February 6, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

Scientist Preaches Integrity to Fellow Scientists

Patrick Bateson (U. of Cambridge), concerned over reports of malpractice by scientists, wrote an essay in Science1 Feb. 4 to remind his fellow researchers about “Desirable Scientific Conduct.”  One mustn’t allow his or her affiliations or biases to influence results.  Performing tainted research feeds the postmodern conception that science is a cultural construct, for one thing, and can overlook important leads.  “Treasure your exceptions!” he says, providing a couple of examples of insights overlooked because of bias.  “The data point lying under the researcher’s thumb might be the most interesting result of the whole study.”  He refers to an actual incident where a Nobel Prize winner placed his thumb on a slide to cover a data point that was off the line.
    Bateson’s advice comes down to good old-fashioned values: “Desirable modes of scientific conduct require considerable self-awareness as well as a reaffirmation of the old virtues of honesty, scepticism, and integrity.”


1Patrick Bateson, “Desirable Scientific Conduct,” Science, Vol 307, Issue 5710, 645, 4 February 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1107915].

Bateson quotes someone who thought the results of Gregor Mendel were too good to be true, but for research done with the integrity and care he exercised, maybe it was too good for the typical Darwin Party scientist who trades in myths and stories.  It’s hard to know if Mendel was careless with exceptions or not; one thing is for sure, his laws of genetics have stood the test of time.
    Good advice, but can one get “old virtues” out of Darwinism?  Did honesty evolve?  Does integrity correlate with fitness?  We know who followed the values that sprang from Darwinism (see 02/03/2005 entry).  Science gained nothing ethical from the Darwinian revolution and the totalitarian regime that followed.  On the contrary, Darwinism liberated scientists to maintain their philosophy in spite of the evidence.  It allowed them to cover up the data of design with the thumb of imagination.  Most of their data are exceptions (Cambrian explosion, complexity of the cell, inadequacy of natural selection), such that their thumb covers the whole slide.  Even the thumb is an exception.  Scientific integrity would mean abandoning Darwinism; it’s amazing Science would print such a sermon.
    The scientific method is essentially codified integrity.  The study of any natural phenomenon presupposes a love of the truth, a desire to avoid bias and carelessness, and a commitment to follow the evidence where it leads.  Honesty, skepticism and integrity are just as necessary for any intellectual endeavor, whether history, theology, research, journalism, leadership, and dealings with oneself and others.  These values derive from the Bible, not The Origin of Species.  Bateson should reference his sources.

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Categories: Politics and Ethics

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