Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Devotees of Science Versus Followers of Religion — Are Only the Latter to Be Taken to Task for Their Alleged Superstitions?

Throughout the modern Western world, it is taken as a given that the religious members of a society are naïve ignoramuses who are immune to rationality, to science, to the facts of life, believing as they do in ancient superstitions.

They are to be contrasted with the rational beings from the secular part of the society, like scientists, as well as that part of the population who believe in, and who revere, science and said scientists, and who altogether, as one, laugh their heads off at the hopeless credulity of the religious folks.

But ain't it true that once you start going into the details of the scientific scoops — in an entirely rational, an entirely factual, and an entirely scientific manner, I might add — a somewhat different picture starts to emerge?

When we start to follow the news somewhat critically, aren't we surprised to learn how one scientific "fact", or "truth", after another turns out to be wrong or spurious?

And furthermore, isn't there a darker, a much darker, side to the affair, one that the rational science thinkers cannot seem to fathom?

Warning: this post, in seven parts, is the length of a book chapter.

1) So How Reliable Is Science Anyway?

Jump a few decades, a few years, even a few months forward, and lots of what we "know", or knew,  turns out to — surprise! — be wrong. Consider a couple of factoids:

• In 2014 we learned from the BBC that Stonehenge might be 4,000 years old, not just 2,000 to 3,000 years old. Today it is described as 5,000 years old.

• In the Spring of 2015, Discover Magazine launched the theory that Black Holes may not exist.

• I was astonished not too long ago to learn that a mainstay dinosaur of my childhood, the brontosaurus, turns out (in a sense) to never have existed.

Austin Bay points to an Atlantic article by Ed Yong on where lichen biology, apparently settled for 150 years, was overturned (and overturned by a guy from a Montana trailer park, to boot).

• The medical benefits of dental floss turn out to be entirely unproven, reports the Washington Post.

Indeed, the first four factoids above have no real relevance (no, not even the dinosaurs) on our daily lives. But as to the last one: when faulty (for want of a better word) scientific truths intrude into our lifestyle and our day-to-day choices, don't the results tend to become more problematic?

Over the space of a year or two, some of the most mundane "scientific" facts that we all "know" to be true have turned out to be exaggerated or outright false — from the rule against refreezing to the government's recommendations on avoiding whole milk and refraining from skipping breakfast; from the evils of salt to the evils of air-conditioning; from the supposed benefits of eight cups of water a day to those of eight hours of sleep a night.

Indeed, the whole breakfast-is-required deal turns out to have been the 1920s brainchild of "Edward Bernays, a public relations guru [who] led a nationwide media campaign encouraging people to start their mornings with bacon and eggs." The New York Times' Anahad O'Connor points out that "One of Mr. Bernays’s clients at the time [happened to be the] Beech-Nut Packing Company, which [happened to sell] bacon and other pork products."

"Thirty years of official health advice urging people to adopt low-fat diets and to lower their cholesterol is having “disastrous health consequences,” writes Henry Bodkin on the front page of the Daily Telegraph, quoting a leading obesity charity.
The report says the low-fat and low-cholesterol message, which has been official policy in the UK since 1983, was based on “flawed science” and had resulted in an increased consumption of junk food and carbohydrates.
Dr Aseem Malhotra, consultant cardiologist and member of the Public Health Collaboration, a group of medics, said dietary guidelines promoting low-fat foods “is perhaps the biggest mistake in modern medical history, resulting in devastating consequences for public health”.

Calorie counting is also a damaging red herring when it comes to controlling obesity, said the NOF report, as calories from different foods have “entirely different metabolic effects on the human body, rendering that definition useless”.

 … Responding to the NOF document, Professor Iain Broom, from Robert Gordon University, said: “The continuation of a food policy recommending high carbohydrate, low fat, low calorie intakes as healthy eating is fatally flawed.

“Our populations for almost 40 years have been subjected to an uncontrolled global experiment that has gone drastically wrong.”
Back in the U.S., the National Institute of Health’s We Can! program has collapsed and now we are told that "Everything you think you know about healthy food could be wrong" — leading the Wall Street Journal's David McCarron to ponder whether,
After decades of failure, maybe the government should get out of the business of giving dietary advice.
"We’ve seen this before, with trans-fats, eggs, and salt, and good ol’ fat" comments Mary Katharine Ham at Hot Air.
The problem with federal recommendations is they are given disproportionate weight by media and citizens. They dictate food choices and subsidies in all kinds of federal programs, funded by us. They are repeatedly shown to be based on a lot of speculation and extrapolation and very little reliable data.
Indeed, if there has been a problem it has been from the very outset, as we can read in A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression; hasn't it been the scientists' and the government's intrusion into the private life of the citizen (all for his good, natch)?

Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe's book is reviewed on Acculturated by Amy Anderson:
A Square Meal tells the tale of what happened to the traditional and regional American table through world war, the economic collapse of the Great Depression, and the massive southern drought that created the Dust Bowl. The ways in which we responded to these twentieth century crises shape our food culture to this day. The single biggest consequence can be summed up in a phrase: the rise of the experts. As Ziegelman and Coe observe, government bureaucrats “took it upon themselves to interrupt a typically organic process and, in one colossal push, replace traditional foodways with a scientifically designed eating program.”

The government’s expanded role in overseeing eating habits began during World War I, when it sought to get Americans to scale back their food consumption in order to send extra food to the troops fighting overseas. To achieve this end, the Food Administration, headed by Herbert Hoover, deployed squadrons of newly created “home economists,” armed with the latest dietary “science.”

 … Look closely at the government’s food advice to Americans over the years, and you’ll see a lot of contradictions. As the Manhattan Institute’s Steve Malanga argues,
More and more, the history of dietary guidelines that our public-health authorities promulgate resembles the Woody Allen comedy Sleeper in which the main character, awakening from a centuries long slumber, learns that every food we once thought bad for us, is actually good, starting with steak and chocolate.
Indeed, you might even start thinking that, as the New York Post puts it — succinctly — Everything you know about healthy food is a lie. Indeed, Larry Getlen refers to the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Internal Medicine publication revealing that many of Americans’ most prevalent beliefs about nutrition might be bunk.
These revelations make the release of a new book by food-industry expert Jeff Scot Philips, “Big Fat Food Fraud: Confessions of a Health-Food Hustler” (Regan Arts), well-timed. Philips was a personal trainer who founded a health-food manufacturing company that prepackaged healthy meals. He is now reformed from that industry, and spends his time educating people on how almost everything we hear about nutrition — including from medical experts — may be false. Much of it, he says, is specially designed not to improve our health, but to separate us from our money.
The blurb of the Jeff Scot Philips book is How Corrupt Health Inspectors, Greedy Personal Trainers, and Shady Food Manufacturers Are Making You Fat! — which is important, given the proclivity of people to distrust (and demonize) private companies along with the free market while calling for the government to protect us from these (Satanic?) capitalists and for — ever — more oversight from its bureaucracies.
But Philips shows how the [US Department of Agriculture] might, in some cases, be actively making our food less healthful. A USDA agent who worked with Philips’ company said he couldn’t approve calling a salmon dish “healthy” because the fat content was too high. The agent offered a solution: not to lower the fat content, but rather to add sugar or carbs to the meal.
Oh, and in case you're interested:
Given all he knows about the industry, Philips’ own philosophy on food is to stick to the basics: Eat more protein and less sugar, avoid processed food or anything that comes in a box, and, most of all, ignore marketing terms and nutrition labels, because they aren’t educating us the way we think they are.

“The cold truth is: Food labels aren’t there to educate you,” he writes. “They’re there to help market to you.”

Is it only food and nutrition? Nay. In the New York Times, we learn that a 2015 Lancet study finds that contrary to common belief, "the widely held view that happiness enhances health and longevity is unfounded" ("And a million pop-psych theories bite the dust" notes Glenn Reynolds wryly); au contraire, writes Denise Grady, "earlier research confused cause and effect, suggesting that unhappiness made people ill when it is actually the other way around."

Indeed, Michael Roston and Benedict Carey report on Three Popular Psychology Studies That Didn't Hold Up, while the latter New York Times journalist authors a piece entitled Many Psychology Findings Not as Strong as Claimed. This leads professional skeptic Glenn Reynolds to ask:

Regarding the many new scientific fields of the 19th century, the Weekly Standard's Andrew Fergyson points to an August 2015 report in the magazine Science that shows that two thirds of behavioral sciences experiments did not, could not, replicate the findings of original research teams, meaning that "two out of three experiments in behavioral psychology have a fair chance of being worthless."

Ferguson mentions a Stanford John Ioannidis paper, "Why Most Published Research Findings Are False," along with a Gina Perry book, Beyond the Shock Machine, and another by Stephen T. Ziliak and Deirdre N. McCloskey, The Cult of Statistical Significance, before going on to demonstrate the debunkery of such studies as the one showing that 75% of Americans are racist and the Stanley Milgram experiment in which subjects were told to increase electric shocks on a stranger next door (no, contrary to what we've been told, it turns out that most people did not increase the strength of the shock to inflict severe pain).

Eighteen months later, in January 2017, the BBC reports that Most scientists 'can't replicate studies by their peers'
Science is facing a "reproducibility crisis" where more than two-thirds of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist's experiments, research suggests.

… "It's worrying because replication is supposed to be a hallmark of scientific integrity," says Dr Errington.

Concern over the reliability of the results published in scientific literature has been growing for some time.

According to a survey published in the journal Nature last summer, more than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist's experiments.
 … The problem [is] with the way the scientific literature had been "tidied up" to present a much clearer, more robust outcome.

"What we see in the published literature is a highly curated version of what's actually happened," [says Marcus Munafo].

"The trouble is that gives you a rose-tinted view of the evidence because the results that get published tend to be the most interesting, the most exciting, novel, eye-catching, unexpected results.

"What I think of as high-risk, high-return results."

The reproducibility difficulties are not about fraud, according to Dame Ottoline Leyser, director of the Sainsbury Laboratory at the University of Cambridge.

That would be relatively easy to stamp out. Instead, she says: "It's about a culture that promotes impact over substance, flashy findings over the dull, confirmatory work that most of science is about."

She says it's about the funding bodies that want to secure the biggest bang for their bucks, the peer review journals that vie to publish the most exciting breakthroughs, the institutes and universities that measure success in grants won and papers published and the ambition of the researchers themselves.

"Everyone has to take a share of the blame," she argues. "The way the system is set up encourages less than optimal outcomes."

All these scientists, of course, as well as the part of the population who believe in, and who revere, said scientists, belong to the "culture that promotes impact over substance" along with "flashy findings" and are the very people laughing their heads off at the hopeless credulity of religious folk.

Richard Smith, who edited the British Medical Journal for more than a decade, told The Independent there was no evidence that peer review was a good method of detecting errors and claimed that “most of what is published in journals is just plain wrong or nonsense”.
 … The editor of the second of the country’s two leading medical journals, Dr Richard Horton of The Lancet, wrote in an editorial earlier this month that “much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue”, blaming, among other things, studies with small sample sizes, researchers’ conflicts of interest and “an obsession” among scientists for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance”.

The apparent endemicity of bad research behaviour is alarming,” he wrote. “In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt their data to fit their preferred theory of the world.”
As it happens, notes Daniel Lattier, today Academics Write Rubbish Nobody Reads:
Half of academic papers are never read by anyone other than their authors, peer reviewers, and journal editors … an average of 10 people … many academic articles today [being] merely exercises in what one professor I knew called “creative plagiarism”: rearrangements of previous research with a new thesis appended on to them.
Is it any wonder that two MDs, Dr. Aaron E. Carroll and Dr. Rachel C. Vreeman's have felt the necessity to write books such as Don't Swallow Your Gum! (Myths, Half-Truths, and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health), Don't Cross Your Eyes...They'll Get Stuck That Way! (And 75 Other Health Myths Debunked) — although they are not alone, of course. Also worth a read is Ken Jennings's Because I Said So! (The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids).

Is it any wonder that, among the running tongue-in-cheek memes over at Instapundit, one of the most popular is The Science Is Settled?

2) But Beyond a Few Miscues in the Scientific Field, the Rational Unbelievers Only Have Reasonable Beliefs, Right?

But, besides putting the utmost trust in science — which as we have seen (above) has failed them (and us all) on more than occasion — certainly the anti-religious part of the population are otherwise reasonable? Isn't it time to ask what sort of rational beliefs are the reasonable unreligious people otherwise known to follow?

Listen to the testimony of a graduate of (shudder) Oral Roberts University as, in Redneck Nation, Michael Graham explains how he was regularly "a magnet for people who want to talk about their spiritual beliefs and/or their loathing of Christianity":
After a set at a hotel in Washington State, I was dragged into a long, drawn-out discussion with a graying, balding New Ager who just couldn’t get over my evangelical background. “You seem so smart,” he kept saying. “How could you buy into that stuff?” Here’s a guy wearing a crystal around his neck to open up his chakra, who thinks that the spirit of a warrior from the lost city of Atlantis is channeled through the body of a hairdresser from Palm Springs, and who stuffs magnets in his pants to enhance his aura, and he finds evangelicalism an insult to his intelligence. I ask you: Who’s the redneck?

Come to think of it, I’m not sure if this guy—who believed in reincarnation, ghostly hauntings, and the eternal souls of animals—actually believed in God. It’s not uncommon for Northerners, especially those who like to use the word “spirituality,” to believe in all manner of metaphysical events, while not believing in the Big Guy. “Religious” people go to church and read the Bible, and Northerners view them as intolerant, ill-educated saps. “Spiritual” people go hiking, read Shirley MacLaine or L. Ron Hubbard, and are considered rational, intelligent beings.

Ace of Spades reminds us that “Bill Clinton Believes in UFOs and the JFK Conspiracy, [While] Hillary Talks to Ghosts” and Hillary Campaign Manager Jon Podesta [Is] Apparently Interested In [a] Ritual Dinner Featuring "Spirit Cooking", seemingly linked to Satanic Rituals and Satanism.
But these weird New Age nonsense beliefs — dopey pseudoreligions taking the place of actual religions — will be ignored, while the media continues to jeer at people for reading the Bible.

 … Meanwhile, Kimberly Kaye reminds people that Hillary Clinton, noted UFOlogist, has also taken part in seances in which she spoke to the ghosts of Eleanor Roosevelt and Gandhi.
The ghosts of Eleanor Roosevelt! And Gandhi! At the White House!

But this is hardly considered part of Hillary's baggage, the way Nancy Reagan was — roundly — mocked for turning to an astrologer during her years in the White House.
So yes let's talk up Donald Trump's goofy belief in the Birth Certificate Conspiracy while never talking about Bill and Hillary's shared belief that the government is covering up the existence of alien visitors to earth (despite their having been co-presidents in charge of the government for eight years) and Hillary's fifth-dimensional astral projections to the outer planes.

It's not just science, by the way. It is also everyday "knowledge" and the abundance of "spiritual" memes on the internet. I was once looking at a friend's Facebook wall and pondering over a piece of wisdom until I read another meme exactly below it that pretty much contradicted the one above, perhaps not exactly by 180º, but pretty close thereto.

A few factoids:

• In college, once, when I had hunger pangs because I hadn't had time to eat between classes, a friend told me that the solution was to eat an apple, because that would kill my hunger.  Less than half an hour later, when another friend was told how I was doing, he warned me "Whatever you do, don't eat an apple; that'll only make you hungrier."

• Before boiling water in the kitchen, I had always used to fill the pot with the warmest water possible; until one day, that is, when I was told by a friend that water boils faster with cold (or was it room-temperature?) water.  From one day to the other, I switched, although the truth is, of course, I have no idea to what extent the woman in question was right or ought to be considered an expert in the matter.

Hugh Prather remembers being in a dentist's office and overhearing a long argument between the dentist and the dental assistant over whether it is better to use dental floss after brushing one's teeth or before. (Personally, I always brush last, just to leave the taste of the tooth paste in my mouth — in case anyone is interested). Needless to say, this was 20 years ago, two decades before, as noted above, the medical benefits of dental floss turned out to be entirely unproven.

In the Wall Street Journal, Naomi Schaefer Riley adds that for the
intellectual elites of the West, who have been declaring the demise of religion for centuries and have been advancing a secularization thesis for decades … religious belief is a susceptibility of the illiterate and ignorant. With education, in their view, people see the foolishness of their ways and abandon their beliefs. Education is spreading ever further, thanks to affluence and technology: Hence the slow decline of faith.

 … For the champions of the secularization thesis … Empty churches are a sign of reason’s progress. [Rodney Stark, the co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University and author of The Triumph of Faith] offers some amusing evidence to the contrary.
Drawing on the Gallup poll, he notes that Europeans hold all sorts of supernatural beliefs. In Austria, 28% of respondents say they believe in fortune tellers; 32% believe in astrology; and 33% believe in lucky charms. “More than 20 percent of Swedes believe in reincarnation,” Mr. Stark writes; “half believe in mental telepathy.” More than half of Icelanders believe in huldufolk, hidden people like elves and trolls. It seems as if the former colonial outposts for European missionaries are now becoming more religious, while Europe itself is becoming interested in primitive folk beliefs. 
True, conservatives are religious, concedes Jonah Goldberg, no one is denying that, but haven't the (homeopathy-, acupuncture-, aromatherapy-following) leftists forgotten a couple of minor details?
Democrats are more likely to believe in paranormal activity. They’re also more likely to believe in reincarnation and astrology. I have personally known liberals who think crystals have healing powers who nonetheless believe that the internal combustion engine doesn’t actually rely on magical horse power.

 … When I hear people talk about science as if it’s something to “believe in,” particularly people who reject all sorts of science-y things (vaccines, nuclear power, etc. as discussed above), I immediately think of one of my favorite lines from Eric Voegelin:
“When God is invisible behind the world, the contents of the world will become new gods; when the symbols of transcendent religiosity are banned, new symbols develop from the inner-worldly language of science to take their place.”
This will be true, he added, even when “the new apocalyptics insist that the symbols they create are scientific.”

In other words, the “Don’t you believe in evolution!?!” people don’t really believe in science qua science, what they’re really after is dethroning God in favor of their own gods of the material world (though I suspect many don’t even realize why they’re so obsessed with this one facet of the disco ball called “science”). “Criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticisms,” quoth Karl Marx, who then proceeded to create his own secular religion.
3) Isn't One of the Left's Fundamental "Rational" Beliefs About the Events of 9-11 Closely Related to Superstition?

Lest you think that belief in horoscopes, hauntings, and huldufolk is (more or less) innocent — although, why more so than belief in Noah's Ark and the son of God? — it is perhaps not as innocent as it seems.

How many times do we hear on the news that nature has taken its revenge?  How many perfectly respected politicians speak of Mother Nature and of saving the planet? These people — those in the media and in politics — are people of power, remember, the geniuses who lead us.

We will return to Gaia, but isn't it true that one of the most pervasive superstitious beliefs of the rational leftists concerns the attacks on September 11?

How many times did we hear after 9-11 that this was America's comeuppance, its punishment, notably for what happened in Santiago on September 11, 1973? Ils l'ont bien mérité!

This is what is referred to as poetic justice. But isn't it true that you have to wonder what poetic justice means actually, and not bring it out whenever you feel that argument can serve your designs?

Allow me to give you a personal example of poetic justice. In a plane waiting on the runway one day years ago, I witnessed a passenger who loudly demanded, in no uncertain terms, to be allowed to change seats immediately. The flight attendant was busy for preparing the plane for takeoff, and to wait until the plane was in the air, but the youngish man said he could not stand crying babies, there was one a few seats behind him, and he wanted a change of seats — now. Finally, she gave in and placed him in another seat. What she hadn't realized, as the plane was preparing for takeoff, was that another baby would start crying just then — far louder and far closer to the man than the other toddler had been. And as the flight attendant walked down the aisle, she couldn't help it, she was grinning from ear to ear. As were I and all the passengers who had witnessed the exchange.

This is poetic justice. Poetic justice is not the passenger's sister happening to sit next to a crying baby five months later. Or the passenger's son missing a flight five years later. Nor is it another, totally unrelated in any fashion, passenger from the same city as the arrogant young man, albeit neither family member nor friend or acquaintance, being forced to sit next to a vomiting fatso 20 years after the fact.

For the question needs to be asked, then, who, or what, is/was behind this revenge, this poetic justice?! This is the question you are not supposed to ask! Or even think about!

Was it Osama Ben Laden?  Is there any reason to think the leader of Al Qaeda thought any better of the Chilean unbelievers than of the American unbelievers (whether the Chileans were/are Allende followers or whether they were/are Pinochet supporters or whether they were/are apolotical) and didn't treat them all as the infidel dogs the whole bunch of 'em were/are?

Besides, September 11 holds no meaning for Muslims as not only do they not live under the West's calendar year, they don't even live according to the same type of calendar, the solar year.  They live according to the shorter lunar year — meaning (besides the fact that over the course of several years [both lunar and solar, take your pick], a given month will end up falling during a totally different season), the chances for the equivalent of September 11 for 2001 (1422 for the Muslims) falling on the same day for 1973 (1393 for the Muslims) are extremely low (not 1 in 365 but 1 in 354) and indeed turn out to be, as expected, unfounded. (9-11 in the "year or our Lord" 1973 turns out to be 8-13 in the year of the Prophet 1393 for the Muslims while 9-11 of 2001 turns out to be 6-22 of 1422.)

Who, then, or what, is this entity that wished to punish America for 9-11?

I ask this of people, remember, who scoff at the existence of (a) God and of the Devil.

Is it Mother Nature? Gaia?

Alright, if Gaia and/or Mother Nature is/are so wise: answer me this: Why use Muslims in the four planes?  Why Muslim fundamentalists? Why not Chileans? Or at least Hispanics?

Why wait 28 years?  Why not bring vengeance two years later?  Or 28 minutes later? Or 28 days later?  Or 28 weeks later?  Or 28 months later?  Or 280 years later?

Why punish people in the World Trade Center, the vast majority of who probably knew little to nothing about South American history (recent or old)? 

How about this, Gaia?  Why not punish… (wait for it) General Pinochet?! That same year?  Or, if you insist on punishing Americans, why not punish… Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger?  Or, if you insist on a plane crashing in the Pentagon, why wait for 2001 instead of… 1973 or 1974?

As you can see, to call the 911 attacks the revenge, or the poetic justice, of Gaia or of Mother Nature — or even (why not?) the vengeance of God the Father as described in the Bible — doesn't make much sense when one spends some time thinking about it.

(Which brings to mind an old saying: Leftists say: follow your heart; conservatives say: follow your heart but… bring your head along with you.)
More here on the America-Bashers' Use of Symbolism on 9-11

Maybe the last word should go to Walter Russell Meade, who, regarding a New York Times article on Ghost Hunting in Norway, points out, in When God Goes Away, Superstition Takes His Place, that people "who think themselves too rational for religious belief end up believing in 'astral forces', ghosts and other phenomena."

But "these superstitions" can lead to much more harm, he adds:
communist atheists … scoffed at the credulity of religious believers even as they worshipped the infallible insights of Stalin
murdering tens of millions of people in the process.
Similarly, the Nazis presented their faith as an alternative to the 'outgrown superstitions' of historic Christianty.
4) Do the Rational Employees of the Government Only Have Good Intentions, Determined as They Are to Save Us From Superstitious Backwardness?

As you can see, the more we dig, the more unpleasantness we find. The government's and the politicians' part in the fight for "rational belief" against religion. As we forget that one function of religion — yes, it too — is to serve as a part of the checks and balances against total power.

Think about Bible stories such as the Burning Bush, and the parting of the Red Sea, and a stairway to Heaven, and Adam and Eve, and even the world created in 7 days, or at least in less than 2,000 years, as well as the Gospel stories relating to Jesus the Son of God. However much a Jew and/or a Christian believes, literally or otherwise, in (at least some of) those stories, the least you can say is that it hardly has an influence — certainly not a direct influence — on today's public life and the policies that are debated in the corridors of power.

Here is where the politics of science gets even more problematic: Without necessarily going to the extremes of the communist and the Nazi régimes, or referring to slippery slopes, here we start seeing how it leads the government's intrusion into the lives of the citizens (religious and non-religious alike).

For when religion and the family are weakened, doesn't the welfare state (known by a religious expression in French, l'État-providence) aka Big Brother (it is not a family expression by accident), take over their functions?

Kevin Williamson:
The claim is a straightforward one: That under the so-called Affordable Care Act, the federal government will recognize and subsidize a great deal of hokum, things like naturopathic medicine and acupuncture that have no scientific basis, that have been clinically shown to be useless or worse, and that are rooted in rank mysticism, from the “qi” energy that acupuncturists claim to manipulate—and which does not, technically speaking, exist—to the “innate intelligence” underpinning chiropractic theory—which does not, in fact, exist, either. As endless peer-reviewed scientific studies document, this stuff is pure quackery, but it is, thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the focused exertions of former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin—one of those Democrats who really love science we’re always hearing about—it is hokum with increasing official status.

 … This is one of those “context” things that people who do not wish to admit the truth like to talk about. The point is that you could be sure that if similar concessions were made to pseudoscientific hokum less popular among Democrats—intelligent design, for example, or various kinds of gay-conversion therapies—the response would be loud, long, and heavy on the theme of Republicans’ hating and distrusting science. When a nobody Republican state legislator in Idaho says something stupid about female anatomy, it’s national news and an indicator of the Republicans’ corporate disregard for science. Democrats actually write recognition of and subsidies for unscientific mysticism into a law—the most important law they have passed this century—and the news media have approximately squat to say about it.

But it gets worse.

5) Is It Possible To Be More Unscientific Than in Promoting the Left's "Human Rights" Cause du Jour?

Isn't what is possibly the most ludicrous development of the last couple of years — straight out of a Monty Python sketch — the idea that men who believe they are women must be treated as women?

How more anti-science, how more anti-factual, how more anti-rational can anyone get than to say that a man wearing woman's clothing has effectively become a woman?! If anyone is to be accused of distrusting science or of hating science, who can be more fit for this position than the person who says a man wearing woman's clothing ought to be recognized as a woman?! And that, all the while pretending that this shows your enlightenment, your wisdom, and your avant-garde broadmindedness!

Listen! If a transsexual goes the full way, 100%, getting tata implants and having the wubba-wubba removed, he (call him/her "she", if you insist) is still a male! Your eyes may widen when you see, er, her, she may look sexy as hell in those high heels, but she still has the X and Y chromosome, she still does not have the X and X chromosomes, she still has no functioning womb, and in the final analysis — no, I am in no way a hater, indeed, I am not even, believe it or not, "judging" her at all, one way or the other, I am simply doing what you love to do, cite scientific facts — she is still a man.

The topic starts losing its humor when it turns out that various levels of government are involved in promoting this, wanting to force you to so say and, effectively, so think. Otherwise you will run the risk of being subject to various degrees of punishment, from fines up to six figures (up to a quarter of a million dollars in the Big Apple) to the ruination of a career due to being publicized as a "hater".

At Vanderbilt University, staff name tags include "preferred gender pronouns" (Pronouns have become a contentious issue lately as people with niche gender identities have invented new pronouns to refer to themselves, like ze, xyr, and vis) and the campus has been festooned with Ze, Zir, Zirs pronoun posters, while West Virginia University warns that calling someone the "wrong" pronoun is a Title IX violation.

Outside the university system, this anti-scientific (what other adjective would you call it?) fashion du jour gets just as bad or worse. Remaining in the field of education (education!?), the Obama administration issued a decree in May mandating that every US public-school district allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identities.

Like Josh Blackman, the New York Post's Joe Tacopino, the Washington Times's Bradford Richardson, and the Daily Mail's Regina Graham, the Washington Post's Eugene Volokh has reported on New York City's plan to fine businesses and employers if they "violate a person's human rights" by not using their preferred "gender pronoun." (Christian bakers and conservative photographers know quite a lot about this.)
This is the government as sovereign, threatening “civil penalties up to $125,000 for violations, and up to $250,000 for violations that are the result of willful, wanton, or malicious conduct” [sic] if people don’t speak the way the government tells them to speak.
(Just wait until the government, having brought a lawsuit or facing one itself, decides (unless it is the Supreme Court) that every public restroom in the country has to be rebuilt to conform to new guidelines.)

Do not dismiss the pronominal wars as nonsense or assume that its warriors are merely daft
counsels Anthony Esolen, as the Professor of English at Providence College in Rhode Island goes on to explain that
If I cannot say, “There is a man walking down the street,” then it is hard to see how I can make any reliable judgment about anything at all that bears on human existence. If I cannot say, “Joey is going to grow up to be a fine man someday,” then what in life is left to talk about? Everything else is less certain than sex. We may disagree about whether President Eisenhower was a good leader of men, a loyal husband and father, or a pious Christian; but if we cannot agree that President Eisenhower was a man, then speech itself is but sound and fury, signifying nothing. Or, rather, speech collapses into action, and reason lies prone before appetite. Speech delivers the bribes and threats of people who want what they want and do not care overmuch how they get it.

Microaggressions Warrant Microattention

And here I return to what the … madman is doing. Or madwoman: it is more commonly she who is demanding that people undergo pronominal lobotomies. She says that she wants all people to feel “safe” and comfortable, regardless of their sexual identity. That is not true. What she wants is that ordinary people should feel uncomfortable. She wants to rob them of their ordinary perceptions. She sows the field of conversation with mines, glad if ordinary people learn to tiptoe around them, but much gladder still when they fail and blow themselves up, because that provides her with the opportunity for more “education,” which means a more aggressive campaign against our common grasp of objective reality and our ability to communicate with ease what we see.

 … that prompts the question: why should anybody want to do this to other people? Cui bono?
What Ordinary People Get Right

The first answer is that the confusion redounds to the benefit of the self-confused, who get to compel other people to play along with their idiosyncratic dreams of unreality. Elwood P. Dowd not only has his invisible friend, the six-foot-tall rabbit named Harvey, but will take you to court unless you shake Harvey’s hand and register Harvey in at the hotel. Harvey must be your friend too, or else. Christian bakers who have retained their hold on reality can tell us what will happen to you if you say, “But there is no Harvey here, nor will I pretend that there is.”

The second answer is that ideological rent-seekers benefit. I am thinking especially of certain college professors, directors of the hideously named “human resources,” compliance lawyers, federal bureaucrats, and captains of monoform diversity. They sow the mines and then sell you a map to the field. They poison one well, station a surveillance team around the others, and force you to drink from theirs—levying severe fines on you if you try to dip your pitcher into healthy water. They seek confusion and confrontation, because those bring them money and power.

But the third answer, I think, brings us nearest to the heart of the issue. …
Read the whole thing.
6) There Are Certainly Hordes of People Who Use Neither Common Sense Nor the Scientific Method, But Is It Really Whom the Rationalists™ Think It Is?

The geniuses who insist on leading us and on informing us about the world try arduously to figure out "the motivations" of terrorists who unleash rains of bullets and bombs while shouting Allah Akbar.

Not to forget the planet, which is routinely considered a living organism with a (human) disease, a home which we must save. (This also applies to fiction, incidentally; Tatooine and Jakku "identify" as desert planets, Hoth identifies as an ice planet, etc…)

Regarding CBS's hyping Earth's "chronic fever" in an extreme weather segment, Newsbusters' Alatheia Nielsen notes that “Even when NASA states a weather pattern has not been caused by climate change, the media still can’t help bringing it up” — leading Ed Driscoll to laconically remark:
I can remember when CBS said it merely had a cold.
Incalculable leftists mock conservatives for not believing in global warming nightmares such as the rise of the oceans, and editorial cartoons routinely show conservatives (regularly compared to Holocaust deniers) denying the obvious, say, pontificating against or laughing at climate change from the roof of a government building while the water rises around them.

As I wrote in a couple of posts earlier this year, the disastrous claims about rising sea levels just happen to run into one unfortunate fact:
think of New York City, of Miami, of Galveston, of San Francisco, of Tokyo, of Sydney, of Goa, of Alexandria, of Saint Tropez, of Copenhagen.

Correct me if I am wrong, but in the past 5 years, in the past 50 years, even offhand in the past 500 years (?), has the sea level in any of those places risen by even one inch, by even one centimeter?
So don't you think that if the humorists had any kind of level thinking (instead of double standards), they might, y'know, just once in a while poke fun at the politicians and scientists (and the cartoonists?) who continue their shouts and screams about the sky that's fallin'?
Who is really being unscientific in this world? The conservative skeptics and the religious folk, or the intelligent, rational, compassionate, avant-garde activists?

When Obama diplomatically ducked a question on the campaign trail about the age of the Earth (“I don’t presume to know”), the press paid no attention. When Marco Rubio later did the same thing (“I’m not a scientist”), he was lambasted as a typical Republican ignoramus determined to bring back the Dark Ages.
In The Real War on Science, The City Journal's John Tierney argues that "the Left has done far more than the Right to set back progress."
 … the eugenics movement of the 1920s made plans for improving the human population … Even after Hitler used eugenics to justify killing millions, the Left didn’t lose its interest in controlling human breeding.

Eugenicist thinking was revived by scientists convinced that the human species had exceeded the “carrying capacity” of its ecosystem. The most prominent was Paul Ehrlich, whose scientific specialty was the study of butterflies. Undeterred by his ignorance of agriculture and economics, he published confident predictions of imminent global famine in The Population Bomb (1968).

 … Ehrlich, who, at one point, advocated supplying American helicopters and doctors to a proposed program of compulsory sterilization in India, joined with physicist John Holdren in arguing that the U.S. Constitution would permit population control, including limits on family size and forced abortions. Ehrlich and Holdren calmly analyzed the merits of various technologies, such as adding sterilants to public drinking water, and called for a “planetary regime” to control population and natural resources around the world.

Their ideas went nowhere in the United States, but they inspired one of the worst human rights violations of the twentieth century, in China: the one-child policy, resulting in coerced abortion and female infanticide. China struggles today with a dangerously small number of workers to support its aging population. The intellectual godfathers of this atrocity, had they been conservatives, surely would have been ostracized. But even after his predictions turned out to be wildly wrong, Ehrlich went on collecting honors.

For his part, Holdren has served for the past eight years as the science advisor to President Obama, a position from which he laments that Americans don’t take his warnings on climate change seriously. He doesn’t seem to realize that public skepticism has a lot to do with the dismal track record of himself and his fellow environmentalists. There’s always an apocalypse requiring the expansion of state power. The visions of global famine were followed by more failed predictions, such as an “age of scarcity” due to vanishing supplies of energy and natural resources and epidemics of cancer and infertility caused by synthetic chemicals. In a 1976 book, The Genesis Strategy, the climatologist Stephen Schneider advocated a new fourth branch of the federal government (with experts like himself serving 20-year terms) to deal with the imminent crisis of global cooling. He later switched to become a leader in the global-warming debate.

Environmental science has become so politicized that its myths endure even after they’ve been disproved. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring set off decades of chemophobia with its scary anecdotes and bad science, like her baseless claim that DDT was causing cancer in humans and her vision of a mass avian die-off (the bird population was actually increasing as she wrote). Yet Silent Spring is taught in high school and college courses as a model of science writing, with no mention of the increased death tolls from malaria in countries that restricted DDT, or of other problems—like the spread of dengue and the Zika virus—exacerbated by needless fears of insecticides. Similarly, the Left’s zeal to find new reasons to regulate has led to pseudoscientific scaremongering about “Frankenfoods,” transfats, BPA in plastic, mobile phones, electronic cigarettes, power lines, fracking, and nuclear energy.
Notice how John Tierney has brought us full circle back to the content of the very first part of this No Pasarán post. After noting a case study of "the Left’s techniques for enforcing political orthodoxy" — at one hearing of the dietary-fat debate, "Senator McGovern rebutted the skeptics by citing a survey showing that low-fat diet recommendations were endorsed by 92 percent of 'the world’s leading doctors' " — the City Journal contributing editor goes on to tackle global warming (conveniently retitled climate change).
These same sneer-and-smear techniques predominate in the debate over climate change. President Obama promotes his green agenda by announcing that “the debate is settled,” and he denounces “climate deniers” by claiming that 97 percent of scientists believe that global warming is dangerous. His statements are false. While the greenhouse effect is undeniably real, and while most scientists agree that there has been a rise in global temperatures caused in some part by human emissions of carbon dioxide, no one knows how much more warming will occur this century or whether it will be dangerous.

 … Yet many climate researchers are passing off their political opinions as science, just as Obama does, and they’re even using that absurdly unscientific term “denier” as if they were priests guarding some eternal truth. Science advances by continually challenging and testing hypotheses, but the modern Left has become obsessed with silencing heretics. In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch last year, 20 climate scientists urged her to use federal racketeering laws to prosecute corporations and think tanks that have “deceived the American people about the risks of climate change.” Similar assaults on free speech are endorsed in the Democratic Party’s 2016 platform, which calls for prosecution of companies that make “misleading” statements about “the scientific reality of climate change.” A group of Democratic state attorneys general coordinated an assault on climate skeptics by subpoenaing records from fossil-fuel companies and free-market think tanks, supposedly as part of investigations to prosecute corporate fraud. Such prosecutions may go nowhere in court—they’re blatant violations of the First Amendment—but that’s not their purpose. By demanding a decade’s worth of e-mail and other records, the Democratic inquisitors and their scientist allies want to harass climate dissidents and intimidate their donors.
Just as in the debate over dietary fat, these dissidents get smeared in the press as corporate shills—but once again, the money flows almost entirely the other way. The most vocal critics of climate dogma are a half-dozen think tanks that together spend less than $15 million annually on environmental issues. The half-dozen major green groups spend more than $500 million, and the federal government spends $10 billion on climate research and technology to reduce emissions. Add it up, and it’s clear that scientists face tremendous pressure to support the “consensus” on reducing carbon emissions, as Judith Curry, a climatologist at Georgia Tech, testified last year at a Senate hearing.

“This pressure comes not only from politicians but also from federal funding agencies, universities and professional societies, and scientists themselves who are green activists,” Curry said. “This advocacy extends to the professional societies that publish journals and organize conferences. Policy advocacy, combined with understating the uncertainties, risks destroying science’s reputation for honesty and objectivity—without which scientists become regarded as merely another lobbyist group.”
Isn't it almost enough to make you wonder whether more intelligent, rational leftists in fact believe in magic than we would care to admit? And isn't it enough to make you think that they so believe because, in the era of "hoax 'n' change," magic is the stock in trade of politicians and millennial movements, with one Richard Fernandez referring to it as no less than witchcraft (indeed, "wicked witchcraft", he calls it, adding that "it's strictly taboo to admit it")?

7) Every single postulate in our lives is up for grabs: What Exactly Is It That Drives the Rational Science Devotees on This Planet?

How about the conviction that every Republican candidate is (akin to) the Devil? How scientific, how rational — how innocent — is that?

Or, conversely, the conviction that every Democratic candidate is a sainted figure, come to save, come to lead, the people?

Or that all immigrants, legal or otherwise, are innocent souls, worthy of protection and outright embracement?

As Daniel Payne notes in the National Review,
It’s one of the most ironclad rules of American politics: the next Republican is always the Worst Republican Ever.
This tells us something rather poignant about liberal political philosophy — namely, that it exists less as a coherent and workable set of political and public-policy beliefs and more as a fanatical, oppositional vehicle for hysterics who shriek and faint whenever a new Republican walks onto the scene.
Not for nothing have I written that we live in the age of the drama queen.  
The problem is not science, of course.  Isn't the problem the liberals?  Isn't the problem the way leftists laugh their heads off at religious people's superstitious attachment to backwards beliefs while every time one of their scientific facts is — far from infrequently — proven incorrect, it turns out to be nothing more than a, ho-hum, boring fact. Worthy of no coverage, unless it is back on page 24 of the New York Times or a brief mention in the last sequence of a news show.

So why do we continue treating science with such reverence?  Why don't we — or certainly, the holier-than-thou leftists — treat scientific data with some of the same ridicule as they do religion?

To answer that, we must ask, What is it exactly that drives them?

Is it logic?

Is it reason?

Is it the love of science?

Is it the pursuit of knowledge?

Isn't it something else?

Isn't it the excitement involved?

The melodrama?

Isn't it the reason we love young, go-forward, change candidates, like JFK and Barack Obama and Che Guevara, elevating these knight in shining armor to iconic status?

It is the excitement, the melodrama, the dramatics of the thing.

The belief that we are part of the select few, a movement, a struggle, the legions of avant-garde, forward-looking paragons looking for a better world.

Isn't it this enjoyable addiction to excitement, to melodrama — not reason — which explains why the denigration of religious folk will never cease — just as the never-ceasing self-congratulations of the ever-so-wise and the rational will continue, just as ardently as ever…

Let the final word go to an anonymous commentator on National Review (slightly redacted for grammar and typos) who goes by the name of François-Marie Arouet (i.e., Voltaire):
Christianity is — at its very basic — a set of ethical and moral norms that the West has sacralized as ideal, common, and (until yesterday) unquestionable. Science is ethically and morally neutral. Christianity has accrued
 the wisdom of 8,000 generations, not to mention the philosophy that preceded it. Scientific theories can change point blank and it has no human roots.

Once we started demoting and discarding the set of norms that we have found least imperfect for the last 2,000 years, we have found ourselves floundering after mere causes, short-lived fads, popular idols, and no shared ethics. If we need this or that study to conclude that, yes, it is socially beneficial to "honor thy father and thy mother," you know that every single postulate in our lives is up for grabs, up for political manipulation, and — ultimately — up for refutation with the next "study." No principle is sacred because all principles can be tested and refuted.  Therefore, we no longer "believe" in anything firm, ethically and morally speaking.

Worse yet, state-sponsored studies can suddenly "prove" that hitherto abominable actions have a social value — as has sadly happened in the 20th century, costing the West millions of lives. We have eaten the apple of knowledge, and we think we have all the answers. Meanwhile, our society is disintegrating, from the family on down.