Society struggles today with a problem of people pretending to be scientists. A PhD is not a holier-than-thou instrument through which one can claim authority inside every subject one desires. Such an appeal to authority outside one’s body of current and active professional research – is bullying, no matter how politely it is posed. This type of activity is now pandemic: authority-baiting risky science in order to protect profits, at the ignored peril of American citizens.
I do not claim to be a scientist. I would not claim the moniker of skeptic either, were it not for the necessity of how ethical skepticism is presented inside this blog. As a strategy advisor to trade groups, nations and companies I have a deep and varied experience base, ranging from being president of a research lab making groundbreaking discovery, to a director in intelligence, to designing some of the most complex operations on the planet, all the way to helping determine brand strategy for several familiar corporations. All things which demand intense research development and novel conjecture at risk, and under accountability. No, the average professional does not typically gain exposure to such a variety of expertise sets, but once a company finds a good strategic resource with a long successful track record – they will ask them to step in and address a variety of challenges. My client tenures are long, and my business repeat rate is one of the highest in the industry. These are things called ‘accountability measures’ – something with which typical PhD’s, with possible exception of the need to publish, are wholly unfamiliar.
Today social media struggles under not only the burden of fake news and fake skeptics, but also under a throng of apparatchiks posing as scientists. Those catalyseurs whose artifice is to foment conflict between actual science and the public. Those who wish to categorize 97% of society as doltish and ignorant, for observing that their families are suffering, considering forbidden ideas or witnessing forbidden things, and not bowing down to their insistent social doctrines – those who abuse ‘science’ as their civilian and innocent shield inside their illegitimate war on the American public.
A preemptive attack on the only entity with the authority to hold their cronies accountable. Create conflict between the public and science – declare the public anti-science and irrational – proceed with the corporate profit plan which places them and their families at high risk.
The Science Council defines a scientist in this manner:1
A scientist is someone who systematically gathers and uses research and evidence, making a hypothesis and testing it, to gain and share understanding and knowledge.
A scientist can be further defined by:
- how they go about this, for instance by use of statistics (Statisticians) or data (Data scientists)
- what they’re seeking understanding of, for instance the elements in the universe (Chemists, Geologists etc), or the stars in the sky (Astronomers)
- where they apply their science, for instance in the food industry (Food Scientist)
However all scientists are united by their relentless curiosity and systematic approach to assuaging it.
Even though I might fall under the definition of scientist, by means of the Science Council framework, there are specific reasons why I would seldom if ever claim such a role. I might be a scientist inside certain issues of trade and operations, but I do not hold a PhD – as that tends to pigeon-hole professionals in my industry. I have hired many scientists and bear a great deal of respect for them, and what they have taught me over the decades. However, as you will notice in the definition above, neither is a PhD the qualification of what makes a scientist. Instead, there are several elements which are requisite before one can claim to be a scientist under a specific topic. These include:
Who IS a Scientist
- Current primary paid employment inside the sub-category of research, under independent registration or charter, or
- A background of having studied a significant percentage of the body of research material covering the sub-category of research under discussion, and
- A set of recent publications or a postdoctoral fellowship specifically focused upon incremental testing-based conjecture inside the sub-category of research under discussion, and
- A body of research data which your team/lab/self has developed from direct study, and not science journalism sources, or
- A well experienced PhD who has undertaken solely a teaching role or professorship in their area of discipline, or
- A society or journal recognized role active in peer review inside the sub-category of research under discussion, and
- A professional meeting the above criteria who has taken sabbatical, time to write a book, family leave or recent retirement.
However, over the years I have witnessed agenda heavy science conclusions published by the following cast of nefarious characters, who typically do not understand the related evidence, exaggerate scant statistical studies tallying absences of observation into proof of an absence, nor grasp the critical path of logic required to assemble a conjecture. Those who conflate possession of an intimidating word or phrase, with adeptness inside great ideas:
What IS NOT a Scientist
- An academician who spouts off principles of Bayesian reduction & thinks that is science
- Anyone who lacks curiosity or regards an issue of Ockham’s Razor plurality as ‘settled science’
- A PhD, especially if in a semi or non-related field
- A person who knows a great deal of irrelevancy (ingens vanitatum) and likes to demonstrate this as a method of intimidation
- A person who uses forms of semi-truth or one of the six mechanisms of professional lying (see: The Tower of Wrong: The Art of the Professional Lie)
- Someone who establishes a research corporation only to conduct one study for its funding corporation, and then retires
- Someone who used to work in science and is still touting their PhD or history while now pursuing a new home/career activity
- Anyone who beats you over the head with the ‘scientific method’ and subsequently violates it in the very next utterance
- Anyone who (outside classroom or professional context) insists on being called ‘Doctor’
- A member of the Association for the Advancement of Science
- A fellow at CSICOP or JREF or…
- Someone who has read The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe
- Anyone whose ass sits in a pub, never goes into the field, and chronically pontificates about critical thinking
- One who abuses their status as scientist to underpin their political or social advocacy
- Someone who declares them self to be a ‘skeptic’
- Anyone who displays a lack of integrity or exploits convenient ambiguity to push final conclusions
- A science enthusiast
- A critical thinker
- Anyone who has never authored a single patent application nor research study
- A science journalist or communicator, even with a PhD
- A science journalist summarizing other studies by means of a ‘research article’
- Anyone who counts a journalistic summary article as one of a body of ‘studies’
- A corporate technology social media or media apologist
- A lab technician conducting tests and filing testing assays/reports
- A clinical technician or diagnostician
- Someone who possesses a list of studies
- A person fresh out of dissertation, or who has not worked professionally in that field since degree was conferred
- Anyone who regurgitates a social apothegm, cannot identify the critical logic of their claim and how it is supported by the salient field research, or falsely appeals to their own authority (outside of philosophy)
- One who feigns politeness in an effort to create and demean opponents by means of a well advertised status or history in science (not only a bully, but dishonest as well)
- Anyone who bullies others by means of implied qualifications (including if they met the qualification of scientist above) – as this betrays an extreme bias of disqualification.
Society struggles, especially in these most recent decades of imperious oligarch technology profit, with people pretending to be scientists. This body of pretenders includes scientists themselves at times. A PhD is not a holier-than-thou instrument through which one can claim authority. An appeal to authority is nothing but that, an informal fallacy which brings one’s objectivity and integrity into question. But an appeal to authority outside one’s body of current and active expertise – is bullying, no matter how politely it is posed. This type of activity, pushing risky science in order to protect oligarch profits at the peril of American citizens, is pandemic. It is an extreme mental pathology called Dunning-Kruger Projection:
Dunning-Kruger Projection (aka Plaiting)
/philosophy : bias : methodology/ : the condition in which an expert, scientist or PhD in one discipline over-confidently or ignorantly fails to realize that they are not competent to speak in another discipline, or attempts to pass authority ‘as a scientist’ inside an expertise set to which they are only mildly competent at best. Any attempt to use the identity of ‘scientist’ to underpin authority, bully, seek worship or conduct self-deception regarding an array of subjects inside of which they in actuality know very little.
This is a type of psychological vulnerability. A severe inferiority cover on the part of a person who must demean others in order to survive. And just as with fake skepticism, the ethical skeptic must constantly be on the alert for such catalyseurs, who seek to promote conflict between the public and what they interpret to be ‘the science’.
The Ethical Skeptic, “No You Are Not a Scientist” The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 15 Jun 2018; Web, https://wp.me/p17q0e-7Pm
- Science Council; Web, https://sciencecouncil.org/about-science/our-definition-of-a-scientist/