Science In Crisis From The Sugar Scam
Worldwide, we are facing a joint crisis in science and expertise. This has led some observers to speak of a post-factual democracy. With Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump the results.
Today, the scientific enterprise produces somewhere in the order of 2m papers a year, published in roughly 30,000 different journals. A blunt assessment has made that perhaps half or more of all. This production will not stand the test of time.
Meanwhile, science has been challenge as an authoritative source of knowledge for both policy and everyday life. With noted major misdiagnoses in fields as disparate as forensics, preclinical and clinical medicine, chemistry, psychology and economics.
Perhaps nutrition is the field most in the spotlight. It took several decades for cholesterol to be absolve and for sugar to be re-indict as the more serious health threat. Thanks to the fact that the sugar industry sponsored a research program in the 1960s and 1970s. Which successfully cast doubt on the hazards of sucrose while promoting fat as the dietary culprit.
Destructive Science Trend
We think of science as producing truths about the universe. Triumphs of science, like the recent confirmation of the existence of gravitational waves. And the landing of a probe on a comet flying around the sun, bring more urgency to the need to reverse the present. Crisis of confidence in other areas of the scientific endeavor.
Science is tie up with our ideas about democracy not in the cold war sense of science being an attribute of open democratic societies. But because it provides legitimacy to existing power arrangements. Those who rule need to know what needs to be done, and in modern society this knowledge is provided by science.
The science-knowledge-power relationship is one of the master narratives of modernity. Whose end was announce by philosopher Jean-François Lyotard four decades ago. The contemporary loss of trust in expertise seems to support his views.
Still, techno-science is at the heart of contemporary narratives: the convictions that we will innovate our way out of the economic crisis, overcome our planetary boundaries, achieve a dematerialised economy, improve the fabric of nature, and allow universal well-being.
The appeal of reassuring narratives about our future depends on our trust in science, and the feared collapse of this trust will have far-reaching consequences.
The cult of science is still adhered to by many. Most of us need to believe in a neutral science, detached from material interests and political bargaining, capable of discovering the wonders of nature. For this reason, no political party has so far argued for a reduction in science funding on the basis of the crisis in science, but this threat could soon materialize.
The Crisis We Saw Coming
The crisis in science is not a surprise some scholars of history and philosophy of science had predicted it four decades ago. Derek de Solla Price, the father of scient o metrics literally the scientific study of science feared the quality crisis. He noted in his 1963 book, Little Science, Big Sciences, that the exponential growth of science might lead to saturation, and possibly to senility (an incapacity to progress any further). For contemporary philosopher Elijah Millgram, this disease takes the form of disciplines becoming alien to one another, separated by different languages and standards.
Jerome R Ravetz noted in 1971 that sciences is a social activity, and that changes in the social fabric of sciences once made up of restricted clubs whose members were linked by common interests and now a system ruled by impersonal metrics would entail serious problems for its quality assurance system and important repercussions for its social functions.
Ravetz, whose analysis of science’s contradictions has continued to the present day. Noted that neither a technical fix would remedy this, nor would a system of enforced rules. Scientific quality is too delicate a matter to be resolve with a set of recipes.
Science Perfect Illustration
A perfect illustration of his thesis is the recent debate about the P value commonly use. In experiments to judge the quality of scientific results. The inappropriate use of this technique has been strongly criticize. Provoking alarm and statements of concern at the highest levels in the profession of statistics. But no clear agreement has been reach on the nature of the problem. As shown by the high number of critical comments in the ensuing debate.
Philip Mirowski’s recent book offers a fresh reading of the crisis in terms of the commercialization of science’s production. Scientific research deteriorates when it is entrust to contract research organizations, working on a short leash held by commercial interests.
The present trajectory will result in an impasse in many areas of science. Where it may become impossible to sort out the good papers from the bad.
Science-based narratives and the social functions of will then lose their appeal. No solution is possible without a change in the prevailing vision and ideology, but can scientific institutions offer one?