But of Course, Money Only Influences Skeptics

Via Tom Nelson:

Pollack (2005) addresses the first ethic, noting that the paramount motivational factor for scientists today is the competition to survive. A scientist’s most pressing need, which supersedes the scientific pursuit of truth, is to get her grant funded – to pay her salary and that of her staff, to pay department bills, and to obtain academic promotion. The safest way to generate grants is to avoid any dissent from orthodoxy. Grant-review Study Sections whose members’ expertise and status are tied to the prevailing view do not welcome any challenge to it. A scientist who writes a grant proposal that dissents from the ruling paradigm will be left without a grant. Speaking for his fellow scientists Pollack writes, "We have evolved into a culture of obedient sycophants, bowing politely to the high priests of orthodoxy."

The grant system fosters an Apollonian approach to research. The investigator does not question the foundation concepts of biomedical and physical scientific knowledge. He sticks to the widely held belief that the trunks and limbs of the trees of knowledge, in, for example, cell physiology and on AIDS, are solid. The Apollonian researcher focuses on the peripheral branches and twigs and develops established lines of knowledge to perfection. He sees clearly what course his research should take and writes grants that his peers are willing to fund. Forced by the existing grant system to follow such an approach, Pollack (2005) argues that scientists have defaulted into becoming a culture of believers without rethinking the fundamentals.

13 thoughts on “But of Course, Money Only Influences Skeptics”

  1. This is very much a misunderstanding of how science funding works. Post-docs and younger researchers must rely on their funding proposals being accepted, but all universities have permanent staff – readers, lecturers and professors – for whom obtaining grants is not really an issue. Their academic freedom is guaranteed by the permanency of their position, they will have a salary no matter what.

    The safest way to generate grants is to avoid any dissent from orthodoxy – really, no, quite the opposite. If you don’t demonstrate that you will do something new in your grant application, it won’t get funded. The very lifeblood of science is challenging the orthodoxy.

    To suggest that scientists do no rethink the fundamentals is pretty ridiculous. In astronomy, for example, there are people working on Modified Newtonian dynamics. It doesn’t get much more fundamental than F=ma.

    At different times you appear to believe different things: no warming is happening, any apparent warming is an artefact, any apparent warming is due to the corruption of science, the warming is real but it isn’t CO2, the warming is real and it might be CO2 but it will do us no harm…. it’s pretty difficult to work out exactly what you think and why.

  2. Actually, Warren is right on. The only way to stay in the grant mainstream–where grants are not that much of an issue–is to not rock the boat. It becomes an orthodoxy, a religion. Too bad for science.

    Climatology is a baby science with no credibility among real scientists. You get the central enclaves like NASA Goddard thanks to efforts of Al Gore while US Vice President. From Goddard comes RealClimate.org, which informst the orthodoxy. The IPCC is a UN political organisation that pretends to dispense science.

  3. There are some aspects of truth to what is being said here. It is natural social dynamics though. Just like how skeptics will tend to overlook weaknesses in arguments on “their side”. BTW, anyone can get a quality paper published that is anti AGW if it is well done. There are just so many journals out there. The main problem is that skeptics are NOT WRITING PAPERS. And when they do write them, they are just gawdawful in method and quality. And they prefer to pull each other’s puds on friendly blogs.

  4. Well done paper according to TCO: supports AGW
    Poorly done paper accoring to TCO: opposes AGW

    You see the same hypocrisy on RC all of the time. They expect anti-AGW papers to meet high standards but the let shoddy pro-AGW papers off the hook (see Briffa and his data deletions or Mann and his meaningless statistical analysis).

    The letter from Dr. Joanne Simpson on Pielke’s blog speaks volumes: http://climatesci.org/

    “Since I am no longer affiliated with any organization nor receive any funding, I can speak quite frankly”

    Scientific funding affects what scientists can do – deny it if you like but it won’t change the facts.

  5. Wrong. I already said the opposite of that. I disdain AGWers who like anything that is on their side regardless of quality. And feel the same about skeptics with same behavior. I AM a skeptic. You just don’t think I am, because to you a skeptic should accept any sophistry, any crappiness, as long as it is on his side.

  6. They’re all like that, hypocrites. There’s no way to falsify or contradict the models. They’re unfalsifiable. Anything that happens—anything at all, is just global warming, anthropogenic. It’s just got to be, that’s how they make their living. If the public ever catches on to the scam, there’s gonna be hell to pay.

  7. It’s fascinating to watch Science do to itself in a few years what The Church couldn’t accomplish over a period of centuries.

    This AGW madness is akin to the world’s political, educational and scientific institutions dumping all of their funding on the study, capture and control of Bigfoot.

    If you don’t believe in Bigfoot, you will get no funding. If you don’t believe in Bigfoot, we will have Nuremberg-style trials for you. If you don’t believe in Bigfoot, you will be stripped of your credentials and David Suzuki will throw you in jail.

  8. TCO, I’ve followed your comments with interest on many a blog (CA/JEG/this one) and would love to have a serious discussion with you.

    Could you e-mail me at robinofg AT hotmail DOT com (no spam please)

    I’m UK-based and am especially interested in the wider sociology of skepticism rather than any one technical issue.


  9. In the case of global warming, it seems that the discussion of scientific dishonesty is now moot since global average temperature has dropped more in the past year than it had risen in the preceeding 100. Observable facts have quickly discounted the “research”. If this trend continues, scientists will need a new cause of the month.

  10. “If this trend continues, scientists will need a new cause of the month.”

    That’s why global “warming” is now passe. The hip, modern term is “climate change”. When they came up with the “warming” label, they didn’t realize that it left cooling as a potential counterexample to falsify the theory. They’ve closed that loophole now.

    TCU is right, it’s an unfalsifiable, circular theory, even more so that it is now any kind of change that the theory warns about. The problem is that circular theories often provide a very rich field of study even without the politics. Tail chasing can be quite vigorous activity that appears to be getting alot done. And if what I’ve seen lately about string theory in physics is correct, it doesn’t require political polarization for that circular tail-chasing to be the hot, well-funded field for researchers to flock to.

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