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How to distinguish between Science and Scientism
Those of you who have been following my blog for a while may have noticed recurring themes: namely, a certain cynical skepticism about both the accuracy and the incentives of our so-called “experts.” While it is a true and sobering fact that many of our experts often do not have even the slightest clue about what they are doing - and will label anybody who points out this fact a “conspiracy theorist” - this fact is also depressing and nihilistic. It seems to lead to the conclusion that we need to tear down the entire system of expert consensus. But then what do we replace it with? When you aspire to tear something down, it’s important to have a clear vision in mind of what you hope to replace it with. After all, our society’s religion of “irrational faith in the expert consensus” may be broken, but it has worked pretty well for us thus far. If we’re going to tear it down completely, it’s important to make sure we have a pretty good belief system to replace it - as opposed to something like, say, a blind fanaticism in the sacred message of Q-anon. When we destroy things, it’s important to replace the things we destroy with good things rather than bad things. That may sound like an extremely obvious statement, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that it applies to ideologies as well. When you tear down an ideology like “Neoliberalism” or “The Expert Consensus”, you need to have a coherent and optimistic ideology to install as its replacement. Otherwise, it was a bad idea to destroy the original paradigm in the first place.
The problem with our current “experts” is that they’re not really experts, they’re ideologues. Instead of trying to understand the truth, they are trying to push their own dogma. People who agree with this dogma are welcomed into the “Expert Consensus” and get lucrative book deals and speaking engagements while people who disagree with it are banished and have their careers and reputations made toxic. Who gets welcomed into this “Expert Consensus” and who gets banished from it has almost nothing to do with who is correct and who is wrong: instead it depends almost exclusively on how much you suck up to the leading clique of “experts” and validate their narrative of self-worth. In other words, instead of doing science like the movie Radioactive we are doing science like the movie Mean Girls. When you care more about a set of facts being popular than being accurate, you are not doing real science - you are doing a cargo-cult imitation of science which I call “scientism.” Symptoms of scientism may include a blind faith in large scale “social sciences” which analyze group behavior, such as sociology or economics - particularly when these “social sciences” conveniently come up with theories which match your pre-existing biases.
Today, I want to talk about the difference between science and scientism, and give you a few practical tools that you can use to distinguish between the two, without needing to have a lot of scientific knowledge yourself. This is important because our modern world is too complex for anybody to have knowledge about everything. You need to be able to trust some types of experts to deliver knowledge you need, but mistrust others because they are self-interested scam artists. And most importantly, you need to be able to do this without having any expert knowledge yourself, because if you already were an expert in those fields you wouldn’t need to consult the experts in the first place.
This is Expert Man. Observe his fancy outfit and “consensus verified” checkmark.
Without these tools of the trade, Expert Man would never be able to Expertify.
The two traits that are most important to science are prediction and replication. In fact, I would say that these two traits define the difference between Science and Scientism. If it does not predict or replicate, it is scientism. If it predicts and replicates, it is science. If it predicts but does not replicate, or replicates but does not predict, it is somewhere between the two. That could be something like a pseudoscience gradually becoming more rigorous as it evolves into a legitimate scientific field - for example, the way alchemy gradually morphed into chemistry. It could also be real science becoming degenerate and debasing itself into scientism as it succumbs to ideological and political pressures - for example, the way psychology evolved into sociology, which then evolved into Critical Race Theory. Notice how at each stage of evolution, the quality of the so-called “scholarship” deteriorates as the field becomes more politicized. Psychology has a mild Left Wing bias and is reasonably likely to replicate and predict. Sociology is 97% populated by the Left Wing and is much less likely to replicate and predict. Critical Race Theory is 100% populated by the Left Wing and doesn’t even try to replicate or predict. The reason this is important to point out is because it demonstrates how science does not always evolve in a forwards direction. Sometimes it devolves in a backwards direction, a situation which requires certain branches of science to be pruned. The most altruistic thing you can do for humanity is to encourage the spread of science while eradicating scientism wherever you encounter it. That’s because wherever scientism is accepted and legitimized within society, it results in all sorts of atrocities and horrors - such as plagues becoming global pandemics when we cannot fight them effectively due to the fact that our best and brightest scientists who might have been able to devise cures have sadly been murdered by fanatical lynch mobs. I may be a little bit biased here, but I think that judging by the phenomenal amount of suffering that it has caused throughout human history, it’s safe to say that scientism is nothing less than pure evil, as are the people who follow it.
Replication is important because science depends on good data. If our scientists can’t even be confident enough in their own data to be able to replicate it, then their data is garbage, as well as any results or conclusions that they drew from it. In layman’s terms, if our Mean Girl experts tell you “We reached conclusion X about group dynamics because our studies consistently showed data pattern X” and it turns out that the studies didn’t consistently show data pattern X, then it seems pretty likely that conclusion X is wrong also. It doesn’t matter how much these people talk about “the Expert Consensus” or polish their useless academic degrees because if their data set doesn’t reflect reality, then basically they are just making shit up.
Prediction is important because science needs to be useful in order to be real science. After something happens, anybody can come up with a plausible story to explain why it happened that way. For example, you throw a ball off a roof and observe that it falls to the ground. Why did it fall to the ground? One scientist might say gravity pulled it to the ground, but another scientist might say that gravity does not exist and that it is simply the constant expansion of mass that creates the illusion of gravity. From a layman’s perspective, both theories would explain your observation pretty well. So without a degree in physics, how could you tell which of these people was the real scientist, and which one was just practicing scientism?
The answer is that you test their predictive ability. The persuasiveness of the narrative means nothing because history is full of scientific charlatans who were very persuasive. And the “Expert Consensus” likewise is meaningless because there have been plenty of occasions throughout history when the experts were all wrong. However, you can’t make up objective results. For example, suppose my car was having trouble. The first mechanic predicts that the problem is in the carburator, while the second one predicts that the problem is with the muffler. I may not know anything about cars, so I don’t have the personal expertise to analyze which mechanic is better, but this is an easily testable scenario. All I have to do is replace one part at a time, and see which approach fixes the problem. It doesn’t require any specialized knowledge of cars to be able to determine which of these two auto mechanics is a pro and which is a hustler. All it takes is for me to test the two approaches and analyze the difference in outcomes. Science works exactly the same way. You don’t need to be a specialist yourself or have a deep knowledge of the principles in order to determine which scientific experts practice science and which practice scientism. All you need is to see whether their predictions are accurate.
If you wonder how I am able to consistently outperform the market - something that many economists seem totally unable to accomplish, no matter how prestigious their degrees are or how many blue check marks they have collected - it is simply because unlike these people, I practice science rather than scientism. Replication and predictability are at the heart of every experiment I perform, rather than a desire to prove or disprove some sort of political agenda.
We currently live in a time of great change - a time when the current paradigm of “expert consensus” has utterly failed us, and the competence and integrity of these “experts” is rightfully being called into question. Even our leaders have lost our trust for allowing themselves to be advised by such idiots and charlatans. While we as a society are gradually uniting to tear down this corrupt system along with the evil elites who benefit from it, it’s very important to have a clear vision about what to build up to replace all of the institutions that we are tearing down. And when it comes to science, I hope that we can remember to enshrine replication and prediction as our sacred principles, instead of turning science into a social popularity contest full of malignant gossip.