Art Robinson is a rare man. He’s risen above and laid bare the creeping failure in the infrastructure of modern science over the last 50 years. He describes how the control of the quest for knowledge itself has been usurped from individuals and private industry and taken over by the government.
At the end of the day, what does being a scientist mean if there is nothing other than a certificate? Where is the code of conduct? Where are the professional associations which stand up and decry those who breach the basic requirements? What sense of duty and honor is left in science when high ranking members can make statements that are dishonest and yet keep their jobs and their reputations?
I was struck with Art’s description of a true scientist–where the most important attribute is honesty, where humility is inevitable in anyone who understands how little we comprehend, and where being a scientist is a lifelong search, rather than a 9 – 5 job.
The 10 page paper How Government Corrupts Science is worth reading in full.
Below are some select parts that especially struck a chord with me.
How Government Corrupts Science
Isaac Newton was the greatest scientist who has ever lived, or in Albert Einstein’s words, the most “privileged” of all scientists because of the discoveries that Newton was permitted to make. Einstein describes Newton as “this brilliant genius”… Newton said of himself:
I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
During most of its history, when it housed and sponsored the work of many of the greatest scientists of the 20th century, the California Institute of Technology proudly displayed its motto:
The Truth Shall Make You Free.
Today, Caltech’s bureaucrats furtively hide this motto, if they have not canceled it altogether – both its origins and its emphasis on the “truth” being counterproductive to the “business” of “science” in which they are now engaged. Today, the “truth” seems surrounded by “lies,” and those whom we have depended upon to tell the truth appear no longer to be reliable. Worst of all, many of our scientists whom we depend upon to know the truth are … silent.
First, who is a “scientist?” A scientist … is a person who seeks the truth about the world we can see by means of direct observations of that world. He often originates hypotheses about how the things in the world work and then tests those hypotheses with experiments and observations. Entirely on the basis of experiments or observations, he refines or rejects hypotheses and extends his knowledge.
Scientists are usually quiet, somewhat reclusive individuals. Confronted, as is reflected in Newton’s statement, with the awesome phenomena that comprise “things seen” and the very tiny part of these phenomena they are able to manipulate and understand, scientists tend naturally toward humility. Most true scientists are completely truthful and honest as their profession absolutely requires, although there have been exceptions. One scientist friend of mine was so impeccably honest that he actually wrote in his autobiography that his wife was the second smartest woman he had ever met.
At Caltech, in the 1950s and 1960s, intellectual honesty was rigorously taught – by example. There were no courses in this. The student was simply surrounded by people who always approached their work with complete honesty. Dishonesty in any action meant immediate expulsion from the campus by one’s peers. Sadly, this is no longer the case at Caltech today.
When a true scientist makes a statement to his nonscientist fellow citizens, he speaks only the truth as he perceives it and as it has been verified – not by hypothesis or by computer simulations, but by actual experiments and observations. Moreover, he strives to simultaneously express all of the weaknesses his statement may have as a result of the always limited data available and the ever present chance that his hypothetical interpretation of that data may be in error.
As they work to expand their knowledge of things they can see, it never occurs to them to hide inconvenient observations or to mislead their fellow men about their work. Direct falsehoods or falsehoods of omission are alien to their being and simply not a part of their lives.
The corruption that is pervasively evident in science today is not resident in our true scientists. It is resident in people who pretend to be scientists – but are “scientists” in title only. Many of these people have received university degrees in science, but they use these titles in a corrupt, nonscientific way.
THE GOVERNMENT STEPS IN
During World War II, scientists and engineers who had been trained in the United States and Europe combined their efforts in the huge Manhattan Project that resulted in the creation of nuclear weapons, the end of the war, and, temporarily, the acquisition of overwhelming military power by the United States.
Many of the outstanding scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project noticed that this huge, government-funded project had succeeded in solving a very difficult science and engineering problem, and they thought other difficult problems such as the finding of a cure for cancer might be solved in a similar way. They forgot, however, that the scientific and industrial people and infrastructure that made this success possible had come almost entirely from independent, free-enterprise, academic institutions and industries. Government had merely bent these institutions to its own purposes during the war effort.
Since their admiration for this government-funded success found sympathetic listeners among big government advocates in the Roosevelt-Truman administration and the administrations that followed, large sums of money for the support of science began to flow from the federal government, primarily in the form of government grants and contracts.
Gradually, over the next two generations, the private capital that had heretofore funded science, endowed scientific institutions and provided the intellectual freedom that is crucially important to successful scientific enquiry was seized through taxation and part of it was then passed to scientists in government “grants” and contracts.
Grantsmanship gradually became the most important “scientific” skill, and the amount of grant money a scientist commands is now, in most institutions, the most important parameter that determines his advancement. The new “scientist” rushes from meeting to meeting, furiously writes grant proposals, and strives to obtain news coverage of his latest “discoveries,” while leaving the actual research to technicians and students.
…the federal government has used some of the earnings of the American people that it demands in taxes to build a giant welfare program for Ph.D.s
In short, the federal government has used some of the earnings of the American people that it demands in taxes to build a giant welfare program for Ph.D.s – now known as “big-time science.” As this welfare program has expanded, the conservative culture among American academic scientists has gradually been replaced by an ultraliberal, pro-big-government culture – in just the same way that large government welfare programs have induced this political change in many other national sectors.
The bureaucrats who now have detailed control over the experimental and observational work of our scientists are entirely unqualified for this work. Important areas of research stagnate while trendy areas are emphasized. Increasingly, good scientists are forced to lie about their work – pretending to do the work permitted, while actually (and illegally) using their laboratories and resources for “bootlegged” research in the areas that are important. Another common technique is to complete the work and then ask for funds to do it, thereby increasing the chance for a grant from bureaucrats anxious to fund “successful” research. These activities undermine the absolute honesty that science requires.
Even when the goal is a good one, this welfare program for Ph.D.s is markedly inferior. For example, government grants funded billions of dollars of work in academia on the solution of the human genome, yet Dr. Craig Venter led a team of privately funded scientists and beat the academics to the goal – while spending less than 5 percent of the amount of money expended by the academics. His reward? So far, envious tax-funded academics have blocked his well-earned Nobel Prize.
The still excellent faculty at Caltech could completely destroy Gore’s movie as a minor entertainment during lunch at the campus Athenaeum, but instead they are … silent. Yet, the administration’s current secretary of energy, Dr. Steven Chu, was invited to give the Caltech commencement address in 2009, during which he grossly misrepresented climate science and lied outright about the sea level experimental data.
When, however, three Caltech alumni, including one very famous individual, asked to give a seminar at Caltech in response to Chu’s claims, their offer was refused. Instead, Caltech asked its alumni to help fund a project wherein students install solar panels on Caltech buildings, using technology so expensive that … it requires 50 years to generate the energy and other costs required to build it…
This same sort of thing has happened to several prominent professional societies and their publications, such as the American Physical Society and Chemical and Engineering News, where activist pseudo-scientists have wormed their way into administrative positions where they use the good names of these organizations to promote their radical agendas, while most of the members of the societies are … silent.
A relatively small group of fourth-rate scientists, who would never be scientists at all under the standards that prevailed 50 years ago, have received huge grants of research funds and extensive mainstream media notoriety by – there is no polite way to put this – lying about climate science in order to provide political cover for the U.N. political agenda. By all objective standards of inquiry, the hypothesis they promote is not just unproved; it is definitively disproved by the experimental and observational research record.
It is remarkable that, after all the billions of years that some say we have been evolving, just at this time – in the few years that comprise our current lives – there have risen up among us men so brilliant that they have unlocked the important secrets of the universe, including the secrets of the origins of life itself. Consider how fortunate we all are to be present during this highly improbable event, considering the time intervals involved. What a long way we have traveled from the humility of Isaac Newton!
Are American scientists corrupt? No, they are not!
Is, however, the custom and culture within the American academic institutions in which they work conducive to the free flow of information between our best scientists and the public? No. These institutions have been co-opted by their dependence on government tax funds.
Are our best scientists blameless in this? Again, no. They have watched passively as their profession, which depends upon absolute honesty, is represented by dishonest people in public forums – and many have not spoken in opposition to these misrepresentations. If they permit this to continue, the inevitable backlash will eventually come. When that happens, the true scientists will suffer right along with the pseudoscientists – a reward they both will richly deserve.
Art Robinson coordinated the extraordinary work of the Petition Project, signed by 31,000 scientists (including 9000 PhD’s). It was done by volunteers, a mammoth task to ask of anyone. Significantly in the paper when he discusses the results he also says:
We found, however, that those outside of government-funded academic institutions were four times more likely to sign than those inside such institutions. Those inside academic institutions are under severe pressure not to offend the government.
The 10 page paper How Government Corrupts Science is worth reading in full.
Thanks to SPPI, and of course, to the inestimable, Art Robinson.
Arthur Robinson, Ph.D., is a research professor of chemistry and co-founder of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. After graduating from the California Institute of Technology in 1963 and earning his Ph.D. from the University of California at San Diego, he served as a UCSD faculty member until co-founding the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine with Linus Pauling in 1973. Beginning with their initial work together on general anesthesia and the structure of water at Caltech in 1961, Pauling and Robinson carried out published research on a wide variety of topics from nuclear physics to nutrition until 1978. They ceased work together in 1978 because of a disagreement between them on the effects of ascorbic acid on the growth rate of cancer in mice. In 1981, Dr. Robinson, his wife, chemist Laurelee Robinson, physicist Martin Kamen, and later joined by Nobel-winning biochemist R. Bruce Merrifield, cofounded the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine.