The Chat bot vs. the editor-in-chief of Science

May 15, 2023 • 12:30 pm

As you know, Science’s editor-in-chief Holden Thorp has been dragging his magazine into inappropriate realms of ideology (see my posts here), and of course his power as editor of America’s most famous science journal keeps some scientists from speaking up about this.

Reader Jay thought he’d do an experiment and compare Thorp to the output of Chat GPT, which of course is very woke. Here’s what he sent me:

Who is the better wokebot, Holden Thorp or ChatGPT?I (Jay) asked ChatGPT:“Some people argue that scientific ideas should be judged on their merits rather than the identity group of the scientist who put forth the idea. Please refute this argument in the manner of Holden Thorp.“ChatGPT responded:

“As Holden Thorp, I would respectfully disagree with the argument that scientific ideas should be judged solely on their merits rather than the identity group of the scientist who proposed them. While evaluating ideas based on their merits is essential, it is equally important to consider the broader context in which scientific knowledge is produced.“Science is a human endeavor, shaped by the diverse perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds of scientists. The identity of the scientist can influence the questions they ask, the methods they employ, and the biases they may bring to their research. By recognizing the impact of identity on scientific inquiry, we can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the strengths and limitations of the ideas put forth.“The exclusion of identity from scientific evaluation can perpetuate biases and inequalities within the scientific community. Historically, certain groups, such as women and minority scientists, have faced systemic barriers and discrimination that limited their access to resources, opportunities, and recognition. Ignoring the identity of scientists risks perpetuating these inequities and undervaluing the contributions of underrepresented groups.“Moreover, the identity of the scientist can shape the dissemination and acceptance of scientific ideas. Studies have shown that research findings are more likely to be accepted and cited when they come from prestigious institutions or individuals with established reputations. This “authority bias” can lead to the undue elevation of certain ideas based on the status and identity of the scientist, rather than their scientific rigor.“By acknowledging the importance of identity in scientific evaluation, we can actively promote inclusivity and diversity in the scientific community. Embracing diverse perspectives fosters innovation, creativity, and interdisciplinary collaborations. It allows for the exploration of research questions that may have been overlooked and the development of solutions that are more comprehensive and equitable.“In conclusion, while judging scientific ideas based solely on their merits may seem appealing, it is crucial to consider the identity group of the scientist. Ignoring identity risks perpetuating biases and inequalities, hindering the advancement of scientific knowledge. By actively recognizing and addressing the influence of identity, we can foster a more inclusive and rigorous scientific enterprise.“

Jay’s conclusion:

ChatGPT made a coherent argument, avoided strawmen, and cited evidence. A good wokebot would do none of that, so my vote goes to Holden.

That is, Jay judges Thorp a better wokebot. Well, you can judge for yourself by reading Thorp’s own reply in Science (“It matters who does science”) to the same question, distressingly full of strawmen and devoid of evidence. I am impressed at how eloquent ChatGPT spews its wokeness. (Remember, it regurgitates a version of what it gets from public sources.)

19 thoughts on “The Chat bot vs. the editor-in-chief of Science

  1. I actually am pretty much in agreement with the ChatGPT position. I would, however, replace “equally” with “also” in the first paragraph.

  2. “Where did you get that information?”
    “The internet.”
    “You can’t believe something just because it is on the internet.”
    “Well, this is advanced! I used ChatGPT, which distills vast information and presents the resulting truth.”
    “Where does Chat get the vast information from?”
    “The internet.”

  3. Chatbot is not woke or Enlightened. It responds as best it can to whatever you ask for. Here is an example of a very clear, coherent, exposition of why scientific ideas do indeed need to be judged purely on their merits. I’m sure I’ve read something very similar from Dr. Coyne. 🙂

    Prompt to ChatGPT: Write an article of 600 words in the style of Dr. Jerry Coyne supporting the idea that scientific ideas should be judged solely on their merits rather than the identity of the scientist putting forward the idea

    ChatGPT responds:

    Title: Evaluating Scientific Ideas: A Call for Merit-Based Judgment


    In the realm of science, the evaluation of ideas and theories should be grounded in objective analysis and evidence. It is imperative that we focus on the merits of scientific ideas rather than the identity or background of the scientist proposing them. The concept of merit-based judgment forms the bedrock of scientific progress, allowing us to embrace diverse perspectives and foster intellectual growth. In this article, we will delve into the importance of evaluating scientific ideas solely on their merits, setting aside any personal biases.

    The Objective Pursuit of Knowledge

    Science is a pursuit of knowledge that transcends personal beliefs, biases, or affiliations. It rests upon the rigorous examination of evidence, logical reasoning, and replicable experimentation. To assess the validity of scientific ideas, we must embrace the principle of objectivity, which necessitates impartial judgment solely based on the quality of evidence and reasoning provided. By adhering to this principle, we foster an environment that encourages robust scientific discourse and the growth of knowledge.

    Eliminating Personal Biases

    One of the greatest challenges in the evaluation of scientific ideas is the presence of personal biases, conscious or unconscious, that can cloud judgment. These biases may stem from various factors, including the reputation or identity of the scientist presenting the idea. However, such biases only hinder the objective assessment of scientific ideas and can lead to the rejection or acceptance of concepts based on irrelevant factors.

    By focusing solely on the merits of scientific ideas, we strip away the influence of personal biases, allowing us to critically examine the evidence, logic, and methodology employed. This approach promotes fairness, intellectual integrity, and the pursuit of truth, irrespective of the personal characteristics of the scientist presenting the idea.

    Encouraging Diversity of Thought

    Scientific progress thrives on diversity of thought and perspectives. Embracing merit-based judgment empowers scientists from all backgrounds to contribute and be evaluated solely on the strength of their ideas. It ensures that a scientific theory or hypothesis is not judged solely based on the reputation or identity of its proposer but on the empirical evidence and theoretical framework supporting it.

    This approach also creates an inclusive scientific community, where individuals are encouraged to challenge existing paradigms and contribute novel ideas without the fear of their identities becoming a barrier to acceptance. By removing barriers and focusing on the quality of ideas, we open the doors to new discoveries and breakthroughs that might otherwise remain overlooked.

    Fostering Open Dialogue and Critique

    Scientific progress thrives on open dialogue and rigorous critique. A merit-based approach to evaluating scientific ideas fosters an environment where ideas are openly discussed and subjected to intense scrutiny. By examining the underlying evidence, methodology, and logical coherence of an idea, scientists can engage in constructive debates and refine their own theories.

    When the focus is shifted from the identity of the scientist to the quality of their ideas, the scientific community is compelled to engage in rigorous analysis rather than resorting to ad hominem attacks or dismissing ideas based on personal biases. This encourages collaboration, sparks new avenues of research, and ultimately drives scientific advancement.


    To truly advance scientific knowledge, we must evaluate ideas based solely on their merits rather than the identity of the scientist putting them forward. By embracing a merit-based approach, we eliminate personal biases, encourage diversity of thought, foster open dialogue, and provide a fair platform for the evaluation of scientific ideas. Let us prioritize the pursuit of truth, free from the limitations of personal identities, and create an environment that thrives on intellectual rigor and the objective assessment of scientific ideas.

    1. I was going to remark that Chat GTP is not deliberately woke bc its algorithm is not built that way. However it does readily admit that it has features that make it steer it away from saying deplorable things.

  4. The fourth paragraph seems oddly to contradict the overall flow of the argument. Of course, since Chat GPT understands none of the words it is “assembling” that sort of thing can happen.

  5. This is surreal.

    The only real point I would make :

    The bot and Thorp are both falling for the Deepity of knowledge as a “social construct” – the bot writing “Science is a human endeavor […]”, and Thorp writing “Scientific research is a social process […]”.

    James Lindsay writes that establishing any thing as a “social construct” is the way make that thing “malleable”, such that “a different social context would produce a different set of outputs”, concluding :

    “So, in the technical, banal (if not vapid) sense, knowledge is a social construction, but in the more profound and meaningful sense of how people use the term, it is not. This trick is one that Social Justice turns upon over and over again.”

  6. Thorp’s very first paragraph sets up a strong man for him to demolish. He commits a logical fallacy that one learns in introductory logic class (a fallacy that many people would recognize—perhaps not by name—even without a course). So, to me, the bot did a better job of making Thorp’s case than did Thorp himself. Of course the entire claim is devoid of empirical verification and is, in lieu of that, simply conjecture not becoming of Science (the journal).

  7. These things would pass the Turing Test if they had been around in the 1950s.

    Lots of websites nowadays are filling up with content that seems to be generated by chatbots..It is getting hard to distinguish from real content…

  8. I submitted something to Nature Ecology and Evolution today, and noticed this interesting paragraph regarding Chatbots:

    “Large Language Models (LLMs), such as ChatGPT, do not currently satisfy our authorship criteria. Notably an attribution of authorship carries with it accountability for the work, which cannot be effectively applied to LLMs. Use of an LLM should be properly documented in the Methods section (and if a Methods section is not available, in a suitable alternative part) of the manuscript.”

    1. Someone has (fore?)seen a coming tide of machine-generated neo-Sokal spoofs.
      Not having played with these systems, I wonder how their output to identical queries varies across time? I predict they’ll be quite variable, trivially if you pose a challenge that points implicitly to an obscure Wikipedia page ; save those results ; inject a “data shibboleth” into the obscure article ; re-run the same challenge ; compare the results. (And of course, clean up your vandalism of Wiki ; it might be more ethical to confine the vandalism to an obscure subject-specific Wiki, eg for “”.)

      1. The interesting thing to me is that the journal didn’t outright prohibit chat bots from writing at least parts of papers in the future..

      2. ChatGPT has some randomness built into it, so you do get different responses to identical queries. However, as I understand it, its training data was limited to data that was available only through 2021, so any changes to a wikipedia page made since then will not affect its responses.

  9. A sad truth is that ‘diversity’ has shown itself to be the enemy of intellectual freedom. The suppression of the Ted Hill paper provides one example. Ted Hill provided a very theoretical argument in favor of the GMVH (Greater Male Variability Hypothesis). The thesis is better associated with Larry Summers, who also referred to it. It has been empirically verified many times. However, it is not PC. Radical feminists didn’t like the Ted Hill paper and they worked overtime to suppress it. Shades of Lysenko anyone? Sadly, the cult of diversity (in part) gave them the power to do so.

    The biological reality of race was understood even two centuries ago. The physical facts haven’t changed. However, in part because of the cult of diversity, the dominant view is something along the lines ‘race is social construct’ which really means ‘race is purely a social construct with no biological basis’.

  10. Somebody will now pose ChatGPTx (version numbers are likely to matter) the challenge of refuting ChatGPT(x-1)’s refutation of Holden Tharp in the style of Science Editor (Holden Tharp -1).
    In infant school we got warned about this with the “circular message game” (variously known as “telephone”, “Chinese Whispers” and other things – do I need to make a detailed description?), so I see no reason (apart from time, interest and access) to not torment this new inanimate insensible algorithm by the same process.
    Hands up those who have translated [say, Churchill’s “beaches” speech] via Google Translate into Taglog, then put the result through Microsoft’s translation engine to turn into Chinese, then used … (does Amazon have a translation tool, that doesn’t re-package Google?) “a third engine” to translate it back into English ?
    OK, hands up those who have been tempted, but decided not to do it because they knew it was going to be terrible.

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