‘evidence.
In January 2007 Lynas published Gem Carbon Counter, containing instructions on how to calculate your personal carbon emissions and Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, “detailing the progressive effect of Global Warming in several planetary ecosystems, from 1 degree to 6 degrees”. ‘Special coverage’ is promised of the ‘positive feedback mechanisms’ that could dramatically accelerate Climate Change, possibly putting the climate on a runaway path. As a possible end scenario the release of Methane hydrate from the bottom of the oceans could replicate the end-Permian extinction event! 28
* 1 He goes on: ‘For me, scepticism isn’t about dismissing: it’s about ‘Show me the evidence’. Yet it’s interesting that people who think they are in contact with someone who died do cope with bereavement better psychologically than other people.’ From The Times Online 28th Jan 2004
* 2 [WWW]http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2009/mar/09/chris-french-sceptic
* 3 The Guardian, November 10, 2007
* 4 [WWW]http://cancerfighter.wordpress.com/2010/07/
* 5 A concept developed by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.
* 6 [WWW]Bad Science. Blog post about the article, named after it: [WWW]“Deconstructing the evidence-based discourse in health sciences: truth, power and fascism.”
* 7 The most prominent scientific authority today.
* 8see, for example, [WWW]http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2005/may/04/health.comment
* 9 [WWW]http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/innovationsurvey/article/3143/
* 10 “While researching his new book about the British psyche, philosopher Julian Baggini spent six months living in Rotherham, Yorkshire. Here, he explains why he doesn’t believe most white Britons are racists – even though he heard racist language almost everywhere he went.” [WWW]http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/jan/23/race.bigbrother article promoting Baggini’s book called:[[br]]How racist is Britain? originally published under a different title but shamelessly refreshed to try to catch up with the ‘Big Brother’ TV controversy.
* 11 [WWW]http://www.philosophypress.co.uk/?p=1255
* 12 [WWW]http://www.guardian.co.uk/dumb/story/0396716,00.html
* 13 [WWW]http://www.ageofautism.com/2010/08/whats-behind-ben-goldacre-.html
* 14 postscript to his rotten book ‘What’s Left’, [WWW]http://nickcohen.net/2007/12/02/why-does-the-left-support-the-far-right/
* 15 Gem found on [WWW]http://thinkexist.com/quotes/richard_dawkins/
* 16 One of those well-paid articles repetitiously attacking scientists who disagree with him. Absurd or not, Monbiot starts by noting that his scientific heroes did just this.
* 17 [WWW]http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2006/sep/19/ethicalliving.g2 The denial industry[[br]][[br]]’For years, a network of fake citizens’ groups and bogus scientific bodies has been claiming that science of global warming is inconclusive. They set back action on climate change by a decade. But who funded them? Exxon’s involvement is well known, but not the strange role of Big Tobacco.'[[br]][[br]]says Monbiot, in a shameless plug for his ‘new book’.
* 18 Heat, London, Allen Lane, 2006, p. 215, quoted on Wikipedia
* 19 Hitler starts: ‘All the human culture, all the results of art, science, and technology that we see before us today, are almost exclusively the creative product of the Aryan. This very fact admits of the not unfounded inference that he alone was the founder of all higher humanity, therefore representing the prototype of all that we understand by the word ‘man’. ‘ But the mindset is clearly the same.
* 20 [WWW]http://www.simonsingh.net/home.html, where else?!
* 21 The offending phrase again:[[br]][[br]] The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.[[br]]After this ill-considered and opinionated outburst, Singh was successfully prosecuted for libel by the British Chiropractors. All the usual media luvvies at once rallied round him to defend science against the irrational judges, advising him to take his case to the ‘European Court of Human Rights”! — Note: April 2010 At the time of writing, SImon has had some sucess in ‘rolling back’ that verdict, as his assessment has now been ruled to have been ‘fair comment’ by the London Appeals Court rather than the statement of fact the first judge foolishly took it as. Scientists are back out celebrating in the streets, of course!
* 22 DISCLOSURE. PHILOSOPHICAL INVESTIGATIONS IS FAVOURABLY DISPOSED TOWARDS STANGROOM. When [[[Martin Cohen]]] contributed to Wikipedia, he once objected that one of Stangroom’s books was being cited as an authoritative source for philosophical ‘facts’ such as that Socrates had written ‘not many books’ (he didn’t write any) or that Marx’s Communist Manifesto does not have any practical political prescriptions (it is full of them). He made a general point about sources to the effect that only subject experts should be quoted for controversial claims like these. Stangroom asked – successfully – for Martin to be banished from the site.
* 23 wrote a whole book basically repeating this…
* 24 a funny olde English word for ‘throat’
* 25 PI is grateful to Stangroom for this additonal insight, presumably a reference to his eatinghabits, and for valuable information on what he is ‘Keen on’ and ‘Definitely In Favour Of’: hamsters (much better than gerbils), Kirsten Dunst (though purely for her acting ability), Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough (no link here with the Kirsten Dunst thing) and napping.
* 26 On page 171 of ‘Why Truth Matters’, as part of their grand closing statement of their quasi-legal case against “Leftist thinking” , Stangroom and Benson warn:[[br]]”There is a frivolity, a lack of responsibility, an indifference to canons of coherence of logic, rationality and relevance- which are reminiscent not of the the Left or progressivism, but, as Richard Wolin argues, of counter-Enlightenment and reaction.”
* 27 In a forum post to this site : [WWW]http://philosophical-investigations.wikidot.com/forum/t-157276/british-science-fascists#post-497852
* 28 Incredibly (how LOW can they go?) The National Geographic have made a film out of all this…
Further related and important reading: