Discussion of Big Science Today, by an Important Member of the National Association of Scholars

As if Faizal knew anything about the NAS, or had even heard of the NAS, before I posted this topic. But now, from a few quick lookups (one them about an organization that is not the NAS!) on Wikipedia, without bothering to write to any NAS members or converse with them, he knows all about it. The pretentiousness here is stunning. But of course, it’s not news here that people will condemn books they haven’t read, and condemn organizations they only first heard of yesterday, based on scraps of rumor and hearsay. It’s par for the course around here.


Thanks for your second reply. It is much more substantive, giving reasons rather than sneers for your disagreement with Turner. It’s the sort of answer I was looking for. (By way of contrast, Mercer’s second reply is just more sneers.).

Um, Turner’s suggestion that we return to the era of “small science” is pretty much the bottom line of his essay. Not “a proposal to the author that did not correspond to what the author actually argued”.

Did you actually read the essay, @Eddie ?


Indeed. There is a reason why I used scare quotes. But it is very telling that such a claim would appear in this article.

My understanding comes from industry but the 50% figure doesn’t seem at all unreasonable. A 10% figure sounds very low - and I really wonder how administration and general facilities costs could be so little.

Concerning the politicization of science and its harmful consequences:

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Usually I would, but since you’ve already decided on no evidence or history whatsoever that I might be misrepresenting it, while your own history suggests you won’t read it anyway, I won’t waste my time.

Here’s a suggestion: if you want to misquote, don’t do so with the original text still visible.

Without some quoted material from the report, or a pinpointing of the passages from which you are deriving this statement, it’s impossible to tell whether you are accurately representing the report. You may be leaving out relevant context.
As some-one who frequently requests others give the benefit of the doubt, you ought to practise what you preach.

You could have found the article yourself in less time than it took to type that paragraph.

Me, Art and djkriese is more than “two”.

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Paul, you seem to object to this statement from Turner’s article:

I suspect that Jerry Coyne would agree that this sometimes happens. His strong protests against the attempt to replace science proper in the New Zealand science curriculum with “science” based on the “Maori worldview” concerns indicates that he has noted the increasing politicization of science education, and I don’t think Wikipedia would count Jerry Coyne as a right-wing extremist. And while the example I’ve picked from Coyne is about teaching rather than research, it’s pretty obvious that the problem pointed out by Coyne has been creeping into not only education but research. I have in the past here mentioned Doreen Kimura, who protested that in her field (Psychology), political correctness coming from feminist theorists was preventing an objective scientific analysis of the different developmental patterns in male and female brains. (I.e., psychologists weren’t to talk about male-female biological differences, even where they really existed, lest that encourage sexism.) And that complaint came decades ago; political correctness has grown in strength since then and threatens to corrupt most of the natural sciences in one way or another. Of course, those in the humanities and social sciences have had to fight this corruption of academic life by political correctness for a long time, but scientists, it seems, are only starting to notice it as a serious problem in the past few years (though people like Kimura tried to warn them many years earlier), probably because until recently it hasn’t impinged on most of the their work, and was perceived of as a humanities or social science problem, and therefore of no concern to scientists. But now scientists are beginning to wake up, and I think that scientists and humanities scholars should be joining hands, as allies, to prevent the politicization of the university research in all fields, and I applaud the NAS for bringing together a biologist like Turner and various humanities scholars, in order to fight this political tide.

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Yes, exactly. It’s like saying “Discussion of the latest findings in astronomy, by an Important Member of the Flat Earth Society.”

I did not, and I have not so much as suggested anything to the contrary. But I’m not the one who felt compelled to inform everyone here of this article by an Important Member of an organization of very little importance. If I had felt so compelled, I would have first done my due diligence. Word to the wise.

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Your shabby excuse for not indicating your source is noted.

You could have given the reference yourself in even less time.

Can you please explain how these two things are the same:

Art Hunt today: “Turner’s suggestion that we return to the era of “small science”.”

Art Hunt in his first post above: “To make science better, Turner seems to think that it should be the purview (more like playground) of people who are independently wealthy, or who manage to find wealthy and eccentric patrons (Ellie Arroway and S. R. Hadden, Alan Grant/Ellie Sattler and John Hammond).”

In Art’s mind, apparently these two things are the same, but other readers here, such as myself, may need some of the middle steps filled in, by which he arrived at the equation of the two. I have no problem with the first and shorter statement of the two I’ve quoted above, but the second statement is not a meaning of Turner’s article that I would naturally have arrived at. (And I certainly don’t think that science should be open only to the wealthy, so if I thought Turner meant that, I would have expressed disagreement with him.)

By the way, Art, you are responding here to my reply to your first response. Since I wrote that reply, you gave another response, and in another reply, I told you that your second response was more substantive and helpful. It was grouped with a reply to Faizal, but well-marked with an @Art in it. Have a look at it.


Thanks for posting this link to an article by two well-trained professors/MDs/epidemiologists. It’s good for the public to know that the “consensus science” on some of these questions (specifically, regarding the vaccination of very young children) is not monolithic, and that there is difference of opinion among those with scientific training and practical medical expertise. It is also relevant to the concerns in the Turner article, in a broad way, since it deals to some extent with the politicization of science. However, since discussing the article in detail would (given the tendency of some people here) rapidly degenerate into a debate about COVID response in general, and would deflect attention from the Turner article which is the topic here, I won’t pursue it.

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I would certainly object to it as applied to climate change. In fact that is exactly what I did.

Since that is in New Zealand it hardly has much to do with the situation in the US, and it certainly isn’t seeking research funds from the US government. Since you choose to focus on that rather than on climate change - explicitly mentioned in the quote -I conclude that you cannot defend that assertion and instead resort to diversion.

The situation in psychology, while perhaps more relevant is still a different issue (although the possibility of right-wing activism in such research cannot be neglected).

I note that you are applauding blatant hypocrisy.


You have not established that anything is hypocritical. Which of the stated goals of the organization do you find to be “hypocritical”? I listed several things in my reply to Faizal above:

Why is an organization that stands for the above things “hypocritical”? And why is bringing together a biologist like Scott Turner with humanities scholars etc. to fight for a freer intellectual climate in the modern university “hypocritical”?

If you disagree with Turner regarding climate change, or something else, that’s fine – the whole point of the NAS is to promote open and fair academic and public debate on such issues. But Turner is hardly a “hypocrite” for disagreeing with your position. Can’t one disagree with your view on climate change without being a “hypocrite”? I don’t see why you’re using such a hot-button word, instead of just calmly stating the strengths and weaknesses of the article Turner wrote.

This is reasonable

If anyone cares, this is the spot where I really ought to have cut off discussion. :smile:

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You haven’t done due diligence in even one of your replies on this topic, so your claim that if you had been the one to introduce the subject, you would have done due diligence, is not credible.

As always, you ignore most of my substantive points. You have completely ducked this challenge:

Are you against the things with the NAS was founded to promote – the things listed in its mission statement? Or are you in favor of them? If you’re in favor of them, why so much hostility toward the NAS? And if you’re not in favor of them, please specify your preferred set of alternate goals. For example, would you rather see “quotas” than “individual merit” determine who gets academic jobs? Would rather see “unbalanced” than “fair” examination of contending views? Would you rather see “impassioned advocacy” than “reasoned scholarship?” Do let us know what your ideal university, and your ideal world, would look like.

Sure I have. They don’t want to end political interference in science they want right-wing political interference in science.

Why on Earth should we rely on their stated goals without also looking at their actions?

Climate change is a fact. To point to one - just one - current example - England is currently experiencing an unprecedented heatwave, and the temperature is expected to beat the highest recorded temperature - a record itself only set in 2019. General warming is well established. Richard Muller - then a skeptic - set out to scientifically check his criticisms. He found they were wrong. Now his views are different. https://berkeleyearth.org/

The whole idea of “open and fair academic debate” is a sham. We’re past that. The whole point is to try to suppress facts which are ideologically unacceptable. And that is the base for the charge of hypocrisy.


I gave that as only one example of Jerry Coyne’s concerns. He certainly has said that “wokeness” is starting to affect university culture and science departments in the USA:

To be sure, the article I just cited wasn’t about the funding of science research in particular, but it does talk about the politicization of scientific life more generally, and hence is relevant both to some of the remarks in Turner’s article, and to the concerns of Turner’s NAS overall.

If you follow Coyne regularly, you will find more such protests about ideological concerns creeping into the university, including science departments, in the USA and in other countries. Though I disagree with him about much, I’m on his side on this point. In fact, I wrote about Jerry earlier on this site:

Jerry Coyne's Discussion of Free Speech and Universities.

You seem not to under the meaning of the term “hypocrisy.”

This exists where an individual or organization fails to actually practice the values and principles it espouses.

So simply quoting some of the values and principles the NAS claims to espouse does not in any way amount to a defense against the accusation of hypocrisy.

Hope that helps!


You’ve provided no evidence, only surmise (weakly based) that they want that. Merely disagreeing with Paul King about the need for massive left-wing interventionism (re climate change) does not establish that anyone wants right-wing interventionism. Someone might prefer a policy that is biased neither by the right nor the left. Gosh, sounds like a great idea.

You haven’t listed any actions that are inconsistent with their stated goals. You have only indulged in paranoia about imaginary actions.

Nobody said otherwise.

You’re confusing climate with weather – a common mistake.

Nobody questioned that a degree of warming is real. The question is whether massive interventionism – at any cost whatsoever to working-class jobs, prices, employment, etc. – is the best response.

And there are others whose views have changed the other way, including an Obama Democrat, former Caltech president and pioneer in computational physics modelling, Steven Koonin. Citing individuals who have changed their minds proves nothing.

Obviously you’ve never been exposed to an educational program where that actually occurs. That’s an indictment of the university teachers and schools you’ve been exposed to, not a criticism of the ideal.

A reckless and unproved charge.

Not much of a base.

You’ve provided no evidence of that failure; you’ve provided merely conspiracy theory, and comparisons with an entirely different organization you read about on Wikipedia.

So, let’s discuss your own positive policy recommendations for a change. Do you believe, for example, that universities should have a quota system for hiring? Should faculty proportions correspond to the proportion of groups in the general population? So, for example, if 52% of the population is female, should universities deliberately set out to hire 52% female faculty, even if in some cases that will mean short-listing females with incomplete Ph.D.s over males with completed Ph.D.s plus many publications? (That’s an actual example I’ve seen more than once, by the way.) Or, to give another example, if 10% of a university’s faculty are Jews, and Jews represent only 2% of the population, should universities work on reducing the number of Jewish faculty until it’s only 2%? If only 15% of Physics faculty are women, should universities bend over backwards in hiring practices until the number of female Physics faculty is up to 50% (or 52% or whatever the current figure is supposed to be)? If 100% of the Women’s Studies faculty are women, should universities hire nothing but males to teach Women’s Studies until the number of women comes down to 50%? Or if .5 of 1% of the population identifies as neither male nor female, but some other gender, should universities reserve .5 of 1% of their faculty positions for those people? And in deciding such things, what population figures should be used, percentage of global population, or percentage of population in the country where the university sits? Or should all such considerations be ignored, and should universities hire based only on excellence in teaching and research, leaving the proportions of each group to fall out as they may? The NAS position seems clear, and appropriately a-political; what’s your position, and is it equally a-political?