In my law practice I often represent charter school applicants appealing local districts’ denial of their charter applications to the Colorado State Board of Education. Some years ago in one of these appeals a local district decided to support their case for denial by hiring an infamous advocacy firm masquerading as experts in education economics to produce a report demonstrating the terrible economic threat charter schools represent to school districts. The firm produced the report and I proceeded to explode it by pointing out the tendentious assumptions upon which it was based.
The district’s decision to use the firm backfired, because their obvious bad faith probably helped me win that appeal. I was particularly pleased with one line from my brief: “Whenever the education establishment desires to cloak its prejudices in the mantle of “science,” it hires [firm X] who is always happy to oblige.”
A recent study by Anthony Randazzo and Jonathan Haidt shows that what happened in my case is actually probably the norm (on both sides of the liberal/conservative divide) in economics. Here are their findings:
Our questionnaire asked respondent economists to agree or disagree, using a seven-point Likert scale, with each of 22 positive economic statements and four normative economic statements.8 Then our questionnaire asked economists to rate on a six-point scale the moral relevance of a series of 22 propositions or factors, in order to gauge how they defined right and wrong . . .
We first found a close association between the moral values of economists and their normative economic views. Economists who believe governments should not interfere in markets to address income inequality also tended to define fairness in proportional terms (i.e., being rewarded in proportion to your contributions), rather than in terms of equality. Meanwhile, economists who did believe there should be a role for government in reducing income inequality tended to see equality as a moral imperative. This is not a surprising finding; we would expect a relationship between moral worldviews and public policy opinions. What is surprising is that we found a relationship of roughly the same magnitude between economists’ moral narratives and their empirical, technical, ‘positive’ economic theory views, too . . .
Finally, our survey data shows that responses to moral propositions can be used to predict responses to empirical (positive) economic theory propositions . . .
Collectively, this data shows that economists’ substantive conclusions about the workings of the economy are suspiciously correlated with their moral values. We cannot prove causation with our survey design, but given everything else we know about the power of motivated reasoning (Nickerson 1998; see review in Haidt 2012, ch. 4), causal effects are quite likely.
When moral positions can be used to predict empirical conclusions, the endeavor in question does not deserve the cachet associated with science.
26 Replies to “Not Science”
Today, the question of what is or is not science is not really a science question; it is a cultural question. Any old flapdoodle can be science if it advances a cultural agenda. Even the better science writers are beginning to recognize that. As for the rest, cancel your subscription.
True empirical science remains an honorable discipline. Sadly, most of what passes as science today is more philosophical than empirical. This is especially true regarding Darwin’s fraudulent theory of evolution and all theories of abiogenesis. More and more people are beginning to realize this, thanks in large part to this blog and others like it.
Interesting thread. It really does show SCIENCE is a human(tailless primate for some) endeavor and not a thing of physics. its not independent of human presumptions and competence.
Science is the painstaking research of Banting and Best which uncovered insulin and its role in glucose metabolism and opened the way to effective treatment for diabetes.
Not science is a family standing around praying fervently as the daughter died on the floor in front of them from complications of a disease that could have been treated easily by what Banting and Best had discovered.
Seversky@4: Finding an effective treatment for diabetes based on empirical evidence is good science, as I, of course, suggested above.
Not science is a Darwinist looking at a woefully incomplete and inadequate fossil record while claiming it proves Darwinian evolution. That’s just one example of hundreds (thousands?) that could be made to expose the pseudo science that Darwinism truly is.
At least the family praying in your straw man example would admit to having faith. You Darwinists claim to loath faith, yet you have just as much faith (maybe more) in some unseen, unmeasurable, and unproven process. You are hypocrites of the worst kind…and you are being exposed on a daily basis thanks to this blog and others like it.
Who claims that is science, Seversky?
“Not science is a family standing around praying fervently as the daughter died on the floor in front of them from complications of a disease that could have been treated easily by what Banting and Best had discovered.”
Let’s see here, you’re making the religious assumption that every single one of your imaginary opponents here actually believe this is scientific ? Are you aware that your holy man Darwin once believed this ? He lost his daughter and blamed God, then proceeded to concoct his theory in justification of his disappointment and anger against an entity he insisted didn’t exist. In the Biblical account here is what Jesus said:
Luke 5:31 (Common English Bible)
31 Jesus answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do.”
Luke himself who wrote this was a physician. Paul Told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach ailment and not drink water which may have been contaminated. He didn’t say have faith and get healed. Maybe your statement that all people who believe in a creator are faith healers makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over despite the facts of what was stated in the reference above, unless of course you feel Jesus statement is unscientific ?
This is nothing more than smoke screening and off topic deflection.
That “often” in the OP is telling.
EI, I love the phrase: “smoke screening and off topic deflection” — a very apt description of a good slice of an all too commonly encountered rhetorical pattern. Can I borrow it, pretty please. KF
BA, the import is that a worldview agenda is shaping how one conducts theoretical reasoning in Economics; which is a discipline closely connected to and intertwined with issues of priority-driven choices in the context of scarcity . . . for individuals and families, for firms and organisations, for governments and other bodies with governance responsibilities. (Indeed, this is close to a commonly accepted definition, one of momentous import.) I suggest that we therefore need to ponder the points I have argued here at UD recently about how credibly objective moral truths (yes, true on pain of patent absurdity on attempted denial) should shape such decisions. KF
Sev, it may be relevant to note that one reason I am here 40 years later is that my mother, having nursed me through yet another night went out at dawn into the garden and prayed a prayer of release and surrender. That was the day a clear miracle of guidance led us to a doctor we would not otherwise have contemplated or heard of, who saved my life, starting with an adrenaline injection and continuing with a programme of medication. It is as a direct consequence that my mother and I are Christians today. And while I had too much painful experience to have an interest in medicine, this experience had a clear impact on my interest in the sciences which I went on to study. On fair comment, your examples become strawmannish, stereotyping and scapegoating caricatures based on extreme and irresponsible cases that reflect an underlying hostility that should be reconsidered. This is far too much like the invidious and extreme tainting comparisons trying to push religion into the category of a dirty word that have been popping up here recently. KF
I like this one, too: “a weaver of lies and deception”. I have borrowed this one from comments on this blog 😉
All they have is smoke-screening and off-topic deflection. It’s a theme. Even when they write books and papers supposedly taking their opponents head on, mostly all they do is take on a straw man, push the narrative towards multiple talking point and rhetorical rabbit holes and gleefully abuse the language to distract from the fact that not only do they not care about the truth, they never thought it even existed in the first place.
Your comment makes me sad for you. You obviously have a longer of anger you need to work out. I will pray for you.
KF @ 10. I do not dispute that economics is an inherently moral enterprise. But it should nevertheless be the case that it should provide us with objective criteria upon which to make those moral decisions.
For example, is it a good idea to raise the minimum wage? In answering that question economics should tell us what the trade offs are. It turns out we are probably trading improvement in the conditions for some minimum wage earners against denying other workers that first step on the ladder, because employers are not going to pay a person more than the market value of their labor. And it will also run some marginal businesses out of business. And employers will try to pass the increased cost along and will be successful where the demand is less elastic, which will result in higher prices for everyone else, a kind of tax.
So if we are OK with those trade offs, then yes, raising the minimum wage is a good idea. If we are not, then it is a bad idea.
Forgive my ignorance for I live in the antipodes …
What is a charter school?
BA, I agree. Econ should give a balanced, credible, empirically and analytically well founded objective basis that rightly guides decisions. Where of course the “should” speaks to just how deeply embedded the ought is in all of this. Our problem is, the evidence is showing us that too often ideology is wearing the robes of the academy and is trafficking in unwarranted credibility from that aura. Making it that much the harder to actually get sound counsel. KF
(It seems you have them or the substantial equivalent but not by that name.)
I’m not sure that’s right, but I am willing to be educated.
In Australia all schools receive government funding on a per student basis.
“Public” schools educate children using this money and no more.
“Private” schools charge the parents extra (a lot extra) because they have better facilities and more programs in sport, performing arts etc.
However, private schools have virtually no discretion on curriculum. And its unheard of for them to have their right to educate children revoked.
So I rather think a charter school is quite a different thing from an Australian private school.
C, we have a similar situation in Canada. Private schools (and Catholic schools) must still teach to the curriculum. For example, they can’t chose not to teach evolution or sex education.
Just when I think I’ve heard it all, along comes another Darwin disciple to defend his/her secular religion, providing great entertainment for the rest of us. Things are bad out there for Darwinists…really bad. Here’s the link:
Truth will set you free…lies will ensnare you.
The Banting/Best duo accomplishment was a answer to prayer.
We need more prayers and more accomplishment.
Truth Will Set You Free @ 5
Darwin’s work may have started it all but the theory of evolution has moved on some way since then. Attacking “Darwinism” in biology is like attacking “Newtonism” in physics. It’s old hat.
And no one is arguing that the fossil record proves evolution, Darwinian or otherwise but, along with a whole lot of other research and observations it is good evidence for it.
Yes, that family had faith. A lot of good it did their daughter.
And, yes, of course we all have to take some things on faith. There’s no practical alternative. But there’s nothing in Christianity that says it always has to be blind faith. There’s nothing in Christianity that says you have to ignore what science has found out about the world. If you had a child who fell seriously ill, would you just pray for recovery or would you take it to a doctor?
kairosfocus @ 11
I’m glad to hear you found treatment in time. You believe it was divine intervention. I doubt it but I cannot prove you wrong. All I would point out was that, in your case, you were treated with medications researched and developed by human science. You didn’t reject them and place total reliance on the healing power of prayer. You survived unlike the poor girl in that tragic case.
I cited that case as an extreme example of where such thinking can lead. I know from my own upbringing in the Church of England that there are many good Christian folk who do not take such a narrow view while still trying to live according to Christ’s teachings.
I think the problem with Christianity in the US is the difference between its public and private faces. I believe there are many Christians here who lead irreproachable lives, working with the poor, the homeless, the old, the sick and the dying. But you do not hear much about them. All too often the public faces of Christianity are the awful televangelists and the likes of prosperity gospelers. And all too many of those, in my view, deserve adjectives like ‘self-righteous’, ‘sanctimonious’, ‘venal’ and ‘bigoted’.
Seversky, I simply point you here in reply to your turnabout tainting attempt. And, the cases of invidious comparison I alluded to and made objection to also were real (contrary to pretence otherwise). Patently, it is improper to try to taint as extremist [and by clear subtext, bigoted and/or ignorant, stupid insane or wicked], a reference to the significance of manifestly evident core principles of the natural moral law and consequences of ignoring them. Where also it is quite, quite sadly clear that in too many minds today “religion” — esp when epithetically skewered as “fundy” — is a rhetorically loaded, dirty word. KF