Sunday, September 18, 2011

science and the "free" market of ideas

dailybell | While the Daily Bell focuses mostly on the political, economical and social repercussions of the mercantilist policies of the banking power elite, it is important to realize that the elites' manipulations have reached far deeper into the cultural and scientific spheres than is generally acknowledged. (Thus we have expanded our platform to include this weekly Arts, Music and Science Column, which will be featured each Saturday.)

The argument has often been made in these pages that any kind of State or central banking intervention distorts prices and leads to a flawed price discovery mechanism, which eventually results in unprofitable business sectors in need of being propped up by State intervention, as well as a host of other dysfunctional aspects associated with a mercantilist system.

Unsurprisingly, the price distortions evident in the marketplace have their analogous effects in any other sector in which State meddling becomes a significant factor. One such sector is science and institutions of higher knowledge. Universities and colleges, which were mostly under the control of the Church until the Renaissance, gradually became more and more associated with the State apparatus. This process accelerated during the 19th Century with the rise of positivism and an increased awareness of the game-changing character of modern science. Elites realized that they could direct the orientation of future scientific developments by controlling the funding of scientific research and the institutions where scientific knowledge was disseminated. It is perhaps not unexpected to find that, as with many other historical developments, the great banking families and their globalist allies exerted their influence from behind the scenes, or sometimes even overtly, in an effort to secure for themselves a greater role in the flourishing scientific revolution. They did so not only by directly influencing the course of scientific developments, but also by striving to gain financial control over scientific research by placing it under the aegis of State-funded institutions. (Needless to say, by the middle of the 19th Century the great banking families already exerted a significant covert influence over most European governmental institutions, such that these were in fact increasingly used as levers to convert their financial power into political influence.)

To illustrate this process, let us look more closely at two intellectual revolutions that took place in the 19th Century that fundamentally reshaped modern science: Darwin's theory of evolution and Pasteur's "germ theory." Nowadays, Charles Darwin's model of natural selection is a core tenet of all life sciences, and it is fair to say that the gradual acceptance of Darwinism led to a complete reconfiguration of these disciplines. It would seem that the globalist elites realized very early the potential impact of Darwin's theories: We thus find Darwin closely associated with T.H. Huxley (Darwin's famous "bulldog"), whose grandsons Aldous Huxley (author of the futuristic dystopia Brave New World) and Julian Huxley (founder of the UNESCO) were at the forefront of the globalist movement of the 20th Century. Indeed, Darwinism was instrumental not only in breaking the stronghold that the Church, while gradually losing its dominance in the secular domain since the Renaissance, had kept relatively intact on the minds of most citizens of Western nations, but also in preparing the rise of scientism and technocracy. Interestingly, the great 20th Century philosopher of science Karl Popper, who proposed a comprehensive model of scientific research, recognized that, according to his own definition, Darwinism was "not a testable scientific theory" in that it could not be falsified experimentally. Rather, he saw it as a "metaphysical research programme." In light of Popper's comments, one might almost be tempted to say that, under the guise of scientific discovery, what occurred during the second half of the 19th Century was merely the engineered replacement of a religion, whose vocabulary had become obsolete and useless to the reigning elites, by a metaphysical system which was more amenable to their interests.

Similarly, we find that Louis Pasteur's research, which led to the development of the modern "germ theory" that is central to mainstream Western medicine, was financially sponsored by the brothers Alphonse and Gustave de Rothschild, members of the French arm of one of the most illustrious banking dynasties. Pasteur's research predictably led to a therapeutic approach essentially based on an all-out attack against microbes, and which provided tremendous support for the introduction of statewide vaccination campaigns. Both policies incidentally proved to be very fruitful for the pharmaceutical industry, in addition to calling for increased governmental control over public health issues. It is worth noting in that respect that eminent contemporaries of Pasteur, such as Antoine B├ęchamp and his pleomorphic model, had offered sophisticated alternative theories but proponents of the germ theory prevailed. From its very beginnings, a scientific endeavor that was going to have a huge impact on modern medicine was closely followed, perhaps even directed, by members of a dominant elite family.

In both Darwin's and Pasteur's cases, elites helped foster the birth of a new theory and nurtured it, and the acceptance of both theories led to an increased State control over key epistemological memes of the modern Western society. Although these scientific developments may seem on the surface to be nothing more than typical "paradigm shifts" (to borrow from Thomas Kuhn), we see that a political vision, armed with substantial financial backing, informed and influenced them right from the outset.

Coming back to our initial point, it can be argued that State intervention distorts the "idea market" in the intellectual sphere just as severely, if not more, than it distorts the perceived value of goods in the marketplace. It is not simply that scientific research supporting the elites' memes is financed more generously than research that does not. The process is much more insidious and goes much deeper. For instance, researchers endorsing alternative theories have difficulties getting funding, obtaining tenure, or even getting published. Consequently, these alternative theories are practically never discussed, or else dismissed offhandedly as the work of charlatans. An artificial consensus is thus created around certain scientific models due to the artificial intellectual vacuum brought about by the State-sponsored stifling of alternative theories and when debate is tolerated it is within strictly defined boundaries. This phenomenon parallels in many ways what we can observe in the mainstream media, as astute readers would have doubtless noticed.

In fact, before the advent of the Internet, the potent one-two combination of the peer-reviewed process (whose outcomes influence not only the type of scientific findings published but also affect decisions regarding tenure and research funding) with the State-supervised funding of most scientific research ensured that scientific debates were safely enclosed within perimeters that were totally under the control of the elite. For example, there is practically no debate on the validity of Pasteur's findings in contemporary science, even though rumors of scientific misconduct have circulated since his laboratory notes were finally opened to historians in 1964. Similarly, although intense debates are still raging regarding the origins of life, Darwinism exerts, for all intents and purposes, a quasi-monopoly over 21st Century mainstream biology. Indeed, the casual observer may believe that in both cases, as in many others, science has spoken its definitive word, so to speak, and that there is nothing else of substance to add.

In conclusion, let us contemplate for a minute a world in which a true free market of ideas would be allowed to prosper. In the absence of undue governmental influence, and especially of the undue financial clout conferred to central banks by their ability to print currency at will, we would once again see ideas being valued according to the ability of their proponents to convince not only other scientists but also, and crucially, private citizens and businesses whose financial generosity would be sought, of the validity of their ideas. This would be vastly different from the current situation in which scientists working within academic confines are more or less forced to follow the mainstream agenda, with perhaps only minor disagreements, since it is the only one that ensures tenure, funding and the possibility of publication. To be sure, wrongheaded theories would still be proposed once in a while, and errors, as well as egregious mistakes, would remain an occasional nuisance. Moreover, there is no doubt that political agendas would still try to influence the scientific discourse, although the playing field would be much more even, on the financial plane at least, than in current conditions. But, all other things being equal, we would have the opportunity to enjoy a rare treat, one that most of us have never had the privilege of truly appreciating: An authentic scientific debate in a free intellectual marketplace.


umbrarchist said...

I think memes and the marketplace of ideas  are bogus concepts.

It relates back to Vulcan culture.  The only way to think is to think for yourself.  These memes are emotional fixations on words and phrases without even understanding the ideas.  Rational individual thinking would turn them into trash.

Why doesn't our economy have the rational idea of EVERYONE understanding accounting?   Why do we operate on the memes of JOBS and CAREERS?  Go to school and pay people to control what you know and how you think.

Get a different perspective.

Voyage from Yesteryear by James P. Hogan