[LINK] IPA, astroturfing and fantsy themes

Frank O'Connor francisoconnor3 at bigpond.com
Fri Feb 17 02:03:04 AEDT 2012

Mmmm ... My favourite definition of science is 'institutionalised skepticism' which is something that doesn't lend itself to absolutes or laws ... merely to theories (which are either supported by the data/evidence or rejected).

Think tanks and PR bodies use this fact to infer that since its just a 'theory' then it shouldn't be accepted as gospel, and hence other competing theories (the fairies at the bottom of the garden, dancing for rain and a host of metaphysical causes/explanations or whatever) are just as valid as the currently accepted theory. They infer that if there is no certainty, then any explanation is as valid as the scientific one proposed. 

So ... scientific 'Laws' are seen as analogous to legalistic laws, rather than Theories of why things are as they are that are accepted within relevant degrees of freedom supported by data/evidence. In science, any time the data/evidence falls over, or a simpler explanation for consistent observations is proposed (Occam's Razor) then a new Theory is proposed which is accepted by the scientific community based on the replicability of results and data supporting same. (That's not to say that no politics occurs in the scientific community ... hey, they are human.)

The public, and I believe most of the press, just don't get that. Think tanks, 'institutes', Spin Meisters, religions and the like use that fact to bamboozle them ... but not with science. With noise and opinion.      

Said public uses all the technology provided by science to build our civilisation, takes on board many scientific predictions (e.g. tomorrows weather), competes for the new gadgets and life enhancing technologies provided by science, relies on medicine, computing, transport, communications and enhanced food production wrought by science .... but would have a clue about the Scientific Method or the rigour that real science goes through just to gain some tiny intimation of how the physical world really works.

So, they can be sold a bunch of crap by those engaging in the politics of self interest, with very little effort on the part of the crappers ... sorry, I meant the 'vendors of the alternate theories'.

Sad fact of life ... but there it is.

On 17/02/2012, at 1:32 AM, Glen Turner wrote:

> I'm not against "think tanks". Some of them are very good: RAND
> Corporation would be fine example. It hasn't always got it right, but it
> is plain what it's agenda is -- the advancement of US interests.
> What concerns me much more are think tanks where the agenda is adopted
> with a view to funding and where the results of the research invariably
> supports the think tank's agenda.
> Real research is a messy thing. You get unexpected results. This has
> even become a grand tradition in science. All young scientists are told
> the story of Fleming, the failed experiment, the Petri dish of mould,
> and the discovery of penicillin.
> Research which doesn't get messy once in a while isn't real research, it
> is PR.
> But really, these think tanks don't even do real research. For all of
> their talk about the causes of climate change I very much doubt that
> those think tanks have a single sensor collecting data.
> What they do is criticism. Because that's what their clients want. They
> want a level of doubt, an air of technical controversy. Because this
> helps them delay government action to regulate their industry.
> For this reason having "competing" think tanks is no great help. If the
> aim of the think tank is to create controversy, then having your own
> think tank furthering that controversy is an own goal.
> -- 
> Glen Turner <http://www.gdt.id.au/~gdt/>

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