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« Precipitation - steady as she goes | Main | More on the ice age scare »

Quote of the day, academic extremism edition

People who become intoxicated by the progress of knowledge, often become the enemies of freedom.

Friedrich von Hayek, quoted at No Tricks Zone.

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Reader Comments (27)

The difference between a real expert and other people, is not how much they know, or even how much they think they know, it is that they know how much they don't know.

Dec 4, 2015 at 12:14 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

MAJOR correction: People who allow themselves to be deluded by an illusory progress of knowledge--who make of that illusion an unquestionable but false dogma--have already made themselves the enemy of freedom. This is what Darwin did, and what we are all suffering the consequences of, in the earth and life sciences today, and thus in the inescapably tyrannical governmental policies derived from their long-nurtured waywardness. You all have bought into an inept war on religion, that threw out the baby with the bathwater when it outlawed any consideration of design of the "natural" world. See what you have done--what the Insane Left is now trying to do--with your mass delusion.

Dec 4, 2015 at 12:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Huffman

Stuck in their modelling echo-chamber they forget that the history of science shows it to be
evolutionary. Theories are provisional like Popper and Einstein said, one contradictory fact
and yr theory may be falsified - be replaced by a new theory that better fits the facts - from
Copernicus on to Newton and Einstein ...

Come to that , hasn't CAGW theory already been falsified? No lock-step CO2 increase and
increasing warming, no troposphere finger-print ...

Dec 4, 2015 at 12:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterBeth Cooper

Hayek is a very interesting guy. He's mainly known as being a guru of Thatcher and her circle, but he was much more than that. One of a whole generation of Austro-Germans to quit their countries in the thirties, resulting in the extinction of the great current of German thought emanating from Marx and Freud, through Weber, Popper and a host of philosophers, art historians, linguists – you name it. Anyone who thinks that psychology = Lewandowsky or sociology = Labour party guru Gittings, read the German prewar generation and weep.

From Wiki

“In his philosophy of science, which has much in common with that of his good friend Karl Popper, Hayek was highly critical of what he termed scientism: a false understanding of the methods of science that has been mistakenly forced upon the social sciences, but that is contrary to the practices of genuine science. Usually, scientism involves combining the philosophers' ancient demand for demonstrative justification with the associationists' false view that all scientific explanations are simple two-variable linear relationships.
Hayek points out that much of science involves the explanation of complex multivariable and nonlinear phenomena, and the social science of economics and undesigned order compares favourably with such complex sciences as Darwinian biology.”

Hayek said somewhere that the victory of socialism was inevitable.

Dec 4, 2015 at 12:50 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Obama ,Prince Charles and the other concerned Enviromentalists don't mind sharing a platform with Robert Mugabe whilst his wife Grace with the rest of the the Climate WAGs are hitting the Paris boutiques shopping for Channel and Dior.

Dec 4, 2015 at 1:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

Come to that , hasn't CAGW theory already been falsified? No lock-step CO2 increase and
increasing warming, no troposphere finger-print ...

Dec 4, 2015 at 12:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterBeth Cooper

Yes, Beth Cooper. And it has evolved, to certain extent: When the warming appeared to slow down or stop, the name evolved from "global-warming" to "climate-change". One could say that they adapted. :)

Dec 4, 2015 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

This seems a non sequitur to me as you quote it. Maybe it needs the context to make sense.

Dec 4, 2015 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterjferguson

I can sort of understand how this quote came to be from Hayek: people who think to abstractly might become
world estranged.

But this isnt the progs curse. Progs are too complacent to abstract, they are high spenders, fly to Ibiza generally
live the good life, in the real. They just DONT think and abstract at all. For them thinking is simple, they just "believe" and
rehash the general cuckling they hear in their hives.

Its a LACK of mental facilities, with them, not too much.

Dec 4, 2015 at 2:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterVenusCold

Harry Dale Huffman on Dec 4, 2015 at 12:19 PM
"This is what Darwin did ..."

Darwin was his own first critic, so I wouldn't blame him, alone. At the time, there were many 'anti-Old Testament' supporters who found Darwin's Hypothesis/Theory to be an excellent weapon in their battles against the Church and cared not a jot what their actions did to Scientific scholarship.

From Darwin Himself Stating How His Theory Cannot Be True!

Today many will say that the Genesis version of what happened In The Beginning has been superseded by the Big Bang Theory, but that has been shown to be internally inconsistent, so it does not explain what happened. We might as well stay with the first explanation until we find one that works a bit better. At least the first one doesn't require post-graduate Maths in its explanation.

An idea can be believed to be true, not believed to be true, or it can be tested against reality. This requires the idea to be held, non judgmentally, so it can be tested with thought experiments or even real experiments, with the goal of finding a better understanding of the theory! Without this ability, there are only two options, true or false, both very superficial. I don't think Darwin encouraged this at all.

Dec 4, 2015 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Christopher

Tegmark beleives in a mathematical world, Deutsch believes in parallel worlds
The big bang is logically inconsistent it does not approach the intellectual challenge of infinity at all.
Black matter has no place anywhere in our current physical models.

If present day madrassas were rebuilt from scratch and then something valuable were stamped out of the ground with half the money we would see an EXPLOSION of new ideas and theories that would dwarf our present conceptions of reality.

Present day establishment IS the problem, EVERYWHERE and more so than durin the time of catholic bishops governing
central Europe.

Dec 4, 2015 at 2:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterVenusCold

Oh jeez, just what we need... the creationist crowd

Dec 4, 2015 at 3:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

The quote comes from a recent article in Nature - Climate policy: Democracy is not an inconvenience
In full:-

The philosopher Friedrich Hayek, who led the debate against social and economic planning in the mid-twentieth century, noted a paradox that applies today. As science advances, it tends to strengthen the idea that we should “aim at more deliberate and comprehensive control of all human activities”. Hayek pessimistically added: “It is for this reason that those intoxicated by the advance of knowledge so often become the enemies of freedom”. We should heed his warning. It is dangerous to blindly believe that science and scientists alone can tell us what to do.

The quote is given from Hayek, F. A. The Constitution of Liberty (Routledge, 1960)

Dec 4, 2015 at 3:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Marshall

Where there is no freedom - political and individual, there is little or no technological innovation, we started the long march here in the west and thus to regression, hence most forwards technological advancement has stalled.

Western education was elitist by definition, achievement and academic rigour was a must for attainment. Now, all of that has been vanished to be replaced with an egalitarian "we're all equal" tosh and particularly in Britain, where a school system which frowns on, distrusts and marginalizes engineering, pure science and mathematics - not only lets down all the children, it is society dooming itself.

The PRC allows technological innovation but not individual freedom, will never be the foremost economy in the world. North Korea is stuck in the dark ages with most of the 'third' world which dooms itself through an allegiance to a creed which is stuck rigidly in a dim past and Europe and America stagnate also because: we forgot the basics of - how to learn.

The green agenda is a march into the backwoods, metaphorically and literally.

Dec 4, 2015 at 3:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

An extreme form of the mentality that Hayek was opposed to was expressed by ATTP earlier this year:-

However, ignoring that Lomborg appears to have a rather tenuous grasp on the basics of climate science, my main issue with what he says is its simplicity. Take all the problems in the world, determine some kind of priority ordering, and then start at the top and work your way down – climate change, obviously, being well down the list. It’s as if Lomborg doesn’t realise that the world is a complex place and that many of the problems we face are related. We can’t necessarily solve something if we don’t also try to address many of the other issues at the same time. It’s this kind of simplistic linear thinking – and that some seem to take it seriously – that irritates me most.

Hayek's reasons that we cannot address many of the issues are that we are neither omniscient nor omnipresent. Even if a central mind was in that position, it would never be able to change tacit knowledge into process able data, nor define all the interrelationships necessary to build an optimal model. Furthermore, to carry out the plans would require a level of omnipotence that totalitarians could only dream of.

Dec 4, 2015 at 4:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Marshall

Within this discussion lies the solution to the climate debate and to many other questions and it would only take intelligence and humility to be able to see it ^.^
Research into the question of how the universe started, if it did start at all, is just work in progress and could remain so for all eternity.
Research into how our climate works is just work in progress and could remain just that for hundreds of years.
We should continue our research and just deal with potential threats as best we can and the biggest problem is those arrogant enough to say they already understand enough to predict anything.

Dec 4, 2015 at 4:30 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Just read a biography of Feynman. His first huge breakthrough was the Feynman diagrams which are actually a computational method for dealing with complex interactions. Until late in life he was cautious about this invention of his, thinking perhaps it was just a computational trick, and not reality. This is in sharp contrast to many academics today who are much too quick to claim that their latest result is "true" and that everyone should start eating bran muffins. I have known many fine scientists but among them are those who will never ever admit they were wrong in the slightest detail, which of course is absurd.

Dec 4, 2015 at 4:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterCraig Loehle

Craig Loehle,

A Feynman anecdote I read is that while he was at Caltech he drove around Pasadena in a VW bus whose sides were decorated with Feynman diagrams. Of course 99.999% of people on the streets had no idea what they were, figuring it was just another hippie van with abstract artwork.

But one day a driver yelled out his window, "Hey, how come you got Feynman diagrams on your car?"

"Cause I'm Feynman!"

Dec 4, 2015 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Bob

Every true Science is like a hardy Alpine guide that leads us on from the narrow, though it may be the more peaceful and charming, valleys of our preconceived opinions, to higher points, apparently less attractive, nay often disappointing for a time, till, after hours of patient and silent climbing, we look round and see a new world around us.


These days, what passes for climate science is like someone using Google Earth to climb the mountain...

Dec 4, 2015 at 7:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterCaligula Jones

The quote needs to be understood in the context provided above in comments.
Hayek was an economist. At his time, two distinct schools were emerging. The Smith/Keynes/Galbraith 'political philosophy' and the Marshall/Samuelson/Freedman 'mathematical economics'. Both later upended somewhat by the psychological insights of 'behavioral expectations' (hint, humans do not behave as mathematically rational optomizing entities, garnering another big Nobel prize).
Hayek was more on the 'political philosophy' side. But his warning is legitimately generalized here in this context. Since 'climate science' is almost a caricature of pure 'mathematical economics', which is completely oblivious to 'political economy' and 'behavioral expectations'. I trained as a mathematical economist, but attended Galbraith's memorable lectures, and was given a Hayek book as a student award upon graduation from college. Blast from the past, for sure.

Dec 4, 2015 at 10:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan

TheBigYinJames on Dec 4, 2015 at 3:17 PM
"Oh jeez, just what we need... the creationist crowd"

Knowing the finer points of the The Big Bang Theory hasn't been necessary in my day to day routine or at any other time, yet, so I have never made any effort to investigate it in any depth. As it is an internally inconsistent theory, and therefore unable to explain reality, there is no point in understanding it if I have no chance of solving the problem of the inconsistencies.

I don't think any of my neighbours can help me, so the choice is to give up and ignore the subject, as my Maths isn't up to it, or use a very unsophisticated Biblical description that many around me do understand. It may not be reality, as I understand it, but it aids communication with others.

BELIEVING an internally inconsistent theory to be a description of reality is odd, to say the least. Attempting to understand it is a different matter altogether.

Dec 4, 2015 at 11:41 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher


"Research into the question of how the universe started, if it did start at all, is just work in progress and could remain so for all eternity. Research into how our climate works is just work in progress and could remain just that for hundreds of years."

Totally agree. However my attitude to climate science as it is portrayed in the media is that it's a pack of lies, not arrogance.

Dec 5, 2015 at 5:15 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff


I did not mean to exclude the liars but I still think they are arrogant ^.^

Dec 5, 2015 at 8:36 AM | Registered CommenterDung

"BELIEVING an internally inconsistent theory to be a description of reality is odd, to say the least" - millions of religious people would say it is perfectly normal.

Dec 8, 2015 at 11:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

Knowing the finer points of the The Big Bang Theory hasn't been necessary in my day to day routine or at any other time, yet, so I have never made any effort to investigate it in any depth.

Well then it makes sense you are the expert on it.

There is, of course, a portion of humanity which becomes full rxxxrd immediately after Darwin is mentioned, and their brainless comments about origins of humanity, life, the Earth and universe are not only ignorant and inconsistent, but they replay the same centennial stupidity despite how profoundly the modern society is based on scientific findings contradicting their loved old writings.

Could you gentlemen just sxxt up and go on? Most Christians have gone forward and taken the position not everything in a 17 hundred year old literary collection can literally be true. It is just you with your fundamentum who think the Earth is six thousand years old, done by a male JHV in six days. There is no xxxxing room here to list the holes in your fairy tale.

While I adore you writing with your own name, I really hope you don't accidentally paint cagw sceptics as antiscientific lunatics. I have trouble not using Luboš Motlish language on you, so bear me. Just stop.

Dec 11, 2015 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterwert

Internal inconsistency (or apparent inconsistency) is not usually seen as a desirable attribute of a theory, even by the religious. RC, I'm not sure why wert attributes to you the belief that the earth is only 6000 years old (or indeed why he gets so cross), but it would interest some of us to know why you think the Big Bang theory is internally inconsistent?

Dec 13, 2015 at 8:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterosseo

Whoa! Wert has gone off on a bit of a rant, there, extrapolating a lot from Robert Christopher’s post that really is not there! It would be interesting to see the logic behind that.

My understanding is that there are a few inconsistencies with the Big Bang, not least the one where it is supposed to be slowing down, which it isn’t; it is actually continuing to accelerate in its expansion. Then there is the idea that there is not enough gravity within the known materials to keep it all together in the first place – yet something is holding it together… So, they came up with the idea of Dark Matter; something that cannot be seen, cannot be heard, cannot be felt, cannot be smelt and cannot be detected in any way known, yet must exist. Conversely, the idea of God is summarily dismissed by many, using the scientific logic that He cannot be seen, cannot be heard, cannot be felt, cannot be smelt and cannot be detected in any way known… therefore cannot exist. Some disparity, there?

Jan 12, 2016 at 8:56 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Totally agree. What you said I think it is right. hope you can do this always. Come on.

Mar 31, 2016 at 7:10 AM | Unregistered Commenterundelete

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