The actual value of “scientifically proven” or “academic research shows that […]”​

You quite often see “scientifically proven” or “peer reviewed research shows that […]” or “academic research shows that […]” as proof of legitimacy.

How legit are they?

Let’s find out:

Exhibit A: the Sokal affair

In 1996, Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University and University College London, wanted to test the efficacy of the scientific community reviewing systems. To do so, he submitted a bogus article – claiming lunacies like “gravity is a social construct” (as in: “gravity exists only because we believe it does”).

As you would imagine,

…the article actually went through.

You can read the full story here:

Exhibit B: the Grievance studies affair

In 2017, a team of three academics submitted a series of bogus articles to a list of well known and respected scientific journals. So as to test their honesty and efficacy (the 2 are mutual). More or less: they did what Alan Sokal did, but on a much larger scale.

As you would imagine,

…also these articles went through.

You can read the story here:

and see a video recap on here:

Exhibit C: the nature of science

“Science” doesn’t mean “absolute truth”: it means search for the truth.

Does this mean that nothing can be certain and we must then embrace chaos? No: it means there’s continuous progress. Think of it as a colossal climb: every day you get to go further than you were yesterday. For this reason: science must be questionable. Because that’s how it can progress.

How to question it? Through honesty – as in: you question it only when there’s legit reasons for it.

You can read more about it in here:

This to say: whenever someone uses “scientifically proven” as to say “unquestionable truth”, he’s dishonest. The real meaning of “scientific” is not “absolute truth” but “I’m honestly looking for the truth“.

Please rule out the “ignorant” option: we’re talking about adults. Adults know what they’re up to.

Moral of the story: it has no intrinsic value

I could’ve gone further with examples of scientific malpractice. But, for an honest person, as in one willing to accept reality, those 2 first exhibits are enough.

Why “intrinsic value”?

Because there’s also relative value: a value that changes due to circumstances.

For instance: you can trust anything signed by Richard Feynman to be legit scientific work. Not because it bears the “scientific” adjective, but because it’s been done by Richard Feynman – a great man.

What makes a scientific work legit?

Honesty makes a scientific work legit.

It might not find the correct answer – but, at least, the genuinely tried. Remember that climbing metaphor I did before? That’s why it’s useful: you might not get to the top, or not make huge progress, but you’re still genuinely aiming for it – and, slowly, you inexorably move up.

Why would anybody not want to be legit in the scientific world?

I think that adults who ask this question are childishly dishonest people, pretending to be honest by pretending to not know how dishonest people can be – something in the lines of “I’m so honest I don’t know people can be dishonest”.

Childishly” because only a kid would be so disingenuous with his con – not to say I’d prefer a better con, that is: my favorite kind of dishonesty is the easy to spot one.

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