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Chinks in the Scientific Method

V & V. That’s shorthand in project design for “validation and verification.” Does the scientific method provide V & V? We are all taught to think that peer review, publication and replication help science to be self-checking, so as to avoid error. Some recent articles show that ain’t necessarily so. It may sound good in theory, but in practice, the ideal doesn’t always match the real.

Philosophy on the Phringe

Some philosophy is just common sense. Some is abstruse, recondite, and technically challenging. But when employed against common sense, such as to support the belief that everything came from nothing, philosophy can get downright weird.

Good Science Requires Good Ethics

Science is conducted by humans for humans. It is not done in a vacuum. Even the lone researcher working in a basement hopes to make a discovery worth sharing. The need for ethical science shows most clearly when humans experiment on humans – with or without their consent. Two recent articles underscore the indispensability of moral grounds for science, and a third raises questions about the source of morality.

Curiosity About Mars Rising

If all goes well on November 26, the newest Mars rover, nicknamed Curiosity, will rise above Earth’s atmosphere on a rocket pushing it toward the red planet. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is the largest and best-equipped rover ever built for the robotic exploration of another planetary surface.

Europa Plus Water Does Not Equal Life

NASA gave one of its high-profile press releases this week to dazzle reporters: Europa, the icy moon of Jupiter, may have large lakes of liquid water under its icy shell, closer to the surface than the deep ocean long believed to exist miles down. The curious domes rising above the ice seem to indicate heating that Would the reporters resist the temptation to speculate about life?

Why Scientists Need Christianity

The exposure of a decade-long career of fraud by a social psychologist two weeks ago sent the scientific community reeling. In the aftermath, another social psychologist claims that social psychology can heal itself with its own principles. Buried within her arguments, though, are Christian presuppositions.

Follow the Stem Cell Money

A major clinical trial using embryonic stem cells was suddenly halted this week. Meanwhile, trials with adult stem cells are steamrolling ahead. Why the difference?

Phillip Johnson Re-Buries Darwin

Darwin may still rule from the grave, but Phillip Johnson has good reason to hope Darwin’s ghost will decay with the old evolutionist’s interred bones.  A father of the intelligent design movement, Johnson wrote and spoke and influenced many with his focus on the linch pin of Darwinism, its insistence on undirected natural processes.  It’s […]

Psych-Man Fraud Exposed

A popular social psychologist in the Netherlands has been exposed of committing “fraud on an astonishing scale,” forging data in dozens of scientific papers for nearly a decade. The exposè doesn’t just destroy his reputation. The fraud will cause “huge damage,” said Susan Fiske, a social psychologist at Princeton University,” because “His work is very central—or was.”

Spin or Sin

You are bureau chief for a science news organization. Your job is to convince the public that science is right, and their doubts are wrong. You believe in reason and evidence, but you are frustrated that large segments of the population doubt the scientific consensus on certain hot-topic issues. The way to reach them, you say, is by coaxing people they already respect to convey the message, and use graphics to present the evidence. Sound reasonable?

Aliens Among Us

Some SETI researchers are looking for intelligent design on Earth – by aliens! Paul Davies has written seriously about the possibility of “alien bioengineering” that could be detected in DNA. NASA’s tax-supported Astrobiology Institute gave the idea good press, apparently unaware that most SETI researchers and astrobiologists vociferously reject the theory of intelligent design.

Objectivity of Science Undermined

Science has no boast if not objective. It is objectivity that supposedly sets science apart from all other modes of inquiry: following a “scientific method” that guarantees objective truth about the natural world. Results are reported in peer-reviewed journals that weed out mistaken ideas. After publication, other scientists can replicate any published results, making science a self-correcting process that refines its objectivity over time. Most insiders and philosophers know that the picture is highly flawed, but the vision persists that science is objective. Recent articles raise awareness of some of the problems with the portrayal of scientific objectivity.

What Is It About Africa?

What’s wrong with Africa? The answer is, of course, nothing – at least not with the continent itself. Africa is a bountiful land of incredible diversity and productive potential, boasting the largest mammals, the great apes, geological diversity, vast panoramas of beauty, and numerous spectacular plants and animals. What comes to mind to many westerners, though, is starvation, drought, disease, war, genocide, and a long history of slavery, exploitation and corruption. For decades the charities have assaulted our emotions with heart-wrenching images of starving children with distended stomachs and flimsy arms, covered in flies and mosquitoes. Is Africa to blame? No; these are mostly human-caused problems, offering hope of solutions. A diverse continent with vastly different political systems, Africa offers striking contrasts of riches and horrors.

Human Cloning Advanced Despite Ethics

A researcher in New York obtained women’s eggs and conducted experiments on them that could lead to human cloning. While done in the name of regenerative medicine, the experiments on embryonic stem cells involved the destruction of a human embryo. This kind of experimentation raises multiple ethical concerns, but the researcher went ahead anyway, and scientific journals are hailing the advance, albeit with a palpable twinge of conscience about ethics.

Science Depends on Ethics

Naive reporters and textbook writers sometimes portray science as some kind of neutral, bias-free activity in which the “truth” about nature emerges on its own, as long as the scientist in the lily-white lab coat follows some kind of “scientific method.” Philosophers, theologians, ethicists and scientists with a background in any of these fields know better. One has to believe that truth about nature exists in order to seek for it. And one has to seek for it honestly. Many more examples of science’s ties to ethics or "moral philosophy" can be found, as a few recent articles show.
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