Power above culture theorists part 2

This is a not unsurprising claim:

“And what’s more, the model suggests that the ‘bad’ (if you will) scientists who take shortcuts in relation to the incentives on offer will end up passing on their methods to the next generation of scientists who work in their lab, creating in effect an evolutionary conundrum that the study authors call “the natural selection of bad science”.

“As long as the incentives are in place that reward publishing novel, surprising results, often and in high-visibility journals above other, more nuanced aspects of science, shoddy practices that maximise one’s ability to do so will run rampant,” Smaldino told Hannah Devlin at The Guardian.


But it’s a vicious cycle, because these sorts of remarkable studies create a lot of attention and help researchers get published, which in turn helps them get grants from institutions to conduct more research.

“The cultural evolution of shoddy science in response to publication incentives requires no conscious strategising, cheating, or loafing on the part of individual researchers,” Smaldino writes in The Conversation.

“There will always be researchers committed to rigorous methods and scientific integrity. But as long as institutional incentives reward positive, novel results at the expense of rigour, the rate of bad science, on average, will increase.””

The problem with this is that the claim being made is one which our current political theories (and therefore every other discipline which is beneath them by default) has trouble expressing, because it cuts at the very heart of western thought. If these individuals are acting in accordance with “institutional incentives” and these incentives and the information provided by the actions of these institutions are key in bounding and directing the actions of those within the institutions (which it is) then power is clearly above culture. It is even above science.

The next question that needs answering is that of the relative position of these institutions with the overall political structure and why they operate with the given incentives that they do. For example, the history of political science is one of the Ford Foundation inventing it in accordance with strengthening democracy (see the Gaither report), making it a democratic science if you will, which is not different to “aryan physics” or “soviet science” at all. It is not a universal objective science but one rooted in specific institutions, with specific values and specific goals at a specific point in time with specific priorities. That this type of thing has been promoted and organised under “private” institutions (foundations) seems to create a barrier of blindness to what is going on.