The New Scientism

English: General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayd...

It seems to be that science in general has donned a new mask not unlike the worn out mask of religious zealots. Call it dogma. Call it power trip. Call it vested interest in research money, or furthering a career. Call it stagnation. It seems to me, that some pop scientists and their sycophants would like to think they have a monopoly on truth. Either way, Robert Anton Wilson may have pegged it when he said:

The totally convinced and the totally stupid have too much in common for the resemblance to be accidental.
Disinfonauts and others, be prepared. For your favorite “conspiracy theory” may be trodden upon in this article. Remember… No scratching. No hair pulling. No eye gouging. No hitting boobs or below the belt.

via Jacobin (please follow the link to read the entire article):

We can value scientific inquiry without viewing the natural sciences as free of politics.

In 1964, Stanley Kubrick’s film Dr. Strangelove introduced the character of Gen. Jack D. Ripper, an intensely neurotic, paranoid man who insisted that water fluoridation was a Communist plot hatched against Americans. Ripper was unhinged, of course. But he was also the fictional personification of a real popular anxiety over fluoride’s medicinal benefits.

History is not kind to characters who resist scientific progress: they are consistently painted as inflexible troglodytes. Today, fluoridation sits neatly alongside electrification and other advances, triumphs of the march of technological improvement despite the opposition of a supposedly anti-science public. This is, at least, how the scientific establishment tends to tell it. To them, any criticism of this historical narrative is tantamount to wholesale opposition to science.

This is absurd. There is, of course, no merit to anti-fluoridation quackery. Neither is it correct, contrary to anti-science conservatives, that the scientific community has made a Faustian bargain to keep man-made global warming on the agenda. Similarly, it is unfortunate that after decades of biological discoveries, a third of the American public rejects evolution entirely.

But it is astonishing when defenders of science lump together global-warming-denying conservatives, anti-GMO activists, and grassroots environmental activists, treating each as disturbingly anti-science. This simplistic analysis is rooted in the arrogant assumption that science is somehow above criticism — indeed, that it’s above politics entirely.

Call it the “New Scientism,” in which discussions of science policy consist of pundits vaguely pointing to “a body of research” instead of engaging the broader public, in which calling into question conflicts of interest inimical to scientific inquiry is treated, perversely, as anti-science.

Against this phenomenon, the Left must insist on the inherently political nature of scientific inquiry.


  • Simon Valentine

    been tracking and working on this for some time

    see me at

  • Mark Pugner

    Irrational Rationalism and the Citadel of Science, good old Pope Bob.
    Heinz von Foerster has a few interesting things to say about the ongoing, never-ending mindfuck.

  • BuzzCoastin

    it really doesn’t matter what you think or believe about science
    it does matter what scientists think about science
    as they go about with their geneticlly modified fracking HARPS

  • Oginikwe

    If you want to know how industry buys its science, read “Trust Us, We’re Experts” and “Toxic Sludge is Good For You!” by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber.