Monday, July 18, 2011

Soviet Science

When you hear those two words, you think "Lysenko".

Trofim Lysenko was Stalin's directory of biology.  He became a big, big fan of the theory that environmentally acquired characteristics were inheritable - basically if you cut off the north side of a tree, seeds from that tree will lack branches on the north side (I exaggerate, but not much).

Lysenko is notorious not because he espoused crackpot science, but because he controlled the Soviet scientific community with an iron grip, going so far as to outlaw criticism of his pet ideas.  Some scientists were purged, and some liquidated.  He is commonly viewed as holding Soviet agricultural science back by a generation.

As with Galileo, we see bad things happening when the State intervenes in a scientific discussion.  Good thing that would never happen in the West.  Oh, wait:

The chief of the world's leading physics lab at CERN in Geneva has prohibited scientists from drawing conclusions from a major experiment. The CLOUD ("Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets") experiment examines the role that energetic particles from deep space play in cloud formation. CLOUD uses CERN's proton synchrotron to examine nucleation.

CERN Director General Rolf-Dieter Heuer told Welt Online that the scientists should refrain from drawing conclusions from the latest experiment.

"I have asked the colleagues to present the results clearly, but not to interpret them," reports veteran science editor Nigel Calder on his blog. Why?

Because, Heuer says, "That would go immediately into the highly political arena of the climate change debate. One has to make clear that cosmic radiation is only one of many parameters."
If you suspect that scientists are only supposed to enter the "highly political arena of the climate change debate" when they're presenting evidence of Manmade Global Warming, then you're as nasty and suspicious as I am.

As background, I cover the experiment here and the hypothesis driving it here.

At this point, I must confess that I'm an old faht, getting my science education back in the 1970s, from teachers and professors who got theirs in the 1940s.  I was taught that the Scientific Method went something like this:
  1. Observe something happening.
  2. Formulate a testable hypothesis about what might be causing it.  
  3. If your hypothesis isn't falsifiable (i.e. cannot be shown to be wrong), go back to 2.
  4. Formulate a Null Hypothesis (likely alternative) for your hypothesis in 3.
  5. Construct an experiment to test your hypothesis against the null hypothesis.
  6. Perform the experiment, and document the results.
  7. Explain which hypothesis was closer to matching the observed reality in 1, and why.
It seems that the head of CERN - one of the biggest scientific research organizations in the world - doesn't want his people to do that last step.  Everything else is OK (for now, at least), but that last one is right out.

Now, it's unlikely in the extreme that Henrik Svensmark or the CERN researchers will starve to death in a gulag like Nikolai Vavilov.  The Intellectual Totalitarianism on display here is a kinder and gentler type, as fits this latter day Progressive Era.

But "totalitarian" is precisely the right word, as the Establishment will brook no dissent.  Especially scientifically confirmed dissent.  If there is a more powerful example of the depths of degradation that our modern scientific community has fallen into, I must have missed it along the way.

Keep your eyes on the Svensmark Cosmic Ray hypothesis, folks.  The Authorities consider it to be dangerous.  They wouldn't act like this if it weren't.

1 comment:

Quizikle said...

My, my, my...

You will NEVER get funding with old outmoded ideas such as that.

Draw your conclusions, write up your results - use color graphics, present your "proposal", and hope someone with money likes your idea so you can become PI of a "major" program.

All the better if you can claim some relationship to proving or curing the nastiness of Ameri-centric Western civilization.