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Credit: Lina Bird

In this podcast, Paul sits down with Fred Tyler, a gapper of 6 months in the gapper 2.0 program. Paul's goal is to give a clear picture of what it is like to be a gapper or ant, in order to make sure people know what they are getting into. A more detailed update of the Labs' developments and the ant village will be in part 2.

Paul begins by describing "Wheaton's Law of Reflective Douchebaggery", in which he points out that if you think someone is a douchebag, your world views are so totally different that the feeling is probably mutual. This applies especially to him personally.

Paul then reads an essay about how the words "science" and "engineering" have been co-opted by liars - how saying "this is proved by science" is used as a way of convincing people their word is fact. In addition, the scientific process itself has become suspicious because of shady funding practices. Fred can't prove him wrong.

Next, Paul makes clear that he will be a "jerk" to anyone trying to freeload on a paid permaculture event. Taking part in an event/food/class you have not paid for is unfair to those who have paid and to the organizers. So don't try it at any of Paul's events, and wear your name tag!

Finally Paul reflects on the strangeness of Reddit, the "man-cave of the internet", mentioning that when someone asked for gapper testimonies, and the most upvoted replies were from trollish speculation from people who had never been gappers.

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I would like to go on record saying that Paul's description of peer review in science is completely contrary to my experience. I am a microbiologist at an academic institution. The only time I've ever been "told" to review a paper was during my training, when my adviser told me to review papers so that I would learn the process. Since then, I have been asked to review. If I agree to review a paper, I am not compensated for it - it is not my "job to review only when told to do so", it is a service I perform for the scientific community, and performing it has no effect on my job. If I turn down the request, that also has no effect on my job. If a paper comes out that I have not reviewed but have an expert opinion on, I can write to the journal, which may publish my letter - or I can publish my own paper refuting it. This will, if anything, have a positive effect on my career, since my job is to do research and write papers.

There are certainly issues with the peer review system in science - the biggest being that people seem to equate "peer review" with "certified factually correct" - something it cannot do. The most peer review can do is say that a paper is well argued, internally consistent, and does not contain any obvious problems in the methods. Reviewers are not omnipotent. Plenty of published papers turn out to be wrong. Whatever the problems with peer review may be, though, it is not the rigged system, with special interests pulling the strings, which Paul's comments seemed to me to imply.

Right-oh. Carry on!
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There certainly are areas in which there is less intervention into the results of scientific experiments, meta-analyses, and other studies. However, there are innumerable studies, perhaps the majority, in which the funding comes from a financially interested party, the desired outcome is clear, and the future career of the scientist is dependent upon the "correct" results. Many internal dialogues have been printed later in which the "scientist" assures the funder that the results will be "optimal".

Impartial federal funding for science and universities have been cut drastically during the last 30-40 years. The Republican majority has stated that universities are places where business is downplayed and anti-Americanism is heralded, so they are defunding them. As most "research" is funded by for-profit corporations now, it is highly questionable whether most of our "science" is just cleverly hidden marketing.
John S
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