Bret Weinstein and Steve Patterson on the Scientific Method
a dark picture of mainstream science
I’ve mentioned this podcast with Steve Patterson and Bret Weinstein before, but I wanted to mention a few more points that come up.
Fortunately, they spend barely a minute on Ivermectin. Weinstein says that clinicians who are saving patients using Ivermectin should not have their evidence over-ruled by randomized controlled trials. I do not find him persuasive on that point. But don’t give up just because he said one thing that you or I think is wrong. And don’t waste your comments on this issue, because it is not central to the podcast.
Around an hour and 54 minutes in, Patterson says that a pattern of scientific papers that are not holding up is that they rely on math where it does not really apply. Patterson argues that the problem with models is that they may be too simple for the processes they are trying to model. I think that is a big problem in economics. Of course, my professors at MIT saw mathematical representation as a feature, not a bug, and theirs is still the mainstream view.
At two hours and nine minutes in, Patterson makes a strong case for markets, much as I would. He takes an Austrian view, which differs considerably from the view that Bret and Heather take in their book. But no debate ensues, because Bret keeps his thoughts to himself.
They get to their main topic—the deterioration of science—at the two hour, twenty minute mark. I recommend tuning in at this point and then listening to the end.
At about two hours forty-four minutes, Patterson says that originators understand the weak points in the foundations of their ideas, but followers lose site of these weak points, and the ideas become conventions that people treat as absolute truth. It reminds me that Robert Solow understood that a weakness of his growth theory was the possibility that aggregating capital, labor, and output might lose too much information. Nowadays, everyone takes aggregate capital, labor, and output measures as if they were accurate to at least three significant figures. I think the resulting analysis of “changes in the trend rate of productivity growth” is bunk.
With a few minutes left in the podcast, Bret says that academia selects for cowardice.
Sorry to break your admonition, but without weighing in on the drug itself, I say there's a good Hayekean reason to agree that "clinicians who are saving patients using Ivermectin should not have their evidence over-ruled by randomized controlled trials"
An RCT is a mechanism by which society attempts to reach consensus on captial-K Knowledge. But an experienced clinician developing a treatment protocol is appying situational practical knowledge.
If that protocol includes a possibly useless but well-known-to-be-safe drug, then society doesn't need to enforce its consensus on him. It can just get out if the way and let him do his job.
Wherever science and politics intersect, science is bent and corrupted.