Science Is Not Being Corrupted — Scientists Are

Story submitted by John Droz.

Today I received an email from an editor, who was saying that “Science” depends on what your political persuasion is. I dispute that opinion and answered as follows —

Briefly, what has happened is that:

1 – Politicians from both ends of the spectrum fully realize that they need the appearance of scientific support to promote their political agenda.

2 – Combine this with the fact that there are thousands of scientists who have left the confines of real science, for their own financial or personal agenda reasons (e.g. which is no different than priests departing from Christian values that they have literally dedicated their lives to upholding).

So, it is an easy matter for politicians in #1 to find rogue scientists in #2 to support essentially any position — and then claim to the public that their agenda is “based on science.” This type of “science” is pseudoscience or “cargo cult science” and is just a sham meant to deceive the gullible.

These agenda promoters have become so brazen that some are now even asserting that traditional science (of Galileo, Newton, Einstein, etc.) is no longer relevant, and that we should be using such alternatives as “Post Normal Science”. This, of course, is preposterous.

The reality is that genuine science is apolitical, and consists of a:
a) comprehensive,
b) independent,
c) transparent, and
d) empirical assessment of claims.

Put another way, there can be a profound difference between “reports by scientists” and “scientific reports.”

So, facing this mishmash of claims, it’s up to objective citizens to discriminate between the real and the pretend. This is not easy to do, but using the four-part template above  that will tell the story.

For example, when AGW is claimed as a hypothesis, the appropriate question is:
Show me the: a) comprehensive, b) independent, c) transparent, and d) empirical proof.

For example, when wind energy is claimed to be a cost-beneficial solution to energy & environmental issues, the appropriate question is:
Show me the: a) comprehensive, b) independent, c) transparent, and d) empirical proof.

The indisputable fact is that no such proof exists for either.

That is not a political conclusion, but a scientific one.

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55 Responses to Science Is Not Being Corrupted — Scientists Are

  1. Cementafriend says:

    John, short & sweet -well put

  2. Mike Bromley says:

    That pretty much says it.

  3. Mark T says:

    Part of the problem is that the public understanding of what constitutes science is not unlike that of the editor that made such a silly statement to you, John. It is not hard to fool most as a result.

    Mark

  4. BravoZulu says:

    I totally agree with your definition of science. The problem I have is that billions of dollars of government money will likely redefine what is considered science if the leftist bureaucrat/politician has the choice to determine what science it should support. That has already happened in the AGW field. Many governments have invested many billions of dollars to establish the politically convenient scientific explanation they want. Jones, Mann, Hansen et al. are doing their best to make sure that interpretations suitable for any extremist is available in scientific sounding packages. It comes with all the talking points that money could buy.

  5. Nick Stokes says:

    “Story”?
    Rant would have been a better tag.
    How about some facts?

  6. Roger Sowell says:

    As a pretty good example, this (below) from Dr. Wllie Soon of Harvard. Dr. Soon exposes the U.S. EPA using junk science to promote a political agenda: Ending coal-fired power plants.

    http://townhall.com/columnists/williesoon/2011/06/06/epa_environmental_propaganda_activists/page/full/

  7. jcrabb says:

    So NASA and every Scientific peak body on the Planet is corrupt? now that is post-normal.

  8. Tsk Tsk says:

    Even though it’s implied in your list I would add e) falsifiable. The problem with AGW today is that literally all results no matter how contradictory “prove” the hypothesis.

  9. Ian says:

    I agree with your comments but I am surprised at your naivety. Most people don’t understand science, don’t want to understand science and certainly don’t want to want to analyse scientific reports. They want headlines that say “we’re doomed due to sea level rises” “we should drive only electric cars” “humans are the cause of climate change” etc. etc. As these headlines sell newspapers and attract TV audiences, the MSM is only too happy to pander to these sentiments. Scientific debate has no place in the thinking of most a fact the alarmists and politicians, have skilfully used to their considerable and mutual advantage.

  10. Larry Fields says:

    Good job, John. However Nitpick Larry has one small quibble. In the theoretical sciences, there’s precious little in the way of “empirical proof” for anything. However there’s a large bone yard filled with the corpses of failed hypotheses. Here’s how the game is played.

    1. Articulate an educated guess–or even a wild guess–about how Nature works in your bailiwick.
    2. Design and carry out a laboratory experiment or a field study that has the potential to falsify–or at least to cast serious doubt–on your hypothesis.
    3. If your pet hypothesis survives your experiment, and subsequent variations of your experiment carried out by others, and if it also survives the sniping of bah-humbug colleagues, who are intent on finding fault with either your methodology or analysis, then it eventually gains tentative acceptance as a legitimate theory,

    In other words, prediction–as well as its first cousin ‘postdiction’, aka backcasting–is the coin of the realm. Climate ‘scientists’ have used more than 20 GCMs, and all of them predicted continued warming, when in fact the global warming trend peaked and died in 1998. Since then, there have been some cool years and some balmy years, but no discernible trend. That part of the AGW meme is a thoroughly falsified hypothesis. However the ex-scientist Warmist hired guns are continuing to blather away. I think that we’re in agreement on this main point.

  11. Paul Deacon says:

    The Global Warming movement has been so successful that I fear for the future. Even if the movement is successfully overturned (which I guess it will be at some point), its proponents and their successors will be keen to replicate their success in other fields. What would stop them?

  12. Alan T says:

    In my book an activist is not a scientist by the very definition. The Union of Concerned Scientists is effectively an oxymoron. They are advocates and ideologues driven by a forgone conclusion, not the kind of ever-questioning seekers of knowledge “old-school” scientists are/were. Chalk up another pathetic advance of collectivist thinking.

  13. Doug Proctor says:

    This applies for an established science, i.e. one without room for dissent other than in details (like evolution or plate tectonics). Climate science still exists as a science with uncertain integration of its parts. The AGW dispute is based on a linear series of postulates that each have elements of uncertainty, both in themselves and how they fit or influence the others. We are only having this disupte because the putative final effects are large enough that socially concerned individuals have invoked the Precautionary Principle, specifically that the volume of money and human exertions is of no concern in the face of the smallest chance of a worst-case scenario of global warming. To wait for normal scientific proof is not warranted under the application of the Precautionary Principle of the warmist.

    While I am sympathetic to the concept of rational scientific principles to the demonstration of global warming theories, we as skeptics cannot hope to use this as an argument against action as proposed by the warmists. The PP demands that we act without full or complete knowledge. The weak point in the warmists concerns, however, is still the linkages and the “certainty” that exists at the end. The PP does not say that a poorly predicted crisis should be averted, but that a reasonably well predicted one should. Our task is to demonstrate that each of the steps is sufficiently uncertain or in actual error in light of observations that the culmination of the series of postulates has no practical value at this time, that the day of sufficient certainty is still to come, that we can wait.

    There is no crisis coming on us until we are reasonably certain there is. Trenberth, Hansen etc. say there is. We say there is not. Each link we can show is flawed, beginning with the temperature data, will lead to the house not falling down but being shown to be too weak for political lives to depend on it.

  14. jorgekafkazar says:

    Nice analogy. “Scientists” have been molesting the data entrusted to their care.

  15. Richard S Courtney says:

    John Droz:

    I think your item requires an important alteration because – as ii stands – it is not true.

    Pseudoscience deals in “proof” while science deals in evidence.

    Real science subjects every conjecture, hypothesis and theory to attempts at disproof. A single piece of empirical evidence that contradicts a conjecture, hypothesis or theory requires amendment or rejection of the conjecture, hypothesis or theory. Each rejection or amendment is a small step in the advancement of science: it corrects misunderstanding and, thus, improves understanding.

    So, the item should say;
    “the appropriate question is:
    Show me the: a) comprehensive, b) independent, c) transparent, and d) empirical evidence.”

    Please note that this comment is not a knit-pick and is intended to be supportive.

    Richard

  16. pochas says:

    John, you write
    “Show me the: a) comprehensive, b) independent, c) transparent, and d) empirical proof.”
    I really like that. No math models or unsupported theories.

  17. Grumpy Old Man says:

    More live ammo for the sceptic case. Thanks Mr. Droz

  18. Jack Hughes says:

    Good points but it is not cargo cult science.

    Cargo cult science is when people dress in white coats, work in labs, hold conferences and publish papers but never really discover anything. They are copying the actions of real scientists but there is something missing

    http://www.lhup.edu/~DSIMANEK/cargocul.htm

    “During the war they saw
    airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same
    thing to happen now. So they’ve arranged to imitate things like
    runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a
    wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head
    like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas–he’s
    the controller–and they wait for the airplanes to land. They’re
    doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the
    way it looked before. But it doesn’t work. No airplanes land. So
    I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the
    apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but
    they’re missing something essential, because the planes don’t land.”

  19. climatenonconformist says:

    Unfortunately, the majority remain convinced by the “science” when it is apparent that we have no evidence to support the AGW hypothesis.

  20. Jordan says:

    Use of the word “proof” leaves me slightly uncomfortable. I’d much prefer “evidence” as conclusion from evidence leaves room for interpretation, rests on data, can be challenged on method and repeatability, and is only as good as the data. Conclusions are therefore always open to change, whereas proof tends to imply finality. Other than that, the points made are fine.

  21. When I researched the topic, I was surprised to find our modern view of science is really only as old as WWII, in that post WWII the whole subject was reformulated with new divisions such as “theoretical ” and “practical” science and the terms such as “blue sky” got into vogue.

    From almost anyone’s perspective the 1960s and 70s were the hay day of this new science as a succession of nuclear, moon landings & satellites, lasers, semiconductor, computing and other “discoveries” emerged in quick succession. No doubt an awful lot of these “discoveries” were as a result of the intense work during WWII, but one can’t help being impressed.

    I’m still not sure what happened after the 1970s, but in many areas this new science seems to have stood still. Worse in other areas it went off after the “grand theory” and ignored the basic science that brought benefit …. and of course we started seeing the development of pseudo sciences like “climate science” in which a small group of third rate “scientists” attempted to bypass empirical evidence in order to come up with the in vogue “grand theory” of the atmosphere.

    And now in the 2010s, we are beginning a new phase: that of denial. Denial that much of “science” has failed to achieve anything of significance in the last 40 years. Denial that these new vogues subjects such as “climate science” are not science at all but use the far more lax evidential standards of economics or marketing.

    Looking at my gas bill, the message-pigeons are coming home to roost: the public are getting the message that the real greatest problem facing mankind is not a tiny bit of warming and the highly speculative decrease in numbers of some lesser spotted goat-toad, but the real reality of higher energy prices which mean many people in Scotland simply cannot afford to turn on their heating.

    Science has proven completely useless in forming government policy on energy. Looking at the way that anti-biotic immune bacteria are escalating due to low-dosage use in farming (and hence the latest EColi outbreak) it also appears that it has totally failed to direct government policy to saving the greatest achievement in medicine: the “end” of epidemics of illness that were prevented by antibiotics.

  22. Bulldust says:

    Scientists are certainly not alone in this… economists are easily bought. Given the nature of modelling and forecasting in the field of economics, answers are somewhat more malleable than in the harder sciences. Ironically I now find myself in a position which involves forecasting … I have a pair of dice cufflinks I wear to work at least once a week. Most people don’t seem to get the subtle message :) Heck I wore them to the interview for the job and they employed me…

  23. Mark and two Cats says:

    Paul Deacon said:
    The Global Warming movement has been so successful that I fear for the future. Even if the movement is successfully overturned (which I guess it will be at some point), its proponents and their successors will be keen to replicate their success in other fields. What would stop them?
    ———————————————————————-
    I share your fear. If/when the movement is overturned, I am afraid that the laws they will have instituted in its name will remain. Example: here in California, the Air Resources Board has enacted regulations on diesel emissions based upon “scientific” data provided by someone with a phony diploma. Even though they have been outed, they are not standing down from their anti-diesel jihad.

    Cap-and-Trade is set to be implemented in California soon. I can easily believe that it will not go away even after CAGW debunking goes mainstream.

    As for what would stop the CAGW perps from replicating their successes after being outed, they would probably just go on as though nothing had happened. Examples of past failures who have done just that: Paul Erlich, John Holdren.

    And the perps will declaim (after debunking takes hold): “At least we tried to do something to save the planet. That’s more than anybody else did”. And they will be lionized as idealistic martyrs by the left for their efforts, and will move onto the next sham cause.

  24. J. Simpson says:

    More wisdom from the great scientific mind Richar Feynman . The para following the cargo cult comment linked above.

    http://www.lhup.edu/~DSIMANEK/cargocul.htm

    >>
    Now it behooves me, of course, to tell you what they’re missing.
    But it would be just about as difficult to explain to the South Sea
    Islanders how they have to arrange things so that they get some
    wealth in their system. It is not something simple like telling
    them how to improve the shapes of the earphones. But there is one
    feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science.
    That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying
    science in school–we never explicitly say what this is, but just
    hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific
    investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now
    and speak of it explicitly. It’s a kind of scientific integrity,
    a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of
    utter honesty–a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if
    you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you
    think might make it invalid–not only what you think is right about
    it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and
    things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other
    experiment, and how they worked–to make sure the other fellow can
    tell they have been eliminated.
    >>

    Key phrase : scientific integrity. It’s that simple.

  25. Ryan says:

    Science in itself is incorruptible, but almost all humans are “corrupt” in the sense that they set standards for their own behaviour that they can never actually met. Take politicians. They tell us they are there to serve the community and to make the world a better place. This is highly unlikely to be true, because this form of extreme philanthropy is not normal human behaviour. In fact politicians are usually driven by sex – they want to be famous and be rich and get on the telly and then meet lots of sexy women. But they usually don’t want to admit this even to themselves – which is why they seem surprised when they find themselves embroiled in some kind of sex scandal. Even John Major was involved in a sex scandal for goodness sake.

    Why should we consider scientists to be any different? Regardless of their profession they are still driven subconsciously by the need for more sex/fame/money. They like to tell us differently – they almost certainly tell themselves something different. Thus they want to get rich and be on the telly, whilst all the time telling themselves they are driven by a desire to rescue humanity. But science (like politics and, oddly, classical music) can offer so much more – it can offer immortality. Not even God can do that anymore. Come up with the right theory at the right time and your name could go down in history FOREVER. Your theory doesn’t even have to be correct as such – look at the Millican oil drop experiment. Millican made up his results as he went along and still became as famous as Einstein. His name will live on forever. But only if there are humans around to remember it of course. So all us bags of blood and urine must be saved from destruction at our own hands due to AGW or nuclear armageddon or what not, not because that’s how God would want it to be because all good scientists know there is no such thing as God, but because we are needed to allow the scientists name to go down in history.

  26. Larry says:

    I think it is worse than that. I think that the funding of climate science has spawned a whole field which is scientific only in name. They strap scientific statements togethor in a sequence which gives the desired result. It is like a sculptor building his sculpture out of engine parts and claiming it is an engine because it uses engine parts and therefore he is an engineer. The engineer would not accept it was an engine until it generated power.

  27. John Kehr says:

    Even the Scientific American has entered into the problems with the corruption of scientists lately. I have written about the problems of bias, fraud and funding in the past and it was nice to see the Scientific American come out and say the same thing.

    The problem is real and the solutions are not terribly difficult, but they require that the scientists accept that there is a problem. The AGW crowd is unlikely to accept that very easily.

    http://theinconvenientskeptic.com/2011/06/the-scientific-american-throws-down-the-gaunlet/

  28. klem says:

    Its a good thing I’m not making a living in the science world, I would be one of those scientists who would deliver whatever results the buyer wanted. As long as it is not illegal, I would be a scientific sell out. A buck is a buck in my eyes. I wonder how many scientists out there are like that?

  29. Theo Goodwin says:

    jcrabb says:
    June 7, 2011 at 10:14 pm
    “So NASA and every Scientific peak body on the Planet is corrupt? now that is post-normal.”

    Why not? All of academia outside (most of) the hard sciences is demonstrably corrupt in that the professorate exists to promote an ideological position over and against critical thought. Or would you like to demonstrate the remarkable contributions to knowledge of Feminist Studies Departments?

  30. Alexander Vissers says:

    Science and scientist are maybe not even that much corrupted but biased and their products are abused. Scientific conclusions are generally pretty boring, articles incomprehensible and useless for politics. So, basically, reports are never scientific, they are at best applying science, only articles reflect “science”.

    As the claims need to be put to a test to be scientific they cannot be too comprehensive, there we have the challenge for the IPCC, which I believe to be the first and only phenomenon in its kind, to come up with something to support an impossible claim for political bargaining. So they hired PR consultants who came up with a glossy format, colorfull tables and graphs and the brilliant invention of the likes of “likelyhood” and “virtually sure”. Now that is good stuff for polictics. And after all, all the alarmists want is to save the world for mankind (humanists) or to save the planet from mankind (vegans), so what is the harm in a little white lie?

  31. Pull My Finger says:

    I can tell you, “science” and academia began to be filed with hippies and social activists as opposed to the people who fought and won WWII. As a Gen Xer having to deal with all the touchey-feeling PC B.S. the Baby Boomers instituted in the work place, I’m TOTALLY ready for them to go on Social Security. (No offense to the fine Baby Boomers on this list, of course)

  32. JDN says:

    We’ve reached peak science. All science from now on will be of lesser quality until science is found in only a few pockets and sold at enormous prices. Charging at windmills may not be a palatable replacement, but, it’s all that’s left to humanity. ;)

  33. Venter says:

    No sooner did you see a post about science and corruption the principal proponent of what’s wrong with science nowadays, props up as usual, lending proof to the article.

  34. zerored78 says:

    Agreed with the entry. Citizens will never be objective enough or devote enough time in analyzing claims to be able to ascertain the quality of the science though. Most people will either believe whatever fits their preconceptions or whichever person on TV talks the loudest.

  35. Tim Folkerts says:

    John Droz said ” ‘Science’ depends on what your political persuasion is. I dispute that opinion and answered as follows …”

    Well, I would dispute his position as follows

    Gallup Poll
    Political identification↓ % do not believe in evolution↓ % belief in evolution↓
    Republican 68 30
    Democrat 40 57
    Independent 37 61

    When asked their views on when the effects of global warming will begin to happen, 61% of Americans currently say “they have already begun to happen.” This is a modest increase from 1997, when only 48% gave this response. However, while over three-fourths of Democrats (76%) believe global warming is already happening, only 41% of Republicans share that view. [Gallop Poll]

    Views about climate change continue to be sharply divided along party lines. A substantial majority of Democrats (79%) say there is solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been increasing over the past few decades, and 53% think the earth is warming mostly because of human activity. Among Republicans, only 38% agree the earth is warming and just 16% say warming is caused by humans.
    Republicans who agree with the Tea Party movement are much more likely than other Republicans to say that there is no solid evidence that the earth’s temperature has been rising. [Pew Poll]

    While this is a slightly take on the topic, I think it does show “a) comprehensive, b) independent, c) transparent, and d) empirical proof” that your political views are correlated with your scientific views on two well-known scientific topics.

    PS I like that set of criteria — I may have to use “a) comprehensive, b) independent, c) transparent, and d) empirical proof.” more often. :-)

  36. Nuke says:

    Not so long ago, WUWT posted comments from skeptical scientists who said funding did not influence their views or conclusions. But the prevailing opinion among readers of WUWT appears to believe the “concensus” science IS corrupted by money. Is that belief fair?

    (Sent from phone, plz excuse typos)

  37. Kelvin Vaughan says:

    an archaeologist and dating expert at English Heritage, said: “The dates were not what we expected when we began this project but prehistorians are just going to have to get their heads around it, a lot of what we have been taught in the past is complete bollocks.” I think this is general in all science.

  38. TonyG says:

    J. Simpson says:
    More wisdom from the great scientific mind Richar Feynman . The para following the cargo cult comment linked above.

    From the comments I’ve read, I don’t think the warmists consider Feynman to be a scientist…

  39. Ged says:

    @Tim Folkerts

    No, the truth is the truth no matter your political persuasion, that’s the point being made. To say we are only going to believe in this or that because we are republican or democratic, is not science, it is not scientific, and it has no place in the realm of empiricism. Bias is what this is about, and bias must be ruthlessly eliminated wherever possible. If scientists let their political persuasions dictate their interpretations of data, and the direction of their research, and what data they show, how they show it, and what they withhold; then they are no longer acting as scientists or within the scientific philosophy or method.

    It doesn’t matter what people think. All that matters is what is true, and the truth is what science is after alone.

  40. Theo Goodwin says:

    Scottish Sceptic says:
    June 8, 2011 at 12:44 am

    “And now in the 2010s, we are beginning a new phase: that of denial. Denial that much of “science” has failed to achieve anything of significance in the last 40 years. Denial that these new vogues subjects such as “climate science” are not science at all but use the far more lax evidential standards of economics or marketing.”

    You do pose an interesting question, roughly, what happened to science over the last forty years. I am sort of sad that I will not be alive when all this is sorted out. It is a fascinating question. A partial answer is that science is all hard work and no glamour. For the last forty years, just about everyone chose glamour and easy work. I think a bigger part of the answer is that people who embrace a Marxist line have come to dominate all aspects of the universities. In the old days, the NASA folk and their brethren in academia would not so much as speak to the Lefties. Now NASA and most scientific agencies in our government, especially including the EPA, are dominated by Marxists and fellow travelers. And, today, college is pretty much for the experience and not for acquiring a serious education. It will take awhile to sort out all this. You are correct that science has given us a big fat goose egg over the last forty years, with the exception of genetic engineering.

  41. Theo Goodwin says:

    Paul Deacon says:
    June 7, 2011 at 10:34 pm
    “The Global Warming movement has been so successful that I fear for the future. Even if the movement is successfully overturned (which I guess it will be at some point), its proponents and their successors will be keen to replicate their success in other fields. What would stop them?”

    Yep. What a nightmare. My children face lives micromanaged by bureaucrats who will differ from Kommissars in name only. Better that it be 1830 and they move across some mountain range and start anew.

  42. Richard S Courtney says:

    Nuke:

    At June 8, 2011 at 9:50 am you ask:
    “Not so long ago, WUWT posted comments from skeptical scientists who said funding did not influence their views or conclusions. But the prevailing opinion among readers of WUWT appears to believe the “concensus” science IS corrupted by money. Is that belief fair?”

    I do not know the WUWT item to which you refer but I write to address the issue of ‘corruption of science by money’.

    Before addressing the issue, I point out that
    (i) ‘AGW-skeptical’ scientists have nothing to gain from ‘cheating’,
    and
    (ii) the very, very great majority of the ‘AGW-concensus’ scientists also do not ‘cheat’ but, unfortunately, a small number do.

    A few people in every profession are corrupt. So, there are a few corrupt scientists, a few corrupt lawyers, a few corrupt physicians, a few corrupt police officers, etc.. But, in common with most members of other professions, most scientists are not corrupt.

    However, scientists suffer from three effects that other professions do not; viz.
    1. the work of most scientists is done in confidence so is not seen by the public,
    2. scientists whose work is publicly available have a limited number of paymasters,
    and
    3. a professional ethics committee is impossible for science.

    The great majority of scientists are employed to do work that has commercial or military confidence. The bulk of their work is never published in the public domain but it is subject to severe scrutiny by their employers to whom they are accountable. If their work is sub-standard then their employment and/or their carears are curtailed. Hence, the great bulk of scientific work is of a high standard because it is held accountable almost immediately.

    Other scientific research does not have a direct commercial and/or military application and there is severe competition for research funds by Institutions (e.g. universities and government agencies) which conduct it. The research funds are provided by philanthropy (mostly from industries) and, importantly, from governments. An Institution’s research managers require the Institution’s scientists to suggest and to provide work which is likely to win the acquisition of funds for the work against the competition for the funds. This induces three unfortunate activities.

    Firstly, governments are most likely to fund work likely to support their policies and not to fund work that is likely to indicate flaws in their policies. The applicants for funds know this. Hence, in a case such as AGW (where governments are using the AGW hypothesis as an excuse for political policies and taxes) almost all the research is targetted at supporting the AGW hypothesis and not at disproving it.

    The result is a distortion of the normal ‘clash of ideas’ which is the proper method by which science advances.

    Secondly, a carear scientist has great temptation (i.e. to obtain ‘fame & fortune’) to bias research findings so they provide what is wanted. In the very great majority of cases the bias is unintentional but in a few cases this bias is clearly deliberate.

    Thirdly, science advances by correcting errors, but the funding issue encourages the hiding of errors. Such hiding is a severe corruption of the scientific process, and it is inevitable when research managers
    (a) encourage work that will get funding
    and
    (b) want past work to be seen as a ‘good advertisement’ for obtaining future funds.
    The researchers and the research managers have strong incentives to not admit failings in past work.

    And this raises the issue of an Ethics Committee for science. Such a Committee would be an attack on science because it would need to rule on what and is not ‘ethical science’. Consider much of cosmology research, evolution research and the physics of ‘string theory’: who is to decfide if they are science and how to decide?

    So, science relies on the peer review system and the disciplinary systems of the Institutions to correct errors and to punish misconduct. This leads to attempts to usurp scientific journals (as the ‘Climategate’ emails prove has happened) and it puts the Institutions ‘between a rock and a hard place’.

    As I admitted above, there are a few ‘bad’ scientists who fall foul of the temptation to enhance their carears by cheating. But an Institution employing such a malefactor has difficulty publicly admitting that the cheating happened.

    If the Institution pubicly chastises the malefactor then it inhibits the obtaining of future work and lowers the reputation of the Institution: it is much easier to do a public cover up (i.e. a “whitewash” in the current vernacular) while privately warning the malefactor not to do it again. Of course, this tells the malefactor that malpractice has no real repercussions.

    I hope this brief answer adequately explains the matter which is much more complicated than ‘a few rotten apples’.

    Richard

  43. Theo Goodwin says:

    Richard S Courtney says:
    June 8, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    “As I admitted above, there are a few ‘bad’ scientists who fall foul of the temptation to enhance their carears by cheating. But an Institution employing such a malefactor has difficulty publicly admitting that the cheating happened.”

    I think you are overlooking the “sociological” changes that have occurred in the universities over the last seventy years. First and foremost, the number of “administrators” has skyrocketed. The number of associate and assistant deans has skyrocketed. Universities now create “centers.” You know, the “Center for Paranormal Revenge Studies,” and such. It has reached a point where each and every full professor truly believes that he/she is entitled to have their own center. Getting a center means a big boost in salary and perqs. The most favored perq is that you get to invite your friends to lecture and you get to pay them a handsome amount. However, with the exception of the truly exceptional who have the unusual abilities that enable one to run a scientific institute, no genuine scientist has ever wanted the distraction of running a center or being a dean. The number of people who should never have been in science should include everybody who has chosen to become a dean or run a center. In case it is not clear, my point is that what motivates scientists has been systematically corrupted by money and titles. Pardon my judgmental attitude, but if your goal is money and prestige then you will not do justice to science.

  44. P Wilson says:

    The statements of scientists are somewhat tentative. Big Bang theory is taken from genesis. Climate scientists are said to be peddling a dogma based on anthropogenic causes, which , again, is taken from the religious context that man is the great product of the universe.

    I doubt that these scientists say these things in their role as that of their cautious scientific capacity, but rather in their role as good citizens extolling the fashion of the day.

  45. Richard S Courtney says:

    Theo Goodwin:

    With respect, I think you have misunderstood me. Please read what I wrote (at June 8, 2011 at 12:19 pm) about
    “An Institution’s research managers require the Institution’s scientists to suggest and to provide work which is likely to win the acquisition of funds for the work against the competition for the funds. This induces three unfortunate activities.”
    etc.

    I think we agree.

    Richard

  46. Jimbo says:

    Science Is Not Being Corrupted — Scientists Are

    Dr. Michael Mann’s papers have been referenced by other tree ring researchers. Have their papers been corrupted?

  47. polistra says:

    Another tiny indication of progress: New Scientist mag, Gaia’s house organ, published an opinion piece by Michael Shermer (the Skeptic™) mentioning global warming as just another item in a list of failed apocalypses.

    “Secular end of days may be found in Karl Marx’s end of capitalism and Francis Fukuyama’s end of history, along with scientistic doomsdays brought about by global warming, ice ages, solar flares, rogue planets, black holes, cosmic collisions, supervolcanoes, overpopulation, pollution, nuclear winter, genetically engineered viruses, the grey goo of runaway nanotechnology – and let’s not forget Y2K, the millennium bug.”

    The editors obviously didn’t try to “re-educate” his list, and as far as I can tell (lots of comments were deleted!) none of the commenters quibbled with his inclusion of AGW in this list.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21028156.300-the-end-is-always-nigh-in-the-human-mind.html

  48. John David Galt says:

    Good as far as it goes, but the other side can equally well start asking YOU for proof. So some comment on where the burden of proof belongs is called for.

  49. Brian H says:

    Jimbo says:
    June 8, 2011 at 5:13 pm
    Science Is Not Being Corrupted — Scientists Are
    Dr. Michael Mann’s papers have been referenced by other tree ring researchers. Have their papers been corrupted?

    Certainly; in fact, any researcher giving credence to and relying on such shoddy work is deliberately engaging in corrupt science.

  50. JPeden says:

    an editor, who was saying that “Science” depends on what your political persuasion is.

    How convenient. Then there is no such thing as “fact” and even “reality”. And whoever wins determines what the “truth” is. Well that’s quite a telling confession from a member of the Press, regarding what this “editor” thinks is valuable to report or editorialize, which itself is thereby worthless except for its propaganda effect towards “winning” whatever battle the editor wants to win for his own personal reasons, including his own “political persuasion”, regardless of the truth.

  51. Ryan says:

    “You do pose an interesting question, roughly, what happened to science over the last forty years.”

    Well as a person who some thirty years ago realised he would make a good scientist but decided against it, here is my take on it.

    I realised that all the best science was already done. The stuff that makes the headlines these days is cosmology, sociology, psychology and sometimes evolutionary science. Why? The fact is that they are forever aiming at making contraversial headlines. Cosmology and evolutionary science are always making headlines by trying to disprove the existence of a (usually Christian) God, whilst psychology and sociology are always grabbing the headlines by making outrageous unprovable statements about the nature of humans/humanity.

    The fact is that all the best real science is now undertaken by engineers. Electronics engineers, genetic engineers, pharamaceutical engineers, nuclear engineers et al. All of it is about taking what we already know about nature (and have known for the past 40 years or more) and turning it into something useful. That’s why I became an engineer. And engineering, whilst not being beyond corruption in the very short term, tends to have any corruption rooted out by the laws of nature in the longer term, just as my amplifier design of last week was found to be flawed by the laws of nature when it oscillated madly at 1MHz once actually built.

    Cosmologists don’t have to prove anything. Nor do evolutionists (although they could at least try to evolve a species of Penicillin that can deal with new superbugs). Sociologists and psychologists can make bold statements whilst burying their responsibility for being right about anything under the excuse that all humans are different.

    Climatologists seem to fit comfortably in the same bracket. They don’t really have to prove anything because they can hradly do experiments on global climate. What they seem to be trying to do now is desparately forcing change on human behaviour fast enough so that their theories are not shown to be false by the passage of time. If they can get humans to significantly reduce CO2 output over the next 20 years nobody will ever know they haven’t saved the world. I don’t think they have a cat’s chance in hell of making that happen, so in 20 years we’re all going they were wrong. That’s why the “wait and see” approach isn’t good enough for them – they have to get us to change right NOW. If we wait and see then time will show them to be wrong.

  52. Alexander K says:

    John David Galt, as far as I am aware, the actual scientific method demands that those promoting CAGW provide empiracal evidence for it. It’s not up to any sceptic to provide evidence denying the existance of any supposed phenomenon that there is no evidence for, that’s illogical and quite wrong.

  53. Alexander K says:

    Mods, please delete my first of these two posts as it contains spelling mistakes.
    And why did the (incorrect) post hang about waiting to be posted after I had pressed the ‘post comment key?

    [reply] because it’s 4am CA time and I’m the only mod on duty. RT-mod

  54. Ged: Exactly

    Alexander K (re Scientific Method): Exactly

    All: thank you for your thoughtful comments on this MOST important topic.

  55. Brian Hall says:

    #
    Alexander K says:
    June 9, 2011 at 6:18 am

    John David Galt, as far as I am aware, the actual scientific method demands that those promoting CAGW provide empiracal evidence for it. It’s not up to any sceptic to provide evidence denying the existance of any supposed phenomenon that there is no evidence for, that’s illogical and quite wrong.
    #
    Alexander K says:
    June 9, 2011 at 6:22 am

    Mods, please delete my first of these two posts as it contains spelling mistakes.

    Heh. So does the second. (See bold items.) ;) ;p

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