Sunday, November 29, 2009

Stupid Quote of the Day: Let’s destroy science and call that science

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Few blogs are such sources of blatant ignorance and stupidity as is Vox Day’s, and here is yet another shining example as to why:

As for peer review, it is little more than an editorial charade that transforms science into a political exercise and should be eliminated entirely. As one observer inaccurately but aptly commented, Einstein began his career in science at the post office, not Princeton. (It was actually the patent office, but the point stands.) Science is too important to be left to scientists.

The Stupid, It Burns

Dang, Vox, how can he keep piling so much dumbassery into single paragraphs? He sure does make my job easier. I suppose I should thank him for that.

We have a trifecta of stupid, here. His first argument is that we should simply do away with that bane of his, peer-review. Yeah … let’s remove the entire fact-checking process from science. Let’s allow scientists to publish absolutely anything they want without the bother of having to submit their research to other experts from various fields who more often than not find the sort of faults, mistakes and inaccuracies that, let rampant, would destroy any and all reliability and efficiency modern science has come so far to attain. Also, let’s allow rotten apples, kooks and cranks to publish their bullshit along with others’ reputable findings, thereby letting them come across as actual experts when they are no more than shameless hacks.

While we’re at it, why limit the removal of fact-checking and quality control to science? Let’s take it everywhere else, too! Buh-bye, copy-editors! See ya, quality control in food markets! Ciao, newspaper editors! Arrividerci, software testers! Au revoir, building construction superintendents! Yeah! Let’s just let anyone publish, do, manufacture and sell anything they want! Now that is a free market, eh? No more oppression from that oh-so-annoying reviewing, revising, cross-checking tedium – free range for everyone!

I’ve just hurt my brain with that.

Secondly, about that Einstein quote: once again, any statement or claim that can be proven wrong by 90 seconds of research time on Wikipedia is not a good one to use. Yes, Einstein worked at the patent office as an assistant patent examiner during the early years of his scientific career, during which he published a few papers and such. The problem with this example is that it entirely misses the point, and for two key reasons: first of all, Einstein was not yet a recognized, accredited scientist per se, and few experts would’ve held any real interest in taking the time and effort to cross-examine a young lad like him’s works. Peer-review didn’t even really apply to him until several years later on.

The second (and most notable) reason for which this analogy fails, is that the process of peer-review in fields such as physics was only properly established in the mid-20TH century; until then, it was primarily used in the realms of medicine[1]. Few physicists, even amongst the top-ranking experts of the day, would have bothered with peer-reviewing in the days of Einstein’s stay at the Patent Office. To put it simply: it simply wasn’t around at that time, so claiming that the fact that Einstein’s early papers weren’t peer-reviewed is an absolutely stupid argument to use against the peer-review process.

Finally, about “science [being] too important to [leave] to scientists”: what the fuck? Yeah, great, let’s kick everyone with scientific knowledge, expertise and experience out of the scientific realm and replace them with … who, exactly? (Never mind the fact that as soon as these unidentified newcomers become experts, they themselves will then become “scientists” who will then need to be kicked out and replaced by more newbies, and so on the loop goes …) Why not kick chefs out of restaurants, engineers out of construction sites and actors out of movies?

Dear God, Vox could at least try to make even the slightest amount of sense, but obviously this is an impossibly monumental feat for an anti-science twit of his type. Best to just stay back, watch him wheeze, then point and laugh.

[1] From the history of peer-review at Wikipedia.