Contrarian pundit Vox Day, whose thought has graced my blog previously in this exchange, is profoundly skeptical about the scientific enterprise as currently organized. Here's his assessment:

Because at this time, there is no other group of humans on the planet that is doing more to imperil human existence and not very many that are doing more to imperil human liberty.

Well, I'm not going to debate libertarianism with Vox. I have plenty of people in my life who hold libertarian views that I enjoy talking with. However, I do have some quibbles about his attempt (which is more fully developed in his polemical book The Irrational Atheist) to redefine science in terms of activities that he likes and activities he doesn't care for.

Vox likes to talk of scientistry, scientody, and other self-appointed neologisms, and the unmistakable impression I receive is that he resents the relative standing of science in the intellectual world and would like to see it taken down a peg. In this respect Vox Day, the 'Christian Libertarian and Forensic Atheologist', has more in common with the science envy displayed by post-modern readers in the sociology of science. In fact, the two use much the same tactics, as described here:

"...the worst of the crank-turners have turned postmodernism itself into a fundamentalist doctrine. And the first commandment of this newfangled religion is to challenge “regimes of truth” wherever they may lurk. Unfortunately, a number of dogmatists have unreflectively applied this approach to science. The problem is that science already has an infinitely more rigorous screening process in the scientific method. Unlike the claims made in many of the so-called social sciences, scientific hypotheses are subjected to high levels of scrutiny and forced to withstand attacks from every conceivable angle."

Vox rather drolly ends his most recent broadside at the institution of science with these words:

And now, science fans, you may provide your socially autistic and rhetorically deaf responses for the amusement of the audience.

I responded on Vox's blog as follows:

Gee, Vox, why would I bother? The primary purpose of doing science is to investigate the natural world, not fulminate on this or that political/cultural issue. Science blogging is a very small subset of activity by scientists, and of course much of it isn't science or education, but whatever strikes the fancy of the blogger.

In other words, just like your place. Like the science bloggers, you've got yourself a little playground to talk about what interests you. And if it amuses you to taunt people like PZ Myers, that's what you do. But, if much of Pharyngula and other science blogs isn't real science, then it follows that they shouldn't be the primary basis for any criticism of science in general....eh?

Meanwhile, I urge all your posters to consider that the means by which we interact was, ultimately, made possible by the application of science. Al Gore aside, the Internet wasn't a product of rhetoric, tone-deaf or otherwise, nor was it wished into existence by fervent supplication. It came into being because some intrepid people investigated the natural world, discovered (at some cost) regularities, and then shared their findings with the world, where eventually their utility was exploited by the clever and inventive.

That's what I call science, Vox, and that's what people like me are eager to defend.

Anyway, that's what I wrote and I was getting ready to put this dog to bed when I came across a cute little note from fellow Molly winner Blake Stacey about the effects of a series of posts over at Pharyngula. Essentially, the owner of that blog (PZ Myers) was instrumental in marshaling his readership to investigate possible plagiarism and other sins in a peer-reviewed publication, as described here.

What makes this especially fascinating is that it shows that peer review is (of course!) not perfect, as it is done by human beings; at the same time, it shows that the larger role of the scientific community to 'review' the reviewers is well-served by the existence of a network of science bloggers! So, Vox, if you're reading this, please acknowledge that science blogging, even if not science itself, contributes to an important part of the scientific method, which is peer review. One might even call it meta-science, if I may be allowed a neologism of my own....

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