October 9, 2016 | David F. Coppedge

Scientists Not Prepared for Evil

What would scientists say if North Korea nuked their labs? Not much.

Two articles about rogue nations underscore the importance of morality for science.

In Iran, a shady market for papers flourishes (Science Magazine). Readers of scientific papers naively assume that the authors are honest. It presupposes a moral code among scientists: to understand nature, everyone must report findings correctly, striving to maintain the dignity and integrity of science. This story shows that one cannot assume everyone follows that moral standard. A shady business of papers-for-hire is flourishing in Iran. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, Richard Stone reports, there’s been a 20-fold increase in ghost-written theses and journal papers for hire:

It’s unknown how many papers and theses are ginned up under false pretenses. In 2014, a member of Iran’s Academy of Sciences estimated that each year as many as 5000 theses—roughly 10% of all master’s and Ph.D. theses awarded in Iran—are bought from dealers. In a recent Google search, Behzad Ataie-Ashtiani, a civil engineering professor at Sharif University of Technology here who has shined a light on the practice (Science, 18 March, p. 1273), says he found 330,000 links to paper sellers in Farsi. He estimates there are at least a couple of thousand such operations in Iran. Iranian scientists publish about 30,000 papers a year in international journals, a 20-fold increase since the 1979 revolution (Science, 4 September 2015, p. 1029). Purchased publications “damage the reputation of large numbers of Iranian scientists who don’t cheat, and erode the trust of the international scientific community,” possibly endangering collaborations, says Hossein Akhani, a biologist at the University of Tehran.

A similar scandal is occurring in China, Stone says. What’s the solution? There ought to be a law! But what if the lawmakers are shady operators, too? Evolutionists will have a particular problem with this situation. They can’t say it’s wrong, because their own theories of cooperation make cheaters part of the equation. According to their “game theory” equations, cheaters and cooperators always emerge in an uneasy mix. It’s all natural selection.

North Korea’s nukes are nearly ready for launch. Now what? (New Scientist). Science can describe how atomic bombs and missiles work, but it cannot stop their evil use. New Scientist (emphasis on scientist) is worried that North Korea could nuke America. “Kim Jong-un may soon be able to hit his neighbours, and even the continental US, with Hiroshima-sized nuclear weapons,” Deborah MacKenzie writes. “It’s time to make sure he doesn’t hit the button.” We don’t need more equations, in other words. We need strong deterrence from strong leadership. Scientists can inform policy makers, but cannot explain why evil exists.

Like we say: what will scientists say if North Korea nukes their labs? If it’s all evolution, so be it. Stuff happens.

 

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