Monday, April 02, 2012


"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."
-Galileo Galilei

Not too long ago I read an article about how the reputation of science is being damaged by poor studies and unrepeatable work. Too often, a lab will publish results that nobody else can duplicate, bringing their conclusions into question.

Compounding this problem is the damage that activist groups doing deliberately shoddy work to help their cause do, such as most of the work publicized by Center for Science in the Public Interest or vegetarian groups. Organizations like the World Wildlife Federation will claim things publicly their own studies don't show (such as a recent polar bear population survey). That damages science's reputation in the public as well.

Combining that with the sad revelations of Climaquiddick emails over the last few years which plainly show bad science and activism taking the place of honest work when it comes to climate research, and people are starting to get a dim view of scientific endeavor.

The result of all this is that, as I warned about in my Mad Scientist post, in the end this hurts science and the people working in the field. Its harder to trust scientists every time you read about this, harder to believe what they say when they keep being not just wrong but actually sloppy or deliberately misleading.

Recently, I saw a piece on Ace of Spades HQ by Arthur K about a study reported in Lookout about conservatives and mistrust of science:
Conservatives, particularly those with college educations, have become dramatically more skeptical of science over the past four decades, according to a study published in the April issue of the American Sociological Review. Fewer than 35 percent of conservatives say they have a "great deal" of trust in the scientific community now, compared to nearly half in 1974.
Now, scientists say that they are unhappy with how the public is losing trust in their profession (as I warned) but the author of the study claims this is only true for white conservatives.

This is a bit misleading for two reasons. First, conservatives in the 1970s polled as having more trust of scientists than leftists. Second, the article doesn't give even one piece of data about how leftists today compare to previous polls, whether its gone up or down. It only talks about conservatives. So there's no way to know if he's right or by how much, only his word.

Now the guy who did this study claims that conservatives only really liked science in the 70s because it was tied to war and military production. One is left with the implication that conservatives didn't really like or trust science more than the left, they just liked killing people and science made that easier.

This argument falls apart for a variety of reasons such as the fact that science is no less involved in military developments, that leftists distrusted science because it was a tool of the man and corporations, and because the mood on the left was to be more "natural" rather than using all those chemicals and stuff, at the time. This alone would skew the left as having less trust than others.

And as I wrote a few months ago, the left is just as skeptical and doubtful about science as the right, they just choose different areas. The right tends to doubt Evolution, global warming, and has serious ethical problems with embryonic stem cell research. The left doubts vaccinations, genetically engineered food, and has serious ethical problems with bio research.

And they have reasons for doing so, based on some solid facts and concerns. The problem is they refuse to admit the right could also have solid reasons for their concerns.

Also note, based on the reporting in the Lookout article, there's something very important missing from this study. Totally missing from the study is any analysis of folks who call themselves "moderate." That strongly suggests the study was done to make a political point rather than a scientific one, which brings us to why people have a problem with scientists today.

A commenter at the Yahoo site noted:
I am a scientist...there is a reason for this. There are quite a few people being touted as "experts" who have little or NO scientific training. I see it all of the time. I worked for a company who was full of people fitting this description. Many of them had degrees that even sounded science backed..."Environmental Policy" degree from I.U. was one of them. The women who had this degree told me that she had one entry level Biology class and that was it. She did enjoy her two semester class of "The History of the Beatles" quite a bit. This is why people don't trust science. I trust REAL science, but for some odd reason, REAL scientific studies are never published to be read on major news networks. It has all become so the expense of the taxpayer and citizens of our country.
A lot of folks who are presented as scientists are only vaguely related to the field and yet we are expected to trust them or be called anti-scientific.

Conservatives I know don't have a problem with science, they have a problem with junk science and activism wrapped in a lab coat. And compounding this is the fact that much of the stuff we're told is good science... isn't. Like I said at the beginning, there's a real problem with scientific publication:
During a decade as head of global cancer research at Amgen, C. Glenn Begley identified 53 "landmark" publications - papers in top journals, from reputable labs - for his team to reproduce. Begley sought to double-check the findings before trying to build on them for drug development.

Result: 47 of the 53 could not be replicated.
Begley's experience echoes a report from scientists at Bayer AG last year. Neither group of researchers alleges fraud, nor would they identify the research they had tried to replicate.

Of 47 cancer projects at Bayer during 2011, less than one-quarter could reproduce previously reported findings, despite the efforts of three or four scientists working full time for up to a year.
Science is where a lot of money is being poured into, especially for politically hot button topics such as AIDS research and "climate change." That money is inevitably going to have an effect on how the study is done. If your efforts show no results, then you're going to get cut off.

It gets worse. Remember the video I posted of scientists working with lawyers to find a way to fake environmental damage and win a lawsuit? They knew they didn't have the results they hoped for so they just made crap up to win against a hated enemy.

I wrote about a scientific journal called Remote Sensing, which called for a more objective public face when it came to climate change, and noted several errors with a famous global warming study. The man who published it resigned from his position of editor and the author of the study is still being attacked. Not because the study was wrong, but because it said things that alarmists didn't want said.

As I noted at the time, Louis Pasteur was put in an insane asylum for noting that little bitty invisible creatures were responsible for a lot of illness. His theories seemed loony and threatened the reputations, comfort, and financial wellbeing of the established scientific community and that could not be tolerated. Its not like this attitude is new, its that we're just seeing more critical analysis, debate, and skepticism than we used to.

Which brings us to the same place I always go when I write about bad science, consensus, silencing debate, and a lack of skepticism: evolution.

Every single characteristic of the global warming alarmist when dealing with a skeptic is the same as the evolutionary advocate when dealing with a skeptic. They declare consensus, they call you anti-science, they question your intelligence, they squeeze you out of publication, get you fired, even try to block your ability to get a degree.

You can get nearly any conservative to at least admit there are some flaws with alarmist climate theory, but if you question evolution nearly all conservatives suddenly change their position and think you're a crank or a religious nut. Not based on the science or evidence, but on what they've been told. Sure, there's problems with science and how its affected by advocates of certain viewpoints they say, but this evolution is unquestionable

The big difference between climate alarmism and pro-evolutionism is that the latter got entrenched heavily into society before the internet gave dissenters adequate voice. Just because you've been raised with a certain understanding of science and the world doesn't mean its true, and it doesn't mean that people who question that are morons or anti-science. There are serious problems with Evolutionary theory at the macro level which simply will not be permitted official question.

I'm not aruging that evolution is trash, I'm arguing that you cannot hold the position that science is troubled and often driven by personal preference and ideology then draw the line at one area and decide that one is totally certain and untainted. Real science requires people question, doubt, and challenge what is accepted and widely held. If the theory is vigorous and hardy, it will survive the challenge and even be enhanced by the criticism.

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