Thursday, March 22, 2018

Academies, Google Conspire to Censor Science Online

From the “adhere to the consensus or else!” department.
Statement by NAS, NAE, and NAM Presidents on Effort to Counter Online Misinformation

We are pleased to announce that the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are exploring ways to mobilize our expertise to counter misinformation on the web related to science, engineering, and health. Part of the mission of the National Academies has always been to help ensure that public discourse is informed by the best available evidence. To that end, we are convening Academy members to discuss ways by which we could help verify the integrity and accuracy of content in these fields in a manner that is consistent with our standards for objective, trustworthy, evidence-based information; this exploratory phase will be supported by a grant from Google. We are excited to pursue an effort that aligns with our fundamental principles and that we believe is critically important at a time when misinformation is a threat to sound decision-making and an informed citizenry.

Marcia McNutt
President, National Academy of Sciences

C. D. (Dan) Mote, Jr.
President, National Academy of Engineering

Victor J. Dzau
President, National Academy of Medicine
However well meaning, this is a real threat to free speech, and the dissemination of science in the US and the world. Whenever a left leaning media giant like Google, Facebook or Twitter seek to "guarantee integrity and accuracy" in their content, they choose a group of left wing would be censors, like the Southern Poverty Law Center who will gladly call any conservative a racist for free, and compare them to Hitler for a small added donation.

You can be sure that among the first issues to be dealt with will be climate change (only the consensus position allowed), transsexual rights (all 52 genders valid, sex change operations to be government funded, and no dissent permitted.

Science is actually pretty good at getting rid of misinformation, because it saves what works in the long run. Lysenko failed because it starved the Soviet Union. Relativity survives because it explains physical effects that Newtonian physics can't. Evolution explains the proliferation of many species on the planet, even though we're still arguing over some of the details. It takes time for false theories to fall away. Be wary of people who say we need to follow their policy prescriptions because there isn't enough time to let the process work.

The Academies, for their part, don't really represent the people they claim to. Scientist don't vote annually, or even every four years, for the National Academy of Science. They are self-appointed, self-sustaining institutions, which like most such, are subject to O'Sullivan's Law:
O’Sullivan’s Law states that any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time. The law is named after British journalist John O’Sullivan.
My corollary would be that it happens to right wing institutions too, only more slowly.

At WUWT, Willis Eschenbach wrote a lovely letter to the Academies.
I am shocked and saddened that your organizations would use your authority to try to quash legitimate scientific dissent in this underhanded fashion. Richard Feynman famously said “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts” … and you guys are the ones now claiming to be experts. Why should we trust you in the slightest to make huge scientific decisions when Richard Feynman says you are ignorant? Whatever happened to “Nullius In Verba”?

Next, I have to ask, what does “misinformation” mean on your planet?

Unfortunately, in practice it will most likely mean “Scientific claims that we, the anointed and unquestionable experts, don’t like.”
This is as anti-scientific a stance as I can imagine. You have no authority to decide what is valid science and what is misinformation. That is arrogant hubris of the worst kind. Your three Presidents and their offsiders should be deeply ashamed to be involved with this in any form.

Of course, y’all don’t publish the emails of your officers, or you’ve hidden them so well that my extensive search couldn’t find them … and if I were involved in this kind of scientific malfeasance I wouldn’t want my email address out there either …
I would write one too, but I don't like pissing in the wind. They're going to do what they want.

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