The Free Market of Science
By: Frank Yunker
The free market is generally accepted as a "good thing" when you are standing in an open-air food festival in Anchorage Alaska and the choices within eyesight include reindeer stew in one booth, salmon burgers in another, moose sausage in a third and caribou hot dogs at a fourth booth. You have choices and in order to compete, the product has got to be good. You know the reason they are not selling BBQ beaver back ribs is because bad ideas don't survive in a free market.
Let's exam what the free market is when we look beyond food. The "free market of ideas" is just as competitive, but somehow people do not seem to understand how it works. Ideas are generated and they are accepted, countered, refuted and defended just as readily as people choose moose burgers over caribou stew.
The essence of the free market of ideas begins with free speech. Without it, you cannot have the good and the bad competing. If UC Berkeley knows right from wrong, then they should let Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter speak. If the world view of those two is wrong, the intelligent people of UC Berkeley should be able to recognize it.
Free speech extends to science. Without the freedom to challenge existing world views, we do not know if the "popular idea" is also the "proven idea." Do vaccinations cause autism? My gut reaction is "No" but I'm not a scientist. Does human activity adversely affect the environment? Again, I'm not a scientist, but my gut reaction is "Yes." How can I get a better sense of the truth? I need to hear the "best case" for each side.
Like auras. Do they exist? We can't necessarily "prove" they don't exist, but scientists have spent a lifetime trying to prove they DO exist and many of those scientists have retired without settling the question. Only after a healthy dose of scientific effort, hypothesis and analysis can we reasonably guess that they do not exist because those most determined to prove their existence were unable to do so.
This past weekend's "March For Science" should have been a march for the "free market of scientific ideas." The "Climate Change" model of today was only a few years ago called "Global Warming" and a couple of decades before that was called "Global Cooling." Ideas, theories and m odels should change. Hopefully, our knowledge, our "facts," and our assessment improves. But just to be sure, I want people working hard to prove the alternatie theories. Only then can we assess that they spent money attempting to prove a counter-prevailing argument and they never succeeded. We need that.
Some say gender is as simple as looking at the XY chromosome. Others say gender is fluid. Go at it, Scientists. Argue for or against. Prove your case. Over time, one idea - hopefully the correct one - will survive the test of the free market of ideas.
Some think people driving automobiles and heating their homes has contributed greatly to climate change. Others think the data is misleading at best, inaccurate at worst. Some think climate change is cause by solar flare activity. As a consumer in the free market of ideas, all I ask is that you prove your case. And that no other competing theory can better explain the changes in data.
The problem is when science - addicted to federal research money - becomes intolerant of other ideas. The conclusions drawn aren't scientific. They are political. And getting this idea out there is the first step in proving the scientific value of the theories.