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Is our faith in the High Priests of Science misplaced?

The problem with ‘science’ is that it has been misplaced in the hierarchy of methods of investigating and understanding things, it has been incorrectly elevated to the role of the High Priest of knowledge and wisdom and as such, it has sought to provide answers where its role should be limited to that of observation, experiment and measurement. Is it this elevation of science to a level which it really does not deserve that tempts many scientists to act in dishonest ways to further or maintain their own professional or personal status within their own discipline within the scientific community?

A recurring theme of dishonesty and plagiarism occurs throughout the history of science in the work of people such as Ptolemy, Galileo, Newton and Einstein to name just a few. Is the dubious behavior of such figures a contributory cause or result of their iconic status? Is it surprising that if such iconic figures can engage in unethical behavior that ‘lesser’ scientists follow the trend? Why is science not sufficiently self-regulating and self-correcting?

Then moving on to more profound questions, we ask what damage is caused to Science by fraud, plagiarism and other unprofessional behavior? And, of particularly great importance, to what extent have these actions created false or flawed scientific paradigms and what blind alleys and over what periods of time have these possibly false paradigms delayed true scientific advancement?

Sadly, we do see in science not just a few bad apples but a systemic problem with misconduct. The following statement by Fanelli is shocking, “Among research trainees in biomedical sciences at the University of California San Diego 4.9% said they had modified research results in the past, 81% were willing to select, omit or fabricate data to win a grant or publish a paper.”This is the next generation of scientists who should be striving to maintain the highest levels of integrity in their chosen professions.

  • Jun 10 2013: Science is reasonably well defined. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science

    Science logically follows the Scientific method. The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as: "a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method)

    An important point is to note that the method strives to prove a hypotheses, logically and repeatably.

    Scientists are human. They have all the flaws as other humans. A distinguishing characteristic is that they are usually well trained and TRY to remain objective. Like other professionals, most try and preserve the integrity of the profession. When they publish new thoughts or work, it usually goes through many review cycles.

    In a competitive funding environment, where the total amount of available funding is decreasing, the pressure to win funding might be leading to some bad integrity decisions. However, when the choice is investigation under some set of terms or no investigation, and you get to eat with the first one, I understand the problem. The damage done to professional integrity by bad choices made by a few is unfortunate.

    Scientists often push the envelope of discovery. In general, the ones I have met are leaders, very hard workers, innovative, resourceful, dedicated, and good citizens.

    In comparison to political leaders, religious leaders, journalism leaders, artists, and business leaders, I think they represent themselves and their profession, quite well.

    The contribution made by scientists and science is great.
    • Jun 11 2013: What also seems to be lost is the reason true scientists engage in science - genuine curiosity, the thrill of discovery, the creativity and deep satisfaction of ‘thinking’, solving problems, the freedom to pursue ones interests, and, most important, the desire to “bring the vast mass of humanity forwards by searching and striving for higher truths”. The key question I therefore leave to the reader is this: “How can people generally respect the scientific community when it is revealed that a sizable minority, including some with iconic status, has engaged in unethical behavior, and for what reasons?”

      No one would wish to regress to the early 1900s (let alone to an earlier time) in view of all the medical and numerous other scientific advances made in the past century, but if science is to return to an elevated and respected level of integrity it must first be made to function as a self-correcting mechanism, and in this regard, science has failed. Too much bad science slips through the cracks, and when someone like Elias A.K. Alsabti can fool everyone for years even to the extent of submitting some 60 plagiarized papers, is there any doubt that lesser frauds could go undetected?

      Where this is easy to spot is when it involves falsifying or fabricating data, but what if it is just carelessness; is that misconduct too? One of the reasons that science is so poor at self-correction is that misconduct is very difficult to prove. In the case of fraud, it is necessary to prove intent; this is, at a practical level, very difficult to do. When Philip Handler, president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences appeared before a subcommittee headed by Al Gore he told Gore, in effect, “buzz off” that rumors of fraud were greatly exaggerated and that the individuals exhibiting such behavior were “deranged”. This speaks loudly about the attitude towards the self-correcting nature of science.
      • Jun 11 2013: I think the reasons you mentioned for scientists choosing science as a career path are still at the core of the driving force behind most scientists. However some of the freedom to pursue ones interests is sacrificed when a scientist must seek employment with a business, school, organization or government that has a well defined scientific agenda. The resulting compromise need not represent a loss in professional ethics, but usually does represent an agreement to focus on a particular set of concerns and in some instances, and agreement not to pursue a personal agenda that conflicts with the employer's agenda.
        • Jun 11 2013: Have you read the book "Disciplined Minds" about the way budding physicists are ground down by the "system"?
    • Jun 11 2013: Richard S. Westfall, an historian, also discusses Newton’s use of fudge factors and the faking of data and declares these as: “Nothing short of deliberate fraud”, and goes on to call Newton a master of the ‘fudge factor’. According to Westfall, Newton "adjusted" his calculations on the velocity of sound and on the precession of the equinoxes, and altered the correlation of a variable in his theory of gravitation so that it would agree precisely with theory. In the final edition of his opus, Newton pointed to a precision of better than 1 part in 1,000, boldly claiming accuracies that previously had been observed only in the field of astronomy. The fudge factor, says Westfall, was "manipulated with unparalleled skill by the unsmiling Newton."

      The hiatus between lofty principle and low practice could not be more striking. As amazing as it is that a figure of Newton's stature should stoop to falsification, even more surprising is that none of his contemporaries realized the full extent of his fraud. Using his contrived data as a spectacular rhetorical weapon, Newton overwhelmed even the skeptics with the rightness of his ideas. More than 250 years passed before the manipulation was completely revealed. As Westfall comments, "Having proposed exact correlation as the criterion of truth, [Newton] took care to see that exact correlation was presented, whether or not it was properly achieved. Not the least part of the Principia's persuasiveness was its deliberate pretense to a degree of precision quite beyond its legitimate claim. If the Principia established the quantitative pattern of modern science, it equally suggested a less sublime truth that no one can manipulate the fudge factor so effectively as the master mathematician himself."
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        Jun 11 2013: From the American Journal of Psychiatry 2000:

        "According to historical records, Sir Isaac Newton developed new-onset psychosis at age 51, which was characterized by persecutory delusions."

        Psychopathologies are much higher in geniuses than in the general population.
    • Jun 11 2013: Add to above: “Newton’s willingness to resort to sleight of hand is evident in more than falsification of data. He used his position as President of the Royal Society, England’s premiere scientific club, to wage his battle with Leibniz over who first invented calculus. What was shameful about Newton’s behavior was the hypocrisy with which he paid lip service to fair procedure but followed the very opposite course” “Ostensibly the work of a committee of impartial scientists, the report was a complete vindication of Newton’s claims and even accused Leibniz of plagiary. In fact the whole report, sanctimonious preface included, had been written by Newton himself. Historians now believe that Leibniz’ invention of calculus was made independently of Newton.”
      • Jun 11 2013: The information you put forward about Newton was interesting. Relative to Newton I am willing to forgive quite a bit given the context of the time during which he lived.

        Imagine doing all your work in pen, having a hard time printing anything, having limited communications with other scientists in your field, having most of the people of you times not understand you. Just finding your own notes had to be a challenge! Add to this religious and political influences that had no problem using barbaric methods to put forth their agendas and what he managed to do was pretty amazing. As you point out, he wasn't perfect. However the work attributed to him has endured.
  • Jun 14 2013: Observer and Observed are not distinct
    It's a scientific, QM revelation. Why not to apply it to Science itself ?
    Science is not an independent observer , it is deeply involved in the process of creation of the reality we all inhabit. It s not ' objective' reality, it is created reality. Its 'objective' is convincing for the converted.
    Is Science a religion ? In a way, it is.
    In fact, separating religion from science is simply the exercise of separating cause from effect.
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    Jun 12 2013: The problem with this discussion is that it frames "science" as a thing. " Like many words, "science" has more than one proper use, and the word can also be misused. In its most fundamental sense, modern science is a process"

    http://www.indiana.edu/~ensiweb/lessons/unt.s.is.html

    "Science is the concerted human effort to understand, or to understand better, the history of the natural world and how the natural world works, with observable physical evidence as the basis of that understanding1. It is done through observation of natural phenomena, and/or through experimentation that tries to simulate natural processes under controlled conditions. (There are, of course, more definitions of science.)
    http://www.gly.uga.edu/railsback/1122science2.html

    The process of science is iterative.
    Science circles back on itself so that useful ideas are built upon and used to learn even more about the natural world. This often means that successive investigations of a topic lead back to the same question, but at deeper and deeper levels.
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    Jun 12 2013: 'Science is a religion' is a meme possibly influenced by Michael Chrichton's quote : Environmentalism is a religion, Nature is its God, we are sinners, sustainability is salvation and Al Gore is the savior.

    This is a trivial observation, not a critical one. Any belief system can be so described.

    a) Science is a religion; Empiricism, Predictability and Falsification are its Gods, subjectivity is scientist’s hell, objectivity is his heaven and Newton, Einstein and Stephen Hawking are its prophets (among many).

    b) Economics is a religion; Demand, Supply and Market are its Gods, higher ISE Index is its heaven, lower ISE Index is its hell and Adam Smith is its prophet.

    ID is a failed hypothesis now. Since science cannot disprove something that is non-existent, ID sells.

    I read your OP with interest. I am waiting for evidences/references/justifications of your claims.
    "Why is science not sufficiently self-regulating and self-correcting?" I think, if there is any self-regulating and self-correcting human field of study, it is science.

    Problem is elsewhere. Science has become so esoteric and specialized that lay people do not normally grasp it anymore.
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    Jun 11 2013: Having given this a little thought. I can appreciate the implication that modern science has risen to the level of a religion.
    I say that in the meaning that religion requires faith in belief. And it seems that more and more we are asked to have faith in science that uses questionable techniques, assumes solutions, before experimentation, the list goes on.
    All the bruhaha over.... global warming or is it climate change, I lost track. In my early years global climate was a dynamic force that ebbed and flowed. There were times when earth was a big snowball and others it was a tropical paradise. In the 1970's we were headed for another ice age, 30 years later it was going to be so hot the ice caps would melt and... a very important and "if we stop burning fossil fuels the warming would stop and we all will be saved" I think that's what was going to happen.
    Anyway, here is were it got strange. It was no longer a scientific theory. It became a mantra. There were elevations of proponents to high levels of importance. People who questioned the science were called "deniers" ! "sinners" "unclean" OK, deniers.
    But, it got so elevated in belief that it was at the level to see if it met the constitutional requirements of a state sponsored religion. There was a case to be made.
    So, is there global warming? I don't know. If I knew what was to happen in fifty years, I'd be investing in the stock market... if I knew there was to be a stock market.
    Science is an occupation. The job is to perform experiments, observe results, process conclusions... something like that..
    There are no experiments in religion. The known is known. You can believe it or you are a denier, something like that.
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    Jun 11 2013: From another conversation: With regard to information there is a prevailing sense that whatever is not Science is Religion. How about a better name than "Religion" for the many gaps where Science has not yet proclaimed itself to have total, or near-total understanding? Should Science be allowed to label everything they are unable to understand and conform to some Theory as "Religion"? I don't think so. In fact, it seems arrogant and unscientific to say "Everything we have not been able to explain is not now, and never will be, Science! The necessary implication is, "We know all the Science, so if we don't know something it can't be Science." Let's allow for yet-to-be-understood-Science. Maybe we could call it "Hidden Truth", or "Undiscovered Beauty". Science ain't omniscient.
    • Jun 11 2013: Indeed, what may happen in the future is that the definition of science may change; in this scenario ID might well be "defined" as scientific.
    • Jun 11 2013: Here is a simple revision of what is science defined somewhat differently. Under this revision ID is science.

      "Science is any endeavor that is a reasonable interpretation of data derived through observation, experimentation or replication."
  • Jun 11 2013: This is about religion, isn't it.
    • Jun 11 2013: Yes---science is the new religion.
    • Jun 11 2013: "This 'new inquisition', as it has been called by Robert Anton Wilson consists not of cardinals and popes, but of the editors and reviewers of scientific journals, of leading authorities and self-appointed "skeptics", and last but not least of corporations and governments that have a vested interest in keeping the status quo, and it is just as effective in suppressing unorthodox ideas as the original.

      The scientists in the editorial boards of journals who decide which research is fit to be published, and which is not, the scientists at the patent office who decide what feats nature allows human technology to perform, and which ones it does not, and the scientists in governmental agencies who decide what proposals to fund, and not to fund, either truly believe that they are in complete knowledge of all the fundamental laws of nature, or they purposely suppress certain discoveries that threaten the scientific prestige of individuals or institutions, or economic interests."
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        Jun 11 2013: Maybe the mantra "Publish or Perish" should be amended. In 2011 one tracking agency recorded over 400 annual retractions of peer-reviewed published scientific papers that later failed closer scrutiny. A retraction is the most severe censuring action a published scientist can experience. As recently as the early 2000’s the number was just 30 or so. (Van Noorden, R. 2011 Science Publishing: The trouble with retractions. Nature. 478 (7367): 26-28.).
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          Jun 11 2013: But you may also remember what a tiny proportion of total submitted papers these were and that a majority of them were the work of a single lab?
        • Jun 11 2013: Hi Ed:

          Waller in "Einsein's Luck" indicated that six of the most influential scientists, Louis Pasteur, Robert Millikan, Arthur Eddington and three other major figures in science, “examined and manipulated their experimental data to fit their preconceived notions of how things really are (or so they thought!). Then, to win the scientific battles in which they were engaged, they exploited (to varying degrees) their powers of obfuscation and deception, their friends in high places and their reputations as reliable witnesses . . . posterity has been largely blind to the equivocal nature of the evidence they presented.”

          The most egregious examples of unethical behavior as it relates to the masses are by icons---it takes a large ego to want to be famous and again and again we see the "biggees" like Darwin, an icon, engage in unethical conduct bordering on fraud. It can be inferred that these scientists were so certain they were right that they were willing to cut corners to be successful.
        • Jun 11 2013: Unethical behavior in science isn't new. We all know about the Piltdown Fraud. But were you aware that Babbage codified unethical behavior in the 1830's?:

          “Trimming consists in clipping off little bits here and there from those observations which differ most in excess of the mean, and in sticking them on to those which are too small; a species of ‘equitable adjustment’ as a radical would term it, which cannot be admitted in science.”

          Babbage also states: “It sometimes happens that the constant quantities in formulae given by the highest authority, although they differ amongst themselves, yet will not suit the materials. This is precisely the point on which the skill of the artist is shown; and an accomplished cook will carry himself triumphantly through it, provided happily some mean value of such constants will fit the observations. He will discuss the relative merits of formulae . . . and with admirable candor assigning their proper share of applause to Bessel, to Gauss and Laplace, he will take that mean value of the constant used by three such philosophers, which will make his own observations accord to a miracle.”

          Finally, “Forging differs from hoaxing, inasmuch as in the latter the deceit is intended to last for a time, and be discovered, to the ridicule of those of who have credited it; whereas the forger is one who wishing to acquire a reputation for science, records observations which he has never made." This is true of Galileo.

          “The extreme accuracy required in some of our modern inquiries has, in some aspects, had an unfortunate influence, by favoring the opinion, that no experiments are valuable, unless the measures are most minute, and the accordance amongst them most perfect.”

          Babbage anticipated many of the problems facing modern science.
      • Jun 11 2013: I do believe that people working in scientific fields should consider carefully what the agendas of their employers are. And i believe that fraud within the scientific community should be weeded out. But i am in no way critical of the scientific method.
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          Jun 11 2013: Are you critical of misuse of the Scientific Method?
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      Jun 11 2013: Amen! Hallelujah! Let us now fit the Data to the Theory in the name of The Experiment, The Observation, and The Prediction.
      • Jun 12 2013: Now now Ed, don't mistake science for creationist's biblical eisegesis. For us, if the data deny our previous conclusions. Too bad, but we were wrong. For creationists, if the data won't fit the bible then the data are wrong. I see quite the difference.
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          Jun 12 2013: Indeed the Holy Bible must be approached exegetically lest some goofy human idea perverts the truth being taught. You do know Mr. Driven that you are very much given to fallacious argument with respect to Bible believing people. Specifically, you have regularly made an Appeal to Hypocrisy, which, as I am sure you know, is a fallacy where the argument demands that a certain position is false or wrong and/or should be disallowed because its proponent fails to act consistently in accordance with that position. I do not deny that you have observed the effects of eisegesis, as have I, but you must know you cannot throw the baby out with bathwater. How about some slack for honest, hard-working Bible believers?
      • Jun 12 2013: OK, now you have to show me when did I do such a thing as dismissing an argument because the arguers were hypocritical. When I talk about hypocrites, I arrive at the conclusion. But I have never rejected an argument because of how hypocrite the arguers are. Discovering hypocrisy on arguers has lead me to think that they were hiding something. I did not just assume that they were, I studied and figured it out. That's far from just rejecting everything because the arguers were hypocritical.

        Feel free to show me otherwise. However, make sure that you understand what I am saying instead of just assuming that I said what you think I said. Read thrice if necessary before jumping to conclusions. I say this because it seems like you try very little to understand my points. I might be wrong. So show me wrong if so.
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          Jun 12 2013: Since you deny making sweeping generalizations phrased as denigrating characterizations of systems of Faith and those who find meaning in them, and, since I am not motivated to peruse your comment log to produce samples of such behavior I have no choice but to withdraw my accusation. Next subject? Still friends?
      • Jun 12 2013: Still very much friends.

        Just for clarification, this is what I deny having ever done: dismissing an argument because the arguers were hypocritical.

        Be well.
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    Jun 11 2013: I don't think anyone thinks of scientists as high priests. They are simply knowledge workers who apply particular methods of inquiry to problems within the reach of their tools and develop tools to address problems that are within the range of scientific means of exploration.

    The extent of fraud, plagiarism, and unprofessional behavior among scientists is very small, if you actually explore the extent of it. When departures from accepted standards occur, these are often sensationalized and represented as if they are the norm.

    The actual data on this have been shared numerous times in TED Conversations.

    Robert makes excellent points below.
    • Jun 11 2013: Your answer displays a lack of awareness of the literature. The Skeptical Inquirer compares Einstein to Jesus Christ and Moses. So does David Bodanis in his book, "E=mc2 A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation". Pais refers to the presentation of the Eclipse Data to the Royal Society and the Royal Astronomical Society in 1919 as the day on which Einstein was "canonized". Miller attaches divinity to Einstein.
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        Jun 11 2013: I would interpret these as poetic license.
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      Jun 11 2013: RE: "But you may also remember. . . ". Thanks for the additional new (to me) info. I think the rise of the RATE of retractions (400+ in 2011 compared to 30+ in 2002-3) is indicative of a subtle departure from rigid (religious if you will) enforcement of the tenets of the Scientific Method. The contest of Science vs. God is taking-on a most unscientific behavior as evidenced by the dramatic rise in Retractions and the publishing of books by "High Priests" of Science aggressively denying the existence of God.
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        Jun 11 2013: The point is that the actual rate is still tiny and a lot of those 2011 retracted papers came from one unethical or careless lab.

        It's a bit as if one extrapolated from the behavior of one crook who happened to be of a particular religious persuasion or ethnic group to flag it as a new tendency for the whole of his religious or ethnic cohort.

        Most of science, as you know, and the vast, vast majority of scientists do not occupy themselves with any sort of science versus God thinking. It is not at all where their attention is focused. I think it is important not to see the scientist in general as a warrior against religion, even if a small minority of scientists have that particular interest.
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          Jun 11 2013: You make "a" valid point sir, but not necessarily "the" point. Dennet, Dawkins, Hutchins, Hawking, etc. make much ado about the non-existence of God. Like it or not they speak for Science if not about Science. These are the men, the High Priests of Science, I, and many others, rightly see as warriors against religion. It may be as you say that these high-profile spokesmen are a "small minority" of the scientific profession. If so I wonder why the majority allows these few, contrary, men to represent the profession. Science is rightly prohibited from explaining the metaphysical, the spiritual, the non-material components of life. Where Science goes wrong is when they pass judgment upon anyone who finds meaning in faith, hope, and love.
        • Jun 11 2013: For every fraudulent paper that is rooted out, I dare say ten contain fabricated, misinterpeted or bogus "facts" i.e. data. Whenever a model becomes a "strong" model, there is a tendency according to Sciama to find the "right" answers. If a scientist has a choice between providing an interpretation of the data consistent with the strong model as opposed to an interpretation that doesn't, you can rest assured that scientist is looking over his shoulder to the next funding cycle.

          Does the H & K article rise to the level of fraud? Consider the actual “data” in that paper. In an article by A.G. Kelly, we see, “The original test results were not published by Hafele and Keating in their famous 1972 paper; they published figures that were radically different from the actual results which are here published for the first time. An analysis of the real data shows no credence can be given to the conclusions of Hafele and Keating.”.

          Consider analysis of this peer-reviewed paper supposedly confirming relativity :“The individual portable clocks used by H & K should have displayed a steady drift-rate relative to the ground clock-station. Three of the four clocks were so poor in this regard to render them useless.” “These alterations to the drift-rate should be close to zero, to give confidence in any conclusions. An examination of the drift rates before and after the Eastward and Westward tests shows that huge differences emerged during the tests.”

          “Examples of how unreasonable were the corrections from the actual test results to the amended version are:

          “Clock 408 (Eastward) ‘corrected’ from +166ns to -55ns

          “Clock 361 (Westward) ‘corrected from -44ns to + 284ns.’”

          How can science progress when the very basis of that science at its inception is collected under conditions that are dubious at best or simply spurious?

          The H & K paper confirming relativity is referenced often in the literature, but the actual "facts" according to Kelly are fraudulent. This may be commoplace
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        Jun 11 2013: They don't represent the profession. It is not a matter of allowing or not allowing them to.

        We have known each other for over a year now, Edward. Why do you call me sir?
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          Jun 11 2013: Sorry my friend. I use "sir" in a non-sarcastic way. I respect your contributions greatly and think you earn the right to be on the receiving end of an expression of honor and respect occasionally. The list of popular (non-technical) books by scientists is filled with the names I mentioned. By that I insist they DO represent the Science world to the lay world. Maybe the average scientist does not know it, but the profession is being largely represented by militant Atheists.
      • Jun 11 2013: Edward, until I came to TED, I had no idea who Dennet, Dawkins, Hutchings or Hawking were.
        I think that alot of people do not know who they are either.

        They are a handful of men, who have a minority following.
        But they make alot of noise, so they grab people's attention.

        It's like a classroom filled with on task, intelligent, well behaved kids, who host a child with severe learning and behavioral issues for one day. Who do you think will get all the attention?

        Do you think God is worried about these mere humans?
        Who do you think wields more power?
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          Jun 11 2013: Point well taken Mary. The skirmish I keep getting caught-up in is the one with God-denying zealots who worship their theories and claim to know for a fact that God does not and cannot exist because they think absence of evidence is proof of absence. The skirmish between them and God will be no contest. But this worldly battle for what our school kids ought to be taught is a real knock-down, drag-out, marathon.
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        Jun 11 2013: Thanks, Edward. I saw no sarcasm in your words. But I am a mother of three.
        • Jun 11 2013: Fritzie, I cannot speak for Ed, but I personally thought you to be a man, not a woman.
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          Jun 11 2013: Wait. What? You are a female person? Why wasn't I told? Oh great! Now my standing as a misogynist will be challenged again! Seriously, why did I assume you to be a male? All I know about you is your command of American English, your confident and accommodating writing style, and your lack of hubris. . . that should have been enough to convince me that you are a female! Anyway, thanks for the update young lady!
      • Jun 12 2013: Edward, you have honored me by saying 'point well taken Mary'.

        I remember something a man of faith once said at a Bible study gathering: "The one who could be talking right now is silent on the matter", in other words, sometimes we need to imitate God's patience and/or silence. Sooner or later all of us will know the absolute truth about God.

        Look at this great quote I found Ed:

        "A man lives by believing something, not by debating and arguing about many things"
        Thomas Carlyle

        Good Afternoon to you and yours!!
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    Jun 12 2013: Your describing unethical people here not science. You are suggesting that if there are unethical people within a discipline then that discipline is wrong.
    • Jun 12 2013: No---I'm rejecting the "ivory tower" view of science. We have been led to believe that there is a certain sense of honor amongst scientists that may place them ahead of the vast "unwashed masses". Scientists are no better or worse ethically than any other human population, but when we fall into the trap that they are the repository of supreme wisdom, this blinds us to the very real problem that they are all too human often driven by motives that are undesirable.
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        Jun 13 2013: Science helps us understand our natural world. I believe the more we understand how the natural world works the more we will understand ourselves, God and the purpose for our existence. We were given a mind to think and a universe to explore. Without science we could have never taken to the seas or landed on the moon. I could only say what I feel inside and that is I would rather explore my mind than follow blindly into what was before.
      • Jun 14 2013: So the problem is not with scientists, but with the way they have been presented in the media.
        • Jun 14 2013: Absolutely---if the media were not subject to hyperbole and the need to separate out of the mass of scientists, "heroes", instead of recognizing that science connects "the known to the known". What the media likes to ignore is that it is predominantly "journeyman" researchers we never hear about i.e. average scientists who build the disciplines.
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    Jun 12 2013: Yet Science, with its human flaws, has enabled travel to the moon and mars. Amazing information technology and medicine. Such that flying through the air at 800 km/h is mundane.

    Religion hasn't managed to pray anyone across continents or to the moon, or heal disease, or improve food production etc.
    • Jun 12 2013: "Religion hasn't managed to pray anyone across continents or to the moon, or heal disease, or improve food production etc."

      It depends on your peception.

      I will take on heal disease:

      Many individuals who have become acquainted with scripture, and have studied the principles within it, have been helped to rid themselves of.........alcoholism, drug abuse, thievery, prostitution, depression, envy, racism, prejudice, murderess intentions, jealousy, violence, hatred, greediness, materialism, etc. etc.

      Some of these are sicknesses, others are social ills, and yet others are inclinations of the imperfect flesh.

      And while organized religion as a whole leaves a very bad taste in my mouth, there are groups of spiritually minded individuals who do use scriptural truths and principles for the benefit of themselves and others.

      Like anything else......there is gold, and there is fool's gold.
      There is true religion, and there is false religion.

      Our job is to learn to distinguish, and then become part of the solution, and not just point to the problem.
      • Jun 12 2013: Here is a different take on religion---why don't we just believe in a God that does nothing evil or anything that appears, with adequate knowledge (for instance, surgical procedures might, to the uninformed, appear evil), to be evil? Leave the evil parts up to chance or a malevolent intelligence.
      • Jun 12 2013: I think religion as a social exercise is great. Getting together with a group of like-minded people who enjoy each other's company is wonderful. Being active in the community, helping others and leading a good life is marvelous. My only problem is when they start talking about God.
        • Jun 12 2013: Richard, you forgot to say "let's not bring up the Bible either in conversation".

          You have just described many of the churches in christendom.
  • Jun 12 2013: I see a strange logic here. by attacking a few bad apple of scientists, then you claim that ID should be treated as science too. Regardless of how you see about the ethics of even,as you say, many "scientists" are plagiarists and cheaters,but who would invent things so that you could join this conversation on the internet, drive a car or take a bus, live in an air conditioned house, etc.
    You said :"Science is any endeavor that is a reasonable interpretation of data derived through observation, experimentation or replication."
    Now please show us what what is the data from which you or anybody observed or experimented and let us render a reasonable interpretation as a qualified endeavor. I don't claim that there are no cheaters or plagiarists in science, because bad apples appear everywhere. But you can't say that science is no good because there are many bad apples in it. Because you would not have modern ways of living, or even live as long as you and your families have without the scientific development during the past.. Furthermore it is not quite logical to say that science is bad, so ID could be qualified as science.
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      Jun 12 2013: ID is one of the baddest apples pretending to be science
      • Jun 12 2013: What exactly do you understand to be at the core of ID?
        Is there a list of particulars that this theory teaches?

        There are so many different perceptions of this idea.
        I am just interested in your take on it Obey.

        Thanks for the reply.
      • Jun 12 2013: There are worse---for quite some time it was argued that Caucasians were superior because they had a larger brain size. Based on this alleged scale, various "measurements" of brain size were used to justify the belief in the superiority of White's compared to European Jews (next biggest) to African Americans (next biggest) to Native Americans (smallest). Then it was determined that the measurements were all wrong and that this "science" was demonstrably false.
  • Jun 11 2013: "In science it often happens that scientists say, "You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken," and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion."
    ---Carl Sagan

    My experience is the same as Carl's. Yes, scientists are human. But I do witness a lot of what Carl describes. For example, I have been wrong more than half of the time and proven so (and admitted so). We often discuss very strongly, of course, but when the evidence is clear, we just admit so and move on. We don't discount those who "lost" one discussion as any less than those who were in the right, since we all learn from such arguments, and there would be no advance without those discussions. In my profession, evidence wins.
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      Jun 12 2013: Broadly speaking, what is your area of study?
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      Jun 12 2013: That works in general science,. Not so much when religion is involved e.g. ID. Debunked yet they continue the public relations exercise pretending it is valid.
  • Jun 11 2013: Those who consider someone a high priest of science have most definitely misplaced their trust.

    Scientists are people, and I am not aware of any empirical evidence to support the notion that they are more or less ethical than bankers, politicians, journalists or plumbers. Reasonable people should keep this in mind when considering their products.

    Science is self correcting. Sometimes it takes a while, but the facts do come to light, as you are demonstrating with your arguments.

    Authors who write of high priests of science, or in any way elevate the status of scientists above the rest of us, are harming both science and the public. Science has limits, and we should all strive to understand those limits.

    The notion that science has become a religion is an attack on science, and not a very good one. Science is what it is, and calling it something else does not make it something else. Science is basically a method. Reasonable people realize that calling science a religion is just name calling, and not an effective argument.

    IMO, we need a debate about the proper role of science in the making of public policy.
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      Jun 11 2013: You write: "The notion that science has become a religion is an attack on science, and not a very good one. Science is what it is, and calling it something else does not make it something else. Science is basically a method. Reasonable people realize that calling science a religion is just name calling, and not an effective argument."

      I would add that calling something else science does not make it science. This strategy too is all too common now as a way of selling the legitimacy of a product or an idea.
    • Jun 11 2013: "The notion that science has become a religion is an attack on science, and not a very good one. Science is what it is, and calling it something else does not make it something else. Science is basically a method. Reasonable people realize that calling science a religion is just name calling, and not an effective argument."

      Science may be a method; scientists are not. We even elevate science to exalted status; just consider that Time Magazine named Albert Einstein "Person of the Century" ahead of Franklin Roosevelt and a dozen other more worthy choices. Do you really believe that the average American when they cash their social security check, remembers the New Deal, or remembers how Roosevelt won World War II thanks their lucky stars we have "Einstein's"Theory of Relavity? If naming Albert Einstein "Person of the Century" is not elevating science to an exalted status, what is it? He was chosen as a "symbol" of scientific progress in the 20th Century.

      I thoroughly agree we need a debate about the proper role of science in public policy; we have seen how hot fusion scientists have derailed competing research programs to the detriment of the American public. Had we focused on new energy technologies, better batteries, more fuel efficient cars, conservation, better insulation, biofuels, better wind mills, more cost effective solar installation, and a host of little steps starting in the 1960's, we would have energy independence today.

      Reagan shut down research in alternative energy once OPEC got us hooked again on cheap oil. Now President Obama is becoming a Republican with his mantra drill, baby, drill; the head of DOE Moniz is pro-fracking. With so much cheap energy from fracking will we ever return to curbing the emission of greenhouse gasses? It looks like when coming up with an energy policy Obama is no better or worse than conservatives.
      • Jun 11 2013: Perhaps there is a misunderstanding here. You seem to be making an argument about something upon which we both agree. I clearly stated that elevating scientists causes harm.

        By the way, Time Magazine is part of the entertainment industry; I do not take the magazine seriously.
      • Jun 12 2013: Come on Richard, the reason why alternative energy sources were not developed is because neither the public nor the state were interested, while the oil companies wanted to make their fortunes last much longer. I know so. I see it every day. Example: my generation grew in full knowledge that oil is non-renewable, yet they still behave as if oil is forever today. They keep their cars running while waiting in the parking lot for whatever time they wait, from a few minutes to more than an hour. They get angry at me when I tell them how wrong that is. They think that if they have the money whatever effects in the environment, and however faster the oil is gone, does not matter. So now I just report them (it is now forbidden by law here). You can't blame that on scientists working on *cold* fusion (not *hot* fusion).

        I see nothing wrong in naming Einstein the person of the century. That you might not like science is your problem, not Einstein's, not humanity's. I would have also chosen someone else too (hard call though), but I don't think that choosing a scientists is wrong or elevating science to an undeserved position. Science is the best way to learn that we humanity have developed so far. I love it. I love how most academics are willing to discuss and show me their evidence. I love it when they show me wrong. I love it when I show them wrong. I love that evidence wins. Sure, sometimes people is dishonest. But science has a self-correcting mechanism. You seem to think that once an article is published that's the end of it. But no, we use other's people results to build on top of them. When doing so we have to repeat at least some parts. If those fail we say so. I have written to authors. Only once the author had fabricated the results. But most often it has been that I missed some detail or another. Scientists risk a lot by fabricating their results.

        I leave you to it now. Choosing to learn or ignore is up to you.
  • Jun 11 2013: You are assuming things plus Do you mean all scientists?
    • Jun 11 2013: Absolutely not---it is my privilege to have as a good friend a consummate scientist who was awarded a Life Time achievement award from the Geological Society of America. He is a "scientist's scientist". What concerns me is that in one discipline 80% of interns are willing to cut corners to get a research paper published or to secure a research grant.
      • Jun 12 2013: I hope the numbers aren't that bad, but your friend sounds like a good guy.
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    Jun 11 2013: In Australia the majority of research is done by the public sector (CSIRO and University based) this at least provides some disconnect between funding and the persuit of profit as the guy doing the research doesn't actually work for the company asking the question.
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    Jun 13 2013: Mr Moody,
    Your comments on this question got me to thinking. Many polls have shown that too often there is cheating or, or, or generally going on in activities such as colleges, work sites, business offices even in grade schools. Not just science students but through out generational population. In my day, there was honor, even among thief's. Now days, honor seems to be old fashion, cheating to get ahead or to the top seems socially, morally and financially acceptable.
    It's not just scientist, it's politicians, corporate climbers, TV Evangelist, I think that the " I am there for me" attitude is all pervasive.
    • Jun 14 2013: I think, you are right, Science is not standing apart from anything else, nothing is.
      The mind that created religion is the mind that created science. The same way as religion betrays its Holy Doctrine science betrays its own Doctrine of Objectivity.
      Why ? I guess, Ego