Sunday, 10 June 2012

Nature: “Bias Poses a Threat to the Heart of Research”

Does a systematic bias cause researchers to fit their results into a Darwinian framework? Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

Writing in the journal Nature, Daniel Sarewitz of Arizona State University takes up a topic that has a bearing on origins issues. While he mostly discusses bias in biomedical research, it would be naïve to believe that the subject of evolution is a bias-free zone.

Sarewitz writes:

Early signs of trouble were appearing by the mid-1990s, when researchers began to document systematic positive bias in clinical trials funded by the pharmaceutical industry.”

He suggests that the problem did not merely have to do with “the profit motive” but it was a much more serious phenomenon:

Closer examination showed that the trouble ran deeper. Science's internal controls on bias were failing, and bias and error were trending in the same direction — towards the pervasive over-selection and over-reporting of false positive results.”

When it comes to origins issues, researchers reporting their finds in the mainstream science journals seldom if ever think critically about their basic assumptions. Instead, as they already “know” that evolution must have happened, they merely try to fit the evidence into an existing framework without asking whether the framework actually corresponds to reality.


Sarewitz, Daniel. 2012. Beware the creeping cracks of bias. Nature 485 (7397), 149.