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WSJ: The ‘Hurtful’ Idea of Scientific Merit

re: peer review

Science seems broken beyond repair, as part of a debauched and degenerate cultural and civilizational breakdown, an intellectual fungus with no apparent cure.

WSJ: The ‘Hurtful’ Idea of Scientific Merit


Ideology now dominates research in the U.S. more pervasively than it did at the Soviet Union’s height.

Until a few months ago, we’d never heard of the Journal of Controversial Ideas, a peer-reviewed publication whose aim is to promote “free inquiry on controversial topics.” Our research typically didn’t fit that description. We finally learned of the journal’s existence, however, when we tried to publish a commentary about how modern science is being compromised by a de-emphasis on merit. Apparently, what was once anodyne and unobjectionable is now contentious and outré, even in the hard sciences.

Merit isn’t much in vogue anywhere these days. We’ve seen this in the trend among scientists to judge scientific research by its adherence to dominant progressive orthodoxies and in the growing reluctance of our institutions to hire and fund scientists based on their ability to propose and conduct exciting projects. Our intent was to defend established and effective practices of judging science based on its merit alone.

Yet as we shopped our work to various scientific publications, we found no takers—except one. Evidently our ideas were politically unpalatable. It turns out the only place you can publish once-standard conclusions these days is in a journal committed to heterodoxy.

The crux of our argument is simple: Science that doesn’t prioritize merit doesn’t work, and substituting ideological dogma for quality is a shortcut to disaster. A prime example is Lysenkoism—the incursion of Marxist ideology into Soviet and Chinese agriculture in the mid-20th century. Beginning in the 1930s, the U.S.S.R. started to enforce the untenable theories of Trofim Lysenko, a charlatan Russian agronomist who rejected, among other things, the existence of standard genetic inheritance. As scientists dissented—rejecting Lysenko’s claims for lack of evidence—they were fired or sent to the gulag. Implementation of his theories in Soviet and, later, Chinese agriculture led to famines and the starvation of millions. Russian biology still hasn’t recovered.

We see it as well in activists’ calls to “decolonize” scientific fields, to reduce the influence of what’s called “Western science” and adopt indigenous “ways of knowing.”...

...“Progressive” scientists promote it, too, along with professional societies, funding agencies like the National Institutes of Healthand Energy Department, scientific journals and university administrators...

But scientific research can’t and shouldn’t be conducted via a process that gives a low priority to science itself. This is why we wrote our paper, which was co-authored by 27 others, making for a group as diverse as you can imagine...
[WIND: having to justify the diversity of the group (in an article decrying just that!) in order to forestall attacks is pathethic, perhaps the most damning comment of all. There can be no science under such hostile conditions.]

WIND: looks pretty much the same here in 2023. But the gulag is now digital.

The reality is that it is best to write “scientists” (in quotes), not scientists.

BTW, doctors who have not read this book to understand how medical “science” is actually done are doing themselves and their patients a huge disservice.

Recommended and more apropos than ever, and from decades back:
Return of the Primitive: the Anti-Industrial Revolution, by Ayn Rand @AMAZON.

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