Red Dot Science (n.)
Broadly, it is the brand of pseudo “science” that is being used any time the outcomes of the underlying experimentation & research are pre-determined. Where real science says whatever it says, without any regard at all for how well-understood or well-communicated it is, red-dot science is all about being communicated in a convincing way. It relies on emotion for this communication, therefore, discussions about it are emotional and not intellectual. Although the people trying to sell the red-dot science try their very best to make it look intellectual.
Real science knows what has been demonstrated after the research is done. Red-dot science knows what has been proven, after, during, and before this research; the research itself is little more than a tangent. Most people with normal working brains, very often have at least the unsettling suspicion they’re looking at such a false brand of science when they read about studies that say, for example, “women suffer more than men do” or “girls are much more advanced in [blank] than boys” or anything of the form “World To End, Women & Minorities Hardest Hit.” Any story about a study that begins “Researchers wondered what would happen if…” inspires thoughts, although it isn’t mentioned much, of wonder about the wondering by the researchers. Wait, what kind of “researchers” would wonder about that? Intellectually-capable, non-agenda-driven people read things like that and think — waitaminnit, was this open to question or was it not? If it was not open to question, why did the money get spent on the study? And if it is indeed questionable and therefore there must be difficulty in measuring it, then how come there never, ever seem to be any “outlier” studies, even ones that are subsequently discredited, that suggest something contrary? Even through error? Like, ever?
If the studies themselves are data…the data suggest that the study findings are written first, or defined first anyway, crystallized more firmly than should be allowed when a useful scientific method is applied. The data do not prove it. But they do suggest it.
Other things suggest this too. There are two definitions for “science” in the House of Eratosthenes Glossary, the more modern of which says:
1) A credentialed collective of academic elites who use democratic, political and coercive techniques to decide amongst themselves what is so. 2) The Dogma embraced by individuals who remain in good standing within this collective. 3) An agenda of Absolutism, toward recruiting more individuals into said dogma. Either way, it is the acquisition of new “psuedo-knowledge” about nature, by means of engaging in a False Unanimity fallacy: X must be so because “all scientists” believe in X, and “all scientists” believe in X because any scientist who doesn’t believe in it does not count. We know he isn’t a real scientist, because he doesn’t believe in X.
So this modern definition of science involves voting on what is and is not so. It embraces a fallacy of circular reasoning, since the voting takes place among elites who are credentialed and therefore qualified; the qualification is linked to the voting, since anyone who dares to fasten his or her name to a dissenting viewpoint is attacked. Therefore, the pie charts and other graphics exploring numbers of scientists with this-or-that opinion, could be better read as pie charts & graphs about how many scientists have balls and will put their careers on the line when science is being abused. Yes, of course it’s a minority. This is always a minority in establishments of credentialed elites, that’s the way establishments of credentialed elites work. No balls.
Red Dot Science, more specifically, is science prepared and presented for the purpose of appealing to emotion. It acts in a squid-like way when challenged, squirting generous amounts of rhetorical ink in order to confuse and deflect. In the many candidates I considered for this name, I tried all sorts of different ways to work “squid” and “cuttlefish” and “sepia” into the final result, and eventually abandoned that.
Red dot science shows other behaviors, when challenged, that real science does not show in the same circumstance.
Since it is an appeal to emotion, it seeks to reinforce itself through simple repetition, just like the kitty saying “I will catch the dot, I will catch the dot.” In real science, of course, the verity of a claim has nothing at all to do with how many times it’s repeated. Real science, in fact, labors — in futility, but nevertheless gives it a good try — to fight the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which is the problem that results when the measurement of a thing is affected by the effort to measure it. Real science struggles against this, red dot science embraces it.
Often the repetition is made cosmetically more believable through the exploration of further detail. Consider the following dialogue:
A. The moon is made of cheese.
Q. Whoa…that would require a lot of milk…how do you think it got there?
A. Sixty percent Colby, thirty percent Swiss, five percent Gouda, three percent Cheddar, two percent cottage.
Q. Um, that doesn’t answer my question…
A. What’s your problem? It adds up to a hundred, I’m using science!
Another tell-tale sign of red dot science is that it pushes for things to be “settled.” You can detect this push when you consider elements of the theory that are mostly settled. Real science will push, if anywhere, in the opposite direction and try to call these items along the periphery into further question. Red dot science is like the kid in the back seat of the station wagon asking are-we-there-yet. “Can’t we agree on that so we can go on to the next thing?”
As a result, red dot science treats an opposing viewpoint as something of a contagion, much like the kitty would treat the statement “you can’t catch the red dot,” an undesirable element that thwarts and could reverse the build-up of desired emotional tartar.
As reader Severian was noticing in an offline, red dot science cannot even grant a concession toward the opposing viewpoint theoretically, purely for purposes of argumentation. No can do. That, in itself, is a tip-off that the discussion is an emotional one and not an intellectual one, since a participant in an intellectual disagreement can easily gain credulity by arguing “fine, let’s say things are your way, how then do you explain [etc.]…” Red dot science nurtures an everlasting hostility to any type, kind or form of uncertainty, in any context, just like the hopeful kitty. It even loses track of time itself that way; advocates of red dot science are very frequently heard to wax lyrically about future events, as if they have taken place in the past. “What’s going to have to happen, is reasonable steps will have to be taken to combat climate change, and people are going to have to accept a new form of…”
A strange thing happens when red dot science says if we do this, then that will happen. Example: If we fund a government stimulus program then the economy will turn around. Things do not go the way they were supposed to go, the red-dot-science advocate is made aware of it and asked for his reaction. What happens next is truly surreal. He will recite the way it’s supposed to work, all over again, seemingly oblivious in every possible way to the fact that the experiment has failed. In this context, it shares some traits with mental illnesses. “See, what happens is, the money ends up with the construction workers, and they use it to buy groceries and boots and tools and gas for their trucks, then that goes into the economy…” Yeah, yeah sport. Exactly what we just tried. Where’s your captured red dot?
Another tip-off that red dot science is being used, is that vast verbiage will be used reciting a catechism, with little or nothing said that makes its contents any more probable other than argumentum ad authoritarian static.
Citations offered with no specifics. It’s clear there is an expectation that the works cited are to be consumed, starting on page one, ending whenever the receiving party comes ’round to the red dot way of thinking…at which point, further reading is entirely optional. This is a key functional difference between indoctrinating and educating; the educator is on a mission to expand the student’s mind, the indoctrinator is on a mission to change the student’s mind, at which time any further effort is much better expended on the next “student.” With red dot science, if the other party manages to wade through the citation but hasn’t come around, he is directed to go-back-and-read-it-again. If the other party finds a problem with the reasoning in the citation and stops reading it, he’s accused of “ignoring the evidence” without any hearing given to what problem he found with it, and why it would be a problem.
Intransigence is often used as a substitute for evidence in red dot science. Many of the arguments presented boil down to “you’ll never convince me no matter what, so you might as well come over to my side.” Also, the lecturer’s lack of ability to understand what the other person is saying, is sometimes used as an argument that the lecturer, with his substandard reading comprehension abilities, must have the right idea.
As reader Nightfly noted back at his place,
The whole dizzying affair at Morgan’s barely qualified as a conversation, because it never went anywhere. This fellow (s) Zachriel has, in fact, put himself into my mental dictionary as the picture illustrating GK Chesterton’s chapter on madmen in his tremedous book Orthodoxy. Chesterton observed that a closed circle, such as the mind of a madman, can be said to be infinitely small… a tiny ring constricting tighter and tighter until nothing is left.
Why would he or they or whomever do that? What would be the point of such a long pointless exchange?
I’ve puzzled ’til my puzzler was sore, and only one thing really makes sense: the very pointlessness of it all must be the point to Zachriel. There’s a dull commonality to how he approaches the topic and how he demands that all others approach it. For all the talk about saving the world, it involves no actual volition on the part of those who will actually do the nuts-and-bolts saving on a daily basis – they won’t choose, they’ll be herded.
Summing it up: Red dot science is simply a demand, dressed up in a “science” costume. Its weakness is that a demand to believe in something, no matter how artfully it is demanded, does not make that article of belief any better established. It is precisely as scientific as arriving at the “right” answer by flipping a coin, spinning a roulette wheel, or shaking a Magic-8 ball.