Reading Quadrant Online and Peter Smith’s recent posting ‘Never Let a Good Panic go to Waste’ [i], it has become apparent there is a post-modern aspect to the way science is performed that requires some explanation. This paragraph of Peter’s particularly caught my eye.
You will recall an article in the Johns Hopkins News-Letter reporting on an analysis by Genevieve Briand (assistant program director of the Applied Economics master’s degree program at Hopkins), claiming on the basis of her analysis of CDC data that “in contrast to most people’s assumptions, the number of deaths by COVID-19 is not alarming. In fact, it has relatively no effect on deaths in the United States.” (the retracted article reporting Briand’s conclusions can still be read here)
Is this really the way modern medical science is performed? Yes, apparently.
I have written about some of this recently in Quadrant Online articles, [ii] but I hope readers will be tolerant if they have seen some of this before, as I believe I now grasp there is an important conclusion to be drawn that wasn’t clear to me before.
Case Study 1: Dark Emu
Since European settlement in Australia in 1788 there have been many explorers, missionaries, pastoralists and, indeed, professional anthropologists criss-crossing the continent, observing and publishing detailed information about the life and culture of Aborigines. In particular, detailed descriptions of their hunter-gatherer lifestyle are ubiquitous (I have a library of perhaps 50 titles on my own shelves). And then, suddenly, in 2018, we have Bruce Pascoe, a man claiming to be an Aborigine on the strength of no evidence whatsoever and further insisting Aborigines had actually been farmers. [iii] His ‘evidence’ is shockingly thin, and what little he can muster is habitually misrepresented or, a more convenient expedient, simply invented from whole cloth.
Yet, to date, I am aware of just one professional anthropologist who has so far dared to challenge this new narrative. Even then, Dr Ian Keen couches his criticism in only the most respectful, almost apologetic, terms. [iv]
The majority of academic professionals were prepared to trash, or allow the trashing by others, of 150-200 years of anthropological research in their own discipline, research undertaken by themselves, by past or present colleagues, which detail the hunting and gathering lifestyle of Aborigines, rather than dare to be seen contradicting an ‘Aborigine’. All Quadrant Online readers will be well aware that it took non-professionals interested in Aboriginal affairs — Quadrant‘s Peter O’Brien first among equals — to point out the obvious errors, the almost diabolical torturing of texts to extract ‘evidence’. And for their trouble, what was the reward? To be labelled as participants in some ‘far right’ conspiracy for daring to do so. [v] Dr Keen feels it necessary apologise for even appearing to give credibility to these alternative voices.
Many critiques of Dark Emu have come from the political right. They include the writings and broadcasts of Andrew Bolt; articles in, and a book published by Quadrant magazine, whose editor Keith Windschuttle engaged extensively in the ‘history wars’; and the Dark Emu Exposed (Anon. 2020) as well as the Quadrant Online websites (sic). Unfortunately, in my judgement these critiques of Pascoe’s treatment of his historical sources are largely correct. [vi]
At every turn the promoters of this new narrative have doubled down on the inconsistencies [vii] — Marcia Langton, a professor and adviser to Minister for Indigenous Affairs Ken Wyatt, swears “all Bruce Pascoe’s references are correct”. And yet professional anthropologists remain silent. Meanwhile, the perpetrator of the Dark Emu mega-hoax is awarded multiple prizes and is elevated to the title of “professor” on the strength of his fraudulent ‘research’.
Case Study 2 The Hockey Stick
In 2002 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report [viii] which essentially hung upon the Michael Mann’s ‘Hockey Stick Graph’ (Figure 1, at left) — a global temperature reconstruction based on the selective use of Siberian tree rings, one specific tree in particular.
What the IPCC did, in essence, was trash centuries of climate observations, research data from modern scientific papers, archival data, eyewitness reports easily found in archived newspapers etc. While all this was being manufactured, lauded and grant-funded, the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age were airbrushed out of existence.
Compare this with the previous global reconstruction published in an earlier IPCC Report of 1990 (See Figure 2 below). Almost none of the professionals in the climate change industry stood up for their own research by pointing out the glaring inconsistencies between the two graphs. Instead, they fell meekly silent behind the new graph, making themselves complicit in erasing the Medieval Warm Period (actually still warmer than the present day) in line with the contemporary narrative.
It took outsiders to expose Mann’s graph as a rubbish [ix], but even now nearly all of the climate change professionals remain in complete denial of that misrepresentation. Nearly all have doubled down behind this new ‘Hockey Stick Graph’ and defend it to the present day, and even now are claiming that the Medieval Warm Period was only a local event, while never quite being able to point to any locale where it wasn’t a very real phenomenon.[x] [xi]
Case Study 3 ‘Women aren’t the only people who menstruate’
More recently we have seen the redrawn definition of a ‘woman’, formerly an ‘adult human female’, contradicts biology itself [xii] while encountering very little vocal opposition within the medical fraternity. The most vociferous critic appears to be JK Rowling, an author of children’s books. A ‘tweet’, for example, from Planned Parenthood asserts
Not all women can get pregnant, and women aren’t the only people who get pregnant. Not all women menstruate, and women aren’t the only people who menstruate. Cisgender women aren’t the only people who get abortions.
And, once again, such nonsense goes unchallenged [xiii]
We now see, courtesy of Peter Smith and Quadrant Online, that medical science wants control of the COVID-19 narrative, with contrary narratives removed from the scientific literature and medical practice, with rarely a protest from the medical science community.
See Professor Robert Clancy’s COVID-19: a realistic approach to community management
I recently watched a television program about plane crash investigations. At one point the chief investigator commented:
If one plane crashes into a mountain it’s a tragedy.
If two planes crash into a mountain, it’s a systemic problem.
His point was that if something happens more than once, then there is a most likely an unidentified and underlying systemic flaw. The three case studies described above are, in fact, metaphorical plane crashes that establish there is an endemic problem with the way modern science is practiced. One of these would be a tragedy, as the air-crash investigator put it. But three! Such common cause in the promotion of error defies casual explanation. These examples above display remarkable similarities and, most worrying of all, a completely new and thoroughly bent philosophy of science.
In the glory days of science, anthropology was based on the ‘scientific’ observation of Aborigines in their regular daily life. In the 1970s it passed from being based on the collection and description of cultural data to advocacy on behalf of Aborigines. Anthropologists became the accepted interface between Aborigines and the white mainstream, and, like legal advocates, became divorced from any requirement to present ‘fact’. Rather, they saw it as their calling to present the best possible case on behalf of their ‘clients’ and any troublesome facts be damned.
Let me, at this point, indulge in a personal recollection. I was once on a drilling clearance in the outback when a female anthropologist felt compelled to lecture me about the wonderfully egalitarian nature of Aboriginal society, particularly the position of women when compared with their lot in “white society”. This was an advocate presenting the best possible spin for her clients. I was taken back.
“You must be joking!” I exclaimed, “do you think I’m blind!”
Like me, she had witnessed how all the senior men (Tjilpies) rode in the first vehicle along with the senior white male anthropologist (also an honorary Tjilpy). The less senior, but initiated, men travelled in the second vehicle. The junior uninitiated men were in the third vehicle (with me), while the women always piled into the last vehicle (driven by the female anthropologist) at the dusty tail of the convoy. That convoy structure never deviated.
“What could possibly be more hierarchical?” I asked her.
“Yeah,” she said with a shrug, “well, you know, whatever.”
No embarrassment. No explanation. No apology. No indication she would ever review the evidence of her own eyes against the fantasy she extolled and which, handily and simultaneously, cocked a snook at “white society”. By the modern standards of ‘scholarship’ she was just doing her job, scuttling truth to promote a congenial myth. I can’t think of a single professional anthropologist I have worked with who would not have said exactly the same thing if placed in her position.[xiv]
Aboriginal culture became whatever Aborigines, even fauxboriginals like Bruce Pascoer, want it to be, safe in the knowledge that anthropologists would never dare to publicly contradict them. Anthropologists who failed to follow the new rules quickly found themselves struggling to find work. As American anthropologist, James Clifton, noted with his ‘Eleventh Commandment’ of Anthropology :
‘Thou Shall Not Say No to an Indian’ [xv]
Translated to this side of the Pacific, if you want your career to prosper, never contradict the fashionable and authorised narrative. Thus do we see the largely unchallenged likes of Bruce Pascoe garlanded with awards, sinecures and prizes while the demonstrable truth is shunned.
Climate research, I assert, passed through that same point, from science to advocacy, in the late 1990s. An example of how green partisanship trumped science was outlined by the late Professor Stephen Schneider, a leading global warming catastrophist and academic in 1989:
We need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both. [xvi]
Professor Schneider, apparently, was untroubled by any inclination towards honesty with respect to his own pursuit of climate ‘science’. [xvii] Perhaps, in his eyes, prominence in his field, a nice income and access to the pulpit at international conferences of jet-setting Gaia worshippers made his betrayal of just-the-facts science worthwhile.
Australia’s pre-eminent science organisation, the CSIRO, through scientific director Dr Mark Stafford-Smith, appears also to be abandoning science for political advocacy and public theatre. Here is what Dr Stafford-Smith had to say in 2012 while speaking at the Planet Under Pressure conference in London:
To unite scientists and global publics in a climate change quest, communicators need to attend rigorously to the narrative-dramatic dynamics of stakeholder sensemaking. The depth of fear and despair when fully engaged with the tragic downfall plot should not be underestimated … We urgently need to develop the skills of reading and leading climate change plots. In so doing, we can build understanding of the social drama of data. [xviii]
The transition from ‘fact-based science’ to advocacy is almost complete in some quarters. Take it from Paul Watson, co-founder of Greenpeace:
It doesn’t matter what is true, it only matters what people believe is true.
Or Dr David Frame, climate modeller, Oxford University:
The data doesn’t matter. We’re not basing our recommendations on the data. We’re basing them on the climate models.
Or Professor Chris Folland, of the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research:
The models are convenient fictions that provide something very useful.
And now it is the turn of medical science to bend its sails to the political wind, abandoning the pursuit of pure science in favour of political advocacy and the rewards accruing to doublerighthink apparatchiks. As but one example, consider the about-faces and somersaults various public health officers have performed to the accompaniment of their political patrons’ dire warnings. Face masks aren’t needed/yes they are. COVID-19 spreads more readily indoors/everyone needs to be locked down inside their homes.
MY POINT is that the three examples presented above represent how post-modern science is undertaken, switching its mooring from independence to political agenda. Oswald Spengler, had this to say in apparent anticipation of this trend. The emphasis is Spengler’s own, by the way.
But in the Faustian, and only the Faustian mind alone, every theory from the outset is also a working hypothesis. A working hypothesis does not need to be ‘correct’ it is only required to be practical. It aims, not at embracing and unveiling the secrets of the world, but at making them serviceable to definite ends. [xix]
Thus, Dmitri Mendeleev’s Periodic Table of Elements was in 1869 a beautiful example of a working hypothesis that proved to be highly ‘practical’ in that it provided a pathway to many valuable insights into the formation of chemical compounds, and into the structure of the atom itself. Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species was a working hypothesis that, while not correct in some details, still provided the practical basis for a revolution in biology and in the way humans view the world.
However, there has clearly been a change in the way in which scientific hypotheses have been found to be useful in more recent times. This, basically, is one aspect of the dangers ahead which retiring US President Eisenhower warned of in his 1961 farewell address – the corruption of the grants process:
The free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.
The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded. [xx]
The head of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA ), Dr Jane Lubchenco in her 1999 address, showed no such concern about the domination by the political sector of science funding:
Urgent and unprecedented environmental and social changes challenge scientists to define a new social contract. This contract represents a commitment on the part of all scientists to devote their energies and talents to the most pressing problems of the day, in proportion to their importance, in exchange for public funding. [xxi]
However, I would argue that modern scientists have re-discovered that their science, their theories, their working hypotheses, are not required to be ‘correct’, just as Spengler observed, only that they be ‘practical’. They have discovered that as long as their pronouncements service the political ends of their funders, the role of scientist-as-political-advocate is both much more lucrative and much less mentally taxing than being correct in the old-fashioned scientific sense.
They have decided to leverage their scientific credibility in the pursuit of power in the political domain. One can only wonder if they have heard of a Russian scientist by name of Trofim Lysenko and the disdain with which he and his twisted, Kremlin-endorsed theories are held today.
Alistair Crooks is a frequent contributor
[i] Smith, P. 2021. Never Let a Good Panic go to Waste Quadrant Online 4th January 2021 https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2021/01/never-let-a-good-panic-go-to-waste/
[ii] Crooks A., 2020. The National Forelock, There for the Tugging.(14/5/2020) Quadrant Online. https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2020/05/the-national-forelock-there-for-the-tugging/
[iii] Pascoe, B., 2018. Dark Emu Aboriginal Australia and the Birth of Agriculture. Magabala Books.
[iv] Keen, I., 2021. Foragers or Farmers: Dark Emu and the Controversy over Aboriginal Agriculture. Anthropological Forum. (5/1/2021) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00664677.2020.1861538?journalCode=canf20
[v] For example, O’ Brien, P. 2019. Bitter Harvest : The Illusion of Aboriginal Agriculture in Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu. Quadrant Books.
[vi] From O’Brien, P., 2021. Bruce Pascoe, Dumped Upon from a Great Height Quadrant Online. (9/1/2021)
[vii] Bruce Pascoe was made ‘Enterprise Professor in Indigenous Agriculture’ at Melbourne University in August 2020.
[viii] IPCC Third Assessment Report, 2001.
[ix] Montford, A. W., 2010. The Hockey Stick Illusion : Climategate and the Corruption of Science. Stacy International.
[x] A indication of the global extent of the Medieval Warm Period is provided here https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1akI_yGSUlO_qEvrmrIYv9kHknq4&ll=-3.81666561775622e-14%2C38.03818700000005&z=1
[xi] Curry, J., 2011, a. The Long Slow Thaw? Climate Etc. (1/12/2011) https://judithcurry.com/2011/12/01/the-long-slow-thaw/
[xii] See BBC News 26/9/2018. ‘Woman billboard removed after transphobia row.’ https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-45650462
[xiii] See Michael Smith News, 20/11/2020. Planned Parenthood Association. https://michaelsmithnews.typepad.com/.a/6a0177444b0c2e970d026bdea656b0200c-pi
[xiv] There were other indications of a distinct hierarchy as well. At one point the senior men were tardy in leaving a site, so I said to my group of young uninitiated men – we’ll head off first and they can catch up in a minute. ‘No No No!’ exclaimed all my group with genuine alarm. ‘You can’t go in front of them’. On another occasion the female anthropologist did actually take off in front of the men in the women’s vehicle and the junior men in my vehicle howled with nervous laughter at that obvious faux pas. Also on that same trip, the junior men in my car noticed that a junior woman (they were all roughly the same age, so this wasn’t junior in any age-related sense) had got in the front passenger seat to sit next to the female anthropologist, displacing a more senior woman into the back seat. Again, the young men immediately noticed this and were aghast at her audacity. This was a stratified society, and everyone was constantly acutely aware of their status within it.
[xv] Clifton (1994) p. 13. This was written with respect to American Indians, but the same applies here in Australia to Australian Aborigines as well.
[xvi] Curry, J., 2011, b. Stephen Schneider and the “Double Ethical Bind” of Climate Change Communication. Climate Etc. (21/7/2011) https://judithcurry.com/2011/07/21/stephen-schneider-and-the-%E2%80%9Cdouble-ethical-bind%E2%80%9D-of-climate-change-communication/\
[xvii] Professor Schneider did not appear to have too much difficulty with the ethics of truth-telling. See Nelson, T., 2012 ‘Unprecedented Level of Climate Fraud (27/11/2012) ICECAP http://icecap.us/index.php/go/joes-blog/unprecedented_level_of_climate_fraud_dont_miss_this_stunningly_brazen_warmi/
[xviii] Thomas, T., (2012) The CSIRO Sold Us a Pup. Quadrant Online. (9/9/2012) http://quadrant.org.au/opinion/doomed-planet/2012/09/the-csiro-sold-us-a-pup/
[xix] Spengler, O., 1932. Man and Technics : A contribution to a philosophy of life. Alfred A. Knopf Inc. The term ‘Faustian’ is Spengler’s term for Western culture.
[xxi] Dr Jane Lubchenco – 1999 address