November 13, 2021 | David F. Coppedge

Character Flaws Give Big Science Woes

The days when science journals could be trusted have
become clouded. Maybe the sun never shined anyway.

 

There are undoubtedly many individual scientists doing good work—perhaps a majority. The following news should not be interpreted as disparagement against those serving their fellow man through honest research using their years of training and skills. Their institutions, however, are plagued with problems because of lack of character and integrity. These include wild speculations, political biases, personal ambition and outright fraud. Some of these problems are becoming recognized by the institutions themselves. No longer can one place implicit trust in scientific journals and science news outlets. Critical thinking is required like never before.

Human Sciences

Psychologists suggest more humility is needed in the social, behavioral and life sciences (Phys.org). In a remarkable show of self-reflection, two psychologists admit that unwarranted braggadocio is harming the human sciences. Bob Yirka reports:

Rink Hoekstra and Simine Vazire, psychologists with the University of Groningen and the University of California, Davis, respectively, have published a Perspective piece in the journal Nature Human Behavior calling for more humility in the social, behavioral and life sciences. In their paper they outline a methodology for imbuing intellectual humility into the paper writing and publishing process.

As Hoekstra and Vazire note, there has been a crisis of sorts in the social, behavioral and life sciences over the past few years, involving multiple reports of the inability to replicate results in academic papers. The authors contend that this is due to a lack of intellectual humility and suggest that there is too much bragging and not enough acknowledgment of the limitations inherent in such work.

The two give guidelines for achieving humility in future papers, but this may be too little too late. It’s hard for scientists to admit limitations, let alone humble themselves without fear of consequences such as the loss of their jobs. “Try to do better” is not likely to work among people who don’t think they are sinners.

Climate Science

Study shows ‘dark side of ambition’ in climate policy (Australian National University). Days of hand-wringing are beginning as the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow winds down. Big Science has been completely absorbed in the view that man-caused global warming is a crisis reaching a tipping point. The rush to judgment by climate activists threatens to run stampedes over the common man. ANU worries that solutions are not being done in a compassionate and effective way: “the broader environmental and social implications of extreme emission reduction schemes need to be taken into account.” Character needs to overcome ambition.

In a new research paper published in Environmental Research Letters, Mr Xu and Mr Tang argue that these trade-offs represent “the dark side” of China’s climate ambition.

“For example, hydropower is the largest renewable energy in China. But its unrestricted expansion has put pressure on fragile ecosystems, and increased the vulnerability of local communities, especially those forced to resettle,” Mr Xu said.

Will a scramble to mine metals undermine the clean energy revolution? (New Scientist). Along the same line, Graham Lawton worries that “Creating green technologies like batteries and solar panels requires a lot of minerals, and a lot of mining,” but this threatens the very environment scientists wish to protect. This article is significant, given that New Scientist is all-in for fighting climate change with gusto. With one eye open, however, Lawton realizes that many green technologies will upset communities, destroy habitats and pollute. Look at the charts and data in his article with that in mind.”Demand for critical minerals is set to increase by a factor of six,” one graph shows.

Getting to those minerals will require roads, heavy (gas-powered) trucks, trains and destruction of native habitat. Some minerals are only found in countries with ambitious governments, like China. This can lead to geopolitical instabilities. Some rare-earth minerals are found in third world countries, like the DRC (Congo), where local rights can be overpowered by the ambitious tyrannical regimes. And what fuel, if not coal and gas, will supply the electricity for recharging batteries? Green sources, like hydropower, solar, and wind, are not widespread enough, and building them puts even more pressure on mining. An additional concern: what will become of spent batteries? Will there be the character incentives to recycle them in environmentally-principled ways, if dumping is easier and cheaper? Summary: If the “green revolution” proceeds without character, the activists may be exchanging one crisis for another. Lawton recognizes the bind that pro-green activism puts the world in:

But even conservation biologists acknowledge that the energy transition has to happen, and not just for the sake of the climate. “Mitigating climate change is an incredibly important part of achieving global biodiversity conservation goals,” says Sonter. “We’re not suggesting that continuing with fossil fuels is the way to go.” The balancing act, says Laurance, is to avoid destroying nature as we try to make humanity more sustainable. “That would be the ultimate irony,” he says.

Scientific Publishing

Predatory publishers’ latest scam: bootlegged and rebranded papers (Nature). We’ve mentioned the problem of predatory journals before (13 Feb 2021, 2 Aug 2018). Now, they are evolving (by malicious intelligent design) to get around efforts to stop them. Why write bogus science when you can steal and rebrand other scientists’ work? It has already passed peer review, so cheaters can dodge efforts to root out fake science. The materialist pro-Darwin rag Nature is flustered about this trend, but what can it do? Isn’t this an example of survival of the fittest or evolutionary game theory in action? Maybe it’s just an evolutionary arms race. Nature believes that evolutionary arms races emerge from time to time, like bees against wasps, butterflies against birds, or moths against bats. Those symbioses are not right or wrong. They just are. Why are not predatory journals examples of the same phenomenon?

If integrity evolved by natural selection, then it can un-evolve by natural selection. Only the God-given conscience, created in His image with the underlying principle that morality is eternal and right, can give science what it needs to succeed. This is why the Twitter atheists who occasionally attack CEH cannot win an argument. By trying to state propositions they believe are true, they are presupposing that truth and morality exist and do not evolve: i.e., they don’t believe creation because they do. Otherwise, they would chatter like monkeys, and we could dismiss them as products of selfish genes trying to advance their reproductive fitness over us, and truth or morality has nothing to do with it.

When confronted by that logic, the atheists usually exit in a cloud of smoke and cuss words, claiming that we “don’t understand science.” Well, science is not understandable without integrity, and integrity does not evolve. That is what they fail to recognize. It is why Big Science cannot heal itself. It must repent and obey its Creator, who taught all men eternal laws of righteous behavior: “Thou shalt not bear false witness” and “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not covet.” Those essential principles of character are summed up in the Two Greatest Commandments (q.v.).

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