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The prostitution of science

By Thomas E. Brewton
web posted January 2, 2006

Prostitution of science is using its good name for base purposes: falsifying data, and misinterpreting statistics to support a new theory, with the objective of gaining personal fame and fortune.

Recent publicity about such debased conduct should have two consequences: (1) people ought to become more skeptical about new scientific pronouncements, and, as they do, (2) they ought to become more aware that the supposedly sharp dichotomy between scientific certainty and metaphysical inquiry is simply an illusion.

With regard to the second consequence, more in the social sciences than in the physical sciences, atheistic liberals have characterized their socialistic nostrums as pure thought based on materialistic reality. That strand of rationalism was called by Marxians scientific socialism. They look condescendingly upon religion, morality, and philosophy as relics of earlier civilizations beyond which humans have evolved to higher standards of certainty and understanding.

To the contrary, science, in liberal-progressive publications like the New York Times, amounts to little more than the Fad of the Month. If a "scientific" thesis puts business or religion in a bad light, it's proclaimed on page one as truth incised in stone for all eternity. Wait six months or a year, however, and new studies will contradict yesterday's certainty. But if the new study discredits one of the Times's editorial hobby horses, it will be ignored or buried deep within the back pages.

Even a cursory review of "scientific breakthroughs" over recent decades makes increasingly obvious that grounding one's beliefs exclusively in materialistic science is like building a house on quicksand in the path of an onrushing hurricane.

An article by Brian Martin, published in the June 1992 issue of Prometheus explains the tenuous nature of scientific research the appears in the media as rock-solid, established "scientific fact." Mr. Martin writes: "Ask most scientists about scientific fraud and they will readily tell you what it is. The most extreme cases are obvious: manufacturing data and altering experimental results. Then there is plagiarism: using someone else's text or data without acknowledgement. More difficult are the borderline cases: minor fudging of data, reporting only the good results and not citing other people's work that should be given credit. Because obvious fraud is thought to be both rare and extremely serious, the normal idea is that it warrants serious penalties.

"That is the usual picture, anyway, for public consumption. Probe a bit more deeply into scientific activities, and you will find that fraud is neither clear-cut nor rare....In the heads of scientists are various half-formed ideas, long-held desires, prejudices, and the vague recollections of articles read, seminars attended, conversations with colleagues and discussions with collaborators.......

"One of the most common misrepresentations in scientific work is the scientific paper itself. It presents a mythical reconstruction of what actually happened. All of what are in retrospect mistaken ideas, badly designed experiments and incorrect calculations are omitted. The paper presents the research as if it had been carefully thought out, planned and executed according to a neat, rigorous process, for example involving testing of a hypothesis. The misrepresentation of the scientific paper is the most formal aspect of the misrepresentation of science as an orderly process based on a clearly defined method ."

With regard to the first consequence, let's stipulate that most scientists are not crooks. But too many of them have uncalibrated moral compasses, and we pay for it in ignorance and retardation of true science, increased health risks, wasted public funds, lost jobs, bankrupted companies that can no longer fund pensions, and new products that never get to market for fear of litigation.

Prostitution of science runs mainly along three tracks:

1. so-called expert scientific witnesses prepared to support any bogus claim in court for a fee;

2. researchers corrupted by lust for fame and fortune who falsify or misinterpret research data;

3. and '"scientists" so intent upon propagating the gospel of secular materialism that they betray the most basic processes of science and even work to prevent consideration of new and contradictory evidence.

A few examples:

-- Newspapers reported within the past few days that South Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk allegedly falsified results of stem-cell research once hailed as a major breakthrough. Stem-cell research, of course, is a matter of almost religious worshipfulness to liberal-progressives.

-- The Boston Globe, in its March 18, 2005 edition, reported: "In the worst case of scientific fakery to come to light in two decades, a top obesity researcher who long worked at the University of Vermont admitted yesterday that he fabricated data in 17 applications for federal grants to make his work seem more promising, helping him win nearly $3 million in government funding."

-- The BBC, on June 4, 1998, reported that: "Doctors have warned that medical researchers who fake evidence are risking lives. A major new report has concluded that fraud and fabrication is widespread throughout medical research. The practice has potentially devastating implications because doctors base treatment on published research....The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) was set up last year following mounting concern among editors of scientific publications that research studies contained faked results. It is thought that increased pressure to achieve results to obtain scarce funding resources has pushed many scientists into acting dishonestly. The COPE report cites 25 cases of scientific fraud. In one case a[n American] scientist who claimed to have transplanted black skin onto a white mouse had in fact simply coloured the mouse with a felt-tip pen. A British Medical Association spokesman said that members of the committee had been approached by a "phenomenal" number of people revealing cases of fraud and misconduct, and that the problem was far more widespread than was first thought.

-- The British Medical Journal issue of May 1999 reported: "Half of the US biomedical researchers accused of scientific fraud and subjected to formal investigations in recent years have been found guilty of misconduct, a new review has found. In the biggest review of scientific fraud ever published, the US Office of Research Integrity, has released data on nearly a thousand allegations investigated over the five years from 1993Êto 1997.ÊThe review covered inquiries into allegations of misconduct into research funded by the US Public Health Service, which has a budget of $15bn (£9bn)."

-- An article in the New York Times's December 13, 2005, issue by Gina Kolata is headlined: Environment and Cancer: The Links Are Elusive

Within the article, the reporter notes: "But pinning cancer on trace levels of poisons in the environment or even in the workplace is turning out to be a vexing task. There has been recent progress in addressing the issue, but the answers that many people believe must be out there remain elusive.... Researchers, for their part, say they have not given up the quest. In their search for answers, they are trying a variety of methods. They are looking for reliable ways to detect environmental exposures and determine whether they are linked to cancer risk. They are studying the bewildering array of factors that can determine a chemical's effects on individual people. And they are looking at cancer statistics and asking whether there are blips in cancer rates that may point to an environmental cause."

In other words, scientists who believed passionately in environmentalism and consequently blamed private businesses for most of our problems, set out with a preconception and have spent decades and billions of dollars looking for proof, rather like Monty Python's make-believe, comical quest for the Holy Grail. So much for the popular image that scientists dispassionately scrutinize raw data and inductively reach logical conclusions.

-- Reporting on the massive asbestosis claims under the tort bar's class-action suits, the Wall Street Journal, in its November 5, 2005, issue notes: "...asbestosis litigation, which had previously focused on malignancies and other debilitating injuries, shifted radically from the traditional model of an injured person seeking a lawyer to an entrepreneurial model. Lawyers spent millions to sponsor mass screenings of upwards of 750,000 industrial and construction workers. Of the 850,000 asbestos claimants that have so far brought suit against over 8,400 different defendants, about 600,000 have been recruited by these mass screenings....This all became clear when 10,000 of the 35,000 pending silica claims were centralized into a federal multi-district litigation (MDL), presided over by U.S. District Court Judge Janis Jack, a Clinton appointee. During the course of the MDL, one of the doctors recanted all 3,617 of his diagnoses of silicosis, provoking Judge Jack to observe that "it's clear this . . . [diagnosing] business is fraudulent."....Judge Jack concluded that "the lawyers, doctors and screening companies" were "all willing participants" in a "scheme [that] manufactured [diagnoses] for money" -- the equivalent of a finding of pervasive fraud.....Asbestos litigation, meanwhile, prevented the creation of 500,000 jobs because of the diversion of capital in over 70 asbestos-related bankruptcies."

The next time you hear climatologists stating that "all the world's scientists" support the green-house gases hypothesis, or biologists declaring that Darwinian evolution has been scientifically proved, know that they are stating falsehoods, or, at best, no more than their speculative hypotheses.

When only the crooks write the statue books, crime will cease to exist. When only global-warming theorists and Darwinians are permitted to define "science," no contradictory facts will be admitted as science. Don't be surprised that they will fight to prevent students from hearing the vast array of inconsistencies and gaps that make their hypotheses improbable if not impossible.

The next time you see a court case report mentioning testimony from "scientific experts," scrutinize it with a large measure of skepticism. In too many cases, "scientists" are merely plying their trade for their whoremasters, the tort bar.

The writer's weblog is The View from 1776. Email comments to viewfrom1776@thomasbrewton.com.

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