The Weaponisation of pure Research.

In the beginning was the idea, because nothing moves across the face of the waters until the idea comes into existence, and it comes in two varieties. The first one is an idea you’re pretty sure is viable but what remains to be done is working out the exact mechanism to make it become a reality. It’s like climbing up a knotted rope with each of the knots being a problem to be solved, but you always know you’re going to get to the top. It’s procedural and inclines more towards the development side of that classic grouping of research and development.

The second variety leans the other way, towards pure research, and is a much trickier beastie because put quite simply, you don’t know whether it’s a rubbish idea or not until you test it, and the only way of answering that question is to ante up some dough to do the research. It’s classic poker. You’re going to have to pay if you want to see those hidden cards.

The idea itself may come as a freebie, perhaps from someone as unlikely as a patent clerk fiddling in his spare moments with equations describing the very fabric of the universe but after that, someone has to stump up some dough if it’s not to languish in obscurity on the shelf as an interesting but slightly orphaned idea as with Gregor Mendel and his pea plants.

There are three types of player in the financing game.

The first one is government. By and large, it doesn’t finance development of altruistic ideas but concentrates on ones about warfare or security – essentially, ideas we can kill each other with. It does so if only because it quite naturally expects unfriendly governments to be doing exactly the same thing with those self-same ideas. The Manhattan Project would be the prime example. Einstein et al, the physics and the math indicated you can make a helluva bang by splitting some uranium atoms, so they threw shed loads of money at it because they didn’t have much in the way of choice.

In more recent decades, DARPA financed the development of a communications network which didn’t have any central hubs. They did so because they confidently and quite rightly expected such hubs to obliterated in the first strike of a nuclear exchange.

Before people get into full sneer mode at the type of research government funds, it’s worth acknowledging the collateral benefits rather than damage such state-sponsored research often produces. For instance, France has been producing 80% of its electricity from nuclear reactors since the 1950s and that de-centralised message switching network of DARPA was actually the hardware backbone of what was to become the world wide web, with nothing remaining to be done but the trivial step of adding a human clickable interface to it, which Tim Berners-Lee did.

However, the bottom line on most government-funded research is that it’s done only because there is definite potential to weaponise the fruits of it. It’s Daddy Warbucks flashing his dough around.

The next big player to fund research is business. In a very similar way to government, it’s only interested in the type of research that falls under product development and there is a potential pay off point in the future. Strictly speaking, instead of weaponising an idea, they’re figuring out ways to get it to market and make a buck out of it, but the difference is really only doctrinal. Figuring out how to make a profit from an idea is very much weaponising it, from an enterprise viewpoint.

In a very narrow sense, it occasionally does what could be seen as pure research. I’m thinking here of things like a couple of technically savvy kids putting together the first personal computers in their parent’s garage and then organically growing a company from that idea. They get a bit of lead time but as soon as they try to get investors on board, the whole thing becomes much more commercially focused, otherwise it will not attract development finance.

They are indulged for the first few years or so because their backers don’t really understand sunrise industries but after the business goes public, earnings per share and dividends have to increase each year or it will go bust or be devoured by a corporate predator. Enterprise capitalism remorselessly eats its own weaker children – guts, gonads, gizzard and all, without even breaking step on its relentless march towards the bottom line, where the whole process begins afresh with the start of each financial year. That is the nature of the beast.

The third and final grouping that finances research is a ragbag of non-governmental, non-enterprise bodies, but mainly consisting of the higher centres of academia such as universities but with the odd endowed private institution founded to pursue research on a specific subject. Prior to the last three decades, they all did what could be termed pure research, sometimes known as science to the general public.

Mostly, it’s a waste of money, always has been and always will be. At a guess, I’d say 97% of it is eminently forgettable and of course is promptly forgotten. It’s perhaps me getting more reactionary in my old farthood, but I do feel of late that the percentage of forgettable crap produced has crept up significantly, but that could just be my memory starting to play tricks on me.

Once in a while it mines out a diamond but we’re talking every century or so, and the follow on thought is that so many of the diamond producers were never products of any educational system, tertiary or otherwise. I’ve remarked before that we now spend more on education that ever in the Earth’s history, and the returns do seem to be diminishing. I’m given to understand by a friend at the education coal face that even after you cut out those tough courses like remedial basket weaving or disco dancing, barely a third of freshers make it through to completing their third year.

It’s a tired and cynical numbers game played by politicians and epitomised by the former UK prime Minister Tony Blair. He said as an election promise his aim was quite simple – education, education and education. The reality is he actually cut funding to higher education in real terms and by the end of his premiership, tuition fees had gone from one thousand pounds per year to six and they’re still heading north. When you lump on top of that the loans a student is obliged to shoulder, there’s not much change from a thirty-five to forty thousand pound debt after three years of education.

You can see why convincing a working class lad from a modest background that any sort of higher education could be worth those sort of numbers is a tough sale. Where he comes from, forty thousand pounds is indistinguishable from forty million pounds – dream on Teacher man. Educational upward mobility, just like social mobility, has stalled in Britain. It’s a terrible betrayal of ground so hard-won by previous generations. It’s pure Animal Farm, the ruthless Capitalists have become indistinguishable from the porcines punting themselves out as political representatives of the working man. They’re all self-absorbed pigs cut from the same privileged cloth.

As the eighties drew to a close, all the elements of a perfect storm came together and it was not planned – merely a cursed configuration of circumstances. Governments wanted bragging rights about what percentage of their youth progressed to third level education, and the only way to do that was to drop entrance standards. In response, tertiary education tanked the minimal requirements and now the all growed up indifferent products of mediocrity are dutifully educating the young bright minds of the twenty-first century, and it’s tantamount to child abuse at times.

Faculties for “hard” subjects such as chemistry folded but the areas like media studies thrived and grew to engulf and devour all in their path like ravening beasts. At the same time, governments didn’t want to actually increase education budgets to finance such a massive expansion in education so the poor beleaguered chancellors of universities had to go out pan handling to business and of course, accommodations were made. The dreaming spires aside, there’s always been an element of cap and gown wheedling some money out of the merchant class, but this was different.

Rather than the usual form of the merchant benefactors saying here’s a whacking dollop of money, finance something earth shattering with it and rename the new wing after me, they were saying I want you to do research for me on a specific and weaponisable idea. It was no longer pure research, it was development with contractual agreements to sort out who got which slices of equity once it came to market.

In effect, commerce was doing nothing more than harnessing the best and brightest kids as an off-site research and development department, but of course that doesn’t work when you’re dealing with the once a century type of kiddo. It’s all very interesting young Isaac, but tell me how can we make money out of shining a light through a prism? Is there any way you can kill people with it?

The final element of the storm was the collapse of the liberal dream in the eighties. Reagan, Thatcher and Kohl ruled supreme, the bottom fell out of the Soviet Union and the old pattern of the populace habitually voting along class lines disintegrated. The whole half-century Marxist dialectic analysis of society was proved wrong, the historical inevitability of the triumph of global socialism crashed and burned, and nobody appeared to give a rat’s ass about its passing anyway.

Extremist of the left, just like extremists of the right, never ever give up. It took a decade or so to find a way forward to still pursue those same political aims and it gradually became clear that co-opting the environmental movement was the way to go. The names, places, policy titles and the political rationale for them all changed but it was still moving towards the same old restructuring of western society.

Climate research became a highly politicised branch of science and therefore became plagued with all the demons coming out of the Pandora’s box of politics. Debate ceased to be about the substance of the subject but its shadow. It was no longer about fluid dynamics but about how exploitable pliable public opinion could be. Attacks on the man supplanted any rational refutation of what he was saying.

There really wasn’t much of anything in the way of a scientific rationale, everyone gradually began to bet hot and heavy on the roulette wheel’s red 14, which was Carbon being the root of all global warming evil that would destroy the world and could only be avoided by deconstructing democratic capitalism. Increasingly, that bet looks to have been a scientifically indefensible one, but they’re by now totally locked into it.

People didn’t panic in the direction intended, mother nature didn’t co-operate with theory and as the years trucked on, red 14 can only be defended as a decent bet if you ignore the real world data stacking up against it. That dam is cracking everywhere and the data is blasting holes in it. Increasingly, mainstream climate scientists look like clowns with their fingers stuck into the dyke and the lady in question really ain’t too bothered about their attentions.

That’s called reality.


Related articles by Pointman:

How environmentalism turned to the dark side.

The Age of Unenlightenment.

For a friend.

Click for a list of other articles.

18 Responses to “The Weaponisation of pure Research.”
  1. Pointman says:

    It looks like a great rugger weekend I hope, so I’ll be offline but please flag up my usual typos, cockups and I’ll fix them up between bouts of irrational exuberance or despair.


  2. beththeserf says:

    Typos immaterial. Yer nailed it and in prose befittin’ the 18th century
    essayists. )


  3. NoFixedAddress says:

    Post normal rugger I presume.

    Along with post normal emotions!


  4. Blackswan says:


    Yet another cogent overview of the machinations of science funding and fraud. We Aussies once had hope that the Hucksters and Fraudsters of our scientific community had been called to account in 2013, just before the last Federal Election.

    The contention was that Prof Will Steffen, the Executive Director of the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University (ANU) had been party to outright fraud in his misinformation to the public at a Community Forum in Canberra.

    “In a damning open letter (July 9, 2013) by Australian scientists, Dr Judy Ryan and Dr Marjorie Curtis, professors Steffen and Hughes are being called out for their biased and unscientific presentations given at the Canberra Community Forum on June 17th 2013. The professors are accused of not only making “misleading” and “false” statements but it is being suggested their bogus climate claims may rise to the level of actual fraud.”

    (Reminder to self – don’t get too excited)

    Steffen was the liar who claimed that climate scientists at the ANU had received death threats resulting in them going into hiding and who had expensive extra security measures installed. It was later proven that Steffen’s claims were entirely false. The death threats got banner headlines – his exposure as a liar did not.

    Well, after that election the new government abolished Labor’s Climate Commission putting Steffen and the Flim Flam Man Flannery out of a cushy well-funded job. Steffen and Flim Flam weren’t taking that lying down; a few days later they formed the Climate Council claiming to be fully funded by public donations.

    Trouble is, nothing happened – to any of them. ‘Monkey’ business as usual.

    Stiffey and Flim Flam are still on the public payroll, still have their university jobs and are still the go-to guys for the Lefty MSM hacks on anything climate related. Bummer.

    Now, in March 2015, the same retired professors Ryan & Curtis have followed up with an open letter to the Environment Minister, taking careful aim at our Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and our Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) for their fraud and homogenisation of raw weather data in their advice to Governments on climate policies and resultant funding.

    It’s their contention that we all have a claim against these individuals for “legal injury” resulting from their Fraud.

    Just waiting to decided which ‘class action’ bandwagon I can climb aboard.


  5. hillbilly33 says:

    Well said as always Pointy. Re-reading the links complete an insightful narrative.

    Will Steffen is always keen to make sure it’s known he is associated with the group of scientists working to have the Anthropocene accepted as an epoch in the Geological Time Scale. Determining the actual start period is causing them a problem, ranging from suggestions of as early as 14,-15,000 years ago to a remarkably precise date of July 16th 1945.

    The Anthropocene Working Group plans to meet in 2016 to submit evidence and decide whether the Anthropocene is a true geologic epoch.

    Australian taxpayers are naturally thrilled they have been funding Will’s numerous trips on such momentous projects./sarc

    Poor old Professor Flim-Flam’s 2007 prediction of an ice-free North Pole by 2013 went by the board and now his extension to 2015 has also failed to materialise. The rain in Australia is still running off into dams so sadly for Tim, Nature has trashed his prediction the ground would get so hot that wouldn’t happen, but as Blackswan has stated, both Steffan and Flannery are ‘still the go-to guys for the Lefty MSM hacks on anything climate related’, and notably are particular darlings of .
    ‘our’ taxpayer funded nest of Left-wing hacks at ‘our’ national broadcaster, ‘our’ ABC.

    (Reference to the divisive, treasonous, fatally biased mob giving their opinions as ‘our’, is expressed with tongue very firmly in cheek!)


  6. Blackswan says:

    G’day Hillbilly – I have some bad news for you I’m afraid, and for all our Realist mates around the world …..

    “Climate change to make steak and chicken taste worse, ruining barbecues for future Aussies”

    So there you have it folks – hot off the MSM presses – and we know it MUST be true because a ‘scientist’ (and some very expensive research) said so.

    “University of Melbourne associate professor Richard Eckard said the report was a wake up call, with some of the affects predicted in the next five decades.”

    Enjoy your family barbeque on your rugger weekend Pointy, because its days are numbered. CAGW will soon have your lamb chops, snags and chicken wings tasting so fowl (sic/sarc) that it won’t be worth stacking the kindling.

    Darn. If only we’d paid more Carbon Tax we could have saved our BBQs from ruin.


    • Graeme No.3 says:

      No, no Swannie, it’s the effect of banning BBQs from being lit (to avoid all that terrible, disastrous CO2. So steak etc. plonked raw onto cold steel covered with rancid grease (never burnt off) will naturally taste pretty awful.

      The whole idea is predicated on AGW theory being right and the various predictions coming true. Anybody who looks up those prediction will probably get 100 to 1 via Centrebet.


    • hillbilly33 says:

      Hi Swannie. Did you notice that ” The report was developed as part of the Earth Hour campaign, which encourages Australians to switch off lights on March 28″,

      Guess who is the manager of the earth Hour program? None other than fervent global warming disciple Anna Rose, partner of the former head of the Labor/left activist social media site “Get Up” (whose name escapes me at present), founded with the active help of current Labor leader Bill Shorten and many other leading Labor “lites” (sic).

      A few years ago “Our” ABC sent Anna with Liberal ex-politician and realist Nick Minchin as a foil, round the world to meet various proponents of the pros and cons of CAGW, ’cause she believed “I can change your mind”. When Nick introduced her to Marc Morano of Climate Depot, she was struck dumb and refused to listen, talk to or question him because she said “he tells lies”. Hilarious video.

      They then turned up in Western Australia with an ABC crew to the home of Jo Nova and David Evans for a pre-arranged interview, to be confronted with Jo’s own cameraman to ensure she wasn’t “verballed” and/or unfairly “edited”. Pandemonium reigned for a while.

      Jo has the real interview on site and when compared with the edited version which appeared on ABC, shows just how wise she and David were to take such precautions..

      Subsequently, the Labor Government gave Anna a $211,000 no accountability grant for brainwashing sessions for the gullible youth of Perth & Brisbane. This was part of many similar millions of unaccountable taxpayers funds dished out as you know – including one of your favourites, Professor Eggar’s Norfolk Island Carbon Credit Card!

      Good news for Tassie farmers though, according to yesterday’s Sunday Tasmanian,
      which carried the Tassie version of the Report and to which I won’t link because it’s behind a paywall. Apparently all the vegies are going to be so tasteless and difficult to grow on mainland Australia, the growers will.! all be moving to Tasmania tp plant them down here!

      The ABC, MSM and fellow warmists are triers, or still trying in every sense of the word!


      • johanna says:

        Anna Rose’s partner is sometime Greens candidate Simon Sheikh.

        Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up. Based on models, they claim that our lamb will be tough, our vegies inedible and our fruit shrivelled, because of increased emissions of plant food.

        Anyone with the slightest conception of the hundreds of thousands (at least) of microclimates in this vast country knows that it is utter bollocks.


      • Blackswan says:

        Thanks H/B. I saw the Earth Hour rubbish but didn’t realise who was behind it. I guess this barmy “research” coming out of Melbourne Uni should be no surprise. They are the mob who are so grateful for the Marxists’ largesse with taxpayer funding that they gave the Queen of Tarts an honorary doctorate for her “services to the nation”.

        Yeah, right.

        Not a shred of integrity to be found at any level there I’m afraid.


      • Old Rooster says:

        If only I had the wherewithal I’d deploy searchlight batteries to light up the Sky everywhere for Earth Hour. As it is I must be content with boiling the kettle a few times, leaving on the lights I normally turn off and maybe using the oven just to make sure there is no drop in usage. Actually I understand that the figures generally indicate that there is no significant drop in electrical usage and there may in fact be increases. Andrew Bolt’s site (which I no longer follow) used to report on it.


  7. Retired Dave says:

    Well – as insightful as always Pointy.

    A few relevant and dismembered points about education the UK.

    Who the hell thinks half the jobs in the UK need a degree? 45% is the current take up rate, though as Pointy says at least a third don’t get to the end (many don’t get to the end of year one).

    There are now more university lecturers in the UK than there were university students in 1965, when only around 6% of school leavers went to university. Now we have degrees not only in basket weaving as pointy says, but just the Outer-Mongolian variety. The whole thing is madness. How can any semblance of standards and relevance be maintained?

    To be fair to Tony Blair (and that it is very hard), the whole spectrum of politics was carried along on the same stupidity – the rationale seems to have been to import people from anywhere to do the jobs that the locals will be too qualified to do???!!! That has been a staggering success story /sarc off – that is not a racist comment, I would be happy to see hard working immigrants from anywhere as long as we didn’t have to keep the indolent Brits in a not too shabby lifestyle at the same time.

    I read an article a couple of years ago that detected a move in the USA towards companies recruiting staff with good university entrance qualifications and moulding them the way they want – the employee saves a fortune and companies are finding they get more of a company person. It is a similar route to that I took myself half-century ago. I knew half the job at the higher levels before I trained (practically and academically) to do them and as a senior manager many years later, the fact that I had done nearly every job I managed was a big advantage to me and the company. I always referred to it as ” the long apprenticeship” – surely its day must return and the practice of just poaching other company’s staff has to end.


  8. Pointman says:

    For St. Pat’s, the words of the poet Patrick Kavanagh put to an old air called the dawning of the day, and then just to top it off, Luke Kelly doing the singing. Performance art doesn’t get much better.



  9. Russ Wood says:

    G Harry Stine, when he was writing fact articles for Analog magazine, mentioned that once he was working for an engineering company that needed some more staff. A manager asked “Should we get PhD’s or can we just do with MSc’s?” Harry replied “How about just getting people who can do the job?”. Yep – too much emphasis on paper, and not enough on “what can you do?”.


  10. Graeme No.3 says:

    Russ Wood:

    after many years in industry I wish I could give you more than 1 thumb up. A lot more.
    And yes, I have met one or two very good PhD’s in industry, but more of the other type.


  11. durango12 says:

    Corporate research is the most honest. It generates new knowledge that might be used to benefit the company and when successful it usually also benefits humanity (think the transistor, the integrated circuit, MRIs, biotech products…). Government sponsored research is mostly mediocre, as Pointy points out, but becomes the handmaiden of political enslavement when it can be used for that purpose. This is because modern “democratic” governments are good only at thinking of rationalizations to make themselves bigger. Along the way they will be sure to crush dissent as it stands in its way. So at the end of the day the painful conclusion is that the best thing for science is for government to get out of the business.


  12. genghiscunn says:

    Sounds fair to me. Michael Cunningham, aka Faustino


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: