More Scientific Misconduct

Before I get to Thursday’s DpSU, about origin of religion, I’m going to quickly deal with the latest one, Is Scientific Misconduct on the Rise?

You may remember, from back in late November, two consecutive articles from Christine Dao on this very subject – the first was Mistakes and Misconduct in Science, and the second was More Transparency Needed in Science Textbooks, Museums. This article is by Brian Thomas, but there isn’t much in it that is new and so going to those two previous links will really suffice for a DpSU discussion for today.

But there are a couple of things I would like to note, specifically two of the examples that Mr Thomas gives of scientific misconduct (out of many). The first:

The BMJ suggested that the British parliament form an inquiry into the fraudulent research of Andrew Wakefield, whose 1998 article linking MMR vaccinations to autism was found to be “an elaborate fraud.”

Why is this interesting? I mentioned the case of John Oller a few weeks ago. He’s a creationist professor from Louisiana, who is suing his university for allegedly restricting his teaching on account of his views. Oller’s work has appeared on the websites of both the ICR and Answers in Genesis, and he is on the ICR’s Technical Advisory Board. However, not only is Oller a creationist but he is also an antivaxer – in fact, he has a book on the subject with a forward by Wakefield himself. Nevertheless the case is likely to focus on the creationism aspect, even though it is the autism thing that is the closest to his actual teaching. Supportive articles about Oller have appeared on both World Nut Daily and the AiG website, but despite his connections I’ve seen not a peep from the ICR on the subject. Given the inclusion of the above in this article, could they be simply abandoning him? I certainly don’t get the impression that they have the funds to help him in any practical way. We shall see…

The second example is:

Many are now aware that illegitimate conclusions and leaps in logic were used by political and scientific leaders, as well as others, to twist global temperature trends into what American Thinker called “the science basis for prosperity-killing international climate policy,” now popularly known as “climategate.”

The American Thinker is a pretty conservative website as they go, and it’s a fitting that the denialist screed that is linked to has the title “Fake! Fake! Fake! Fake!” If you say it enough times, does it become true?

But even the author of that says:

I mean to say that the scientific conclusions derived from such temperatures are not real, but I don’t imply that the values themselves have been purposefully altered or adjusted.  We simply don’t have any information to support such an accusation.

No, you don’t – but nor can you say that “the scientific conclusions derived from such temperatures are not real” either. But climate change denial isn’t the usual topic of this blog, so I wont go any further.

There is one other thing I find interesting:

The problem of publication bias—in which manuscripts are only accepted for publication if they align with the reviewers’ predisposed ideologies—has a long history.

That’s not the definition of publication bias. Publication bias is when you tend not to publish if your results are a boring old “probably not” to your original hypothesis. Mr Thomas’ dictionary is faulty – the definition that he gives is for ‘persecution complex.’

The article also contains the usual metric tonne of irony that comes up when the creationists accuse scientists of fudging results. But you don’t need me to reproduce the entire post to document it. You’ll also note from reading it that he never actually tries to answer (or even justify) his title question, “is scientific misconduct on the rise?” I would argue that the insinuation there is ‘misconduct’ of a kind – the question that remains then is “is Brian Thomas a scientist?”

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3 thoughts on “More Scientific Misconduct

  1. I’m a bet fed up with all this Wakefield stuff.

    Do you know that he’s trying to sue the BMJ now? 14 years later… His name has been completely discredited by the medical establishment so I wouldn’t be surprised if the ICR avoided Oller’s affiliated works.

    The climate change thing as well…

    I watched a BBC Horizon programme on the cause of all this a year ago (the inspiration for my blog). The head of the Royal Society spent an hour talking about Science Communication, and how it had failed.

    There is so much research out there, for evolution, for the big bang, for climate change, and for safe vaccines! But none of it is communicated properly… Instead you get a few people who either go against the system (through corruption or misguidedness) and work the public into a frenzy like with Wakefield and the MMR. Or a normal, but stupid scientist messes up his words and people completely misread the meaning of things, like with climate change.

    • I had heard, yes. The potential problem with the Oller case would be if the antivaxers got to pick up tricks from the creationists. If we have teachers, say, suing because they were fired after telling their students not to vaccinate…

      I do hope your blog succeeds in helping people understand science. We need a lot more people who do right now.

  2. Pingback: Antivaxers on the ICR’s Facebook Page « Eye on the ICR

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