Friday, July 24, 2009

Science and Religion

Sex, money, politics, business, and religion. Combine any of these ingredients for an outrageous scandal, but is anyone going to be suprised? Are scientists above that sort of thing? The July 4th edition of the Economist had an article about fraud in science. The details weren't the stuff of a National Enquirer expose. Big scandals involved false reports of cloning stem cells and fabricating data about superconducters. Lower level fraud is apparently much more common.
About 10% of the scientists confessed to “dropping data points based on a gut feeling” or “failing to present data that contradict one’s previous research.” As the article notes, "fabricating data is a heinous scientific sin."

It reminds me of a Thomas Merton line from Cargo Cults of the South Pacific: "We Westerners delude ourselves that we are utterly scientific and reasonable." For evidence of such delusions, just turn on Fox News or watch clips from the Town Hall meetings about healthcare on Youtube.

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