Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bad Science, Money, and Politics

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, but the NYT magazine missed the bigger nut.  In an article about Diederick Stapel, which is a good read, the Times chronicles the multi-decade corruption and deceit by a leading scientist at a respected university.  While the author tells a good story about a man and the consequences he suffers because of his dishonesty, the author misses the bigger picture and the disturbing trends going on in Western culture with regard to what is commonly referred to as science.
We should not be surprised.  During most of my adult life, I have witnessed media outlets manipulating "facts" and misusing the results from so-called "scientific" studies in order to promote an agenda.  There are people for whom implementing the agenda is more important than truth.  Karl Marx was one.  Franklin Roosevelt was another.  In the realm of science we have Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, intelligent men to be sure, but often expounding upon subjects in which they are demonstrably deficient in knowledge, and thus they abuse the truth.
When the agenda must be implemented at all costs, the first casualty is truth.  For Dr. Stapel, it happened early and often.  We saw the same thing happen to the research around anthropogenic global warming.  My friends will tell you that for years I have been telling them that the cause of global warming was government research funding.  Dr. Stapel actually vindicates this when he says:

What the public didn’t realize, he said, was that academic science, too, was becoming a business. “There are scarce resources, you need grants, you need money, there is competition,” he said. “Normal people go to the edge to get that money."
The bigger nut that the NYT missed was the trend to fake the science to support left/liberal/collectivist causes.  In almost every case where there has been a public exposure of bad or fake science, the cause it has supported has also been part of a leftist-collectivist agenda.  Often, the target is private property rights, and in almost every case, the bad science has called for larger, more intrusive government, which, incidentally, would include more money for research.
In the end, it is good to keep in mind that science can be, and is, fallible.  Stapel realizes this and gives us a warning:

People think of scientists as monks in a monastery looking out for the truth,” he said. “People have lost faith in the church, but they haven’t lost faith in science. My behavior shows that science is not holy.” 
 Take heed.  Science is a product of humans.  Humans are not perfect. 

No comments:

Post a Comment