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What? Is no political party the “party of science”?

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<em>Coffee</em> Tins New Republic intern Eric Armstrong thinks that no U.S. party deserves the crown, at any rate:

The time has come for Democrats to remove the beam from their own eyes, so to speak. Taking up the mantle of scientific liberalism—that is, adopting an evidence-based view of reality in pursuit of progressive policy—would serve both the strategic purposes of the Democratic Party in the menacing face of Trumpism, as well as the existential interests of humanity.* More.

Oh, wait. No political party is likely to survive just taking an evidence-based view of matters. That’s supposed to be the role of science as such.

You know what they say about party policy and strategy: It’s like sausage; if you are going to eat it, best not to ask what all goes into it. One can at least hope that most of it can be swallowed, more or less.

Unfortunately, Armstrong’s list of Democrat science fails reads like a list of all the subjects on which he is convinced that his view is entirely and unalterably correct, for example:

So, what’s the harm in entertaining anti-science views when it comes to so-called alternative treatments like homeopathy? After all, people should be free to throw their own money away. And since there are no active ingredients, homeopathy can’t really hurt anybody, can it? In fact, homeopathy is so ineffective at doing, well, anything at all, that science geeks across the world have staged massive collective “overdoses” of homeopathy in order to demonstrate its impotence. To date, not one person has been harmed—or healed, for that matter—from any of these mass ingestions. But the fact that it doesn’t work is exactly what makes it so dangerous. Many pharmacies sell homeopathic and other alternative remedies alongside real medicine. Consumers are entitled to a reasonable expectation that treatments sold in modern pharmacies have at least demonstrated a modicum of efficacy beyond placebo. Selling snake oil on the same shelf as real drugs betrays that trust. This is a consumer protection issue if there ever was one. Democrats should be all over it.

It does not sound as though Armstrong has ever heard of the placebo effect, one of the best attested effects in medicine (people start to get better when they feel better). One wonders how his party would justify cracking down on aromatherapy, etc.  Doubtless, wiser heads would prevail.

* Note from O’Leary for News: Please, political parties, just govern in the interests of your own constituencies in your own nations and leave the rest of the world to cope with the existential interests of humanity as we see them. Our tastes in a-crock-a-lypses may differ from yours and we can’t vote where you live.

Note 2: As a commenter has noted (Bob O’H at 1)Armstrong does concede “a modicum of efficacy beyond placebo.” The problem is that the placebo effect is not negligible, as such statements usually imply; it is powerful. Even sham surgery can work. That’s the true difficulty with crackdowns on folk medicine. It can so easily lead to unproductive conflict rather than improved medical care. A better solution would be to clean up the mess that peer review has become in medicines that are sold behind the pharmacy counter and leave the tea grannies to fight it out among themselves, with no special level of approval or otherwise.

See also: Nature: Scientists stunned by Trump victory Really? What does that say about the scientific method?

Parkinson’s patients learn to use placebos?

and

New Scientist’s about face on the placebo effect

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16 Replies to “What? Is no political party the “party of science”?

  1. 1
    Bob O'H says:

    It does not sound as though Armstrong has ever heard of the placebo effect,

    Um, you really should read what you cite. From the quoted text just before this comment:

    Consumers are entitled to a reasonable expectation that treatments sold in modern pharmacies have at least demonstrated a modicum of efficacy beyond placebo.
    (emphasis added)

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    But in the modern liberal mind, whether someone can be called a science-denier has taken on a scope limited to a small subset of scientific concepts: climate change and evolution. In essence, if you accept these concepts, you are pro-science; if you deny them, you are anti-science. True as that may be,

    Since Armstrong is concerned with fraudulent ‘snake oil’ type medicines and such as that, perhaps he (or one of the Darwinian onlookers) would like to show us ‘anti-science’ types exactly where Darwinian Evolution, the supposed scientific explanation for all of biology, has made any major breakthroughs for medical science? Or any major breakthroughs for modern science in general?

    “Truth be told, evolution hasn’t yielded many practical or commercial benefits. Yes, bacteria evolve drug resistance, and yes, we must take countermeasures, but beyond that there is not much to say. Evolution cannot help us predict what new vaccines to manufacture because microbes evolve unpredictably. But hasn’t evolution helped guide animal and plant breeding? Not very much. Most improvement in crop plants and animals occurred long before we knew anything about evolution, and came about by people following the genetic principle of ‘like begets like’. Even now, as its practitioners admit, the field of quantitative genetics has been of little value in helping improve varieties. Future advances will almost certainly come from transgenics, which is not based on evolution at all.”
    (Jerry Coyne, “Selling Darwin: Does it matter whether evolution has any commercial applications?,” reviewing The Evolving World: Evolution in Everyday Life by David P. Mindell, in Nature, 442:983-984 (August 31, 2006).)

    “In fact, over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceeded independent of evolution, except evolutionary biology itself. Molecular biology, biochemistry, and physiology, have not taken evolution into account at all.”
    Marc Kirschner, Boston Globe, Oct. 23, 2005

    “While the great majority of biologists would probably agree with Theodosius Dobzhansky’s dictum that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”, most can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas. Evolution would appear to be the indispensable unifying idea and, at the same time, a highly superflous one.”
    A.S. Wilkins, editor of the journal BioEssays, Introduction to “Evolutionary Processes” – (2000).

    podcast – “Jonathan Wells: Why Not Darwinian Medicine? ” – Nov. 2016
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....3_05-07_00

    Against “Darwinian Medicine” – Dr. Michael Egnor – August 9, 2016
    Excerpt: Darwinist Randolph Nesse has been peddling “Darwinian Medicine” for years.,,,
    He argues for integration of Darwinian science into medical school curricula,,,
    The very admission that Darwinism has had no role in medical science is a telling argument not for its inclusion, but for its irrelevance. Medical science is remarkably successful. Antibiotics, cybernetics, cancer chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants, hip replacements, heart transplants, and a host of near-miraculous advances have greatly extended our lifespan and improved the quality of our lives — all without Darwin.
    Whether or not Darwinian hypotheses can be teased out of some medical advances, it is simply a fact that doctors and medical researchers pay no attention to Darwinian speculations in their work, and their work has been astonishingly successful.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....03058.html

    In fact, besides being useless to medicine, Darwinian evolution, to the extent it has influenced medical diagnostics and research, has been harmful to people., i.e. led to malpractice!
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-622443

    To repeat a fact that I have stated before, “it would be hard to fathom a worldview that is more antagonistic to the progress of modern science than Darwinian evolution, and Atheistic naturalism in general, have turned out to be.”

    Let us be VERY clear to the fact that ALL of science, every discipline within science, is dependent on basic Theistic presuppositions about the rational intelligibility of the universe and the ability of our mind to comprehend that rational intelligibility. Modern science was born, and continues to be dependent on, those basic Theistic presuppositions:

    Science and Theism: Concord, not Conflict* – Robert C. Koons
    IV. The Dependency of Science Upon Theism (Page 21)
    Excerpt: Far from undermining the credibility of theism, the remarkable success of science in modern times is a remarkable confirmation of the truth of theism. It was from the perspective of Judeo-Christian theism—and from the perspective alone—that it was predictable that science would have succeeded as it has. Without the faith in the rational intelligibility of the world and the divine vocation of human beings to master it, modern science would never have been possible, and, even today, the continued rationality of the enterprise of science depends on convictions that can be reasonably grounded only in theistic metaphysics.
    http://www.robkoons.net/media/.....ffd524.pdf

    Moreover, if we cast aside those basic Theistic presuppositions about the rational intelligibility of the universe and the ability of our mind to comprehend that rational intelligibility, and try to use Atheistic Materialism, i.e. methodological naturalism, as our basis for understanding the universe, and for practicing science, then everything within that atheistic/naturalistic worldview, (i.e. supposed evidence for Darwinian evolution, observations of reality, beliefs about reality, sense of self, free will, even reality itself), collapses into self refuting, unrestrained, flights of fantasy and imagination.

    Darwinian evolution, and atheism/naturalism in general, are built entirely upon a framework of illusions and fantasy
    Excerpt: Thus, basically, without God, everything within the atheistic/naturalistic worldview, (i.e. supposed evidence for Darwinian evolution, observations of reality, beliefs about reality, sense of self, free will, even reality itself), collapses into self refuting, unrestrained, flights of fantasy and imagination.
    It would be hard to fathom a more unscientific worldview than Darwinian evolution and Atheistic materialism/naturalism in general have turned out to be.
    Scientists should definitely stick with the worldview that brought them to the dance! i.e Christianity!
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Q94y-QgZZGF0Q7HdcE-qdFcVGErhWxsVKP7GOmpKD6o/edit

    It would be hard to fathom a worldview that is more antagonistic to modern science than Darwinian evolution, and Atheistic naturalism in general, have turned out to be.

    Methodological naturalism, the axiom of Materialism as it is applied to modern science, i.e. only materialistic/naturalistic answers are ever allowed, is the primary method of science taught in American universities. Yet, Materialism/Naturalism is not itself a finding of modern science but is merely a unproven philosophy that is a-priorily imposed onto science. A completely unproven philosophy which makes the dogmatic assertion that only blind material processes generated the universe and everything in it, including ourselves.
    Materialism is thus in direct opposition to Theism which holds that God purposely created this universe and everything in it, including ourselves, i.e. holding that God created us in His image.
    This dogmatic imposition of the philosophy of materialism, i.e. methodological naturalism, onto modern science is especially interesting since materialism had little to nothing to with the founding of modern science, but instead modern science was born out of the medieval Christian cultures of Europe by men who were by and large devoutly Christian in their beliefs. Specifically, they believed the universe to be rational and that they had minds capable of grasping that rationality.
    Moreover science, or more particularly the scientific method, in reality, only cares to relentlessly pursue the truth and could care less if the answer turns out to be a materialistic one or not. Ironically, since truth itself is a transcendent entity which is not reducible to some material/natural entity then Methodological Naturalism actually precludes ‘the truth’ from ever being reached by science!

    Imposing materialistic answers onto the scientific method beforehand, methodological naturalism, is especially problematic in these questions of origins, since we are indeed questioning the materialistic philosophy itself. i.e. We are asking the scientific method to answer this very specific question, “Did God create the universe and us or did blind material processes create the universe and us?” When we realize that this is the actual question we are seeking an answer to within the scientific method, then of course it is readily apparent we cannot impose strict materialistic answers onto the scientific method prior to investigation.
    When looking at the evidence from modern science in this light we find out many interesting things which scientists, who have been blinded by the philosophy of materialism, miss.
    This is because the materialistic and Theistic philosophy make, and have made, several contradictory predictions about what type of science evidence we will find.
    These contradictory predictions, and the evidence found by modern science, can be tested against one another to see if either materialism or Theism is true.

    Here are a few comparisons:

    Theism compared to Materialism/Naturalism – a comparative overview of the major predictions of each philosophy – video
    https://youtu.be/QQ9iyCmPmz8

    As you can see from the video, when we remove the artificial imposition of the materialistic philosophy (methodological naturalism), from the scientific method, and look carefully at the predictions of both the materialistic philosophy and the Theistic philosophy, side by side, we find the scientific method is very good at pointing us in the direction of Theism as the true explanation.

    In fact modern science is even very good at pointing us to Christianity as the solution to the much sought after ‘theory of everything’

    The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from Death as the “Theory of Everything” – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uHST2uFPQY&list=PLtAP1KN7ahia8hmDlCYEKifQ8n65oNpQ5&index=4

    That Christianity should provide an empirically backed solution to the much sought out “Theory of Everything”, i.e. a primary reason for why the universe exists, should not really be all that surprising since, number 1, modern science was born out of the Christian worldview, and, number 2, the belief that there should even be a unification between General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, (i.e. a mathematical theory of everything), does not follow from the math, but is a belief that is born out of Theistic presuppositions (K. Godel, G Chaitin, S. Fuller), and, number 3, Christianity ‘predicts’ that “in him all things were created”

    Colossians 1:15-20
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

    Psalm 118:22
    The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;

  3. 3
    News says:

    Bob O’H at 1: Armstrong sounds as though he believes that the placebo effect is negligible, a standard view among persons of his ilk. The problem is that the effect ISN’T negligible. It may be half the difference.

    Obviously, controlled medications must be tested against placebo because, being powerful, they may have serious side effects relative to actual benefit in a specific patient’s case.

    Persons who enjoy living in a free society should not (in general) care whether the stuff sold in front of, rather than behind, the pharmacy counter passes tests other than health and safety standards.

    Okay, aromatherapists, relax. You can come out now. And grab me some of that ginger carrot tea (against generalized stress in older persons …) 😉

  4. 4
    Bob O'H says:

    News – perhaps you should correct the OP as you are now aware that Armstrong has heard of the placebo effect.

    Persons who enjoy living in a free society should not (in general) care whether the stuff sold in front of, rather than behind, the pharmacy counter passes tests other than health and safety standards.

    Huh? Are you saying that we shouldn’t care if the stuff we’re buying actually works? If a remedy doesn’t work but is being sold as if it does, isn’t that deceptive? Are you OK with members of a free society being deceived?

  5. 5
    asauber says:

    Are you OK with members of a free society being deceived?

    see Global Warming.

    Andrew

  6. 6
    News says:

    Bob O’H at 4: No one is being deceived if no claims are made for other than symptom relief. How can anyone but Jane decide if Jane sleeps better after drinking Natural Dream Water?

    We should have some issues with alcohol in over the counter medications but its use seems to be diminishing.

    Apart from a few issues like that, science time could certainly be more wisely used than in attempts to police the front of the drug store.

  7. 7
    john_a_designer says:

    Eugene Cernan who was the last man to walk on the moon died yesterday (1/16/17).

    However, eight years ago something else died– NASA’s plans for a robust program of human space flight and exploration. The Bush administration had approved ambitious plans to return to the moon by 2020 then on to Mars a decade later. The Obama administration cancelled those plans.

    Harrison Schmitt, who was the first astronaut recruited as a trained scientist (a geologist) to go to the moon, was Cernan’s Apollo 17 partner on the lunar surface. The pair is famous for their bad singing as they carried out their exploration.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8V9quPcNWZE

    Schmitt has said that “one of the most significant contributions of the Apollo Missions was confirming the presence of Helium-3 on the moon.”

    “Helium-3 (He-3) is a light, non-radioactive isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron. Its presence is rare on Earth, it is sought after for use in nuclear fusion research, and it is abundant in the moon’s soil by at least 13 parts per billion (ppb) by weight.”

    https://www.nasa.gov/centers/wstf/news/2012/helium3.html

    Critics say that using He-3 (actually, He-3 + D*) as a potential and practical fusion power reaction is “wishful/magical thinking.” He-3 + D would be difficult to start and sustain… achieving sustainable fusion power by any means is something that is still decades in the future… we really don’t know how abundant it is on the lunar surface, or if it could be recovered economically…

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2834/1

    However, how do we really know unless we go back there and explore?

    Furthermore, there are several practical and potentially very worthwhile benefits of looking into He-3. Fusion power using He-3 promises to be the least radioactive of the fusion reactions (theoretically it is zero) and the reaction itself would be much more efficient in generating power. Just returning to the moon to see how much He-3 is there and if it would be practical to recover and return some for research and experimentation would in my opinion be a justifiable objective.

    The Obama administration deserves a D for virtually scuttling the manned exploration of space beyond low earth orbit. Will the Trump administration do any better? I for one would like to see us actually start exploring space again. And it would “make America great again.”

    *Footnote: D= deuterium or hydrogen 2, which is a “heavy” isotope of hydrogen made up of one proton and one neutron.

  8. 8
    goodusername says:

    News,

    Bob O’H at 1: Armstrong sounds as though he believes that the placebo effect is negligible, a standard view among persons of his ilk. The problem is that the effect ISN’T negligible. It may be half the difference.

    Who are his “ilk” who apparently haven’t heard of the placebo effect, or are claiming that the effect is negligible? Are you talking about the people who claim that all of the claimed benefits (not just half – but all) of homeopathy are the placebo effect?
    It sounds like his “ilk” are the very people who DO understand the powers of the placebo effect. If there’s an “ilk” that could use an education on the placebo effect it would probably be those that believe in homeopathy.

    Apart from a few issues like that, science time could certainly be more wisely used than in attempts to police the front of the drug store.

    I’m glad that there are plenty of others out there who don’t feel that way.

  9. 9
    Bob O'H says:

    News @ 6 – but alternative remedies are being touted as cure rather than just symptom relief. That’s the problem. I think it would be unwise not to police wrong claims of effectiveness of medications, because otherwise people will die.

  10. 10
    News says:

    Bob O’H at 9, we probably live in different jurisdictions. In many, wording is strictly controlled, due to risks of public or private legal reprisals – and that’s as it should be.

    A sure recipe for unproductive conflict would be trying to tell people that their favourite nostrum doesn’t really help them when they are sick. If they feel better, they feel helped. If they want something more serious they will need to try scientific medicine, of course.

  11. 11
    john_a_designer says:

    I whole heartedly agree with Eric Armstrong when he writes that…

    perhaps the most damaging and confounding [science-denial misconception] has been the left’s quixotic fight against nuclear power. There is a Shakespearean quality in the fact that one of the environmental movement’s biggest victories in the past 50 years—crippling the expansion of nuclear power—has actually done irreparable harm to the environment…

    What’s so strange about all this is that none of the hallmarks of nuclear power in the popular imagination have anything to do with nuclear power in reality. Those gigantic towers spewing white clouds into the atmosphere? That’s not pollution. It’s water vapor. Nuclear power plants are responsible for exactly zero greenhouse gas emissions. Zero. How’s that for clean energy?

    [‘And even though,’] he continues,

    A typical reactor produces in the neighborhood of 20 to 30 tons of waste (mostly spent fuel rods and contaminated incidentals like gloves and tools) per year that is usually stored on site. As far as large-scale energy sources go, that’s so tiny as to barely even register. What’s more, that waste is extremely valuable and can be recycled many times over to continue producing energy for years. Compare that to a coal plant in the U.S., which produces a staggering 125,000 tons of ash and 193,000 tons of sludge every single year.

    Most of the critics (“deniers”) of man-caused climate change that I know about are in favor of nuclear energy, which, ironically, would mitigate carbon emissions faster and cheaper than any other alternative form of energy. Furthermore, disasters like Fukushima, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl would have completely been avoided if modern fail-safe designs and technology been available and/or in use. (They actually were available at the time of Fukushima.) We currently have about four hundred fifty nuclear reactors in use worldwide. If we want nuclear energy to be safer (it’s already very safe) we need to be replacing those plants with the new designs. But if the technology is as safe as has been demonstrated why not double or triple the number of nuclear power plants. If you are concerned about climate change isn’t that the logical way to go?

    That’s the surprising conclusion that this recent episode of Nova comes to:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/t.....ption.html

    For a short time you can watch on-line for free. Check it out.

  12. 12
    Bob O'H says:

    News @10 –

    A sure recipe for unproductive conflict would be trying to tell people that their favourite nostrum doesn’t really help them when they are sick. If they feel better, they feel helped.

    And if they don’t feel better…? I don’t think it’s unproductive to tell people to take medicines that will actually help, and which will prevent unnecessary suffering.

    Also, even if they recover, they’re more likely to try the same treatment when the have something serious.

  13. 13
    bornagain77 says:

    Bob O’H, if you are really so concerned with people’s health, then why are not you even more gravely concerned with all the untold misery wrought in people’s lives by the Darwinian worldview? And why are you not working to expose it for the pseudo-science that it is instead of pathetically defending such useless tripe?

  14. 14
    asauber says:

    concerned with people’s health

    Bob O’H is going to be remembered for centuries to come for his humanitarian outreach, which shines through like a laser in his every comment. Isn’t he amazing?

    Andrew

  15. 15
    News says:

    Added to post: Note 2: As a commenter has noted (Bob O’H at 1)Armstrong does concede “a modicum of efficacy beyond placebo.”

    The problem is that the placebo effect is not negligible, as such statements usually imply; it is powerful. Even sham surgery can work.

    That’s the true difficulty with crackdowns on folk medicine. It can so easily lead to unproductive conflict rather than improved medical care.

    A better solution would be to clean up the mess that peer review has become in medicines that are sold behind the pharmacy counter and leave the tea grannies to fight it out among themselves, with no special level of approval or otherwise.

  16. 16
    goodusername says:

    News,

    Added to post: Note 2: As a commenter has noted (Bob O’H at 1), Armstrong does concede “a modicum of efficacy beyond placebo.”

    The problem is that the placebo effect is not negligible, as such statements usually imply; it is powerful. Even sham surgery can work.

    I’ll try again. There’s nothing in that statement to imply that he thinks that the effects of the placebo effect are negligible. He’s simply saying that if someone wants to sell something as being medically effective then it should display “a modicum of efficacy beyond placebo” in tests. (I don’t know why you put the word “concede” there.)

    And, in fact, his statement implies the very opposite about the effects of placebos. If he believed that the effects of placebos were negligible, then there would be no point in comparing the results of a medicine against a placebo. In other words, he knows that just because a medicine seems quite effective, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is – it could be just the placebo effect, and thus must be compared to placebos.

    Let’s say that I claim to invent an additive to water that makes it super effective against fire. I then show how amazing this water + additive mixture is against fire and try to sell the stuff. But then you say: “Hold on, is it really any better then just plain water? It should be compared against regular water in a test.” Are you implying that water has a negligible effect on fire. No, just the opposite, which is why my mixture needs to be compared against water.

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