“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

I'm Still Mad at Jared Diamond

 ...if you recall, last week he was on a highly propagandistic (worse in a way because this appears acephalic, automated, no one that smart is in charge) radio news show on the BBC. He said that "Anyone who predicted what coronavirus would do last year was lying," which in context gives the British government an out for their terrible policies, and the BBC an out for their terribly damaging both-sidesism: "But what about getting back to work?" "It's so damaging for children to not be in school." "Why can't we have small groups of carol singers at Christmas?" It went on and on and on. 

Science makes predictions. That's what science does. I was arguing that a couple of days ago. Einstein predicted gravity waves. It turns out his prediction was correct and the waveform is the same as he predicted. 

I'm going to go one level deeper here and say science just is prediction. It's the hallmark of science, not a spin-off. It's not that good theories are predictive it is that all scientific facts are predictions

Sodium chloride will dissolve when you put it in water. That is a prediction. It keeps happening over and over and over, confirming the prediction. That's how scientific facts work

It goes back to Hume: when you say "This billiard ball will hit that billiard ball" you're not having a premonition. Maybe it won't. You can never be sure. You're making a prediction. That's the basis of modern science. Truth is statistical. Not just quantum theory truth, but it's a great example. Every few zillion times your finger will actually go through the wall. 

We rely on scientists to predict things. That's why we pay them and value them. That's exactly why. Because science just is the art of predicting things in as accurate a way as possible. 

Thirty seconds of Diamond talking on that show, on the occasion of the anniversary of the first UK lockdown, has done enormous damage to people's concept of science and their sense of its social role, and their beliefs about the virus. 


Deane said...

What term or phrase due we apply to Diamond and his anti-science ilk? We see it so often in how capitalism justifies itself. Same with how slavery, colonialism and genocide is rationalized.

It's a form of predictive outcome by brutal force and denial of logic. Especially in the field of anthropology where a totally fraudulent hypothethis like the Clovis peoples can be disproven again and again and yet the establishment of cronies will refuse to recognise any belief that questions their false authority on the matter and it causes entire fields of science to grow stagnant/stuck like the ship in the the Suez canal in defense of falsity rather than learning truth, which in turn backs up humanity's progress on a massive scale.

I especially see it in the academics of forestry where the belief of 1970's science that says clearing away the entire ecosystem and planting mono-crop tree farms is the only valid science/predictive outcome of maintaining forest health.

And here we are 50 years later and those who graduate with an advanced degree in forestry are not just functionally illiterate when it comes to forest ecology, but they're actually hostile and destructive towards it because they were taught that the natural sciences has no place in forestry and the science of timber production is the only real science. Really not much different than Diamond's corrupt take on Covid.

Roy Lonergan said...

Sorry to pick up on this so late. Predictions is a good start for a working definition of science, but it’s not enough. It wouldn’t distinguish between science and activities which make predictions but which cargo-cult the scientific method. I think you need to add an error-correction mechanism (or maybe a notion of progress). That gives you a progression from Galileo to Newton to Einstein for example.