T.J. Coles – Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex

Link to an article by T.J. Coles:

“Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex”

 

Note that this identified deGrasse Tyson as an old-fashioned shill rather than part of the “idiot pool”.  Anyway, this article doesn’t explicitly reach deGrasse Tyson’s secular humanist “scientism” ideology which is really what drives his sociopolitical status quo boosterism:

“The relevance of these practices is that they account for Tyson’s scientism as a tactic in a culture war. I’ll lay out some principles of Tyson’s apparent culture to show how the conflict arises. Tyson’s all-business impatience with philosophy and his allusion to progress indicate that he stands not just for the supremacy of science, but for the modern institutions (capitalism, private industry, democracy) that have exploited scientific knowledge. The liberal values (freedom of thought, environmentalism, admiration for underdog scientists) and inchoate pantheism that surface in his series, Cosmos, show that he stands also for secular humanism. Put these together and you have a culture that reduces to neoliberalism, an ideology that’s analyzed thoroughly by Philip Mirowski’s Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste. Neoliberalism is the rebirth of the social policies that led to the Great Depression, which rebirth was made possible by some propagandists’ mastery of the double standard. Neoliberalism is what powerful Republicans and Democrats have in common, the understanding that capitalism runs counter to democracy, but that a semblance of the latter is needed as the noble lie to sustain the magic of the former. Thus, neoliberals are both populists and technocrats, depending on their audience. In any case, in so far as Tyson despises philosophy for being useless in contrast to science, he must approve of the modern applications of science—not just the medical breakthroughs and technological advances, but the egoistic, materialistic mass culture of consumerism that bankrolls the loftier work of scientific inquiry.”

Benjamin Cain, “Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Scientism and the Scapegoating of Philosophy”

Zola Carr – Medicalizing Society

Link to an article by Zola Carr:

“Medicalizing Society”

 

Bonus links: “Are We Governed By Secondary Psychopaths?” and “The War Inside Your Head” and  “Mental Health and Neoliberalism” and “Are the Young People That Shrinks Label as Disruptive Really Anarchists With a Healthy Resistance to Oppressive Authority?” and “Social Service or Social Change?”

Mark Hertsgaard & Mark Dowie – How Big Wireless Made Us Think That Cell Phones Are Safe

Link to an article by Mark Hertsgaard and Mark Dowie:

“How Big Wireless Made Us Think That Cell Phones Are Safe: A Special Investigation”

 

Other examples of similar industry behavior include concussions in football, leaded gasoline, certain pharmaceuticals, etc.

Tracy Frisch – An Investigative Reporter Talks Glyphosate

Link to an interview with Carey Gillam, author of Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science (2017), conducted by Tracy Frisch:

“Monsanto’s Toxic Legacy: An Investigative Reporter Talks Glyphosate”

 

Bonus link: “Historic Ruling Against Monsanto Finds Company Acted with ‘Malice’ Against Groundskeeper with Cancer”

Johann Hari – Depressed? Anxious? Blame Neoliberalism.

Link to an article by Johann Hari:

“Depressed? Anxious? Blame Neoliberalism.”

 

I very much question why this writer singles out neoliberalism, specifically, rather than capitalism, generally.  There is nothing in the article to suggest that only neoliberalism — but no other forms of liberalism or capitalism — is problematic.  While he has established that eliminating neoliberalism is necessary, he has failed to establish that doing so is sufficient.

 

Bonus link: “Lacan  Between  Cultural  Studies  And  Cognitivism”

Academic Incentives

One thing I’ve noted through the years is that there is a rough divide in academia between theory and observation.  Actually, this is a pretty commonplace observation.  What is less discussed, though, is the sort of hierarchy of prestige that tends to place theory above observation.  Of course, there are exceptions, and unconventional theories often have to do both theory and observation in order to gain any recognition.

One sad byproduct of all this is that academics tend to cluster in tribes, and often recreate pre-existing theory under new names.  Why?  Well, because theory is more prestigious than observation!  Take an example.  “Einstein” is a household name.  Why?  Because Albert Einstein developed the theory of relativity in physics.  But could you name someone (and there are many names here) whose observations confirmed Einstein’s theory?  Probably not.  If there was more parity between theory and observation, academics would probably be more willing to conduct observation according to existing theory, rather than constantly trying to posit an influential “new” theory that may disregard existing theory in a completely self-aggrandizing way.

There also is relatively little ground for synthesis of different theories.  Academics tend to have “departments” in universities and other institutions, and inter-disciplinary efforts are difficult in such an environment, on top of the difficulties trying to integrate theories within a given discipline.

Add to this the problem of ideology, in that, practically speaking, most social science theorists pick out a desired solution — what they want society to look like — and then conjure up a theory that points toward that desired solution, without spending much if any time making explicit their desired solution.  Put another way, many social science academics actually spend most of their time making sales pitches for their pet solutions, rather than constructing theories, testing them, and only then devising suitable solutions to theoretically verified root causes of problems.  That isn’t to say such an approach is inherently wrong, but those who deny doing that should be viewed skeptically — as ideologues not “scientists” or “academics”.

I think a radical solution to much of this would be to disallow name attribution on scientific and academic work. After all, is it really about the work itself, in its “objective” advancements, or about accumulating social and cultural capital? (See Chapter IV of The Higher Learning in America: A Memorandum on the Conduct of Universities by Business Men)