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Sunday, December 24, 2006

WHEN SCIENCE GOES WRONG

An interesting article here from Nunberwatch on the the way in which scientists can, sometimes with a good conscience, fiddle their figures by such things as not counting unexpected results. Sometimes this does no harm - it has been proven on statistical grounds that Gregor Mendel the discoverer of the laws of inheritance must have tidied up his figures. Sometimes, particularly when there is strong political pressure, it may cause the acceptance of something which is untrue. I have commented previously on how the initial "evidence" for passive smoking being harmful depended on only 7 of 40 studies showing a relationship but they all showed a strong relationship which brought up the average.

Sometimes it has led to the destruction of the careers of those who refused to fix their results. The principles of science may be pure but scientists can have the same frailties as the rest of us. The article ends:
in 1989 Gordon Stewart wrote a paper challenging the official view that AIDs cases in the UK would reach tens of thousands by 1992. His paper remained unpublished during a four-year correspondence in which referees wrote comments such as "Why should I read a paper by someone who believes the earth is flat?"

Stewart's paper, which was rejected by Nature, Science, the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Medical Journal, was proved to be correct to within a remarkable 10%. The "experts" were out by several orders of magnitude. The establishment ignored their shame and simply moved on. The same process is now taking place with the Global Warming Myth. The reward for conforming is millions of dollars worth of grants. The penalty for dissenting is being relegated to a remote corner of the World Wide Web (among the cranks and pornographers), which is the last home of scholarship, as practised by such lone battlers as John Daly.


Comments:
Anyone who believes that all scientists are disinterested umpires is a chump.

Science, though, is a different matter. The method of controlled experiments is still the Royal Road to truth.
 
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