104 Comments
Nov 21, 2023·edited Nov 21, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

I was aghast after reading that stupid defense from "History & Innovation." It is truly shocking that people with academic credentials should come with such risible justifications (ie. Fabricating evidence is good as long as it confronts EuroAmerica-centrism, WTF?!). Diversity of opinion and debate should be encouraged, but blatant falsifications and lies should be suppressed. So many in the Left are tempted by overly simplified notions of decolonization, anti-imperialism that they become themselves prisoners of a violent and irrational ideology. What is EuroAmericanism anyway?

At this point, I think it is crucial to defend the values and civilization of the Enlightenment. It is being attacked by both the Left and the Right. The Left wants to deconstruct the results of Enlightenment by tearing apart the very fabric of society which enables us to live in an orderly fashion. On the other hand, the Right wants to demolish the Enlightenment by bringing back traditional values (real or imagined) as an answer to modern problems.

For me, the West is the product of the Enlightenment and the result of self-reflection after two horrendous global wars. The West is not Europe, nor is it Christendom. It is a civilization forged by abstract ideals (freedom, rule of law, human rights) & real experiences (World Wars, the Holocaust). I am not European nor American, I am not even white, but I think the civilization represented by the West is worth defending and promoting. To that end, I think it is hugely important to confront this kind of pseudo-scientific nonsense as described by Noah.

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Unfortunately the incentives currently work the other way. Most grants, hiring and promotions require some kind of DEI component, and if you don’t have an intrinsic DEI identity (usually race, less so gender, class or sexual identity these days) you need to show evidence of promoting DEI in other ways. Given that competition for grants is so fierce, and so many have strong scientific merit, the DEI category is often the only strong differentiator. Academics outside of the humanities have found that a good way to do that is to publish a token DEI-orientated paper; that’s how you get articles in top journals about how a lack of biodiversity in poor neighborhoods is evidence of systematic racism or terms like citizen science need to be abolished. Legions of this crap gets published, and it makes everyone look like an activist.

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Nov 21, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

Love this article but I think it’s a bit more insidious than people making stuff up. Science works off falsification and falsifiable ideas, however, there are always assumptions and methodological choices that influence how we arrive at those findings.

There is also the very pernicious file drawer effect (scrapping none significant findings) and as I have discovered first hand, some very dicey decisions made around which of the grey literature to include on meta-analyses.

Long story short, science conducted by a politically or ideologically homogenous group is like conducting a survey on who you intend to vote for with a biased sample or conducting a prosecution without a defense attorney (the later is called a grand jury and getting indictments from a grand jury is laughably easy).

A diverse scientific community will use a variety of methods, study topics differently and make different assumptions and incrementally move the different fields forward. The homogeneous blob we have in most of our sciences currently will struggle, not due to ethical reasons or by trying to hide things but simply due to a lack of diversity

of thought.

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Before the Hamas stuff I thought the far left were idiots but cute and harmless. I feel a lot different now - this has me viewing their past illiberalism in a different light.

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Nov 21, 2023·edited Nov 21, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

I'm hesitant to even call the flow chart "pseudoscience". The hand-waivy vagueness doesn't really try to make any kind of clear or predictable claims about anything.

What it is, is a meme. Not a good one to be sure, but it aims to simplify a big narrative into something pat and concise. Trying to analyzye it segment by segment misses the whole point the author is trying to make. It falls into the category of ideas that should be taken seriously, but not literally. Do social ills cause real health effects on people? Sure. Should we try to fix those social ills? Absolutely. Is this meme a good way to communicate that? For most audiences - no.

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The Dr. Marya flow chart isn't pseudoscience, It's quackery. (and seems quite narcissistic too?)

I very much appreciate your attempt to call out this blatant ideological infestation of science.

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Can medical licenses be revoked?

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They can, but there usually has to be proof of real patients being harmed. Then the evidence is presented at a tribunal of the medical licensing body, just like a court. Not straightforward.

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No, but social media participation licenses should be. :)

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To Noahpinion's question:

"What happens if an academic field becomes entirely populated by researchers who think that one particular brand of politics justifies embracing any methodology, however pseudoscientific?"

Well, that field dies - just as we are seeing. All of the Pomo or social constructionist fields are withering. Fewer and fewer students want to major in fields that the adult world doesn't take seriously. Whether most universities will even have offered majors in English, History, Sociology, etc. ten years from now is a real question. PhD graduates in these fields today already have a very slim chance of absorption into normal tenure-track academic careers. It's sad, catastrophic even, but I think it's mainly due to the decline in respect for facts and canons of inference that Noah describes.

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Pomo? I'm not familiar with the term.

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"Pomo" = post-modernism. I have no idea where I picked up that usage.

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oh I totally thought you had typed "porno" and the R and N were just close together.

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The "porno constructionist" field.

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The "porno constructionist" field is flourishing, judging by the contents of my spam folder.

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Well, it's certainly not "withering" ....

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Nov 21, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

Why sigh? It’s called “mathematics” so “maths” makes sense.

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author

hehehe

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Nov 21, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

See my comment. It's not a plural.

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Nov 21, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

DON'T FEED THE TROLLS!

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Brits also call sports the singular sport. I think British and American English traded plurals way back in the day. :)

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Not really. The "s" in "mathematics is not a plural marker. In "maths" it appears to be. [Or is this just question begging becasue to a Brit the "s" of "maths" is not a plural marker?]

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Well, clearly the British should recognize that the correct spelling is "math's".

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Hey about a post on de-politicizing econ? I would argue that the policy sea-changes under Biden (labor, antitrust, etc.) are to a great extent the result of exactly that.

eg Listening to Arin Dube's & co's incredible DiD research and finally replacing the conservative- and "capital"-slanted (and childishly simplistic) theories of minimum wage that prevailed for so many decades.

I know I don't have to give you any more examples; they're thick on the ground. Thanks for listening.

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Nov 21, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

Looking forward to a spicy rant about post-modernism on the next podcast.

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Nov 21, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

To be fair to the Brits, the word they're shortening is "mathematics", which has the S on the end. You wouldn't shorten "bicycles" as "bike". It's "bikes".

However, while I understand their mistake, the Brits have it definitively wrong. "Mathematics" _isn't_ actually plural. It's an import of a Greek term for something singular. It just happens to end in S. Greek μάθημα (máthēma) is "study, knowledge, learning". μαθηματικός (mathēmatikós) is something like, "the subject of understanding what can be learned". So it's a pretty good name for math very broadly as the subject that encompasses all abstract logical systems.

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Aren't "mathematics" and "maths" actually grammatically singular in British, just like "physics" and "politics" and "civics" and any other similar "-ics" subjects?

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Yes, but that’s exactly the problem. If you shorten “politics”, you don’t preserve the S. People take Poli Sci classe, not Polis Sci.

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And I suppose it’s not Econs either. But the point is that it’s grammatically singular even with the S.

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Nov 21, 2023·edited Nov 21, 2023

Right, which is what I said in my original comment. The British shortening preserves the S _as though_ it were plural, but it's not. And you can tell that it's not, even from how Brits use it in sentences. It's quite odd.

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Nov 21, 2023·edited Nov 21, 2023

> However, while I understand their mistake, the Brits have it definitively wrong

This take is wrong. It isn't "maths" because they misunderstood how Greeks works. It is "maths" because it is a count noun with multiple branches: geometry, algebra, calculus, etc. Just like we say "sciences" or "gymnastics".

In any case, I'm not sure the people who literally create the language can be definitively wrong about how the language works. Just because loan-words take their cue from another language, doesn't mean they are beholden to that language.

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Nov 21, 2023·edited Nov 21, 2023

Your analogy here doesn’t work because as Kenny observes, it gets used as if it were singular. We say things like “the sciences are important”, but here you can see a bunch of Brits using the shortened “maths” as a singular: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskUK/s/BYMme0Y2Hz

If you think “mathematics” is singular, then keeping the S when it’s abbreviated is _weird_.

Of course Americans sometimes have similar weird ambiguity around whether “sports” is a singular or plural term. The Brits do that one correctly, calling it “sport” when they want to talk about all sporting activities as a whole.

(Also of course I am being somewhat tongue-in-cheek here. Languages just do weird shit sometimes. I have a degree in linguistics.)

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There's something similar with the word kudos, a Greek loan word for acknowledgement or praise. In the original Greek, kudos is singular. English speakers see the "s" at the end and think it's plural, so we got the back-formed "kudo" as a singular unit of praise.

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If you look up the etymology it appears the plural/singular point is anything but definitive:

https://mathbenny.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/etymology-definition-of-mathematics/

There was a middle english word 'mathematic', which comes from 'from Old French mathematique and directly from Latin mathematica (plural), https://www.etymonline.com/word/mathematics

https://www.etymonline.com/word/-ics

says: "The grammatical number of words in -ics (mathematics is/mathematics are) is a confused question."

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Just noticed your reply to someone else below. Definitely agree its use as a singular in everyday English today is pretty dominant.

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Just wait til you take a peak at the politicized science and medicine of gender medicine, or the institutional capture of once-reputable outlets like Scientific American and Nature.

The notable dearth of studies focused on anything but positive outcomes of medical intervention for trans identified people is remarkable. To study potential negative outcomes is to violate the politics of the movement.

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Now do climate change

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“And if humans collectively decide to embrace pseudoscience in the natural sciences, it can lead to widespread suffering.”

Like how Freud won out over Paul Charles Dubois and threw psychotherapy off course for more than 50 years.

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There’s a technical term to describe Dr Maryla’s flowchart: “twaddle”. In this case, the qualifiers “utter” and “infantile” should be applied.

Once analyzed as utter infantile twaddle, no further commentary on the flowchart is needed.

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You know what could also cause a heck of a lot of inflammation? A really bad relationship with your ex-pouse or having three teenagers in the house.

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I just enjoy the fact that she’s saying that nurofen is used to cure colonialism

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To be utterly precise she is saying that Nurofen can treat a downstream effect of colonialism.

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Yeah but my way is funnier 😊

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You are absolutely right about that.

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I just read several paragraphs about why a manifestly bs graph is bs. What I want to read is why things that look like bs are actually legit or why things that look legit are actually bs.

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It’s just remarkable the extent to which academia seems to incubate such lunacy. My data-free assumption is that it has something to do with the fact that a bunch of these fields produce nothing of value and therefore don’t command a wage premium in the market or (in turn) in the academy. Therefore only dummies or ideologues join them.

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Noah, there is a problem with politicized history. If you believe things about the past with no solid evidence, you won't learn to distinguish what is truth and fiction in the present.

We need to learn to seek for evidence to back up our assessments of reality in every field.

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Absolutely--by reading reputable historians you can learn when activists have simply made stuff up.

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But don't try to tell them that. They are desperately trying to become the winners who write the history.

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Or they are so frustrated by historians having actual professional standards that they are trying to privilege memory instead.

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