Monday, 13 February 2017
Big Science, Big Lies, Scientific Fraud
Big science has a big problem.
New Scientist has cultivated the phrase post-truth world quite a bit recently, especially before, during and after the recent US presidential elections.
It put the blame on politicians. However, it is now becoming increasingly obvious that scientists can’t afford to throw the first stone.
Time and again, they have had to warn of fake science stories and even outright fabrications.
Recently, Timothy Clark issued a dire warning in Nature. A senior research fellow at the University of Tasmania, he is worried about the spread of dishonesty in science:
The introduction sets the tone of the article:
“Too many researchers make up or massage their data, says Timothy D. Clark Only stringent demands for proof can stop them.”
Then he discloses some very alarming facts:
“Late last month, a US physicist began a jail sentence for scientific fraud. Darin Kinion took funds for research on quantum computing but did not carry out the work he claimed; instead, he invented the data that the research supposedly produced.”
And we have heard of several similar cases.
Clark goes on to say:
“Scientists like to think that such blatant dishonesty is rare, but I myself have witnessed several serious cases of scientific misconduct, from major data manipulation to outright fabrication. Most have gone unpunished — in fact, it has been disheartening to see the culprits lauded. It makes little sense for fraudsters to fabricate mediocre data. Their falsehoods generate outstanding stories, which result in high-profile publications and a disproportionately large chunk of the funding pie.
I have noticed a lesser-known motive for bad science in my field, experimental biology. As environmental change proceeds, there is great demand from the public and policy¬makers for simple stories that show the damage being done to wildlife. I occasionally meet scientists who argue that the questions we ask and the stories we tell are more important than the probity of our investigations: the end justifies the means, even if the means lead to data fabrication. That view is alarmingly misguided and has no place in science.”
The underlying problem is that scientists often have an agenda. This is at times glaringly obvious in the Darwinian community.
Researchers seek to find evidence for assumed transitional forms or missing links, for instance.
Remember Darwinius massillae, better known as Ida?
Or Eoanthropus dawsoni aka. Piltdown Man or perhaps even Nebraska Man?
Scientific misconduct thrives in the Darwinian community as evolution does not give objective grounds for morality.
Clark, Timothy D. 2017. Science, lies and video-taped experiments. Nature 542, 139. (7 February).