science is a process, not an institution

right up until it needs federal funding, then it becomes a clerisy

commie lee jones took another useful spin through the MIT hit piece on “anti-mask twitter” that came out a little while back. as the authors went so far as to name me in some of their graphical materials this led me to comment on it as well. you may remember the paper and their fetching (if dubiously meaningful) louvain network plots.

overall it stuck a sort of stilted, supercilious anthropological tone not uncommon in the cloisters of academia when assessing “the common rabble” and having a good chuckle about how cute they are when they try to act like real scientists™ such as the denizens of august collegiate halls.

but underlying this veneer, a careful read of this piece shows something altogether more sinister than the self-congratulatory egotism of the ivory tower: it shows that the fundamental basis of science, while still understood there, has been subsumed by ideology and appeals to its own authority.

so let’s do some anthropology of our own, shall we? for if jane goodall may come and watch us chimpanzees, then surely turnabout is fair play and we the chimps may also study jane and learn about her ways.

let us begin our investigation here, as commie lee does:

“most fundamentally, the groups we studied believe that science is a process, not an institution.”

well, this is certainly a feather in the cap for the anthropologists. they look to have gotten this one bang on. well played, them! however, the clever inverse anthropologists here may already have some niggling questions rising in their minds.

if this belief on science is seen as a tribal marker and the delineator of one group from another just what is it that those who would study us are ascribing as the belief of the other side? that science is an institution and not a process? just who believes that?

science is and must be a process. it’s a set of tools. it’s a way of thinking. it is a grounding in empiricism born in what was called “the scientific method” so aptly codified and tied together by sir francis bacon. it seeks its own limits and to disprove itself. its validation lies in making predictions and testing them, replication, and in having withstood attempts at refutation.

i defy anyone to provide a valid competing definition that refutes this.

the choice of the word “method” instead of “institution” was hardly an accident. an institution is the opposite of science.

an institution may perform science or support it, but it can never BE science. in fact, institutions have a nasty tendency to become anti-science because they seek to serve entrenched views and needs. they become defenders of orthodoxy because change is threatening to institutions who, more often than not, evolve to become their own key constituencies. this is trebly true of public institutions. (this is the reason for the whole discipline of public choice theory).

change never threatens science. science IS change. questioning, skepticism, and replication are its integument, not its enemy.

so, right from the start, we the chimps are left scratching our heads at this lady in the pith helmet who seems so unable to survive on her own out here in the wild. she looks weak and coddled and her ideas about science seem to imply that there is some “institution” view of it that could be given precedence over process.

that sounds more like a religion when you translate it into chimpanzee. so that the humans might understand better, i have translated it into the universal language of memes:

but let us continue our observation! these khaki coated investigators delved deeper into our jungle and despite their dull senses, showed some signs of keen intellect and observational skill. alas, their investigation appears so often marred and nerfed by the demands of the “institution” that their culture feels more like the ruins of a lost civilization than the apogee of a flourishing one.

their internal narratives and values seem muddled and confused, polluted by subjectivism rather than informed by the objective and the scientific.

watch as they claim that “data is not neutral" and that “there is no such thing as dispassionate data analysis” as though no one had ever invented the double-blinded randomized controlled trial. they seem to believe only in stories. “my science means what it means to me based on my personal and our collective decision to use data in the impassioned fashion i prefer both unbounded by empiricism and unsubject to criticism” is not the position of scientist. it is the position of a churchman.

fellow troglodytes, i think we’re onto something here! these “human scientists” are not scientists at all! they have forgotten what it means! they really do believe that science is an institution and have mistaken the location and focus of the actual epistemological divergence. no wonder their civilization is going into such decline and disarray.

they see this as a conflict of stories, a conflict of choosing to use data to support the wrong narrative rather than investigating data to create the hypotheses and knowledge that one can use to build a world view. they believe that narratives select data, not that data informs narrative selection. oh how sir francis would weep to see the scientific method thus degraded!

"In fact, there are multiple threads every week where users debate how representative the data are of the population given the increased rate of testing across many states."

guilty as charged your honor.

indeed there were and more than a few were penned by notorious internet felines back when they were still free to roam among the chimpanzees. why, those incorrigible rascals are still at it!

but this interesting observation of theirs circles back to the issue of narratives and objectivism. they are partially right, but mistaken in a manner they are failing to see: objectivism is not just another competing narrative and to claim that it is is to obviate science entirely and bury it beneath an avalanche of post-modernist buffoonery.

they mistake the claim that “raw case numbers say nothing about actual disease prevalence” for agreement with their idea that “scientific knowledge is socially constructed” and “data is not neutral.” data IS neutral. data is always neutral. the question is always: what does the data mean and what are its limits?

raw case data is highly limited. using it alone is tantamount to lying. if you have 100 people, 10 have active, clinical covid, and you test 20, you’ll get, on average, 2 “raw cases.” if you test 60, you’ll get 6. this tripling of “reported cases” means nothing whatsoever epidemiologically. prevalence is identical. nothing virological changed. all you are measuring is a rise in testing levels. the claim that this is just a “narrative” that could be replaced with some other narrative like “more people are getting sick” is patently false and a literal denial of science and scientific method. it’s a flat out repudiation of empiricism. so it’s terribly interesting so see so many “institutions” choose it while so few of the wild chimpanzee scientists did.

this resulted in many of the charts proffered by human experts having the wrong slope on pandemic prevalence. they mistook the summer 2020 and winter 2020-1 surges for being higher than the spring of 2020. this was never true. it was a misuse of data, a misapprehension of its meaning. using such distortions to inform policy is disastrous as it sets up the “testing more finds more cases inflates the perceived severity of the pandemic leads to demands for more testing” cycle. attenuation is mistaken for acceleration.

discerning what data means, what its limits are, and what one is actually measuring IS science. this is the very rudiment of science. if you cannot measure it and do not know what you’re measuring, how can you possibly draw valid conclusions?

in the above example of 100 people 10 with clinical covid, if we use a PCR test on all 100, maybe we find 20 cases because we chose to run it at a 40 Ct. if we drop it to 25, a level more commensurate with finding actual, viable virus that could replicate, make the carrier sick, or spread, perhaps we get 10. this is another fundamental aspect of measurement. dismissing such as “just one competing narrative” seems like the subjectification of everything. at a certain point, you’re actually repudiating the concept of epistemology. it’s a cute parlor game, but good luck building an airplane that way.

alas, as we dig deeper into the culture of those who would examine us, it appears that indeed this deadly intellectual virus has infected even their one time bastions of rationality! this is the language of the propogandist, not the scientist. this is “the media is the message” thinking. this is the language of policy, not of scientific inquiry.

truly, noble primates, i fear for these humans. as the greeks once lost greek fire, so too have they seemed to lose “scientific method” among the gewgaws of presentation and the demands of policymakers and paymasters.

consider the mindset that could mistake this for an accusation or a delineation between groups of scientists.

"Its members value individual initiative and ingenuity, trusting scientific analysis only insofar as they can replicate it themselves by accessing and manipulating the data firsthand."

likely, the incisive among you will be left asking at once “just what, precisely is the alternative to this if one is to call themselves a scientist?”

have they mistaken the reading and rote regurgitation of institutional opinion for “science?”

who could possibly claim to be an “expert” while disputing this?

our would be classifiers go still further and oddly, show glimmers of comprehension and remembrance of both the focus and forms of scientific method.

"For these anti-mask users, their approach to the pandemic is grounded in more scientific rigor, not less."

"These individuals as a whole are extremely willing to help others who have trouble interpreting graphs with multiple forms of clarification: by helping people find the original sources so that they can replicate the analysis themselves, by referencing other reputable studies that come to the same conclusions, by reminding others to remain vigilant about the limitations of the data, and by answering questions about the implications of a specific graph."

why, that sounds like a science body! (and perhaps even takes on the traditional role of the university) it appears that the goodalls of MIT do have some cultural memory of how one is supposed to work. how intriguing! alas, this retained cultural touchstone is later revealed to have been swallowed whole by religious dogma and appeals to institutional authority.

we may see this derangement clearly in their conclusion:

“While academic science is traditionally a system for producing knowledge within a laboratory, validating it through peer review, and sharing results within subsidiary communities, anti-maskers reject this hierarchical social model. They espouse a vision of science that is radically egalitarian and individualist.

This study forces us to see that coronavirus skeptics champion science as a personal practice that prizes rationality and autonomy; for them, it is not a body of knowledge certified by an institution of experts.”

this, gentle bonobos of science, is human rationality circling the bowl and intuitional arrogance and incompetence seeking to flex its muscles to protect via credentialism and institutional capture what it cannot defend in open debate. real science is everywhere and always the right of any to fact check and find fault with any. uncomfortable as that may be for those occupying lofty perches, it can be no other way without inviting disaster and dogmatism.

MIT is the church telling 100’s of astronomers with their own telescopes to stop collecting data and publishing the observations that they have made about the earth orbiting the sun because the top of the hierarchy in rome has long since settled the science that the sun revolves around the earth and all the priests and bishops agree.

this is the demand for the bible to be in latin so that the commoners must accept it as explained by their betters rather than interpret it themselves.

the parallel to the popes seeking to burn the protestant heretics for daring to question papal edicts is more than striking. it’s near exact. it’s priests clucking about meetinghouses of free thinkers reading their own bibles and discussing what it might mean with one another. who knows what conclusions they might reach!?! fetch the firewood!

perhaps, dear monkeys, the tribe of these anthropologists has lost sight of the manner in which any cloister begins to revert to self-referential religious practice to validate itself, secure status, and free itself from criticism.

no cathedral wants to compete with the bazaar. they know it’s a losing fight. it always was.

waving the term “peer review” around as some form of validating talisman is a shibboleth for both scientific and social illiteracy. the “journals of science” have been captured utterly and turned into clubby purveyors of orthodoxy and little else. they oppose rather than encourage refutation. they push doctrine over skepticism. the “right” people get to publish the “right” papers that come to the “right” conclusions. it’s a guild system, not a scientific practice. but even if one does not believe this, it still leaves the greater criticism:

peer reviewed publication is the starting line, not the finish line and was always meant to be.

peer reviewed publication does not mean “true” and was never supposed to. it means that some purported experts found the data to be interesting, the methods sound, and agree to publish it not so that others must accept it, but so that other may see it, respond to it, criticize, replicate, validate, or disprove it. every one of those acts is the furtherance of science and anyone who claims otherwise is a dogmatist trying to hide what he did wrong.

there is no better peer review on earth today than the public square of social media. it has been gutting “peer reviewed journal” papers like trout all year and forcing their retraction.

if you doubt this, take your ideas out for a spin in a public forum and see what happens.

the cathedral cannot withstand life in the bazaar. that is why its denizens chose life in the cloister.

so what greater sin can the cathedral see than not just thinking for oneself, but (gasp) encouraging others to do likewise? those who have studied their history know that it was just such free thought which provided the backbone of the enlightenment and its unparalleled expansion of human knowledge and flourishing.

they also know what the enlightenment did to the power of the church and this modern (allegedly) secular clerisy has no plans to succumb to the same forces.

so they end their “analysis” without ever having engaged with the data and instead disappear in a mendacious cloud of social justice squid ink about “white supremacy, climate change, tobacco and fossil fuel lobbies, and fanciful claims of a coup in the US capital.” (read page 15 if you doubt me)

they argue by presumption, assertion, and misattribution; clerics to the last and hypocrites to boot given their dependence of federal funding and tax breaks.

a wise man of their tribe, president eisenhower, once warned of the capture of academia by federal money and of the reflexive capture of the organs of social and governmental policy by such scientists establishing a circular technocracy where government funds science to inform government. one would struggle to imagine a more certain recipe for regulatory capture.

he was prescient. (prescient president being a pleasing but all too rare turn of phrase)

chimpanzees of science, the khaki covered academics who would study us and claim “the science” for institutions and deny it to others are this confluence of research funded and credentialed by government to produce “the science™” that government needs.

they have not learned their own history and yet seek to write and dismiss ours because they cannot dispute it in fair, open debate.

clearly they are unfit to do so. do not let them.

there can be no monopoly on the pursuit of truth.