Flagpole and building syndrome

Remember the ‘if you build it they will come’ ? ‘Rally around the flag’ ? ‘sucker born every minute’ ?

I believe the lesson was that with a catchy name, a strong policy position and an aggressive media campaign, nobody will dare to criticize the science, and in short order, a terminally weak thesis will be established as fact. After that, any criticism becomes beside the point. The war is already over without a shot being fired.

Of course, any scientist can be charged as Galileo was charged. I just never thought I’d see the Scientific American in the role of mother church.
[Michael Crichton. Aliens Cause Global Warming 17Ja03]

Its like getting a building on campus. Forget about the scientists to occupy it or budget to pay for the research, build the building and the rest will come. A nice chunk of concrete provides tangible evidence of worthiness whether or not there is anything in (or to) it. A good flag to rally the troops and an aggressive attack against the skeptics and cynics will help build a winning image.

Science doesn’t work that way but people do. And people do science. So there is a conflict, an ongoing need for accountability. Don’t be fooled by the appearance of substance with an army of fools behind it. Look for the quality of the concrete and the merits of its foundation.

Whether you are trying to figure out if Galileo was right or whether the popular view of the moment is valid, keep a skeptical eye on what is presented and be open to learning new things.

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