In Greece (and many other countries) there is a saying: After going to the doctor, always go to a second one to get a second opinion! This public wisdom has been so much embedded in our everyday life that we do not even consider it as something special. And yet, this simple but highly intuitive advice hides something much more sinister than we would like to admit…
But let’s take things from the beginning.
In the times of ancient Greeks, science and religion were not even separated. Both fields of thinking existed harmoniously together and helped wise people to their common goal: reach the truth. This common path continued up to the era of Galileo (whose case was largely overstated and wrongly attributed by all – read the relevant articles in Harmonia Philosophica), when for reasons altogether irrelevant to the essence of science or religion philosophy science was separated from religion.
And then the downfall started…
Science started being an independent realm of human endeavor and this resulted in the infamous “war” with religion. A war based on false premises and fed by the hate of the new intellectual order against the old one (read the “Enlightenment was not light” article in Harmonia Philosophica). It was about that time that another factor came in to fuel the fire even more: MONEY.
The result of the corrupting effect of money in science can easily be seen today by anyone even remotely connected to science. If you are not, let me draw you a picture: You are a scientist. You are funded to conduct research but only as long as you produce results. And results mean publications. So you need to publish, but this is not enough on its own. You need to publish more and more quickly before the other publish first! In that way you will get more money from funds and then you will publish more and then… Well, you get the meaning.
All this has resulted in a gruesome comedy of tragic proportions: We are everyday bombarded with new “scientific news” (the most important of which are debunked or analyzed philosophically here in Harmonia Philosophica every four days) which often contradict each other or which are so immature which should never see the light of publication. Newton used to keep volumes unpublished for decades before he was sure that the quality was good enough and today we see minions of science to publish new papers every a month or so.
This ridiculous situation would be funny if it wasn’t serious as well. In this parade of publications we also see medical publications about what we should eat (coffee, wine, etc), what we should not eat (coffee, wine, etc), what we should do in order not to die, what we should not do, what medicine will save us from death (even though not even clinical trials have started and they usually never do – you see, only the initial publication is usually enough to ‘prove’ that you do research) et cetera. Doctors are also of course taking part in the party (why wouldn’t they anyway? they are Scientists!). So medical companies pay their bills and give them bonus trips, they suggest to you the medicine they are paid to suggest, they may even promote some surgeries to write a paper! (remember, always get a second opinion)
Meet the Reproducibility Crisis!
At some point the problem mentioned above started to become so huge that even scientists took notice (remember, true science has a serious lag to notice obvious things). This is what is now known as the Reproducibility Crisis in science. And when we say science we mean Science! As a whole. As it turns out, the eagerness to publish resulted in scientists faking results. According to a 2016 poll of 1,500 scientists reported that 70% of them had failed to reproduce at least one other scientist’s experiment (50% had failed to reproduce one of their own experiments). In 2009, 2% of scientists admitted to falsifying studies at least once and 14% admitted to personally knowing someone who did. Misconducts were reported more frequently by medical researchers than others. (source)
That article you read about not having to drink coffee because you will get cancer? Forget it! Or perhaps not! Actually that is the problem now: We cannot know what is false and what is right! As long as there was money to fund the research, then the research would yield a result! How can you trust anything today when it is known that about 70% of scientists cannot replicate the experiments of others?
And yet the money is still flowing in…
The problem is so big that you can easily find articles pinpointing the problem – focusing also mainly in the medicine related research. (source) (source) (source) Karl Popper, the 20th century’s pre-eminent philospher of science, said that science without a testable hypothesis really isn’t science at all, but rather a “pseudoscience.” Much of today’s so-called science, which relies on scary projections without tests to back them up, fits this description. (source)
And yet the money is still flowing in…
The billionaire who served time for a sexual offense involving a minor and then, afterwards, jailed for being accused of running a worldwide ring of pedophiles. Yes, so? What about him? Well, it turns out that Epstein was in love with… science! As it turns out he was a patron of many well known scientists! Scientists who took Epstein’s money or associated with the financier even after he was jailed for soliciting an underage girl for prostitution. Some of them issued apologies, some failed to comment. (source) Would this sound as a surprise? Not to those who have been looking at the path science has taken for the last centuries or so…
One of the science institutes which took money from Epstein includes the famous MIT Media Lab. There has been a huge uproar for this, which resulted in the Media Lab issuing statements and promising to give the equal amount of money it had received to the victims of Epstein. Are they really sorry? Hard to distinguish the truth behind the statements made under public outrage. One of the founders of MIT Media Lab – Nicholas Negroponte – provided an answer though: In an event he said quite simply and honestly that he suggested that the Lab took the money from Epstein and that he would do it again! “Take the money!” he added emphatically. “Take it!” he repeated. (source)
Many people might object here. It is some scientists who are not moral. It is some scientists who are not good and ethical. Not science. But they would be wrong! It is exactly science which is inherently immoral today!
Science is supposed to be morally neutral  . Today we believe that knowledge is intrinsically good . But it is exactly this ethical neutrality which leads to unethical paths! It is exactly this certainty of goodness which leads to everything bad modern civilization has experienced. This is what Rousseau tried to point out in the first place – knowing what is good has nothing to do with being good.
“Take it!” said Negroponte.
And so he did. And so other will keep on doing…
And that beauty which was once science, will turn into an beautiful old whore… Looking at us with a promising look and a tear in her eyes. And as the Polar Star of Lovecraft, she has forgotten what message she has to give us. Except that she has a message to convey…
- Paul RootWolpe, Reasons Scientists Avoid Thinking about Ethics, Cell journal, Volume 125, Issue 6, 13 June 2006, Pages 1023-1025, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2006.06.001
- Ma-Kellams C, Blascovich J, “Does ‘Science’ Make You Moral? The Effects of Priming Science on Moral Judgments and Behavior”, 2013, PLoS ONE 8(3): e57989, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0057989.