JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: ARTICLE ABOUT A NEW THINK-TANK STIMULATES THOUGHTS ABOUT THE NATURE OF SUCH INSTITUTIONS – TV AD MODELS IN WHITE LAB COATS SELLING HEADACHE PILLS – THINK-TANKS PROMOTE POINTS OF VIEW AND ARE UNSCIENTIFIC – THEIR RELATIVE CREDIBILITY MAY BE HELPED BY THE PERVASIVE DECAY IN AMERICAN POST-SECONDARY STANDARDS – HOW SCIENCE WORKS   Leave a comment

John Chuckman

COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE BY CAITLIN JOHNSTONE IN CHECKPOINT ASIA

 

“New Soros/Koch-Funded Think Tank Claims to Oppose US Forever War

Brought to you by boosters of war on Syria and Venezuela

Malignant Plutocrats”

 

“The term “think tank” almost always refers to a group of academics hired by plutocrats to come up with reasons why it is very good and smart to do something very evil and stupid, and then to market those reasons at key points of influence.”

 

Something very true.

I’ve long compared the pseudo-academic environment of “think-tanks” to actors in television commercials who wear white lab coats and carry clip boards, pretending to be doctors or scientists while recommending some over-the-counter remedy such as headache pills.

The larger “think-tanks” have “Fellows” and “Distinguished Fellows” and “Chairs,” etc., mimicking some authentic academic institutions. They provide mechanisms for rewarding people who have performed well outside the world of “think-tanks” – as political or advocacy figures and selected academics – with elevated, well-rewarded, undemanding positions – almost “golden-handshake retirements” – while giving them increased means of reaching audiences with their views.

And their output at the “think-tank” organizations – in the form of papers or studies or lectures – provides readily available resource material to distribute to the public, carrying an imprimatur of seeming authenticity.

Our mainstream press, always on the look-out for stuff to fill columns or airtime at no cost, is a key distribution target. They often run the stuff without critical examination, much as though they were new findings from scientific or academic study.

All of their output – all of it – has a point of view, one way or another, varying with the slant of the particular “think-tank.” Genuine scientific research explores what happens, phenomena, and it does not promote a point of view.

Of course, true science embraces whatever the careful, controlled observation of phenomena shows, even if that contradicts an earlier understanding of the same phenomena. Thus, new theories displace older ones.

That’s how science makes progress. Indeed, it is never static, always busy observing and testing, always ready to come to new higher levels of generalization if they are warranted.

But that is not at all what “think-tanks” do. “Think-tanks” are in the business of supplying arguments for a point of view. They are, indeed, unscientific.

The degraded state of our universities and colleges has made the job of “think-tanks” easier by making what were clear lines of difference less clear.

Unfortunately, our society has experienced a huge inflation in academic institutions, and many institutions of “higher learning” today are run almost as intellectual-entertainment profit centers rather than as scrupulous academic centers. Students and their dollars are lured to courses of study which are neither very academic nor likely to provide any future genuine career, but they may be interesting.

So, increasingly in recent decades, the distinction between “think-tanks” and at least a good number of “for profit” academic departments and institutions becomes less clear. There seems to be almost a form of increasing entropy in intellectual matters.

Posted July 1, 2019 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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