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Is the scientific method the best way to get at the "truth"?

In their preface of Broad and Wade the following paragraph sums up their findings, “Our conclusion, in brief, is that science bears little resemblance to its conventional portrait. We believe that the logical structure discernible in scientific knowledge says nothing about the process by which the structure was built or the mentality of the builders. In the acquisition of new knowledge, scientists are not guided by logic and objectivity alone, but also by such nonrational factors as rhetoric, propaganda, and personal prejudice. Scientists do not depend solely on rational thought and have no monopoly on it. Science should not be considered the guardian of rationality in society, but merely one major form of its cultural expression.”

What we learn from Babbage, Reflections of the Decline of Science in England, and Some of Its Causes that as early as the 1830 ethical problems existed in the halls of science. Babbage refers to three practices, “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.”

In this section “Of Cooking. This is an art of various forms, the object of which is to give to ordinary observations the appearance and character of those of the highest degree of accuracy.” “One of its numerous processes is to make multitudes of observations, and out of these to select those which agree, or very nearly agree. If a hundred observations are made, the cook must be very unlucky if he cannot pick out fifteen or twenty which will do for serving up.” Here Babbage anticipated trials conducted or financed by drug companies where unfavorable or neutral results are shelved and only the tests giving the “right” results are published. This process is systemic in the pharmaceutical industry.


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  • Dec 19 2013: The biggest problem with the scientific method is the large number of scientists who violate the scientific method and set back good science, in some cases, decades:

    “The world of science was stunned, and the hopes of many people dashed when Professor Hwang Woo Suk of Seoul National University was recently found guilty of massive scientific fraud. Until 2006 he was considered one of the world’s leading experts in cloning and stem cell research. Yet he was found by his own university to have fabricated all the cell lines he claimed, in articles published in Science in 2004 and 2005, to have derived from cloned human embryos”

    “By the time he was exposed, Hwang had been given the title of leading scientist in Korea by the government. A postage stamp had been issued in his honour, showing a paralyzed man leaping out of a wheelchair to embrace his lady love. Schoolchildren read specially produced stories of the indefatigable scientists who supposedly worked 365 days a year for the sake of saving humanity from disease and disability.” This is from an online article by David S. Oderberg, “Science, Stem Cells, and Fraud,” http://www.intellectum.org/articles/topics/Scientific%20fraud%20and%20Stem%Cells%20(David%20Oderberg).pdf.

    “In 2002, the famed Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California had to fire physicist Victor Ninov, when it was discovered he was behind a fraud relating to their 1999 announcement that they had made the heaviest atomic elements so far synthesized. The original article, published in the leading journal Physical Review Letters, was retracted in 2001. Again, Jan Hendrik Schon, a physicist at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, was fired in 2002 for having falsified data at least 16 times between 1998 and 2001. He had been regarded as a star researcher in electronics, had published eighty papers in two years, and was hailed as a future Nobel Prize winner.

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