The Curse of Scientism’s Dominant Paradigm

The last two years have demonstrated the dominance of paradigms in relation to public policy on both the COVID pandemic and climate change. Many years ago, Thomas Samuel Kuhn, in his seminal work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, argued that scientific knowledge undergo periodic paradigm shifts. Scientific knowledge, he argued, does not progress linearly and continuously. Scientific truth is not established by objective criteria alone, but is defined by a consensus of a scientific community. Controversially, Kuhn argued that our understanding of science could not rest on “objectivity” alone.  Science had to take account of subjective perspectives since all objective conclusions were ultimately founded on the subjective world view of researchers and participants.

Like Kuhn, accepting that  scientists can never be truly objective, Karl Popper propounded his central tenet of scientific methodology, “falsifiability”. A hitherto established scientific hypothesis could be invalidated  by even one piece of contradictory evidence.

For Popper, “falsification” was central to the intellectual integrity of the scientific method. Unfortunately, much of the scientific establishment, aided and abetted by governments, has worked to sustain dominant paradigms in the face of contradictory evidence which is simply ignored. Too often, ideology perpetuates paradigms to a point where they become dogma. For example, only research which validates anthropogenic global warming is de facto permitted. Falsification is avoided if the young scientist values his career. So called climate research is about fortifying a preconceived article of faith. So, if the establishment scientist fells the need to cherry-pick the evidence, torture the data and construct pseudo- sophisticated models with inputs, designed to get the correct “ideological” outcome, it is all in a good cause.

What is called, “the science”, has little in common with the scientific method. It seems to have more in common with papal encyclicals which we are enjoined to obey or risk damnation. But the situation may worse today. For now, the woke elites through control   of the bureaucracy, education at both school and university levels, media and big business, will seek to perpetuate alarmist paradigms and hinder what otherwise would be spontaneous paradigm shifts. As with climate change, the current COVID pandemic has seen the solidification  of paradigms, which are becoming harder to shift. The clear evidence that the Omicron variant, whilst more transmissible, is less virulent, seems hardly to have had any effect on health bureaucrats, with a very few exceptions, or the Australian Medical Association.

That saying, “when the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?”, (attributed to Keynes, or was it Winston Churchill?), is followed only by the exceptional few. Most even highly intelligent, highly credentialed individuals fall prey to dominant mindsets. After all most of us crave social and official approval. Few want to stand in splendid isolation.

The current standout paradigm during the current pandemic is the vaccine mandate. Despite all the evidence that the vaccinated are just as likely to catch and transmit the COVID virus, (especially the latest Omicron variant), as the unvaccinated, the latter are treated as lepers both de facto and de jure. This despite the fact that the unvaccinated with co-morbidities only risk themselves and pose no added risk to the fully vaccinated. 

Full disclosure: I am fully vaccinated. I belong to an older age group and have an underlying health condition. I am minimizing, not the risk of infection but the danger of serious illness. Having made a personally sensible decision, I was irritated by being forced to show my vaccine certificate before I could enter the Art Gallery, the Australian Museum and any number of restaurants. Even my clubs are forced to comply with official dictates.

As so many of my freedom loving scribes have observed, the COVID pandemic has facilitated an unprecedented state encroachment on our personal freedom and expansion of government at the expense of the private sector.

Perhaps the most disturbing phenomenon of the last two years is the inability of even democratically elected governments to openly admit error. Much of the media commentary has promoted  the notion of bureaucratic infallibility. When it comes to robust adaptive immunity, with rare exceptions,  of the very young, facts do not seem to matter. Collective panic smothers reality.

In particular, the attempt to choke of the free flow of information and knowledge by Big Tech’s platforms has hindered the necessary dynamic adaptability, so necessary for progress. Of course, bad and silly ideas circulate, but the fundamental premise of freedom is that people at large will eventually choose sense over nonsense, reality over fantasy. I believe that the ordinary people will choose rational survival over the woke nonsense favoured by pampered elites.

Al this leads back to Popper. “Falsifiability” is a critical key to progress, freedom of thought and research, and underscores why totalitarian regimes such as that of Xi jingping  must fail. Infallibility may be a papal privilege but is a fatal secular conceit.

  • Biggles

    Recent figures from Britain: Last year, 150,000 people admitted to hospitals were recorded as having died of Covid. Only 17,500 of those had no other ‘morbidities’. Seven hundred thousand Britons die every year. You work it out.

  • Lewis P Buckingham

    By 30th March the situation in the UK was dire.
    The first three months led to a death number of 980000.
    Over 50% more than 2020.
    They really had to ”work it out’.

  • Geoff Sherrington

    The official Australian perceived wisdom is that heatwaves are becoming hotter, longer and more frequent. If you analyse the 6 State Capital cities, you find that this generalisation is unsupported. (If future heatwaves are going to affect hospital planning, it needs to be for where the people are and these Capitals are home to some 75% of our population.)
    Here is a graph showing that Melbourne heatwaves are not getting hotter from 1857 to 2019, when I last did the numbers. Lines represent the average of the hottest 10, then 5, then 3, then 1 consecutive days each year, using maximum temperatures from the BOM. No fiddles, just adding up and taking away level maths.
    Geoff S

  • Geoff Sherrington

    Biggles, counting deaths from Covid gets worse than that. There is questionable, continued use of official figures that need qualification because their descriptions are potentially very misleading. Geoff S

  • Lewis P Buckingham

    ‘if observations’ desagee[s] with experiment its wrong.’
    The basis of science.

  • Adam J

    Much of modern journalism and politics rests on the gotcha moment; nothing else makes for good entertainment. Journalists seem unable to engage in an exploration of many issues, and politicians are either too dumb to do so or think everyone else is. It’s a sad state that we’re in.

  • Lewis P Buckingham

    Its one thing to have the idea that the CO2 nob controlling climate and ‘we did it’ does not fit the predictions.
    The one showcased above is a good reason to become at least a doubter.
    Its another to suggest another paradigm that answers the question ‘Is climate affected the same way as it was 10000 years ago by the sun?’
    What is the mechanism?
    I would suggest the following, the La Nina El Nino,ITCZ theory has merit.
    This is what the Australian geologists have been saying all along.
    If true, then putting solar panels on the roof will not stop hurricanes devastating parts of the Philippines.
    The only way forward is to adapt.

  • pgang

    Interesting to see scientism raised in a secular production. Scientists who believe in and test a ‘young earth’, special creation theory of origins, have been warning of the danger of scientism for decades. I wonder if humanists would be willing to apply the same test to humanism’s intellectual pacifier, evolutionism.
    We could also cast our memories back to the demolition of the tobacco industry, if we are looking for parallels. I doubt that any other private group in Australia’s history has suffered such extraordinary discrimination against it in the interests of ‘public health’. Call me a conspiracist, but I now doubt most of the health catastrophe information that was propagandised to the pubic during the tobacco witch hunt. Look at what we did to that private market sector. It was constantly demonised as the enemy of humanity, completely banned from advertising its legal product in any way at all, and it was taxed out of existence. Talk about a pariah; they don’t come any more evil than ‘big tobacco’.

  • ianl

    Certainly some regard Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions as seminal. I suggest it is somewhat superficial, perhaps deliberately so. Karl Popper’s “falsifiability” stricture fills in the rigour missing from Kuhn’s treatise. It’s the difference between an hypothesis and a theory.

    It’s very easy to see that the falsifiability requirement is missing from AGW and coronavirus pandemic management. It’s equally easy to see the reason for this, of course.

    And it is this missing rigour, deliberately avoided, that marks the propagandistic use of the term “THE science”, conferring such augustness onto simple hypotheses. Scientific method, with falsifiability as the bedrock anchor, is a core of human development; “THE science” is stone age witchcraft, scientism.

  • rosross

    The scientific system of enquiry long ago sold its soul to Government and corporate agendas and became a tool for power and profit.

    It has also become a religion, well, Scientism certainly is with the sort of theology and dogma which would have made the Church in the Middle Ages proud. However, science has a capacity far beyond any religion in history to destroy not just people but the planet and is a system which should be carefully managed and not sold out to the highest bidder.

    This system can only be changed from within although society can increase the pressure by rejecting the delusion that all can be reduced to the material and mechanistic.

    What is little understood is that science can only know what it can measure and that does not mean understand what it can measure, but simply know in terms of gaining certain information.

    What is measured depends upon the following:

    1. Who will pay for it to be measured?
    2. Who will do the measuring?
    3. What is the reason for measuring in terms of acceptable outcomes?
    4. How will the measuring be done?
    5. Who will gain and who will lose from such a measurement?

    Some of this is at work unconsciously and despite the claims to objectivity, will influence outcomes.

    Science, once a valuable tool, has become a dangerous weapon.

  • Citizen Kane

    Well said Christopher Carr. Unfortunately the toxic influence of postmodernism on science has placed the ‘narrative’ at the centre of scientific enquiry and the construction of grand meta narratives that are nothing but an attempt to be self reinforcing has resulted in a science that is as blinkered and blinded to real task of science – to question everything. Just as scientific revolutions are cyclic, so likely are dark ages and we appear to be heading headlong into a postmodernist inspired dark age.

  • Ian MacKenzie

    I see that the world’s worst prognosticator, Tim Flannel is the chosen poster child for this article. As a Guinness World Record contender for failed predictions but still in business, he is perhaps Australia’s best exemplar of the death of science in this country and so his depiction here is entirely appropriate. Apparently being persistently, continually and unfailingly wrong about the natural world is fine as long as your politics is right-on.
    Still, I see another brave prediction at the end of this essay in “totalitarian regimes such as that of Xi jingping (sic) must fail”. While this is probably correct in the long term, historically all polities failing eventually, in the short to medium term this seems a much less certain bet than “whatever Tim has just predicted will turn out to be completely wrong”.
    Ten years ago China made a choice to turn away from Deng Xiaoping’s “to be rich is glorious” to adopt a more mercantilist, protectionist, centrally controlled economy. As this approach has always done elsewhere in the past this will inevitably weaken China in the long term, but in the short term the CCP can still do a huge amount of damage to the world economy and stability, and consequently end up, if not a winner, at least still a superpower.
    At present all eyes are on eastern Europe, but with only 2% of world GDP, Russia can’t compete economically. If Putin invades the Ukraine, denying Russia access to the SWIFT system would destroy its economy within months. That’s the game of poker at present. Who is bluffing? Putin on invasion or Biden on economic warfare with a nuclear-armed opponent. Putin is a better poker player, but Biden has the better hand.
    At 16% of world economic power China has more clout, but with 75% of all international borrowing in USD, the USA is still by far the most powerful economy on earth. If for instance China decided to sell off its 1.1 trillion dollar US Treasury holdings, as the international reserve currency the USA can simply print more dollars to replace China’s holdings. However a China-led payments system, based on the Yuan (so far struggling to catch on) or more likely a digital currency, could eventually topple the USD-based system, particularly given US debt levels around 50% of GDP and, thanks to Joe Biden, rising.
    As I said above the failure of Xi Jinping’s totalitarian regime is a brave prediction, but not at all in the “completely Flannery impossible” category.

  • john2

    “…the fundamental premise of freedom is that people at large will eventually choose sense over nonsense, reality over fantasy. I believe that the ordinary people will choose rational survival over the woke nonsense favoured by pampered elites.”

    I hope you are correct, Christopher Carr, and that “eventually” will not take too long. Apropos COVID policy/idiocy, to paraphrase another Keynes aphorism, “Society can remain irrational for longer than you can remain sane”.

    And, more hopefully, from Winston Churchill – “Truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it. Ignorance may deride it. Malice may distort it. But there it is.”

    Truth will out!

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