Science is consistent and integrated because reality is real. Contradictions do not exist. When we meet an empirical fact for which no explanation exists, it is called an “anomaly” until we understand more and integrate the fact into a new or wider abstraction. Astronomy advanced as neutron stars, quasars, and pulsars were discovered. Even the rings of Saturn attest to this in the 250 years between Galileo’s sighting and Maxwell’s complete theory. Against that, scientists feel that it is unjust that private investors will not fund their Christmas shopping lists. So, they turn to requests for tax dollars. The laws of economics are denied as an inconvenience.
The physicists who worked on the Manhattan Project were later to worry about the horrors they enabled. (Edward Teller seems to have been an exception.) As the best known among them Albert Einstein was asked to sign Leo Szilárd’s petition to the American government to build an atomic bomb. They feared that Germany was on the same program. That the Nazis should command a weapon of such destructive power was not merely consequential but existential. So, they gave it to the United States which did what Germany never could have. From the USA, nuclear weapons spread to the USSR, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and (ultimately) Iran. The lesser of two (or twenty) evils remains evil.
The problem of the Manhattan Project intersects two facts:
(1) The Nazis could never have completed a program in nuclear energy. Any progress that they could have made could only have come from giving them what they could not create. Ultimately, it is a fact of metaphysics, epistemology, politics, and economics that regardless of incremental achievements, the final goal was beyond their abilities.
(2) The small gains came only because people of great ability lacked a correct philosophy to provide moral and ethical guidance. It is a fact of life that you should not work for your own destruction: you should not deliver your mind to your destroyers.
Whether fascists, communists, nationalists, socialists, or some other trending label such as antifa, collectivists deny the validity of human intelligence. Perhaps it is because they have no direct experience with it. The observed facts of history are that they all focus on seizing existing goods or compelling the continuation of existing services. Karl Marx epitomized the mindset of collectivism when he declared that capitalism had solved the problem of production and “now” (1848) was the time to distribute the goods—just when the first electric telegraphs were being adopted by transcontinental railroads, thirty years before the telephone, and fifty years before radios would direct aircraft, and a hundred years before people were putting televisions in their homes. Never knowing of penicillin, sulfa drugs, polio vaccine, open heart surgery, x-ray pictures, CAT scans, or MRI scans, Marx declared that we all could have everything we would ever need to be happy if we just took it from other people. A truly radical sociologist would have asked what is the source of improvement, innovation, invention, and discovery.
The muscle mystics expect possession of physical objects to imbue them with the knowledge to use the tool. To produce steel, they only need to seize a steel mill.
Of course, that plan failed. During World War II, the USA shipped to the USSR thousands of tons of raw materials, thousands of vehicles and other manufactured goods. It sat on rail sidings and rusted into uselessness. (See Victor David Hansen’s The Second World Wars as well as The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas, both reviewed on this blog.) After World War II, the USSR uprooted and transported German factories. They did not make Russia rich. It takes at least a modicum of intelligence to follow a pre-defined routine earnestly and conscientiously, making trivial adjustments in response to minor variances. But no one is more conservative than a communist: varying the routine is dangerous.
Standing Hegel on his head as Marx claimed he did still leaves you with Hegel and Idealism was also the bedrock of fascism. The fascist man of action does not engage in bourgeois logic. He follows the instincts of his nation. Dialectic Materialism is not just a framework. It is dogma. So, Albert Einstein’s theories of general and special relativity were not accepted in communist China. (See “Organized criticism of Einstein and relativity in China, 1949–1989,” by Danian Hu, HSNS (Historical Studies Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences Volume 34, Issue 2 March 2004; and “The Reception of Relativity in China” by Danian Hu, Isis, Volume 98, Number 3, September 2007.) But it is known that the Nazis rejected “Jewish physics” and insisted on pursuing nuclear energy according to some theories different from quantum mechanics.
Regardless of the destruction of the heavy water plant in Norway by British commandos, the Germans were never going to succeed at anything as complicated as nuclear weaponry. The United States succeeded only because LTG Leslie R. Groves ran interference for the geniuses. During World War II, all sides, each some variant of collectivism, only cashed in their intellectual bank accounts. Because American society was less regulated, we succeeded. Having the brightest minds from Europe on the project certainly was the engine, but the Manhattan project required very much more than a handful of Nobel laureates. And once they had the bomb, the government no longer needed J. Robert Oppenheimer or the others. Second-handers could follow in their footsteps.
But even that required another generation of people who were accustomed to thinking for themselves, following their own passions, making their own lives better by whatever personal philosophies they held explicitly or implicitly. That is different from the morality of collectivism.
Today, as never in the 19th century or most of the 20th centuries formal, professional science is informed, guided, and ultimately controlled by a single ideology. I am an Amateur Affiliate member of the American Astronomical Society. I serve as an editor in the History of Astronomy Division where I am responsible for a monthly column. I also serve on a committee to develop collaborations between amateurs and professionals. The AAS is actively engaged in ensuring that you have the right to insist on your own personal gender pronouns. Your right to question the claims of anthropogenic global warming is somewhat less secure. As a backyard astronomer, I am sorry that my night skies are more degraded by light pollution than they were a year ago when we were shut down because of Covid. I also know that if you want really dark skies at night you can go to some wilderness or desert or North Korea. That fact has not been integrated into the sociological perspectives of the AAS which lobbies for dark skies and against constellations of communications satellites. The muscle mystics of science want the material benefits of industrialization without understanding the engine of creation which delivers them.
Murray N. Rothbard penned Power and Market: Government and the Economy (free as a PDF from the Mises Institute here: https://mises.org/library/power-and-market-government-and-economy). His thesis was that political decisions are necessarily unprofitable. Ignoring and denying the facts and theories of economics, political decisions are always net losses of value.
The integration of knowledge in accordance with facts of reality requires that every scientist who is funded by government grants is making your life harder, shorter, and poorer.
Astronomy does have its uses. Timekeeping is fundamental to coordination of efforts across continents in a complex global society. Launching communications satellites is cheaper than laying wire over jungles and under oceans. Economic justifications for advanced scientific research do exist.
And personally I understand the insight of John Arnold: “What comes out of a team or a committee is the most daring idea that the least daring man can accept.” (“Space, Time and Education,” Astounding Science Fiction, May 1953, pp. 9–25. Introductory remarks by John W. Campbell, Jr., editor, pp. 9–10.) But the government works largely by force (occasionally by fraud). Forcing people to give you money against their will makes you a thief. Taking it by fraud defines you as a con artist. When it comes to sales and marketing, it is a necessary fact that selling science is hard work because it requires using logic and evidence to appeal to people who live by logic and evidence.
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