Science: Gospel or Scam?
Time for a deep reflection…
Science (I will skip social science in this article since I am not familiar with it) and its relative truthfulness come from two pillars in scientific publication: peer-review and no conflicts of interests. Peer review ensures that a personal fantasy would not become part of established scientific theories, and the avoidance of conflict of interests would eliminate “science for profit” and other nonsense that basically run as scams.
However, the modernity brought new challenges to those old, established models since antiquity. Nowadays science cannot be run by individuals who can self-fund researches as personal hobbies, and the scientists become lobbyists for their own interests to secure funds like NSF, DARPA, etc. Therefore, it becomes people’s interest to inflate and reduce their workload in order to scam grants and other benefits, in hindrance of genuine researches.
From an economic point of view, an assistant professor’s best career route is to work hard to earn approval from tenure committee, get tenure position, and resign from research the moment tenure is granted. The marginal benefit for research for a tenured professor is very low, unless the professor has established significance in the field (even then the return is more about fame rather than material benefits). It is because the payout for academic position is abysmal low (post-doc vs. fresh recruit in tech sector, assistant professor vs. experienced engineers, tenured professor vs. mid-level management in tech companies), so the only benefit of academic position is the removal of workload stress once the professor is tenured. The low salary is compensated by the tenured professor’s right to not working as a research fellow so they can beat industrial mid-managers as they only teach a lecturer’s work and earn about double. (at the same time, this makes university lecturer as a poor pay-vs-workload job, only marginally better than registered nurse)
Therefore, a bureaucratic academic system promotes academic inflation (more authors on the same paper so everybody gets higher counts in publication and reference, also the inflation of references so researchers in the same field boast each other), academic under-performance (tenured professor has little economic incentive to further research) and the search for objective truth was put away in the searches for grants. The problem is that Ivory Tower is never isolated from the employment market and academic posts must offer satisfactory rewards for participants in order to retain them in the field. An incentive in work quantity would promote too much spam in science and other junks and fabrication, and therefore, the bureaucrats chose the less dangerous, but more corrupted path.
And this sums up fundamental researches.
Now move to medicine and other money making schemes. In this side of the ocean, incentives are strong, perhaps too strong, for researchers to bend the truth for their own (or their employers’) benefits. Take medicine for example, we have grown naturally distrust of modern medication because it is beneficial for pharmaceutical companies and medical doctors to keep us sick so they can bump up their revenue, but there is no way we give up modern medicine so our life expectation drops dramatically. Alternative medicine and folklore nutritionists are another hassle, but I will not discuss them here as they have nothing to do with science.
There are also genuine attempts to boost understanding in the medicine and looking for new ways to combat cancer, coronary diseases, COPD, diabetes, you name it. However, that is exactly the problem faced in United States where people complaining for high cost in medical care. The American taxpayer essentially use their own medical allocation to pay for advances in medicine. This can be proven by looking at Congress budget of healthcare and the NIH budget of medical research funding. American healthcare industry is boosted as government promotes researches for new drugs/therapies, and greenlit them to charge atrocious rates for healthcare service. As rule of thumb, there is no such thing as free lunch. Medical advances are funded by millions of crying patient who can’t afford health care. Profit and advances may not be ethical, but they are the only thing that keeps industry advanced. If the ethics and laws are absent, medical advances can be even further, from Dr. Mengele to Corp 731 to Guatemala tests to syphilis tests among African Americans, I have to admit fascism (or any other scientific barbarianism) improves medical science.
Climate change is another battleground of pseudosciences. It has been so fierce that both sides of arguments have brought any weapon of trickery. In the white heat of battle I have lost most of my confidence in science as anything can be fabricated and anything can be supported, given so many dollars had been poured into industries who benefit from carbon dioxide control or carbon dioxide deregulation.
In conclusion, in the non-profit science, it becomes too bureaucratic, and in the profitable science it becomes too market-oriented, and hence people will only agree with each other at very fundamental level (e.g. Newtonian physics, quantum mechanics, evolutionary biology) and these ideas are ignored immediately when it is out of science field. You can see Creational Museums, Flat Earth, Young Earth, and all kind of pseudoscience the moment you step out of the office of the Department Dean, sometime they even exist next to the science department. People can afford to be ignorant, and 1st Amendment protects stupidity.