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L. Neil Smith's
Number 587, September 12, 2010

"Separation of science and state"

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The Algore Uncertainty Principle
[From the forthcoming Where We Stand]
by L. Neil Smith

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Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

It is an unfortunate—and possibly fatal—sign of our times that, to paraphrase Robert A. Heinlein, one man's science is another man's belly-laugh.
—L. Neil Smith

Although it's one of my favorite movies of all time, there is a certain attitude written into Twister [DVD] [Blu-ray]—a 1996 Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton film about tornado-chasers that was the first to be sold as a DVD and the last to be sold as an HD-DVD—that never fails to annoy me.

If you don't know the story, it pits a sort of lovably rag-tag gang of eccentric academic researchers with battered vehicles and equipment against the elemental forces that kill many Americans every year in the heartland, and destroy what they have labored so hard to build. I live at the western edge of "Tornado Alley" and my eyes are often on the sky looking out for "greenage" practically every summer afternoon.

The characters in Twister also have to confront a rival team of atmospheric scientists equipped with brand new shiny cars and gear, slick company outfits and bright orange windbreakers. Their leader was a colleague of the two principal characters, but finally left them to go to work for private enterprise. Our hero calls him a "corporate suck-butt".

Now hang on just a minute, I always want to say to Bill Paxton. Your "evil adversary" works for a collection of people who have no power of any kind to force their customers to buy whatever it is they have to sell. They can only produce the highest quality goods and services that they can, and then sell them at the lowest possible price.

You, on the other hand, as cute and adorable as you and your cohorts may seem in their beat-up jeans, worn hoodies, and faded T-shirts, tossing catchy dialogue back and forth that was written for you by Joss Whedon, and playing Eric Clapton music videos in your funky-looking equipment-crammed truck—you don't have to produce anything.

You have armed thugs who go out into the world for you and threaten and terrorize Productive Class individuals into paying for your hobby whether they—the Productive Class—are interested in what you do or can afford it or not. Should any among them prove unwilling to cough up, they will be arrested, their homes and other property will be stolen out from under them, and they may be beaten up, kidnapped, and even killed—so that you can be all winsome and cool.

So who's really sucking, here, and exactly what butt? "Yes," said Huey Long. "We will have Fascism in America—only we will call it antiFascism."

Now there are certain things that every five-year-old knows—what torture is, for example, and what it is not. Or that it's very bad to plagiarize the work of others (an issue that arises in the story when the "bad" private enterprise guy appears to have stolen both the noble socialist guy's invention and the credit for having invented it) that most people tend to evade or blank out as they grow up.

One of those things is that it's morally wrong—and not very nice—to steal money and other stuff from one human being or group of human beings with the excuse that you're giving it to some other individual or group, however worthy the recipient's cause may seem to be.

For that reason alone, government funding of the sciences is unacceptable.

Just as I live at the edge of Tornado Alley, thanks to what my wife does for a living, I have lived at the edge of the academic environment for something like 30 years, now. Believe me, there is no "suck-butt" like some university scientific johnnie applying for a grant.

Government subsidy, however—and perhaps even more importantly, the ever-present threat to withhold it in the interest of "political correctness"—has corrupted the practice of science in this country almost beyond recognition. Possibly beyond redemption. All by itself, "global warming"—not really a scientific theory, just a highly lucrative shell-game and article of environmentalist faith among the hopelessly stupid—has made us the scientific laughingstock of the planet.

The gods alone know what the future will make of us.

The fact that the fatuous former United States Vice President Albert Gore could actually be given a Nobel Prize (not to mention an Academy Award) for furthering the global warming hoax would be almost terminally repulsive and depressing—if it weren't also morbidly funny.

In my 1983 novel The Nagasaki Vector, I predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union. One way I knew the culture was doomed was that, for purposes of "security", its scientists weren't free to communicate with one another in their own country, but had to attend international conferences just in order to learn what their own colleagues were up to. The effect of political correctness on science is every bit as harmful.

It's not just global warming, and not just climate science. Over the past several decades, we've been warned, in the most hysterical of terms, about the dire threats represented by horrors like acid rain, ozone depletion, deforestation, desertification, the reduction of biodiversity, and overpopulation. If we're sane, we file these pronouncements away with other "menaces" that confront us, like smoking in bed (very big when I was in first grade), video arcades, and platform shoes. If we're not sane, we obligingly start to "run in circles, scream and shout" the way the con-men and the media want us to do. Along come the politicians to "fix" everything, and invariably we end up with less freedom, and more government control over our lives.

Yet, despite claims that practically everything we eat, drink, or breathe is toxic, we continue to live longer than our predecessors. Of course that's a dire threat, too, to demented individuals who, like the Discovery Channel gunman, hate their own species because they hate themselves.

It never fails to astonish me how many people don't understand what science is. Listening only to evolution-deniers, one would get the impression that it's some kind of cult or religion comparable with what they themselves believe, and that one accepts science on the same basis—the desire to believe it—that they have accepted what they believe.

Science is none of those things. At the same time, it is a very simple thing. Science is nothing more—or less—than a way of looking at reality that has produced vastly better results than any other way that people throughout history have tried. And it works for everyone, every day. You don't have to be an official, certified scientist.

Here's how it works: observe some aspect of the world around you. Find or think up an explanation for why that aspect is the way it is. Test your explanation. Form a new, improved explanation based on your test.

My rooster makes a lot of noise every morning. The sun comes up every morning. My explanation is that my rooster makes the sun come up. I test the explanation by gagging my rooster somehow, and then watching what the sun does. When the sun comes up anyway, I abandon my explanation and try to think of another that coincides better with reality.

Those simple steps, repeated a million times over a thousand years have taken us from the oxcart to the spaceship. They have shown us the true shape of reality from the whirling of unimaginably tiny subatomic particles to the great lacy fans formed by millions of galaxies, each of which is made up of billions of stars. They have lengthened human life expectancy from a little over 20 years to nearly 80 years. They have fed and clothed and housed the people of Western Civilization better than human beings have ever been fed or clothed or housed in history.

The opposite of science, shamanism, in any of the thousands of forms it assumes, always boils down to believing what you believe, not because it's consistent with reality, but because you want to believe it. Although it's been around for thousands of years, and may in fact predate our species, shamanism has failed to produce an inch or an ounce of progress, nor has it enabled people to live a microsecond longer, or—without the generosity of individuals who happen to be in better touch with reality—fed, housed, or clothed a single human being.

Science is often seen by government as a political weapon. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has absolutely no interest in seeing large numbers of taxpayers move away into space on a permanent basis, and for years, they have done whatever they could to prevent vital research in certain areas such as the effect of fractional gravity on human physiology. Similarly, the American Cancer Society, which might as well be a government agency, is infamous for controlling funds to prevent cancer research that they don't approve of.

And which might actually cure cancer, putting them out of a job.

In a more general sense, the substitution of statistics for actual science has had a negative effect on progress. Statistics teach us nothing new; they can be "cooked" to prove or disprove anything you like. For years, "social scientists" lied about the effect of private gun ownership on crime rates, causing countless individuals to lose their lives by being unequipped for self-defense. A so-called scholar, Michael Bellesiles, was caught falsifying data about gun ownership and was banished from academia, although he's currently trying to make a comeback.

On the other hand, Dr. Peter Deuseburg, among others, has been severely and unjustly punished, ostracized by establishment science for publicly pointing out certain questionable research practices and attitudes about Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome, Legionnaire's, and several other diseases. His first book on the subject, Why We Will Never Win the War Against AIDS, was actually suppressed by a court of law.

While it's undoubtedly true that corporate funding is generally results-oriented (which is supposed to be a good thing in engineering, but a bad thing in science), government funding of science is no less results-driven, and almost inevitably involves the misallocation of money for purely political reasons. What institution, for example, is going to pay for research that proves there's no global warming or that AIDS is caused by lifestyle choices rather than a pathogen? We've seen this clearly with stem cell research. We are left to wonder, if all this corruption is going on in plain sight, what's going on in areas of science too esoteric for the public to be interested in or understand?

In the same way Abraham Lincoln didn't really end slavery, as his admirers claim, but only nationalized it through military conscription and the income tax, frauds like Piltdown Man, the New York Sun Moon hoax, and the Cardiff giant were not eliminated through government involvement in science, they were just taken over by the government—an excellent example is secondhand smoke—to be used for its own purposes.

Often it works the other way. The brilliant promise of thermal depolymerization, which could solve most of our energy problems while dealing effectively with landfill pollution and used tires, has been brutally suppressed. I remember misleading headlines in Science News claiming that nobody could replicate Pons and Fleischman's "cold fusion"—mostly large "prestigious" universities that changed the experimental design—when the body of the article listed many more that had stuck with the design and proven that catalytic fusion is real.

There is another danger to real science here: the transparent fraud that is "climate change" is now being used by unscrupulous religionists to cast doubt on the reality of evolution by natural selection. This particular slippery slope leads directly downward into a new Dark Age. Thanks in large measure to Albert Gore and humbugsters like him—and what their behavior has to teach us—we can no longer be confident with the results produced by what is represented today as "science". Did smoking or chewing tobacco ever cause cancer? Who can say? Will using cellular telephones give us brain tumors? We might as well consult someone who looks for the truth in chicken entrails.

Science is too important to be left in the hands of government. In 19th century England, before the development of the greedy, voracious, income-taxing state, it was possible for "amateur" scientists, "living on the interest" to make all of the important discoveries in fields ranging from bacteriology and chemistry to astronomy and what became astrophysics.

What the United States of America need most, if they wish to undo the damage done to them by political correctness, and regain their previous position as the world's leaders in scientific endeavor and the exploration of the universe is a Constitutional amendment mandating formal separation of science—especially medicine—and state.

Separation of science and state.

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Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of more than 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas is currently running as a free weekly serial at

Neil is presently at work on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Where We Stand: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis with his daughter, Rylla.

See stunning full-color graphic-novelizations of The Probability Broach and Roswell, Texas which feature the art of Scott Bieser at Dead-tree versions may be had through the publisher, or at where you will also find Phoenix Pick editions of some of Neil's earlier novels. Links to Neil's books at are on his website


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