Stuck

Something Piers Corbyn said, that I mentioned yesterday:

‘How come there haven’t been any basic new ideas in physics since Einstein?’

He said he thought that academia had become corrupted. And people just carried on thinking in the same way, never entertaining new ideas. Everything had become stuck.

I’ve had similar thoughts myself.

I think that maybe what happens is that, when people are employees in large top-down-controlled organisations, they are all required to devote their efforts to doing the same thing in the same way. And so they’ll all end up thinking the same way. And if they don’t think the same way as everyone else, they’ll most likely end up getting expelled from the organisation.

Such top-down-control makes sense in an army, and maybe also in a furniture manufacturing business. But it doesn’t really make sense when it comes to research. Researchers need to be thinking about things in different ways all the time. They need to be approaching matters from different perspectives. The more different they all are, the more likely they’ll be to come up with new ideas.

So I think top-down-controlled research institutes probably never manage to do any research, precisely because they’re top-down-controlled , and everybody in them thinks in pretty much the exact same way. And that’s why there haven’t been any basic new ideas in physics since Einstein, despite huge amounts of money being spent on places like CERN. They still employ the same set of ideas that Einstein had. It’s the same paradigm. Nothing has changed.

The same dogmatic stasis is visible in the medical profession. It’s been 70 years since the doctors declared that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, There has been no progress since. It has become an unquestionable dogma. And research into lung cancer has come to a halt. For the premise of all research is that it is trying to find answers to questions, and if people think they already know the answers, they’ll not see any need for research.

The same is now happening in climate science. The only allowable sort of climate change is the one that’s driven by human-generated carbon dioxide, and causing the planet to warm. And this notion of Anthropogenic Global Warming has now been around for 30 or 40 years, and has solidified into yet another unquestionable dogma. Huge amounts of money are spent on climate science. And there’s no further progress. There’s nothing new.

It’s almost as if, if you want to prevent any research being done into something, the very best thing that you could do would be to set up a large research institute, employing the very best graduates from the best universities, complete with the very latest equipment. It would never discover anything new. And it would never find anything new because the employees would only be doing the bidding of their employers, just like soldiers obey the orders of their superiors. The employees would replicate the ideas and beliefs of their employers, because that is what employees are paid to do.

In Britain, the National Health Service was created in 1945 by the Attlee Labour government. Doctors became employees of a top-down state-controlled institution. Is it really very surprising that, 5 years after its inception, in 1950, the doctors at the top of this institution declared that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, and have never changed their minds since? These people can’t change their minds about anything. They’ve sunk into a dogmatic pit, and will never get out.

What is Political Correctness but dogmatic thinking? Isn’t it the insistence that everyone should think the exact same way, not just about one or two things, but about everything?

“We’ve got to question everything.”

That’s another thing Piers Corbyn said. He’s quite right, of course. But how do you question anything in a world where questioning the reigning dogmas brings immediate condemnation? Ours is a world which is becoming ever more rigid and dogmatic every day.

It’s nothing new. Human thinking is always prone to becoming fixed, rigid, and dogmatic. More or less all religions are dogmatic that way. Or they rapidly become dogmatic after brief bursts of innovation.

It’s perhaps when only when things get really, really stuck that innovation becomes essential. For some 4 years in WW1, trench warfare on the western front was an example of something that had got totally stuck. And out of it came innovations like tanks and aircraft that changed the nature of warfare.

Perhaps it will be the same for us. Perhaps we’ll find that, the more completely stuck we become, the more rigidly dogmatic, the more we’ll see the urgent need for innovation.

About Frank Davis

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11 Responses to Stuck

  1. Rose says:

    This can’t have helped.

    Brussels, 2 February 2000

    Commission adopts Communication on Precautionary Principle

    “The European Commission has today adopted a Communication on the use of the precautionary principle. The objective of the Communication is to inform all interested parties how the Commission intends to apply the principle and to establish guidelines for its application. The aim is also to provide input to the on-going debate on this issue both at EU and international level.

    The Communication underlines that the precautionary principle forms part of a structured approach to the analysis of risk, as well as being relevant to risk management.

    It covers cases where scientific evidence is insufficient, inconclusive or uncertain and preliminary scientific evaluation indicates that that there are reasonable grounds for concern that the potentially dangerous effects on the environment, human, animal or plant health may be inconsistent with the high level of protection chosen by the EU.”
    http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-00-96_en.htm

  2. Colin Smith says:

    I was listening to a Sam Harris podcast about fears that an ‘AI’ could one day go rogue, preventing itself from being turned off and eventually posing an existential threat to humanity. Three experts agreed that it was, indeed a worry, but that it paled into insignificance compared to climate change.

    This produced a light bulb moment for me. It occurred to me that climate models are already a form of ‘AI’. For all I know, people are creating automatic systems to ‘evolve’ the most alarming models because of the accolades, attention and career advancement this will bring them.

    This ‘AI’ cannot now be ‘turned off’ because it has already been embedded in our society; the indoctrination starts in the nursery, and there are moves to make ‘climate denial’ into an actual crime. No one will ever be able to do any research that contradicts the idea of global warming and will simply choose to do something else.

    The politicians effectively do what the climate models tell them to do. In a few years’ time, when all memories of scepticism and the true principles of science are gone, it will be a no-brainer to launch a giant umbrella or millions of micro-mirrors into space because that will be what the models tell us is necessary to avoid catastrophe. For the sake of the children.

    And then the system – partly designed as an international project for schoolkids and as a showcase for global diversity – will be hacked and we will freeze to extinction.

  3. waltc says:

    Just as it’s impossible to do research that might show that secondhand (let alone firsthand) smoke doesn’t cause lung cancer. Testifying to Congress in tne early ’90s, Alvan Feinstein, head of Yale’s Dept of Epidemiology and a major skeptic about secondhand smoke, said as much–that no researcher would risk his reputation and livelihood by daring to do so. And see what happened to James Enstrom who dared.

    Bad ideas catch on because powerful “esteemed” and often intimidating people espouse them; they die hard because too many other people, institutions, politicians, journals, the general media and, from there, the public at large have loudly and publicly touted them, are too far out on the limb to climb back, and too arrogant to say so much as “oops” even in the face of undeniable evidence.

    • Smoking Lamp says:

      “We reviewed 87 epidemiological studies relating environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure to risk of cancer other than lung or breast in never smoking adults… Inadequate confounder control, recall bias, publication bias, and occasional reports of implausibly large RRs in individual studies contribute to our conclusion that the epidemiological evidence does not convincingly demonstrate that ETS exposure causes any of the cancers studied.” Lee PN, Thornton AJ, Haming JS. Epidemiological evidence on environmental tobacco smoke and cancers other than lung or breast. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2016 Oct;80:134-63. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2016.06.012. Epub 2016 Jun 16.

    • Smoking Lamp says:

      As an example recall the false reports of ‘heart attack miracles’ after bans were imposed. See Shetty, K. D., DeLeire, T., White, C. and Bhattacharya, J. (2011), Changes in U.S. hospitalization and mortality rates following smoking bans. J. Pol. Anal. Manage., 30: 6–28. doi:10.1002/pam.20548
      Abstract: “U.S. state and local governments have increasingly adopted restrictions on smoking in public places. This paper analyzes nationally representative databases, including the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, to compare short-term changes in mortality and hospitalization rates in smoking-restricted regions with control regions. In contrast with smaller regional studies, we find that smoking bans are not associated with statistically significant short-term declines in mortality or hospital admissions for myocardial infarction or other diseases. An analysis simulating smaller studies using subsamples reveals that large short-term increases in myocardial infarction incidence following a smoking ban are as common as the large decreases reported in the published literature.”

  4. Smoking Lamp says:

    O/T Poll about designated smoking areas at New Jersey Beaches: “WHAT DO YOU THINK OF SMOKING DESIGNATED AREAS ON BEACHES? [POLL]” https://943thepoint.com/wildwood-crest-smoking-designated-areas-poll/

  5. jaxthefirst says:

    Call me a cynic if you will, but I’ll wager that Piers C’s comment about “questioning everything” doesn’t quite stretch to questioning the “science” behind the anti-smoking movement and the smoking ban! So – not quite “everything,” then. But then I guess “We’ve got to question nearly everything” isn’t such a good soundbite, is it?

  6. Global cooling was a conjecture during the 1970s of imminent cooling of the Earth’s surface…

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_cooling

    It seems that a quite opposite theory has become unquestionable at rather short notice (ca. late ’80s onwards), talk about ‘innovation’ in ‘science’! When and how did climate science become ‘hard’ and predictive to the point of pontificating far and wide about the exact opposite conclusion? What was so obviously wrong with the 70s researchers’ methodology? Even more importantly, what are the implications of this on the general perception of the various theories generated by other soft sciences, such as epidemiology? Or has Richard Doll’s research been enough to confer the dignity of hard science upon the latter?

    But it probably goes deeper than this: the contents of the claim may not even be relevant, in view of the following statement (found in an article about punk-rock act “The Clash”):

    “London Calling,” which prophesied a new Ice Age long before Al Gore did, retains an oddly contemporary relevance…

    https://www.theguardian.com/music/2007/aug/09/2

    This lapse of basic, binary, logic may have been momentary, it stilil suggests that thinking and writing for the Guardian at the same time are mutually exclusive, and that the reader is expected to ‘get with the program’.

    The world is just disconcerting, the MSM representation of it is plain weird.

  7. Lepercolonist says:

    Bell Research Labs allowed scientists to experiment with any idea they found interesting. The founder of Information Theory and Modern Cryptography, Claude Shannon, flourished at Bell Labs in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

    It seems most of the big discoveries are behind us.

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