November 30, 2018 | David F. Coppedge

Science Is Nothing Without Integrity, cont.

This entry continues yesterday’s news about scientific integrity.

Replication Crisis

Replication failures in psychology not due to differences in study populations (Nature). Psychologists cannot just blame their replication failures on differences in the study groups. “Half of 28 attempted replications failed even under near-ideal conditions.”

Researcher discusses the the science replication crisis (Phys.org). “If there’s a central tenet that unites all of the sciences, it’s probably that scientists should approach discovery without bias and with a healthy dose of skepticism,” this article begins. “The idea is that the best way to reach the truth is to allow the facts to lead where they will, even if it’s not where you intended to go.” Sounds like a great idea. When do they start?

The Call for Openness

Time to break academic publishing’s stranglehold on research (New Scientist). Publishers have a vested interest in their power to decide what gets communicated as science. “Science journals are laughing all the way to the bank, locking the results of publicly funded research behind exorbitant paywalls,” this article complains. “A campaign to make content free must succeed.”

Scientific impact increases when researchers publish in open access and international collaboration (PLoS One). This journal may have a bias, since it is an open-access publication. One can read it and check their conclusions against the data.

No more first authors, no more last authors (Nature). Scientists desire to be first authors, so that their papers can be cited by their names, as in ‘Adams et al.’ Often, too, the last author is the most prestigious one in the group. In the day of increasing collaboration, this practice does more harm than good.

Funders flesh out details of Europe’s bold open-access plan (Nature). If Europe’s ‘Plan S’ catches on, it will bring sunshine into science, allowing all the stakeholders – including the public – to see the research. Understandably, the journals behind paywalls stand to lose money big time. This article is fair, but is quick to point out problems the plan might create. See also Science Magazine‘s take on this development.

Related Subjects

Why academia reminds me of my childhood cult (Nature). In its daily briefing, Nature noted a piece in the Washington Post about Andrew Marzoni, who ‘blew off’ a pseudo-Christian cult in his childhood only to find similar methods of mind control in academia. “No one says it aloud, but every graduate student knows: This is the price you pay for a chance to enter the sanctum of the tenure track. Follow the leader, or prepare to teach high school.”

Should All Nobel Prizes Be Canceled for a Year? (Live Science). Prizes are shiny objects the media loves, but they take eyes off of what science should be about: a search for truth. The quest for a prize can corrupt motives, and prizes often leave out worthy individuals. Since the rules only allow three winners per category, group discoveries suffer. And what about the other sciences that the Nobel Committee left out? Why should a few political leftists in Sweden be the determiners of who has made a “worthy” discovery? These are a few reasons to ask whether Nobel Prizes should not just be canceled for a year, but forever.

The Moral Machine Experiment (Nature). Researchers in this paper claim to have made progress in defining morality policies for artificial intelligence, particularly moral dilemmas that autonomous vehicles will face. Obviously, “moral” cannot be defined by the scientific method. These authors truck their assumptions about morality into their work.

Scientists struggle with confusing journal guidelines (Nature). Even if a scientist wants to do the right thing, how can he or she know what it is? This is especially a problem for researchers who do not speak English.

To dispel myths, redirect the belief, study says (Medical Xpress). The very title of this article should raise red flags. Who granted scientists the right to decide how to change other people’s beliefs, especially when they have issues of integrity and fake science themselves? Falling for bad scientific ideas is undoubtedly a problem for many people lacking discernment, but when scientists become arbiters of effective methods for changing people, their methods could feed dictatorial regimes who want to enforce conformity.

Science knowledge shifted along religious, political affiliations (Phys.org). Two social scientists at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln find that biases are hard to eradicate from research. Another sociologist says, “”Scientists hope that science is apolitical,” she said. “But we take in and code information based on our perspectives – including political ideology and religious beliefs.”

First law of leadership: be human first, scientist second (Nature). Alison Antes gives social advice to researchers about building relationships in the lab. But to an evolutionist, what does it mean to “be human” if not to use cutthroat tactics for survival? She borrows Christian ethics, like “model desired behavior,” without attribution to the Apostle Paul, who said, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things” (Philippians 4:9). Her article does illustrate, however, that science is done by humans who need to build character.

Rogue science strikes again: the case of the first gene-edited babies (G. Owen Schaefer, The Conversation). The media are abuzz with ethical judgments about a Chinese researcher’s claim to have edit the genes of two baby girls. Boardman and O’Neill, one a geneticist and the other a social scientist, weigh in on the subject in another piece on The Conversation. The development opens up a huge can of worms, all admit, and many say further research of this type should be outlawed.

  • Shock greets claim of CRISPR-edited babies (Science Magazine).
  • Can scientists use gene editing for disease prevention but not human enhancement? (Phys.org).
  • Editorial: The (somewhat obvious) ethical problems with creating gene-edited babies (The Times Editorial Board via Phys.org)

Notice that science cannot be neutral here. Science “can” do things that it “should not” do. Read Wesley J. Smith’s comments on this development at Evolution News.

One thing Big Science needs to do is get out of politics. We have collected a large number of new examples of political bias in scientific papers and articles that we will be sharing soon. Today’s entry provides foundation for questioning Big Science’s ability to be unbiased.

Scientist, research thyself.

Recommended Resource: J. P. Moreland’s new book Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology puts into print many of Moreland’s ideas on philosophy of science (his PhD specialization), extending them since his 1999 book Christianity and the Nature of Science. Hear an interview about the book on ID the Future. He defines scientism, and shows three major reasons it is indefensible as a philosophy or way of knowing. When interviewer Michael Keas (PhD in history of science) says that historians and philosophers need to work together, Moreland gives the following response that is worth sounding throughout the churches of America.

We really have to alert the public. Youth leaders, our Christian school teachers, parents that are raising their kids, we need to alert them to the fact that scientism is really at the bottom of the turmoil we’re facing at culture. Barna did a study recently and found that the six reasons that people are leaving Christianity for atheism are all intellectual reasons, and a couple of them deal with the inability of the church to help believers know how to relate their theology and their Biblical beliefs to science – and science trumps! And so we have retreated to “faith,” and the culture has become morally relativistic because the major things about religion and politics and ethics can’t be known scientifically. So what scientism has done is funded relativism in culture and blind faith commitments in Christianity. And that isn’t sustaining people when they get out of our youth groups and go to college or go into the workforce and meet thoughtful, intelligent unbelievers who will say things like, “Well, prove it– you can’t prove Christianity scientifically, so I don’t have to listen to you.” They don’t know what to say. And so my book is an attempt to do what you’re calling us to do, and that is to work together with our Christian leaders and parents to give them a tool they can learn about themselves and teach our kids and inoculate them responsibly so that they’re not sucked into a culture of scientism.

When you tie these thoughts into what you have just read above in Nature and Science about Big Science’s own admissions of bias and unreliability, we should ask: why should anyone bow to the false idol of scientism? Integrity is the foundation of trust for any claim by any person in any field, not appeal to some “method” that scientists self-righteously assert protects them from error.

How leading experts can be fooled.

Another helpful resource is Jerry Bergman’s recent book Evolution’s Blunders, Frauds and Forgeries (2017). When you learn about how leading scientists fell for fraudulent claims in the past (like Piltdown Man and much more), you begin to realize that scientists are just as prone to error as anyone, especially when their Darwinian ideology motivates their research.

[What Piltdown hoaxes are floating about these days, to be exposed some future day? We can suggest several candidates.]

 

 

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