The Rise, Decay, and Fall of Institutionalised Science

I’ve been wondering today whether we’re the victims of ‘institutionalised’ science. By this, I mean science which has become formalised into a rigid canonical system of knowledge, which is taught in all schools and universities. The result is stasis and gradual decay. Within the universities, only orthodox views are permitted, if only because passing examinations requires studying the canonical texts, and reproducing the reigning orthodoxy. This makes for stasis. But it also means that should the orthodoxy gradually become corrupted (perhaps merely by being taught badly) the orthodoxy may gradually change into something entirely different from what it started as.

Prior to becoming institutionalised, science – the pursuit of knowledge – is conducted by a loose association of interested individuals, mostly amateurs. For example, Isaac Newton was a professor of mathematics, with hardly any students, which left him with most of his time to pursue his own personal interests in heat, light, gravitation, etc. Charles Darwin was a wealthy amateur with the time and money to study biology. Albert Einstein worked in a patent office, and in his free time he thought about what it would be like to travel at the speed of light. Gregor Mendel was a monk (and later an abbot) with an interest in botany and flowers. All concerned were just following their own noses: nobody was paying them to study gravity, light, biology, botany, etc.

Their discoveries then created the formal canon of knowledge, which was thereafter taught in schools and universities. And people only got anywhere in these universities if they could prove themselves proficient in Newton’s, Darwin’s, Einstein’s, etc, way of thinking. Students were constrained to think in the particular ways these illustrious precursors had thought. And so they became dogmatic thinkers, unable to think outside the institutional box they’d been constrained to.

The era of the Newtons, Darwins, etc, is the period in which science flourishes and grows. Once the accumulated knowledge is formalised and institutionalised, science largely ceases to flourish. It becomes rote learning rather than discovery. It becomes dogmatic. It acquires a rigid social hierarchy with professors at the top, and a career structure. It also becomes professionalised, and the professional scientists are no longer following up their own hunches, but are being directed towards set goals.

The dead institutions, in which past science is replicated, and in which little or no new science is done, then begin to decay. Heretical sects begin to multiply inside them. At first the heresies are secret, because they are always unorthodox, and initially nobody wishes to be seen to be unorthodox. But they gather strength nevertheless, and soon entire schools fall under the spell of one heresy or other, and begin openly teaching their heresies as a new orthodoxy.

In the case of the medical profession, it would seem that the glory days of flourishing scientific discovery were in the latter part of the 19th century and the early 20th century. Thereafter, medicine became institutionalised, with all medical students being taught more or less the same thing, and the pace of growth of medical knowledge slowed.

We are now in the period of decay. Antismoking doctors were a tiny fringe minority a hundred years ago, but they have since gradually grown in numbers and influence to the point that they now dominate the entire medical profession, much like some heretical Christian sect in monasteries a millennium ago. This takeover is something that seems to have happened around about the time that Gro Harlem Brundtland began running the WHO in 1990. They don’t do open-minded, open-ended science, but instead advance a set of dogmatic beliefs. What they believe is also entirely barmy (smoking tobacco causes more or less all disease), but there are a lot of them, teaching their barmy (and highly destructive) new othodoxy to the next generation of medical students.

Much the same has been happening in other institutionalised scientific fields. The global warming alarmists are another dogmatic heretical sect that has gradually acquired power and influence. And what they believe is also barmy (and highly destructive), but it’s what students are now being taught.

I’m inclined to think that quantum physics is another heresy that has taken over physics, and rendered it more or less useless.

The next (and final) stage is that of disintegration and collapse. And this happens when the various barmy heresies start spilling out beyond their original institutional confines into the wider world, and doing enormous damage. e.g. smoking bans, wind farms, etc. Public faith and trust in institutional science declines. People stop believing ‘experts’.

I have been calling for years for Tobacco Control to be destroyed. It is a curse upon humanity. And we have no more need of Tobacco Control than we do of Custard Control. I also believe that the medical profession must be radically reformed in order to return it to its primary task of care for the sick, rather than its present futile ambition of trying to stop people getting sick in the first place. And there are a lot of doctors, mostly at the very top, who should quite simply be expelled from the medical profession.

I think that calls like this will only grow more numerous, and louder and louder, as time goes on, and the damage being done by the upstart heretics multiplies. Eventually, this groundswell of opinion will find political expression.

The end probably comes when the institutions lose the state funding that most of them are entirely dependent on. The institutions are either radically reformed, or completely closed down. An event which will be like the dissolution of the monasteries in England in the early 16th century.

About Frank Davis

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16 Responses to The Rise, Decay, and Fall of Institutionalised Science

  1. waltc says:

    I think what ensues is an updated replay of The Dark Ages, when the frozen science doesn’t fit the reality but is preached with ever more furious fervor and the heretics are exiled.

    On yesterday’s thread: I think of blogs like this as the equivalent of samizdat but, yo, John Watson, we’ve tried writing Letters to Editors and op eds and articles and they don’t get published. Years ago when the first Surgeon General’s Report on shs came out, at a time when I was otherwise getting published in Amercan magazines, I deconstructed and dissected it, naively thinking that The World would want to know. It didn’t. Already no magazine –including ones I’d sold to — wanted to touch it. And ask MJM about his luck getting a well-done scholarly study published or even getting letters to editors in print, no matter how well fashioned. Ask many people here about how they’ve had their online Comments censored. Out of prejudice or fear, the fix is in.

    Which gets us back to Samizdat. Your better bet is to refer both smokers and anti-smokers you know to blogs like this one or to MJM’s book “Dissecting Anti-smokers’ Brains” on Amazon.

    • Smoking Lamp says:

      The censorship is real. Many media site hold pro-choice comments in perpetual limbo. Comments that contain research that disputes the antismoker position are frequently deleted and purged from the record, as was seen notably at the NOLA Times-Picayune during the build up to the recent bar and casino smoking ban.

      The only solution I see is to continue commenting and massing comments from multiple commenters at key media outlets as new bans are proposed. In addition blogs like this and the Bolton Smokers Club provide useful outlets as does the NYC C.L.A.S.H. and similar Facebook pages. Every dissenting comment helps erode the dogmatic position of the tobacco control cult.

    • John Watson says:

      Well Walt, just what did you expect from the mainstream press? Did you expect them to risk advertising revenue or being left out of the government information loop to publish articles that run against their dogma or political ideologies? Did you think that the western mainstream media is any better than Pravda, they are not and they never have been!

      Instead of emphasising the negatives why not consider how to circumvent it. If no-one wants your work hook up with like minded writers, set up a website for your articles publish them there, copy to the agencies, they’ll either pick them up or they won’t. Either way you’ll have your own outlet, even printing out a few of your pieces and pasting them on billboards is a start, or hand-outs in smoker friendly bars, it is pretty much how news was conveyed before newspapers were invented. If everyone said you can’t do that to every idea ever thought of nothing would ever have got done and mankind would still be living in caves.

      Smoking lamp’s solution is equally viable, and maybe had hand-outs written by pro choice advocates been available in New Orleans bars and casinos during the build up of their smoking bans NOLA and the press may have seen that there was more opposition than there appeared to be, they may still have passed their ordinances but may had to of watered them down leaving pro choice advocates in a slightly stronger position.

      • waltc says:

        I agree with Smoking Lamp that we should, nonetheless ” keep those cards and letters (and online Comments) coming” and … I do. Just as I submit written and occasionally spoken testimony at legislative hearings. But I do it For The Record, my conscience and posterity because the hearings are pro forma and the letters–tho here and there I’ve gotten a few published–are just to let the papers know that we’re here. A worthy thing to do but a tilt at windmills

        As for the rest, back in the late 80s –time of that first SG report–magazines were still advertising cigarettes and defending them might have been advantageous, so my point was, even then, it was a no-sale subject. And not btw, we tried petitions and handouts on the street, in bars and tobacco shops in NYC. 5000+ signatures delivered to a council that completely ignored them and went ahead and banned smoking in bars, restaurants, hospitals, parks and beaches. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try it if you like but be aware that you’re likely doing it for the record, your conscience or posterity.

        As for blogging, no one could do it better than Frank and handouts, no one does it better than McFadden so I leave it to them –and you, if your blood’s up. As I said, it’s samizdat and the only game in town and, as in the Soviet Union, we can hope it slowly accretes

  2. mikef317 says:

    Very long piece about the corruption of climate science. The same applies to tobacco, but unfortunately nothing is said.

    • Joe L. says:

      Thanks for the link, Mike. Great article, and the perfect companion piece to Frank’s post today. I agree it’s very unfortunate tobacco went unmentioned. After reading the article, It’s hard to imagine Mr. Ridley actually believes the anti-smoking junk science. It’s most likely just another sad case where the subject is strategically avoided altogether because the conditioning has become so strong that displaying any skepticism toward the “dangers of tobacco” will cause people to instantly discredit everything else you have to say (especially when that “everything else” is extremely contentious itself).

      I find it ironic that the media/general public will blindly consider someone a lunatic for attempting to demonstrate a link between the fraud of antismoking research and other junk science, while being more than eager to jump on the bandwagon whenever the latest “data” indicates a new link between smoking and some horrific disease/condition.

      • Frank Davis says:

        I agree it’s very unfortunate tobacco went unmentioned.

        It’s also very interesting. Why doesn’t it get mentioned?

        I think the answer is probably that, while many climate sceptics are aware of the deceits being practised by the climate alarmists, they totally bought the whole equally-deceitful antismoking message.

        Or maybe not. A while back I was surprised how many commenters on Bishop Hill were sympathetic to smoking. In fact, I think the Bishop himself may be a smoker. Although, if he is, he keeps very quiet about it. Rather like Marc Morano, who enjoys an occasional cigar. Or James Delingpole, who certainly was a smoker until recently.

    • mikef317 says:

      For anyone seriously interested, there’s an abridged version of the article on Anthony Watt’s blog with 177 comments.

  3. Pingback: The Rise, Decay, and Fall of Institutionalised Science | MalagaBay

  4. DenisO says:

    You hit it, Frank, in the last paragraph. Once Government got involved to help accelerate new scientific knowledge, the scientists found there was a pot of gold waiting for them if they found what the Government wanted. A former neighbor, a research MD told me that the U.S. funded cancer research at 1 $Billion a year, or more, for at least 25 years, but only companies who tried to find a ‘VIRUS’ cause, got funded, so there was no other real study on anything else.
    The saying, “Follow the money” gives the answer, if you think about it. If there are government grants going to supporters of banning tobacco, it would be financial suicide to produce studies that refuted the science, if there is any. It easily becomes heresy to challenge the dogma.

    You “smokers” may be on the right track. Whining really gets nowhere, plus it doesn’t feel good.
    Better to join other groups, like the “deniers” of global warming, cholesterol is evil, and other nscientific dogma. Conservative journalist, Joe Sobran, once wrote that the education establishment is the reproductive system of Socialists, the “Progressives” that run our Governments. It requires stating the obvious, hopefully, embarrassing the intentionally dumbed-down children that now lead us.

    Because of the crazy killing of black church members in South Carolina, recently, they call for public removal of a Southern flag, stating it represents support for slavery, because slavery was the cause of the American Civil War. That is the understood dogma, as taught in the schools, yet the majority of the states of the North were also slave states, before and during the war. Also dishonestly, it is taught that Lincoln freed the slaves, but not taught is the fact that he only freed the slaves in the South, in hope they’d join his army against the Southern States.

    Because fanatics always have trouble restraining themselves, they destroy their cause by going beyond the point where they can be taken seriously, and I believe the pendulum is ready to turn.

    • beobrigitte says:

      A former neighbor, a research MD told me that the U.S. funded cancer research at 1 $Billion a year, or more, for at least 25 years, but only companies who tried to find a ‘VIRUS’ cause, got funded, so there was no other real study on anything else.

      I am very surprised! Usually any company will stay away from this kind of research. WHERE on earth would you start? Which strain of which particular virus? Etc.etc.etc….

      There are one or two exceptions; the most famous one being HPV. The reason wasn’t cancer research it was the immortality of the cell line cultured from the biopsies that brought an absolute fortune to the companies!
      The cells from Lacks’s tumor made their way to the laboratory of researcher Dr. George Otto Gey. Gey noticed an unusual quality in the cells. Unlike most cells, which survived only a few days, Lacks’s cells were far more durable. Gey isolated and multiplied a specific cell, creating a cell line. He dubbed the resulting sample HeLa, derived from the name Henrietta Lacks.
      The HeLa strain revolutionized medical research. Jonas Salk used the HeLa strain develop the polio vaccine, sparking mass interest in the cells. Scientists cloned the cells in 1955, as demand grew. Since that time, over ten thousand patents involving HeLa cells have been registered. Researchers have used the cells to study disease and to test human sensitivity to new products and substances.

      It’s a gold mine, isn’t it?

      Sure, an awful lot of money goes into cancer research – there is surprisingly little to show for it! But then, not every virus induced cancer is like the above so it is a case of investing money into what has a 99% chance of becoming nothing. (The latter is very successfully done by governments all over the world when throwing tax payers’ contributions to hate promoting “charity&friends”).

      I do believe that there was/is no REAL study on anything else. Follow the money.

    • Frank Davis says:

      the education establishment is the reproductive system of Socialists

      All the more reason to close them down.

  5. Rose says:

    Gosh! Did Deborah Arnott really say that? It doesn’t sound like her at all.

    Doctors in bitter divide about e-cigarettes
    25 June 2015

    “Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the UK charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), says:

    “There are people in the public health community who are obsessed by e-cigarettes. This idea that it renormalizes smoking is absolute bullshit. There is no evidence so far that it is a gateway into smoking for young people.”

    This does.

    BMJ investigation examines bitter dispute over e-cigarettes in the public health community
    24 June

    “However, Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the UK charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), dismisses such fears, saying there is no evidence so far that e-cigarettes are a gateway into smoking for young people. “The risk is that smokers who could potentially use these an an alternative to smoking are being discouraged, and that’s not a good thing,” she argues.”

    • beobrigitte says:

      How interesting! I might be wrong concluding that ASH fears vaper and smokers joining force?
      Once vapers and smokers have joined force, other groups (the fear inducing rhetoric is the same for all groups of society – sooner rather than later it won’t work any more) will add themselves. This will spell the end of ASH et al. My guess is that it’s the (much under attack)in possession of a politically incorrect BMI people, currently being under attack.
      Today, in my break, I sat outside on ‘my’ bench smoking my cigarette. One of these people walked past me and smiled, so I smiled back. And when she stopped to get her cigarette out, we both laughed and joked.

  6. PETER WILLEY says:

    Ever smoked a pipe? I did, including one called a Falcon with a removable bowl. This enabled the condensate to be cleaned out. Eventually I came to think the likelihood was that the same condensate was lining my respiratory system. It didn`t look too healthy, so with some difficulty I stopped smoking. The consensus view may sometimes have some merit.

    • RdM says:

      Hmm, I’ve enjoyed several venerable wooden pipes and had to clean them out periodically, as one does, but the idea is surely that the pipe is catching the gunk before your “respiratory system”, or else a balance is struck, & it is able to expel it anyway…

      In any case, one doesn’t normally inhale pipe (or cigar) tobacco smoke, it’s rolled around the mouth, and the flavour & goodness absorbed in the mucous membranes there, &etc.

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