Scientific American Goes Full Anti-Science

Reposted from the Manhattan Contrarian

Francis Menton

Back at the beginning of the Trump administration in January 2017, it was all the rage for media on the left to accuse Trump and his people of being “anti-science.” I compiled a collection of such accusations in a post on January 27 of that year, using the title “Who Again Is ‘Anti-Science’?” Among those I cited as making the accusation was the venerable magazine Scientific American, which had published a piece on January 18, 2017 with the title “Trump’s 5 Most Anti-Science Moves.

If you look at that 2017 Scientific American piece, or the other articles that I cited in my post, you will see that those commenters are conceiving of “science” not as a special methodology, but rather as something more like: “science is what people who call themselves scientists do.” The basic complaint of the commenters was that Trump was “anti-science” because he was listening to or appointing people who disagreed with — or worse, sought to de-fund — functionaries in the government who called themselves scientists.

I have a different definition of the term “science.” Here’s my definition: “Science is a process for understanding reality through using experiment or data to attempt to falsify falsifiable hypotheses.” Those are my words, but I have tried there to capture the gist of the classic conception of the scientific method articulated by philosopher Karl Popper. For a somewhat longer articulation of the same thing, here is an excerpt discussing Popper’s principles from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Popper’s falsificationist methodology holds that scientific theories are characterized by entailing predictions that future observations might reveal to be false. When theories are falsified by such observations, scientists can respond by revising the theory, or by rejecting the theory in favor of a rival . . . In either case, however, this process must aim at the production of new, falsifiable predictions. . . . [Popper] holds that scientific practice is characterized by its continual effort to test theories against experience and make revisions based on the outcomes of these tests.  By contrast, theories that are permanently immunized from falsification by the introduction of untestable ad hoc hypotheses can no longer be classified as scientific.

Astute readers of this passage will immediately recognize that today’s political environment is full of theories that claim the mantle of science — indeed, claim to be scientifically-established truth — but at the same time are “permanently immunized from falsification.” Exhibit A is the religion going under the name of “climate science.” Or consider Exhibit B, in the field of social science, the hypothesis that “systemic racism” is the cause of all economic underperformance by African Americans. There are plenty more such examples.

In recent years Scientific American has somehow gotten itself into the position of defending the truth of many such non-falsifiable claims, but most notably in its strenuous advocacy of climate change alarmism. How to reconcile such advocacy with the use of the term “Scientific” in its title? If you are wondering how that could even be attempted, check out the piece in the current issue by a guy named Mano Singham, with the title and sub-title, “The Idea That a Scientific Theory Can Be ‘Falsified’ Is a Myth; It’s time we abandoned the notion.” Singham is identified as a member of the American Physical Society, and is apparently a retired professor from Case Western Reserve University.

Singham begins by acknowledging that “[E]ver since the seminal work of philosopher of science Karl Popper, for a scientific theory to be worthy of its name, it has to be falsifiable by experiments or observations.” However, Singham now understands that that whole approach has become passé. Apparently, there is a new field, going by the name “science studies,” that “compris[es] the history, philosophy and sociology of science.” People in this new field have now demonstrated that “falsification cannot work even in principle.” Here’s the explanation:

[A] theoretical prediction is never the product of a single theory but also requires using many other theories. When a “theoretical” prediction disagrees with “experimental” data, what this tells us is that that there is a disagreement between two sets of theories, so we cannot say that any particular theory is falsified.

Got that? And now that we’ve deep-sixed falsifiability as having anything to do with science, what’s the replacement?

Science studies . . . show[] that the strength of scientific conclusions arises because credible experts use comprehensive bodies of evidence to arrive at consensus judgments about whether a theory should be retained or rejected in favor of a new one. . . . It is the preponderance of evidence that is relevant in making such judgments, not one or even a few results.

Well, Mano, let’s consider my hypothesis that the thing that causes the sun to come up every morning is my going to sleep the night before. I formulated this hypothesis a year ago based on some ten thousand consecutive nights where I had gone to sleep and the sun therefore arose the next morning. I then tested the hypothesis for a full year of going to sleep every night and observing that sure enough, the sun arose every succeeding morning, 365 consecutive times. Surely my hypothesis has been established as true.

A friend points out that one time back in college I pulled an all-nighter, and the sun still came up. So what? Under Singham’s “science studies” principles, that’s just putting “one result” up against “the preponderance of the evidence.” That one conflicting observation does not tell us that my hypothesis has been falsified, but rather only that “there is a disagreement between two sets of theories.” (Another thing that it might be telling us is that Singham is not very bright.)

Anyway, there is an obvious purpose for Singham’s piece appearing at this time in Scientific American, which is to attempt to defend the climate “science” scam against attacks that it is not real science because it lacks falsifiable hypotheses. Singham:

[The] knowledge [of science studies] equips people to better argue against anti-science forces that use the same strategy over and over again, whether it is about the dangers of tobacco, climate change, vaccinations or evolution. Their goal is to exploit the slivers of doubt and discrepant results that always exist in science in order to challenge the consensus views of scientific experts.

I don’t know how Singham chose his examples of arguments used by what he calls “anti-science forces,” but a look at those examples demonstrates what his exercise is really about, which is exempting climate “science” from the requirement of falsifiable hypotheses. The hypothesis that cigarette smoking is a significant factor in causing lung cancer could definitely be falsified by a study of thousands of randomly-selected non-smokers who developed lung cancer at the same rates as smokers. The hypothesis that life forms change over time through a process of evolution could be falsified by discovery of “fossil rabbits in the Precambrian,” in a famous formulation of J.B.S. Haldane that is actually quoted by Singham in his piece. And vaccinations are subjected to double-blind clinical trials, which are explicit attempts to falsify the hypothesis that they are effective. So the only one of the four examples selected by Singham that actually lacks falsifiable hypotheses, and that seeks to be “permanently immunized from falsification,” is climate change.

Overall, this is a thoroughly embarrassing performance, not just by Dr. Singham, but by Scientific American. It is beyond explanation how the editors of this once-prestigious publication, with the term “Scientific” in its name, could have so completely lost track of what makes science science. And then to top it off, they call the people who actually understand what science is “anti-science.”

My message to the editors is this: The proponents of climate change alarmism, if they want to make any kind of legitimate claim to the mantle of “science,” need to specify the falsifiable hypothesis that they claim has been established, and also the evidence which, if it emerged, they would agree had falsified the hypothesis. Until they do that, their assertions have no more claim to the label of “established science” than does my hypothesis that my going to bed is what causes the sun to come up the next morning. Those of us who understand what the scientific method is are onto the climate scammers. As for Scientific American, your reputation at this point is beyond rehabilitation.

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Hans K Johnsen
September 16, 2020 6:19 am

THIS is actually worse than (even I) would have thought.

Reply to  Hans K Johnsen
September 16, 2020 9:33 am

It’s one thing to argue about what should and shouldn’t be funded by the limited government funds available, but to repudiate scientific method in the name of some sort of odd form of “progress” is beyond belief.
Scientific American has made Luddites look advanced.

Reply to  Hans K Johnsen
September 16, 2020 9:41 am

S☭ientific Ameri☭an has become revolting.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Scissor
September 16, 2020 10:57 am

They/it are accolytes supporting the reformation. Forgive them Gaia, for they know not what they do!

Reply to  Scissor
September 21, 2020 5:43 pm

I remember when Scientific American was the go to magazine to read up on a subject you new little about. It was a stable in the corporate library where one could go back a decade to find great articles with out the jargon of the journals but always a good introduction to a new field.

Then a German publisher bought the magazine and it became all politics with little technical content. I use to read it cover to cover. I haven’t looked at a copy in about two decades. The only thing they should do to reduce the carbon footprint they worry about is to go out of business.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Hans K Johnsen
September 16, 2020 12:13 pm

Dementia Joe Biden, who “listens to the scientists”, has received Scientific American’s first presidential endorsement in 175 years:

Seems quite appropriate.

Reply to  Carlo, Monte
September 16, 2020 2:44 pm

The inmates have taken over the asylum. Nothing good will come of this.

Reply to  Carlo, Monte
September 16, 2020 6:02 pm

he listens to scientists but doesn’t follow the advices or maybe just doesn’t remember them…

He touches his mask all the time.
He pulled it out and touched his nose.
He shook hands with someone.
and I am sure many more…

About the effectiveness of masks against COVID… They are now saying that wearing a mask might actually be more effective than the vaccine. In places like here in Indonesia where the gov didn’t do much, most people are actually wearing masks since the early days of the contagion. It has done zero to slow it down or flatten the curve. Therefore, based on the falsifiable hypothesis, masks don’t work in stopping the virus transmission… at best they just delay it and make sure that it is deep spread to the whole population.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  RayB
September 17, 2020 6:41 am

The mask mandate just got extended another month here in Colorado by our friendly obermeister, Gov. Polis, yet everyday there is a tale about another school that has to be shut down because of “too many cases.” But this same Obermiester Polis did nothing in June to stop the profacist and BLM kooks from trashing the state capital building with layers of graffiti right in the middle of his mask and separation mandate.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
September 17, 2020 8:20 am

“The mask mandate just got extended another month here in Colorado by our friendly obermeister, Gov. Polis”

Judge Nepolitano says neither governors or the president have the authority to mandate mask wearing.

Biden says his legal people think he could mandate mask wearing with an Executive Order.

I think the only legal way to require mask wearing is for the government to declare a national emergency and martial law. If martial law is declared, the government can force you to do what they want you to do at the barrel of a gun, if you don’t cooperate.

Of course, we are nowhere near a situation that would require martial law to be declared.

Reply to  Carlo, Monte
September 16, 2020 7:12 pm

Joe Biden is not all there.
True of Unscientific Ametican too.
Biden was never a brainiac.
Unscientific Ametican has been garbage for a long time, and I stopped reading perhaps two decades ago.

Biden would not be capable of managing a McDonald’s today. He is certainly not qualified for, or capable of, the hardest job in the world — US president.

Because of his mental lapses, I could not vote for Joe Biden even if I agreed with every Biden policy. I couldn’t vote for him if he was my father.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Richard Greene
September 17, 2020 6:28 am

This the most pathetic moment ever in the history of American presidential politics. Not even the BLM kooks want to see him win. The latest (professional) yard sign popping up in these parts next to the professional BLM signs read:


Whoever is behind this farce is guilty of elder abuse, which has to include his wife, DOCTOR Jill Biden.

Reply to  Carlo, Monte
September 16, 2020 9:27 pm

Joe might suffer from memory loss, but not his son Hunter or these “Riding thge Dragon” docu. makers: watch 41 min. to find out who are sponsoring the Biden clan

Reply to  Hans K Johnsen
September 16, 2020 1:01 pm

“Science studies . . . show[] that the strength of scientific conclusions arises because credible experts use comprehensive bodies of evidence to arrive at consensus judgments about whether a theory should be retained or rejected in favor of a new one. . . . It is the preponderance of evidence that is relevant in making such judgments, not one or even a few results.”

This is really the definition of scientism, not science. This is a particularly dangerous quasi religion that if allowed to gain enough power will likely result in a level of suffering never before seen in the world.

Reply to  MarkH
September 17, 2020 5:27 am

“But the field known as science studies (comprising the history, philosophy and sociology of science) has shown that falsification cannot work”

Well, if philosophy is science… or sociology for that matter, or even a good part of history, which is at best stamp collecting… then the argument can go like that, too:

First, we agree among priests that astrology, alchemy and numerology are sciences. Then, we can claim that: The sciences of astrology, alchemy and numerology showed clearly that falsification is to be ignored, because it was ignored by those sciences with great results and no problem whatsoever. They are still among sciences and even the oldest ones.

So, falsification is clearly not useful to sciences, being a nuisance that prevents them to keep great ‘discoveries’, like the fact that assigning numbers to letters in words in the Bible and applying some complex formulae, agreed upon by many ‘scientists’ by the powerful ‘scientific’ method of consensus, allows us to guess the future better than those pesky falsifiable theories. So what once in every while we get it wrong? We keep computing, we cannot falsify that great theory of ours. We need preponderance of evidence and since sometimes by sheer luck we get correct results, preponderance of evidence cannot be declared without being called a denialist. Our holy theory is to be kept forever and ever, we started to build a church for it that should last thousands or years at least.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  MarkH
September 17, 2020 6:44 am

This is exactly what occurred when the Roman Catholic clergy set itself up as the “consensus choosers” and persecuted Galileo.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Jim Gorman
September 18, 2020 2:48 am

Jim, your comment is closer to the truth than most Catholic Church-bashing references to Galileo.

The Church did not have a position on the matter, save that it followed the scientific consensus of the age. The Greeks (and probably the Jewish philosophers) and probably the Babylonians before then, and surely the ancient Egyptians, knew the Earth went round the sun. This ancient knowledge was overturned as Greek civilization declined and the Earth and in its ashes was placed at the centre of the solar system by Ptolemy who overturned the solar system of Aristarchus.

Thus it would have been very reasonable for the Church to accept the 1400 year “consensus” and reject the outworn ideas of Aristarchus and Thales and Eudoxus.

But they didn’t. They actually did not have a “position” on the matter, leaving it to the philosophers to duke it out, that is, until Galileo loudly and seriously insulted a Cardinal upon his entry to a party. (Galileo was a jerk and a loud-mouth reveler of note.) That set in motion a series of interchanges that the Cardinal “won” in the short term.

It literally was consensus choosing that came into play. The matter is greatly misrepresented by church haters seeking to diminish the importance of church support for science in the development of modern thought. For a very long time nearly all scientific progress was rooted in clerical support, both Islamic and Christian.

To misrepresent that event and “religion” as the battle between Galileo and a Cardinal is “climate science”, not “science” as it actually is.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
September 19, 2020 2:36 pm

Correct, and I’m not Roman Catholic. The Pope and Galileo had been classmates and knew each other. The best coverage of the Galileo controversy is that of retired Harvard U. astronomy professor Owen Gingerich, generally recognized as the foremost Galileo expert.

According to Gingerich, the observational evidence was actually on the side of the academic Scholastics until the observation of the occultation of Venus. Then in a short 50 years, the heliocentric theory won out.

Reply to  Hans K Johnsen
September 16, 2020 10:52 pm


Gary Pearse
Reply to  Hans K Johnsen
September 18, 2020 6:13 am

Francis Menton, thank you for this very quotable contrast of real science from what goes for science when you want to rule world. “Scientific German” magazine has found a receptive environment for this doggerel in a strange land. Germany, up until the pernicious climate ‘furor’ cancelled their minds and brought low their world class scientific institutions was a formidable bastion of real science.

Quixotic windmill and solar madness will make Germans a laughing stock in this world, once people can laugh again. Yes Hans K Johnsen, it is very much worse than we thought.

oebele bruinsma
September 16, 2020 6:29 am

As science is considered to be a methodology which has proven itself valuable in the conquest for progress in understanding “things” that is our physical environment, it is unfortunate that feelings about among other things, our physical environment are being injected into this methodology. In my rather exact oriented family we welcomed a son in law, a psychologist with the kind words 1+ 1 how does that feel? He took the joke.

paul courtney
Reply to  oebele bruinsma
September 16, 2020 11:59 am

“1+1 how does that feel?” To the CliSci, it may feel like 2, but the model of 1+1 looks like a hockey stick, so we’re doomed. And if you ask for it to be replicated, I can run the model again. Science!

Carl Friis-Hansen
September 16, 2020 6:33 am

The average Joe and Greta may not know what the scientific method entails, bud it is sickening sad that Unscientific American and their authors are so popular politic fixated that they disregard the seeking of truth so bluntly.

As a teen the 1960s I so much looked forward to the next Scientific American coming with the post in Denmark. It was fascinating. We youngsters may not have been so critical back then, but I still believe SA was honest back then.

Kevin kilty
Reply to  Carl Friis-Hansen
September 16, 2020 7:32 am

Yes, I recall poring over the Amateur Scientist columns each month for ideas about something interesting to build. Scientific American was a very different magazine when its authors were themselves research scientists writing about their own work. Then, for some reason it transitioned into a magazine written predominantly by science journalists. I think a change of ownership had something to do with it.

I have to admit however, that it contained some truly awful social commentary in the “Backyard Astronomer” column before it became the Amateur Scientist. What people once viewed as entertaining is often a complete mystery to me.

Madison Bagley
Reply to  Kevin kilty
September 16, 2020 2:26 pm

It’s all about the Benjamins. Truth is a product to be bought and sold to the highest bidder.

Bob Ernest
Reply to  Carl Friis-Hansen
September 16, 2020 8:00 am

I also looked forward to each “Scientific American” in the 70’s. Somewhere along the line I believed they left science for advocacy. I noticed this when I read climate articles. I quit reading It altogether.

Reply to  Bob Ernest
September 16, 2020 9:55 am

There’s only two things wrong with Scientific American: it’s unscientific and unamerican.

Reply to  Greg
September 16, 2020 3:08 pm

The majority interest in SA is held by Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, a privately-held German company based in Stuttgart. The name should be changed. I’m not sure to what.

Kevin kilty
Reply to  jorgekafkazar
September 16, 2020 8:07 pm

Maybe per Greg: Unscientific Unamerican

Interested Observer
Reply to  jorgekafkazar
September 16, 2020 8:33 pm

Perhaps the name Sturm Abteilung would be more appropriate for the magazine these days.

Reply to  Bob Ernest
September 16, 2020 9:56 pm

I dropped my subscription sometime in the late 1970s, if memory serves. Every issue had some politically correct article, sometimes interesting, usually just plain nonsense. This one was on, I think, capital cities, with the thesis that Marxist cities were better than capitalist cities. His prime examples were the two Korean capitals. Both illustrated with a color picture, but you’d be forgiven for thinking the North Korean picture was b/w, it was so dull and gray. Very few people, Socialist Realism architecture. The Seoul picture was a shopping district, loaded with people, shopping bags, colorful as all get out. He thought that proved how awful capitalist cities were. He also complained about putting so many people in one small crowded city where there was so much sewage, apparently never considering how that made it easier to deal with than if all those people had lived in the boonies.

Not a hint of tongue in cheek. Don’t think it was the April issue. Just pure rotten disgusting stupidity. I sure missed Martin Gardner and the actual science articles, but I wasn’t going to support that bunk.

Reply to  Felix
September 17, 2020 7:35 am

I remember a survey of cities trying to rank them for “livability”.
Instead of going through the hard work of trying to correlate the various crime statistics to come up with a public safety number, the survey just looked at how much each city spent on policing, under the theory that the more money spent on cops, the safer the city had to be.

Peter W
September 16, 2020 6:36 am

Years ago I had a subscription to that magazine. I gave it up when it became obvious how politically biased it was, and that was years ago!

Reply to  Peter W
September 16, 2020 7:21 am

My experience exactly. 🙂

john harmsworth
Reply to  Peter W
September 16, 2020 7:41 am

Back in the 80’s it was a serious scientific journal. Many of the articles required me to read them over very carefully and more than once. Today’s version is a sad joke. It’s a reflection of what has happened to almost all journalistic standards. Nobody reads the newspaper anymore. I wonder why. They are all full of nonsense and biased opinions I didn’t ask for. They require research to determine where they are lying to me.

Erik Magnuson
Reply to  john harmsworth
September 16, 2020 10:07 am

One of the signs of impending rot in a science oriented magazine is is using “Mt Palomar” for the location of the Palomar Observatory instead of the correct Palomar Mountain. SA was using Palomar Mountain in the late 60’s, but by the 90’s had sunk to using Mt Palomar. Science News was getting it right up to about 2005, then stopped caring and drifted into becoming more of am advocacy journal.

OTOH, Sci. Am. published an article in the 1930’s praising the eugenics program of Germany, so some of the rot goes back a long way…

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  john harmsworth
September 16, 2020 11:01 am

I think that SA started to atrophy in the ’70s.

lee Riffee
Reply to  Peter W
September 16, 2020 8:28 am

Same thing here. SA was one of my favorite magazines back in the 90’s, but then it seemed that issue after issue was flooded with covers and copious articles about climate change, greenhouse gasses, green this and green that….. I felt I had to weed thru the garbage to get to the good stuff, which was in very short supply. And then I decided I wasn’t going to waste any more money on a magazine that is mostly garbage!

September 16, 2020 6:39 am

Seancetific American died years ago. The smell of the corpse has not improved with age. The Germans killed both SA and The Economist once they bought them.

Reply to  shr_nfr
September 16, 2020 7:34 am

I didn’t know that the Germans had bought Scientific American, but that would certainly also explain the demise of The Economist. It’s amazing how the corruption of marxist style leftist attitudes interjected into everything can completely ruin what it once stood for. Climate ‘science’ is just the latest casualty to have perverted a lot of intellectual thought in many varying subjects now.

N of 1
Reply to  Earthling2
September 16, 2020 10:53 am

In the case of The Economist certain owners have German names but shall we say, less than pure German ancestry.

Reply to  N of 1
September 17, 2020 9:49 am

If you are anti-Semitic, then maybe you should not say it.

Bob Ernest
Reply to  shr_nfr
September 16, 2020 8:02 am

When did they buy them? Recently I wondered when the editorial changes occurred that (for me) ruined the magazine.

John F Hultquist
Reply to  Bob Ernest
September 16, 2020 9:21 am

In 1986, Scientific American was sold to the Holtzbrinck group of Germany, which has owned it since. In the fall of 2008, Scientific American was put under the control of Nature Publishing Group, a division of Holtzbrinck.

Jim Whelan
Reply to  John F Hultquist
September 16, 2020 10:44 am

1986? Interesting. I had been a SA subscriber since high school and in the late 80’s it became obvious to me that the lead articles were always leftist oriented social “science” propaganda and that even the actual science articles were weirdly inaccurate. There was one quantum mechanics article that was so full of bunk and Harry Potter like claims that I couldn’t stomach it (physics is what I studied at Berkeley). I dropped my subscription.

John F Hultquist
Reply to  Jim Whelan
September 16, 2020 9:47 pm

One source shows SciAm with about 290,000 circulation and Southern Living (near in the table) with 2,800,000. Hmm?

I did not find circulation by year, but like you we did not renew – – but hung on much longer than we should have. A fellow named Jeffrey Sachs was the undoing for us.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Jim Whelan
September 18, 2020 3:16 am

John F

Jeffrey Sachs from Toronto? He of Agenda 21 fame? I know him. Been to his house more than once. His wife is from Guyana. Lovely family. I think that is the guy, right?

The circle I can’t square is how so many apparently normal people are still planning for a neo-Marxist revolution, as if after 170 years we haven’t thought of a few alternatives to slaughtering our way to peace. They are able to plan this by capturing key positions in UN and other agencies including publishing houses. For an explanation of how publishers are compromised read “The Spike”. It explains why the NY Times in particular was effectively controlled – which we witness today with its shameless misrepresentations.

Tom Gelsthorpe
September 16, 2020 6:39 am

Scientific inquiry, individual scientists, and the reputation of allegedly scientific publications come and go, but the Humbug Industry is eternal. “Scientific American” has proved my hypothesis, although inadvertently.

Carlo, Monte
September 16, 2020 6:45 am

SA is hardly alone here.

I opened the latest issue of the IEEE Spectrum, Sept. 2020, the monthly magazine published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (supposedly a professional society), and the title of the first mini-article in the news-updates section had the phrase “Systemic Racism” in the title, with the gist being that artificial intelligence, i.e. a trained neural network, can allegedly be used to detect “systemic racism” associated with minority engineers or some nonsense. Didn’t even bother to skim it.

Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  Carlo, Monte
September 16, 2020 7:50 am

Bad robot!

Kevin kilty
September 16, 2020 7:00 am

Welcome, Manhattan Contrarian.

What years at WUWT, and somewhat shorter history at, has shown is there are many folks, lawyers, engineers, MDs, economists, scientists and even journalists who think like scientists, and many others of these same categories who do not.

A college campus is a good place to find many of those who do not. What I find surprising is that those who do not are often in a position to lecture students about the workings and lessons of science. Those they lecture, now infected with confidence, are likely to permanently join the group of those who do not. These faculty members, staff and administrators too, sound just like the author of the Scientific American piece — emphasizing the “consensus” view of science. It has been instructive to watch them struggle with the pandemic.

Why does someone enthusiastically volunteer to teach others a topic they do not understand? Three words. Dunning Kruger effect.

john harmsworth
Reply to  Kevin kilty
September 16, 2020 7:48 am

The professorial “class” truly believes that they are smarter than the rest of us and should therefore be running the world. This is why they favour Communism. It provides a path to total control, which they seek to assuage their egos and not for the good of all. They don’t seem to be aware of their own biases and logical errors because that awareness wouldn’t serve their egos, which they believe they don’t have! Basic human folly.

Reply to  john harmsworth
September 16, 2020 8:07 am

Many of them can’t understand how mere business people could possibly be paid more than they are paid. After all, in their own minds, they are the most important people in the country.

The fact that they don’t have the highest salaries, is to them, just more proof that capitalism is a broken system and that the only solution is to put them in charge so they can set things right.

September 16, 2020 7:18 am

I gave up on SciAm years ago, when it became apparent that it was increasingly less interested in promoting “science” and more in promoting leftist propaganda. Let my subscription lapse, and have had little reason since to reconsider that decision.

John MacDonald
September 16, 2020 7:21 am

Thank you Charles. Every WUWT reader should write scathing emails to SA.
I guess now my civil engineering degree is worthless since any group of citizens can build a bridge they agree by consensus will stand for 100 years.

Al Miller
September 16, 2020 7:23 am

I haven’t had the misfortune of reading one of their magazines for years. It’s highly disappointing, but not very surprising that they have become a joke. At least the Weekly World news, joke that it was, had humor value. As this article points out the chararde that SA has become is full on part of the ongoing propaganda was on western culture.

September 16, 2020 7:23 am

Looks like the intention of Singham is indeed “permanently immunize from falsification”, especially climate science. I reckon he’s right though in stating that a fossil rabbit in the Precambrian would not falsify theory of evolution. It would be simply explained as ‘strata displacements’. In worst case scenario it would only falsify our understanding of timing in evolution or our confidence in quality of fossil record and not the theory itself.

Nick Schroeder
September 16, 2020 7:28 am

BB LWIR upwelling from the surface is not just false but falsifiable – by experiment.

No “extra” upwelling BB energy, no “extra” GHG looping energy, no RGHE.

That’s refutation of the fundamental premise behind CAGW.

I understand that makes me a heretic as opposed to the faux heretics/skeptics who just nibble round the edges.

September 16, 2020 7:36 am

You can leave a comment on their Facebook page. Be nice.

September 16, 2020 7:43 am

“When a “theoretical” prediction disagrees with “experimental” data, what this tells us is that that there is a disagreement between two sets of theories, so we cannot say that any particular theory is falsified.”

If I read this right, he’s claiming that data is nothing more than another theory.

Reply to  MarkW
September 16, 2020 8:12 am

If I read this right, he’s claiming that data is nothing more than another theory.

I reckon he says that any data is always interpreted through lens of theory. Few years ago there was a rumor about superluminal neutrinos discovered during OPERA experiment, apparently contradicting theory of general relativity. Experimental data was mocked by most physicists, despite repeated measurements. In this context theory of relativity says it is impossible. In the end of the day theory was right ruling out experimental data – the problem was with loosened cables that gave erroneous readings.

Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  Paramenter
September 16, 2020 10:09 am

The problem was that the experiment was flawed, a subtle systematic error had been overlooked. That is quite different from ‘ruling out experimental data’.

Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
September 16, 2020 12:22 pm

Flawed equipment was not known when they reported their results – after few months of carefully checking the data. Only later they found hardware issues. So in the classic match: experimental data versus your theory – always choose the theory. But more serious – I reckon Singham makes few valid points. Alas, he is using that as excuses to shield global warming theory from falsification.

Reply to  Paramenter
September 16, 2020 1:23 pm

This is not a case of “always choosing theory over data”. Whenever a well established theory is challenged, you can expect that your experiment will be gone over with a fine tooth comb. You can also expect others to try and replicate your experiment.

If problems are found with your setup, or if others can’t replicate your results, expect others to doubt your results.

Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2020 12:18 am

Yes. There is a grain of truth in that, in that the very understanding of what constitutes a ‘fact’ is based on the metaphysical worldview you employ. And will be described using a language appropriate to that worldview: Professors Einstein’s preposterous theories that everything including us, is warped, and that’s why things look straight, but they are not, is patently preposterous when compared to professor Newtons demon theory as to why the sprites that keep us on the ground and the planets in mathematical orbits, behave as they do:

This is the post truth post Marx philosophy of the ‘new idealism’ .

There is a valid school of thought that holds that what we think is reality, is in fact a construction – to use the fashionable buzz words – a social construct – that is relative to the culture in which it exists. Ergo any science that investigates this reality is doing no more than investigate the nature of a human construct which is malleable. Reality can in fact be changed if enough believe believe in something else and have a consensus.

In fact I agree with this completely but with one important proviso, one which most people who take strong positions on either side of the realist idealist argument, attack me for. And that is that the world is not, ultimately, what we think is reality. It is, to quote Wittgenstein, ‘whatever is the case’, and the fact that magic does not work and we cannot fly just because enough people believe we can, means that the notion of an external reality, out there somewhere, more or less unaffected by what we choose to believe, is a reasonable one.

This is the dichotomy that lies behind the battle between the new Idealists of the Left, where choosing to think you are the other gender makes you so., and the classical realists, who hold that things are what they are despite what you think.

The problem is that in the field of social issue, politics and the like – the humanities rather than the sciences, people do behave according to what they think is real. So e.g. to take an example others have mentioned, if you are a young black man or woman and you get bad grades, it’s not a signal to work harder, it is a signal to join a hard left political organisation to combat the systemic racism that is oppressing you.

So in the social an political sphere, the battle for hearts and minds, and political power, the invention of new (in Kant’s terms) ‘noumenous’ and in Popper’s terms ‘metaphysical’ (un falsifiable) notions, is massively successful.

(Noumenon was Kant’s opposite to phenomenon. A phenomenon is what happens . A noumenon is the mysterious invisible entity that causes it to happen. To a modern realist, ‘natural laws’)

If everybody believes that the ‘Orange Jesus’ is a buffoon, a clown, hell bent on unwinding decades of ‘genuine and valuable’ ‘social progress’, then they will vote for some other wrinkled old shyster whose act contains more gravitas, and whose empty assurances make them feel better.

And so on.

So to summarise, my model that stands between Idealism (the world is whatever you think it is) and Realism (the world is exactly as it appears to be and thinking doesn’t come into it) is an updated version of Kant’s transcendental idealism, which says ‘the world is not exactly as it appears, and thinking does come into it, but the world of our understanding and perception, is not thinking, alone’.

That is, the world as we understand it, and the ‘facts’ within it are a product of both an external reality, and our limited ability to represent that reality to ourselves, in a digestible form.

We may through religious faith, or being politically convinced, change how we represent the world to ourselves… but that does not change how the world beyond our social constructions, behaves. It only changes our behaviour. And within the modified Darwinism that I adopt – only what is sufficient nonsense to stop productive copulation, will in fact be relevant in the evolution of the species – leaves a huge space for utter nonsense in human thinking. If we examine Darwin rationally, it is clear that this is in fact the worst of all possible worlds, as any worser, would result in us not being here at all to consider it.

In short the only limit to the madness of the New Idealists, is if they believe they can think themselves into flying, or not needing to eat. And thereby actually die.

What this means, is that the so called material world, is, in the limit, not ‘real’ but is in fact merely a most fundamental metaphsyical hypothesis. This is as far as the New Idealists got, and then stopped. Because at this level, science that studies a world that is merely a matter of consensus, is naturally merely a matter of consensus, itself. And this is where the innately one dimensional nature of most human thought becomes the real issue. The leap to the position that the world is what it is, but seen through the language, ideas and the social conventions of the time, is a step too far for both classical Realists and Post Modern Idealists. And it destroys the certainty of both their views.

But it is an economical way to explain on the one hand, why the world of people behaves entirely as if the world is simply the consensus of what(they have been persuaded to) think and yet the world of classical physics behaves utterly differently, as if it had a mind of its own

(You can see where some of the more curious religious philosophies come from: that there is a Mind of God, and that’s what creates the material world, and little bits of Mind got given to His human project, and they make little worlds to play in, with it).

There is one further corollary of this way of looking at thing, and that is that whilst there are an infinite number of possible ways of looking at the world that conform to the world as it really is, they are all in some sense transforms of one another. That is to say, the world, as it really is, makes a totally free choice of nonsense, impossible: to be useful in a Darwinian sense, these interpretations of reality have to be sufficiently sane not to kill their adherents. So the set of utter, but more or less useful or, at least, harmless nonsense, whilst infinite, is still infinitely smaller than the set of utter and completely useless, and lethal, nonsense.

And given that we hold that A Reality, exists, somewhere, all the reasonably non lethal representations of it will have to map its humanly significant characteristics, somehow. E.g. Food might be manna from heaven, God’s gift to his beloved people, or something you get from McDonalds, produced by the worst aspects of a post industrial capitalist society, but food has to appear, somewhere. No matter how many transformations your ideas of reality go through, if food in some guise isn’t in them, your worldview won’t last..

Perhaps this is a crumb of comfort. Nonsense such as the idiocy portrayed in this article, carries the seeds of its own destruction. Worldviews that are actually lethally inconsistent with the world as it really is, rather than just arcane and obscure mappings of it, cannot ultimately survive. Two teenage boys, one of whom has ‘chosen’ to be a girl, will not a baby make, no matter how much they believe it.

And perhaps we should encourage that: two children who are dumb enough to believe this nonsense cant procreate, and thank Clapton for that. Perhaps it is all nature’s natural birth control. A response to the overcrowded urbanised modern world.

With that thought, I will leave you 🙂

Oriel Kolnai
Reply to  Leo Smith
September 18, 2020 1:00 am

Leo Smith
This arcane argument contains at least one partial truth concerning the relationship between minds and reality.
You tell us post-modernism is ‘valid’ yet add, ‘ the position that the world is what it is, but seen through the language, ideas and the social conventions of the time, is a step too far for both classical Realists and Post Modern Idealists’. So PM isn’t ‘valid’ after all; I’d also add it isn’t true either; and neither is what you say about it.
Far from ignoring culture, PM is in favour of its revolutionary destruction – Germany’s revolution of destruction in fact, since PM is the brainchild of the most favoured National Socialist thinker, Martin Heidegger. How comforting to realise our youngsters’ minds are filled with the hypotheses of this wonderful man!
Then ignorant blather about Einstein, whom you describe as ‘preposterous’ having failed completely to grasp Riemann geometry, its application and raison d’etre. Newton , Kant etc, are likewise disposed of, whilst almost incredibly you cite Wittgenstein favourably. Ludwig is another PM star, determined like Heidegger to close down our minds and society.
Popper’s ideas update ‘Classical realism’ and put it on a base where it can combat today’s intellectual terrorists, (who likewise inspire actual terrorism). It depends on common sense to a large degree, hence its realism. So both Singham and you both need to stay in more for homework. Popper was surrounded by relativists of the Singham stripe and successfully refuted them. Buy two books, ‘The Logic of Scientific Discovery’ and ‘The Open Society and its Enemies’. Look up technical terms. Then go on to the ‘Postscripts in three volumes. By then, you should thoroughly understand the arguments, whilst you can be sure Singham won’t and hasn’t. Then write to him. You will win. But the hour is late……

John Pretorius
September 16, 2020 7:55 am

Obituary: Enlightenment (Age Of)
Born: around 1680
Died: Around 2020
Survived by PostModernism and some other illegitimate children.

September 16, 2020 8:19 am

Scientific American Oct 2020 edition endorses Biden, stating proudly that they have never before endorsed a presidential candidate in their 175-year history! They say Biden is listening to the scientists, naming in particular Ezekiel (Easy-Kill) Emanuel, the architect of Obama Care’s deadly programs, calling for measuring one’s “quality of life” before deciding how to parcel out scarce medical supplies, and certainly stopping care for those over 75.

So it worse than we thought!

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  bonbon
September 16, 2020 11:15 am

An unprecedented act should give the editors reason for pause and to do some serious soul searching. They might ask if they are in the business of interpreting science for the intelligent layman, or if they think that their charter is to provide political guidance for those incapable of analyzing events and come to independent conclusions. Clearly they have lost their way, and aren’t even aware of it.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
September 16, 2020 3:50 pm

They have not lost their way; they know what they’re doing. The decision has been made to liquidate the reputation of SA in favor of political gains. There’s no going back.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  bonbon
September 17, 2020 6:53 am

The only scientist he listens to is his wife, Jill Biden MD, who is allowing this farce to continue.

Reply to  Carlo, Monte
September 17, 2020 9:07 am

Jill Biden is NOT an MD. She recieved a doctorate in education (Ed.D).

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  CapJoe
September 18, 2020 7:20 am

I did not know this, thanks. Yet another hole in the Biden facade. Explains a lot, too.

September 16, 2020 8:33 am

Their magazine title is Orwellian doublespeak, it should be Anti-Scientific Anti-American. Likewise, Science News is Science Fake-News.

Hoyt Clagwell
September 16, 2020 8:42 am

If one can’t understand the distinction between disbelieving “science,” and disbelieving “scientists,” then you probably belong to the same class that can’t understand the difference between “hotter,” and “less cold.”

September 16, 2020 9:03 am

As a young schoolboy 48 years ago I collected and avidly read National Geographic magazines and started to grow my collection backwards in time back to the pre-war days , I noticed the gradual creep from `the words fill the page` with a few black and white photographs and a well written article to wards the less formal and through that literary style reduced and the pictures grew larger and ever larger still, as they took over the pages and became more iconographic.
As I grew up and moved on I became a true reader of Sci Am, I enjoyed trying to get my head round the articles and the diverse subject matter, I stopped as the mag transitioned with opinion pieces articles from ` a science correspondent` which slowly turned from science into headline viewpoint reporting.
I just but ancient books now and try to bend my head round those, far more challenging.

Reply to  Jono1066
September 16, 2020 8:32 pm

Did the same as well as Scientific American. Cancelled both many many many years ago

September 16, 2020 9:07 am

The New Scientist has stiff competition

Reply to  fretslider
September 17, 2020 12:21 am


Ian Coleman
September 16, 2020 9:14 am

Another periodical that bends the rules of legitimate inquiry, all the time claiming a special authority to discern the truth, is Skeptical Inquirer. In between the articles decrying belief in ghosts and U.F.O.s are articles dismissing climate change deniers as crooks and fools.

Psychology Today is pretty bad too. Check out one of those articles in Psychology Today giving the scientifically determined reasons why people doubt the Science of Climate Change. None of them ever come close to examining the possibility that the reason people doubt the Science of Climate Change is that it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Reply to  Ian Coleman
September 16, 2020 8:38 pm

I used to enjoy Psychology Today. Cancelled that many many years ago as the rot became apparent.

Reply to  Ian Coleman
September 17, 2020 1:20 am

American Archaeology magazine. Think it went full SJW earlier than most. For me the last straw was when they published a review praising “Black Athena”, some of the most egregious claptrap ever written.

Dyspeptic Curmudgeon
September 16, 2020 9:33 am

I just read an interesting, no, amazing article titled The suicide of the liberals. It explores the history of radical terrorism in pre-1917 Russia. The parallels to today and the actions of our “elites” are staggering. It is first important to understand that ‘intelligentsia’ is a sarcastic epithet.

I suggest that you pass it on.
(Hat-tip to Powerline blog)

Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  Dyspeptic Curmudgeon
September 16, 2020 9:58 am

That is truly scary.

Reply to  Dyspeptic Curmudgeon
September 16, 2020 1:21 pm

This century it’s rhyming much to closely with the last.

Ed Zuiderwijk
September 16, 2020 9:39 am

There is a name in the dictionary for people like ‘Dr’ Singham: quack.

September 16, 2020 9:42 am

Somehow, “jumping the shark” doesn’t seem sufficient.

September 16, 2020 9:51 am

Who are we to deny science?

Reply to  Roger
September 16, 2020 1:48 pm

It seems like engineers should be emancipated.

Jim Turner
September 16, 2020 9:52 am

“…the strength of scientific conclusions arises because credible experts…”
So there we have it. It seems that if you dispense with the idea of Popperian falsification you are left with opinion, and guess what – to have a valid opinion you must be a ‘credible expert’. I’m not sure who decides who the credible experts are but I am guessing that it is each other, I would be totally unsurprised if it excludes me and probably almost everyone else on this blog.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Jim Turner
September 16, 2020 11:32 am

Interestingly, SciAm published an article about just how fallible “credible experts” such as Lord Kelvin are.
Yet, they support the idea that Kelvin was just proposing a theory that had equal weight to the ‘theory’ of data contradicting Kelvin. The editors of SciAm and Singham are obviously logic impaired!

September 16, 2020 9:54 am

Most readers here agree that the Scientific Method when properly applied means that you are trying to prove the null hypothesis, rather than trying to prove your pet theory. A theory must be ‘potentially’ falsifiable before it can even be considered to be a valid Scientific Theory.

Now I want you to challenge yourself because most people on this site also hold to the Theory of Evolution as not being falsifiable. For example, the author referred to this:
Quote: The hypothesis that life forms change over time through a process of evolution could be falsified by discovery of “fossil rabbits in the Precambrian …
But the truth is that whenever such an even occurs (and it happens quite often) – the evidence is dismissed and the theory of Evolution is clung to as inviolate. Oh really?
OK, 1. Out of sequence fossils:
And I am quite positive that no evolutionist is willing to consider rejecting the theory.

2. How about the existence of blood cells and soft tissue in dinosaur fossils supposedly millions of years old when actual scientific experimentation has proven that to be impossible?
The evidence must be rejected and fairy tales must be invented to try to explain away the clear evidence. If you bothered to read the article, you will see that the so-called ‘explanations’ don’t hold water, yet if you believe in evolution you will still reject the data because you would have to reject the theory to which you cling.

Nuff said?

Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  ian
September 16, 2020 10:01 am

More than enough. Now some friendly advise: get a real education.

Jimmy Walter
September 16, 2020 10:08 am

And SA just endorsed Joe Biden, their first political endorsement ever

Joseph Zorzin
September 16, 2020 10:08 am

Scientific American is still excellent in its coverage of astronomy. Almost as good as Astronomy Magazine, which I also subscribe to.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
September 16, 2020 11:37 am

Much like Wikipedia, if the topic is dry, hard science, with little or no implications for politics, then there is little incentive to corrupt the narrative. So, one should observe the dictum to not talk politics or climate science in polite company, or the family dinner table.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
September 16, 2020 3:59 pm

Believe me, Clyde and Joseph, Astronomy’s turn in the barrel is coming. There is nothing and no one who is exempt from control by the Socialist totalitarian juggernaut, unless we stop it now. In National Socialist Germany, you couldn’t rent a room without notifying the police. Everything was politics.

Tim Gorman
September 16, 2020 10:08 am

“When a “theoretical” prediction disagrees with “experimental” data, what this tells us is that that there is a disagreement between two sets of theories”

Experimental data is *NOT* a theory. Experimental data is reality! So when theory disagrees with experimental data it is disagreeing with reality.

That pretty much sums up climate science today.

September 16, 2020 10:38 am

This is nothing more than an extension of postmodernism. This is the religion that has been proselytized in our universities for generations now so it is unsurprising to me that it has taken hold even in what used to be called the “hard” sciences.

God help us when our bridges and buildings are being built by “engineers” who’ve been steeped in the culture that teaches there are no “wrong” answers.

“I don’t know why the bridge collapsed, according to my design, it should have held twice that weight”

“But, your formulas were all wrong and even using those formulas you came up with the wrong answers!”

“But what do you mean ‘wrong’? Wrong by who’s lived experience? That’s a microaggression!!! Imma report you to the thought Police!”

Tim Gormam
Reply to  Sailorcurt
September 16, 2020 12:52 pm


September 16, 2020 10:42 am

It shouldn’t be a surprise then that SA has endorsed Biden, the first time they have endorsed a candidate in 175 years. Where is the outrage from the left? Germans attempting to influence our election!

Biden wins Scientific American’s first endorsement in 175 years

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  WR2
September 16, 2020 11:42 am

Yes, the foreign political influence is a little more subtle than Reuters or The Guardian because many people don’t realize the SA is actually Scientific German.

N of 1
September 16, 2020 10:43 am

Name one well-predicting scientific theory that isn’t falsifiable, Singham. Oh wait, that would be falsification.

September 16, 2020 11:23 am

Has anybody noticed that Mano Singham has actually missed the essential point?

Popper’s principle states that in order that a theory can be accepted as scientific, it has to be falsifiable. A NECESSARY condition, not a sufficient one (it is quite easy to formulate theories that are falsifiable, yet not scientific). Yet Singham argues that cases of failed falsification invalidate the principle. That is very faulty reasoning that anybody even vaguely familiar with logic should spot. Scientific American should be ashamed to publish such crap.


September 16, 2020 11:26 am

Just another example of the shift occurring at institutes of “higher” education.

{Apparently, there is a new field, going by the name “science studies,” that “compris[es] the history, philosophy and sociology of science.” People in this new field have now demonstrated that “falsification cannot work even in principle.”}

The ‘soft’ sciences such as history, philosophy, sociology, etc. are trying to gain a foothold as equivalent to the ‘hard’ sciences like chemistry, physics, mathematics and biology.

They would have you accept that feelings, notions and consensus are equivalent to data. They are wrong. They believe this because they are not willing or capable of doing the hard work involving mathematics and as such when it gets too hard, they don’t want to be discounted as not as relevant.

[[The] knowledge [of science studies] equips people to better argue against anti-science forces that use the same strategy over and over again, whether it is about the dangers of tobacco, climate change, vaccinations or evolution. ] Singham stating this tells you all you need to know. Vaccinations are not without fault or harm, but the notion that feelings trump science will only end in misery for many, many people. Vaccinations by and large are safe for the vast majority of the population and vaccinating the herd means that those that cannot be vaccinated will receive benefit from herd immunity.

We’ve gone full stoopid.

September 16, 2020 12:05 pm

However, let’s look at the bright side…the theories that face-masks do no good against the wuhan flu, lockdowns are a joke, and HCQ is a suitable treatment for said “flu” can no longer be rejected.

Reply to  Matt
September 17, 2020 12:28 am

In the end, their validity or otherwise will be decided by the survival rate of those who adopt them.

In my case, its no big deal to go with the consensus, and not take the risk that it isn’t right.
Completely the opposite view that I take with ‘climate change;’ where its patently clear to me at least, that the danger inherent in the consensus nonsense totally outweighs any risk of it being right, if ignored.

In short ClimateChange™ the political and social movement is far far more dangerous than any climate change itself could ever be.

Mark Pawelek
September 16, 2020 12:14 pm

It’s been happening for a while. The basic argument is: every scientist is now a specialist. Other scientists cannot understand nor criticise the specialist because others don’t understand the full details and specialist knowledge. Therefore no one can criticise, say, climate models, unless they too, are a modeller.

In addition there’s a counter-Enlightenment, postmodern argument. 1st of all let me say: the defining feature of both the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment which closely followed it was a turn to empiricism. In science this took the form of experiment and controlled observation. In Enlightenment it took the form of criticising the ideas of the past in comparison with the real world.

The postmodern, counter-Enlightenment says: stop reading to those dead, white, European, males, DWEMs. Throw away the past because we, the enlightened wokes, can just make it up as we go along.

The most telling science example I found was a basic climatology textbook (about 500 pages), written for undergraduates, most likely, in environmental science. There was a 2-page section defining science. One of the examples in this definitional section gave as their only example of ‘experiment’ as running a computer model to compare the projection against your theory. They’ve severed the link between empiricism and science made 400 years ago. To these left-activist scientists science is now what a lefty says it is.

Mariano Marini
September 16, 2020 12:23 pm

If Astrologist start to “quantify” their “preview”, say 60% new love, 75% good experiences at work, eccetera, would then they be a scientist?

Steve Z
September 16, 2020 12:55 pm

The willingness of people who want to shape opinion to hide behind “science” as their justification (even when the data contradicts their opinion) has been evident in the global-warming / climate change scare for years, but it has become more dangerous this year with the counter-scientific response to the COVID-19 epidemic.

Back in February, “experts” at the World Health Organization were telling us there was nothing to worry about, because China had “contained” the spread of the virus, there was no need to panic, and everybody go to their nearby Chinatown and have a Happy Chinese New Year. Suddenly, in the middle of March, it was a “global pandemic” and entire countries had to go into lockdown, causing an economic crash that rivaled that of 1929. It gave national leaders and state governors unprecedented power, which they didn’t hesitate to use for their own benefit against their political opponents.

By April, it was evident that COVID-19 could be deadly to elderly people with pre-existing health conditions, a nuisance flu-like ailment to middle-aged people, and children seemed to be naturally immune. This is similar to chicken pox, which is rather benign to children, but shingles in older adults can be serious. The logical, scientific response should have been to quarantine elderly people, particularly those living in nursing homes, and let everyone else return to life as usual, but what did government do? They shut down the schools, forcing children to lose three months of education, and saddled their working parents (if they were lucky enough to keep their jobs) with having to look after them and tutor them, in addition to their normal jobs! To “protect” the children from a virus that doesn’t affect them, they were deprived of education!

Then, when some studies indicated that the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which had been approved as safe by the FDA for over 50 years, was effective against COVID-19 in its early stages, it had to be banned because President Trump recommended it! The main problem with HCQ was not its side effects or its effectiveness, but that it was cheap and Big Pharma wanted to sell us a new, more expensive drug. I know that if I had COVID-19 and was barely clinging to life in a hospital, I would certainly ask my doctor to give me HCQ, having nothing to lose, rather than wait 18 months for a vaccine!

Then, there’s my wife’s 60-something cousin who caught COVID-19 and was told by her doctor to go home and take Tylenol, and she recovered in 10 days.

We are constantly told that we need to “follow the science” to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but the data say that young people are nearly immune, and the median age of death from COVID-19 is 80 years old, so that real science tells us that the best response is to keep retired people at home and away from possibly-infected people, and let everyone else return to normal.

But some governors have instilled such a fear of this disease, and have obtained such power thereby, they are unwilling to relinquish their power, so in the name of “public health” they impose restrictions on going to church or restaurants, but it’s perfectly OK to riot in the streets and burn down shopping malls and police stations. In the name of power, science be d@mned.

I went to elementary school in the 1960’s. At that time, they had vaccines against smallpox and polio, but not against measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), or chicken pox. Measles was a serious disease back then, from which most children recovered, but caused blindness in a few children. I caught the mumps in kindergarten, chicken pox in the second grade, and rubella in the third grade. Nobody shut down the schools if some kids showed up with any of these diseases–the school nurse would send them to a doctor, and the doctor would write a note for an excused absence for a week or two. An infected child would stay home until he or she recovered, then go back to school, and that was how the spread of disease was controlled, without waiting for the MMR vaccine, which was developed in the late 1970’s.

With all the great scientific advances of the last 50+ years, and a cheap MMR vaccine available to all, why can’t we use the common sense we had back in the 1960’s for COVID-19, which has affected fewer children than mumps or rubella did in the 1960’s?

Science should be used to make discoveries that help human life, not to scare people out of their wits of a disease, or some hypothetical disaster hundreds of years in the future (climate change).

Ian Coleman
Reply to  Steve Z
September 16, 2020 3:07 pm

Hello Steve. I could have written your post myself, as I agree with everything in it. Here in Canada, we are being treated to a daily cry of Run and Hide because of increasing case numbers for infection. The news stories reporting the case numbers scrupulously avoid mentioning that the hospitalisation numbers are stable, as the bulk of new infections are in the young. We can’t have young people going around thinking that they’re not at risk, now can we?

I love the way the alarmist media have dealt with the near immunity from fatal illness from COVID-19 in the young. A story will typically say that older people are at greater risk of death from COVID. This is like saying that older people are at greater risk of heart disease than the young. It’s true, but it implies that the young are still at significant risk from heart disease. That’s how newspaper lie: They say things that are technically accurate, but designed to evoke an inference that is not.

September 16, 2020 1:23 pm

This is hardly surprising. I believe it was Scientific American that published a lengthy article on how heavier than air flight was impossible, shortly after the Wright brothers demonstrated that it was possible. They tried to cover up their foolishness to no avail.

So I wouldn’t assume anything they publish is accurate.

Reply to  Matt
September 17, 2020 12:45 am

That is very strange, and I would love to read that article. Patently heavier than air flight was possible, because the birds and the bees did it (amongst other things) and as an engineer with an interest in aircraft, I am aware that many people had indeed accomplished it before the Wrights did. Using gliders and so on. Otto Lilienthal for one. And he was not obscure. He was well known.

Indeed all the Wright brothers did was to add a motorcycle engine to a Lilienthal clone glider, couple it to some monstrous paddle sized airscrews and get a thoroughly unstable box kite off the ground, barely.

Aircraft – heavier than air aircraft – have two barriers they need to overcome in order to fly, one is power to weight – and really that has to be at least 10 watts per lb, to just stay up, and a fair bit more to climb, and that is largely what makes human powered flight nearly impossible. And made flight post the internal combustion engine almost trivial. And the second is the strength to weight of the materials used to construct the necessary wings, and it turns out that the bigger you get, the worse this problem becomes, which is why flies have no problem flying, but no one has ever built an aircraft much bigger than the ‘spruce goose’ and even Howard Hughes wouldn’t fly that a second time.

The mathematics to arrive at these is really very simple and would have been available at the time, so I cannot understand how any competent engineer or scientist could have written such an article.

So I would be fascinated to see the reasoning behind it.

September 16, 2020 1:24 pm

And of course, the methodology of “science studies” would allow you to completely reject “The Bell Curve”, which they’ve already done anyway.

Not Chicken Little
September 16, 2020 1:34 pm

I used to read Scientific American avidly but not for several decades now as they became more and more politically-oriented.

They are no longer “scientific” nor “American”. They are leftists with an agenda. The left is like a malignant virus – it destroys everything it infects.

September 16, 2020 1:49 pm

To the discussion I would add that I was taught that well done science often works through positing the “null hypothesis” and then seeking data that require it to be rejected.

In climate science, then the null hypothesis would be that rising CO2 does not cause global temps to rise. We know that in the past temps have risen without substantial CO2 rising (eg in the centuries entering the Medieval Warm Period or in the 1910-1940 warming. That does not falsify the null hypothesis re CO2….merely shows other causes of warming exist.

But….if warming fails to occur when CO2 rises, the null hypothesis IS confirmed. This is why the “pause” for almost 20’s (1996-2016) was important. CO2 continued to rise as it had been from about 1950, but the warming seen from about 1975-1995 stopped or slowed. Global warming as a direct effect of rising CO2 did not occur.

To avoid the null hypothesis now the warmists had to either challenge the data (which they did by “adjusting” it) or they had to posit an equal and opposite cooling effect during the pause to balance heating effects. They did that with their oceans hiding the heat.

But oceans then should have hidden the heat in the 1980’s, too. So then they down to ocean cycles used in an ad hoc explanation for the pause. But ad hoc in science doesn’t cut it.

A scientist not religio-politically wedded to catastrophic global warming theory would have said: “Maybe CO2 is a far weaker driver of global temps than our theories and models of the 1990’s claimed. We should start over and put hysteria to the side.”

Reply to  kwinterkorn
September 16, 2020 2:14 pm

but the warming seen from about 1975-1995 stopped or slowed.

1978/79 were El nino years

there was no warming from 1980-1997.

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The trouble with the surface data, is that it is so tainted by UHI effects and adjustments and homogenisations and whatever…, that any such vital information gets wiped away.

September 16, 2020 2:17 pm

Science is basically information but it must be true or it is not science. True information is often elusive and/or complex. Scientific information is the only difference between civilization today and civilization a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand years ago. The nazis perverted science…the soviets perverted science…it is not a recent phenomenon.

September 16, 2020 2:31 pm

Had Douglas Adams been writing his seminal work today, the Golgafrincham Ark ship ‘B’ would have to be considerably larger to accommodate all the students and professors of “Science Studies”

Ark ship ‘A’, on the other hand, would have been rather small.

September 16, 2020 3:24 pm

Scientific American was a part of my life as a teenager in the ’60s through much of my adult life. A neighbor got the cast off copies from a dentist friend who put them in his waiting room (back when there were literary people) and gave them to me. I read them from cover to cover. The Amateur Scientist was a favorite and I even made some of the experiments work! I still have these copies. (Yes I’m an information pack-rat.) When I graduated from college in the early ’70s I subscribed and again found the articles interesting. During the late ’80s it began to degrade and finally about 20 years ago I decided it had become a Political Science magazine with no real value and I cancelled it. My wife got a call from them and they asked why I had cancelled. She made a completely succinct explanation: “too much politics and no science.” I could not have said it better.

Many years ago a teacher made the comment that an educated family had subscriptions to Scientific American and National Geographic. Unfortunately that no longer applies. Political science and social science are not science! I rue the day that the so called “progressives” took over the publication of these once great journals.

Ronald Bruce
September 16, 2020 3:30 pm

The use of consensus and science in the same sentence is an oxymoron.

September 16, 2020 3:36 pm

It’s not going to get better. The current editor in chief joined the magazine last year. She’s a Berkeley PhD who came from the Washington Post. Educated to be a moron. J

Hoyt Clagwell
September 16, 2020 3:45 pm

On the other hand, if Scientifish American is right, maybe the problem with my fusion reactor isn’t reality, I just need more people to form a consensus that it works!

September 16, 2020 4:39 pm

Agreed. Falsifiability is at the core of traditional scientific methods and climate change science must be assessed on this basis. At present it’s “global warmers” practise more pseudoscience than science. The sceptics are following the traditional approach.

However there are some areas of science where falsifiability becomes difficult but not impossible. I am thinking theoretical physics here…. I am not at all opposed to deep thinking in areas where very few have developed the expertise to formulate and test outcomes through, for sake of a better word, thought experiments. The key point is that these endeavours do not have a massive societal cost. Indeed, there appears to be little downside and much upside. The opposite of course is the case for climate change.

Paul of Alexandria
September 16, 2020 5:09 pm

It’s important to understand that Singham‘s statement is a corollary to the fundamental principle of Postmodernism: there is no such thing as absolute truth. The scientific principle is based on the assumption that there is an absolute truth, the universe as it is, and that while we can never reach it this side of heaven, we can get as close to it as we can afford (rather like the speed of light).

Postmodernism holds that there is no such thing as truth, that everything depends on your internal state (feelings) and that anyone can and will have a version of the truth that is as valid as anyone else’s. What matters ultimately is how much power you have to enforce your version of “truth”.

Thus, for Singham, no theory can be falsified because all theories are true by definition. What matters is who holds the research purse strings.

No one.
Reply to  Paul of Alexandria
September 16, 2020 6:29 pm

Or the dial on the machine.

‘How many fingers, Winston?’

The propagation of this error may be threatening the continuance of civilization, not just the usefulness of research.

Reply to  Paul of Alexandria
September 17, 2020 12:52 am

Astutely put.

See my comment on transcendental idealism where a far more useful and I suspect accurate picture is described, that there is a truth, but we can never arrive at it, but that does not mean that any nonsense will do.

To borrow from was it Rumsfeld? The truth is an ‘known unknowable’

It makes sense to assume its there, to account for all the stuff we cant do anything about, but the fact that we can engage in so much competing nonsense that cannot be proven to be correct when trying to understand it is a sure sign that its forever beyond our reach.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Leo Smith
September 17, 2020 9:35 am

Just like measurements. Regardless of precision, there will always be uncertainty. Until we evolve to be omniscient, that is.

September 16, 2020 6:57 pm

“And vaccinations are subjected to double-blind clinical trials, which are explicit attempts to falsify the hypothesis that they are effective”

Francisco Machado
September 16, 2020 7:57 pm

In the mid seventies there was sufficient scientific consensus that we were on the verge of another ice age. Not in a a few thousand years; immanent. Tactics were already being considered to insure the survival of humanity. True, there were those slivers of doubt… And it is probable that the earth will become warmer since we are not yet as warm as it has become in past interglacials. But we could have a mini ice age in the meantime. We are now confronted by a small but strident group of apocalyptic AGW religious fanatics dogmatically insisting that man controls the climate – certain of their doctrinal truth, validated because it cannot be disproven. They will not debate it because there is no validity to debating doctrinal truth (Biden: “We accept truth over facts”); debate could only introduce heretical thoughts and ideas into the all too fertile minds of the ignorant (remember what Gruber said) populace. AGW religion? Take note of their reaction to those who disagree, their demonization of apostates.

Reply to  Francisco Machado
September 17, 2020 12:53 am


Reply to  Leo Smith
September 17, 2020 7:45 am

If that is your truth, then imminent can equal immanent.

September 17, 2020 1:34 am

I’m confident that SciAm (which we always had in my house as a kid) used to be a very good periodical, especially if there were either scientists, kids, or both, in the household.
This new direction concerns me, but there is some inspiration there as well.
I’ve come up with a “litmus-test” of sorts for folks who worry daily about climate catastrophe.
I ask them this:
“OK, let’s assume your worries are completely justified, what you are afraid of will definitely happen within the next 50 to 100 years, and it will be really horrible for everyone if the whole world doesn’t toe the line.”
“Now, let’s also assume that there was a way to comprehensively thwart this catastrophe, guaranteed.”
“Yes!” Says the catastrophe-fan.
“Now, what would you say your politics are? Left, right, libertarian, tell me.”
“Center Left.” is the usual answer.
“Okay, what if the only, actual, effective solution to this problem could only be realized if the entire world adopted what, in your opinion, is the worst possible political regime you can imagine?”
“Would that still be okay, if it was guaranteed to solve climate-change once and for all, forever?”
And then I wait for the answer, or the fireworks. Sometimes I make some popcorn, or crack a beer.
“Your politics won’t solve the problem!” is the general answer.
“Can you tell me what my politics actually are? Are they different to yours?”
(Their answer, unless they know me well, is generally pretty far off)
It generally gets even more heated from their side after that.
But it’s a good test. And it’s falsifiable!

Rainer Bensch
September 17, 2020 3:49 am

a retired professor from Case Western Reverse University.
There, FIFY

September 17, 2020 5:33 am

To the editors at SA:

Just Jenn
September 17, 2020 5:40 am

What a ridiculous article. This guy needs to go talk to a Flat Earther and then come and defend that BS of an article. Because by his proposals (not even going to try to call it a postulation), after careful examination of the Flat Earth Society, the Earth is flat by consensus.

There are too numerous examples of fringe to discount this horse manure of what he just proposed. And yet by his own admission, those fringe “theories” must be reality because it has consensus.

This article is nothing more than 1 person who does not understand what science actually is telling the rest of the world his expertise on it.

If the climate alarmists want to be taken seriously in the scientific community, produce the dang null hypothesis for crying out loud. How long has it been since they decided they didn’t “need” to produce it because their model is correct? 20? 30? 40? years now? A simple sentence and yet all this pomp and circumstance to avoid actually producing it. What a waste of time, money, and resources.

Jeffery P
September 17, 2020 7:10 am

This is incredible. Are we sure we’re not being plunked? Was SA hijacked by the Onion or Babylon Bee?

IIRC, the brightest minds in the USSR were attracted to engineering or hard sciences. Those fields could not be easily influenced because by politics.

Leave it American ingenuity to succeed the Soviets failed. American Marxists redefined science and math. Even basic arithmetic is corrupted. Correct answers, such as adding 2 + 2 and getting 4 are now racist. Objective truth is a tool of the white patriarchy.

Meanwhile, the Chinese, Russians, North Koreans and Iranians keep advancing their technology and weapons using the “white man’s” old ways. Perhaps these hostile countries are supporting and the corrupt useful idiots in the media, academia and the swamp.

Tom Abbott
September 17, 2020 8:13 am

From the article: “Those of us who understand what the scientific method is are onto the climate scammers.”

Yes, we are! 🙂

Very good article. I liked the “going to bed and the sun comes up” example.

Tom Abbott
September 17, 2020 8:53 am

I lost faith in Scientific American over the Human-caused Climate Change issue.

In the 1970’s, when climate scientists were speculating that the Earth was about to enter a new ice age, there appeared articles in Scientific American claiming that human activity was the cause of the cold temperatures.

At the time I was fascinated by the concept and did not reject it out of hand. Instead, I waited to see what developed from these claims and what evidence they had to back up their claims.

And I waited, and waited and waited and waited for those promoting Human-caused Global Cooling to present the evidence they used to reach these conclusions, and they *never* did, to my utter frustration.

It was all assumptions and assertions and not one bit of evidence. In fact, it is now known that if *all* human emissions claimed to cause global cooling had been released in just one year (the equivalent of one volcanic eruption), it would have lowered the Earth’s temperature by about 0.5C for about two years or less.

So all of humanity’s historic emssions released at one time would barely make a blip on the temperatures of the Earth. And of course, human annual emissions don’t even come close to this level. Human-caused Global Cooling is a myth.

If only I had had the internet to use to complain back then! I would have worn them out with complaints about them presenting claims as evidence.

Then around 1980 the temperatures started warming and then Human-caused Global Warming became vogue. And the same thing that took place with Human-caused Global Cooling, assertions presented as evidence, also took place with Human-caused Global Warming.

And I finally got sick of it and cancelled my subscription to Scientific American.

Everytime I would look at a Scientific American cover and would see another article about Human-caused Global Warming I would get angry because I knew what I would find if I read the article and I would not like it. So I decided not to get angry on a monthly basis anymore over Scientific American and their distortions of reality and cancelled them.

Good riddance to bad science.

September 17, 2020 10:15 am

We do have to live with two definitions of “science.”
The first is the specific, well-known method of hypothesis testing.
The second is the social endeavors to utilize science.
Once you have a scientific test that provides information about what causes what in the natural world, a few things need to happen in order for this to be of any value.
I will make a simple example. “We” “know” that light traveling through a denser, or less dense, body gets “bent.” And, that this bend is different for different frequencies of the visible spectrum. Hence the Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon” album cover.

Imagine one person conducting a series of tests to map out this phenomenon. Great!
But now he or she has to share it with the world. Why?
We “scientists” value sharing info partly for the sake of sharing, and partly because we know such discoveries will lead to some benefit somewhere.
In this example, camera lenses can be improved, and we can use this knowledge to guesstimate the chemical composition of the sun. Etc.

Someone else can come along and ponder the degree that this phenomena holds across non-visible spectrum, etc.

Someone else builds this into a “science” curriculum.

All of this socially-borne consequence stuff is the “community of science.”

The problem is this: while science, in the narrow definition, is a tool to rule out biases, misinterpretation, misrepresentation, and such, **we do not have any such tool for ruling out these errors in the socially sustained world of “science.”**

Feyerabend’s book, “Against Method,” is really good at highlighting the fact that science is inherently a social phenomenon, and we have to figure out how to work with this, versus try to get out from under it.

When science goes social, it is subject to the range of social influences that anything else is subject to.

We can do things to improve this, but most efforts are liable to backfire. If we set up some priesthood of who can be the Top Scientists, that becomes a weapon to use against any dissenters. The tight, restrictive “CAGW” panel of experts is a great example.

I would encourage people to think this way: there are two meanings of the word “science.” One is the hypothesis-testing method for discerning truths about our observable world of matter and forces, and the other is the social structures and processes to promote and share the efforts to carry out these tests.

With this, you can train people to be able to assess good and lousy hypothesis-testing methodology – such as poor measurement, significance-fishing, etc., and also train people and develop processes and customs to avoid obvious problems from the social practice of science. Pal review, not sharing data, etc.

Feyerabend’s book is called “Against Method” because he saw how, in different areas of science, specific culturally-defined ways of doing things became dogma, and that can have a negative influence in a few ways, such as constricting who can rise through grad school and post-doc training, etc. So, he in his judgment decided to be “against method,” against prescribing and proscribing any specific dogma about methods for practicing science.

This leaves the question of: “how to we carry out this social enterprise?” I would not say Feyerabend has the clear answer, but I believe pointing out the problem helps us all.

Robert of Texas
September 17, 2020 2:15 pm

Most so-called scientists do not have the vaguest idea of what science really is. They are taught by mentors to do as they are told, believe as they are told to, and what they can and cannot question. This does not yet apply to all fields, but to many and maybe most fields taught in Universities today. The Church of Climantology is a perfect example. “Thou Shalt Not Question!” is their daily prayer.

Psychology and Social Science are jokes. These people go on to “prove” whatever it is they already believe. It’s more akin to shamanism than science – there are some real “tricks” and useful procedures, but it’s all glued together by a belief system that cannot be tested – at least not morally.

African Americans do quite well if they extract themselves from the victim culture many are raised within. It is the victim-culture that is holding many back – preventing some from succeeding as well as other human sub-groups (I hate the belief that skin color defines a “race” and reject it). I you are brought up believing that all failure is someone else’s fault then you have no reason to adapt your behavior – you just learn to resent others who are successful. Being reliable, respectful, honest, and hard-working apply to all people and these are the people who eventually are successful. The other problem is that it takes time…my family took nearly 200 years to rise to the current level of success (college educated middle class), but “victims” just want to be handed everything – they do not understand building for the future, their kids and descendants. This applies to people of “victim belief” of any skin color or population group.

Socialist extremists is a entirely different beast. They convince the “masses” to tear everything down and only offer bankrupt notions of what to replace it with. Once the wealth of the former system is exhausted, the socialist system decays into a death spiral of poverty, starvation, and tyranny. You see it again and again in history, and yet no one seems to pay any attention to it. There will always be differences in wealth and power – the question is do you want to be starving in poverty or well fed in with the opportunity to improve?

Walt D.
September 18, 2020 6:33 am

So Climate Science is false, since it makes predictions that are nearly always wrong, yet at the same time is not falsifiable.

oriel kolnai
Reply to  Walt D.
September 18, 2020 6:46 am

In theory, no – the science is settled (which is fundamentally the charlatan Singham’s claim). Obviously, being based on some interpretation of evidence, it is in fact falsifiable. Closing off alternative interpretations is not merely a struggle for the domination of prejudice. It is also a full-bodied attack on free speech, the bedrock of our social order.

Walt D.
Reply to  oriel kolnai
September 18, 2020 7:29 am

What we really have is a difference in epistemology.
As Keynes put when questioned as to why he had changed his mind
he replied “When the facts change, I change my mind, What do you do sir?”
Well if you are a climate scientist, when the facts change you change the data!

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