Chinks in the Scientific Method
December 29, 2011
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.
Naturalizing Miracles, or Miracle-izing Nature?
December 24, 2011
Certain scientists feel a need to explain all phenomena by means of natural processes, including reports of miracles. The word “natural,” however, is slippery, taking on a variety of meanings. Is scientific reasoning, for instance, natural? If so, it is not composed of atoms and forces acting according to “natural law.” Is it possible that the tables can be turned on the naturalizers, to rescue Christmas from materialist re-interpretation?
Good Science Requires Good Ethics
December 16, 2011
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.
The Science of Atheism
December 6, 2011
Science news sites have recently included some unusual articles: reports about the science of atheism. What can scientists say about atheism without leaving the domain of science altogether?
Curiosity About Mars Rising
November 22, 2011
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.
Phillip Johnson Re-Buries Darwin
November 13, 2011
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 […]
Man, Mammals, and Ice Ages
November 7, 2011
What do scientists really know about early man and the creatures in his habitat? Some clues can be found by following science news in a historical fashion: that is, to look for reversals of previously-held opinions, surprises in fossils, and other evidences that scientists are not really making progress in their theories, despite the common […]
Psych-Man Fraud Exposed
November 5, 2011
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
November 1, 2011
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
October 26, 2011
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
October 24, 2011
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?
October 16, 2011
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.
Science Depends on Ethics
October 1, 2011
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.
Evolution Fits Any Data
September 23, 2011
At first blush, it might seem a wonderful thing when many different kinds of evidence can be explained by one simple, elegant theory. Actually, though, too much confirmation can be a theory’s downfall. When a theory explains too much – even opposite things – it really explains nothing. For instance, everything in the universe can be explained by the phrase, “Stuff happens.” Such a theory is useless, even if true. That’s why any theory that explains too much should be looked at askance. Here are some recent observations offered in support of the theory of evolution:
Science Supports Traditional Values
September 10, 2011
It is well known that liberals outnumber conservatives in academia, but sometimes, scientific studies support traditional values, not leftist ideology. Imagine the surprise of some of these researchers who went looking and found that conservative Christian family organizations have evidence to support their views.