June 22, 2022 | David F. Coppedge

A Pox Afflicts Big Science

Ever since Big Science hooked up with politics,
it has displayed ugly sores and scabs.

 

Note: “Big Science” does not refer to individual scientists, most of whom do honorable work. It refers to the leadership: the journal editors, academic deans and lobbyists who claim to “speak for science.” Big Science (B.S.) is analogous to Big Labor, whose corrupt bosses often enrich themselves with union dues that many honorable workers are forced to pay, even when the rank and file disagree with the leadership.

A scourge of monkeypox is currently spreading around the world. The disease, characterized by sores all over the body, is spread primarily by illicit sex. And yet the CDC in America appears more concerned with the stigma of monkeypox than its spread, advising people to practice “safe sex” rather than abstain from the behavior that spreads it (e.g., Breitbart News). What an instructive metaphor depicting the illicit relationship between Big Science and politics! Early scientists like Robert Boyle were figuratively celibate or faithful in their relationship with truth. Today, prostitution of Big Science with politics is expected and celebrated. The executive branch picks leaders of scientific societies like NASA, the CDC, the NIH based on loyalty to the policies of the administration—and B.S. in return tells the politicians what projects it wants funded. Being overwhelmingly leftist in bias (1 Aug 2020, 20 Feb 2021), Big Science usually gets what it wants regardless of the party in charge. Truth lies moaning in the street.

The prophet Isaiah could well have described today’s scientific leadership: “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil.” And like the CDC, Big Media, in cahoots with B.S., has MonkeyBusinessPox too. It cannot deny the scourge but is more concerned about the stigma than the disease. Let recent news zoom in on some of the pus-oozing sores.

Flawed research not retracted fast enough to prevent spread of misinformation, study finds (University of Michigan, 15 June 2022).

Isn’t peer review supposed to prevent misinformation in science? Not if there is no integrity. Misconduct and fraud, remember, are openly admitted by Big Science (2 Aug 2008, 6 Jan 2018, 2 Aug 2018). And in this internet age, flashy papers tend to spread like wildfire over social media, but retraction notices are often not seen (6 Jan 2021).

When a paper is retracted, the goal is to officially discredit the findings and acknowledge the research as flawed, thereby maintaining the overall integrity of research. But many people who hear about the initial finding may never learn of the retraction.

This is not just a consequence of the internet. As we showed 29 March 2016, Big Media is in league with Big Science to make a university’s scientists look good. They don’t want critical analysis to reflect badly on their institutions, which in most cases are hothouses of leftism. This is a literal setup for fraud, where researchers who make the splashiest headlines are rewarded for sloppy work if it is sensational enough and supports leftist values, or both. Even if bad research is subsequently retracted, the horse has already left the barn (6 Oct 2012). On top of all this, new kinds of fraud keep emerging when a post-truth world values influence over truth (27 Oct 2018).

Researchers find citation bias in published papers and evidence that the problem is getting worse (Phys.org, 1 June 2022).

When researchers write papers describing their work, they typically cite previous works to support their own findings or assumptions. In this new effort, the researchers found that the choice of citation shows a bias toward research from certain countries. More specifically, papers written by people in the U.S., the U.K. and China are far more heavily cited than are those from other countries such as Mexico and Brazil.

Without controversy, bias that overlooks worthy accomplishments of scientists in poor countries is wrong and should be avoided. But this reporter, Bob Yirka, fails to see his own political bias. He is more concerned with the politically-trendy concept of “equity” than with truth. If scientific findings are true, and rigorously supported by evidence, it shouldn’t matter whether the work was done in the USA, China, Mexico or Timbuktu. Yirka cites an international study that produced graphs of bias in citations. The graphs, though, show no concern for integrity and truth, but only for fair representation between rich and poor countries. That is a leftist mindset, not a concern of a truth seeker in science.

Many researchers say they’ll share data — but don’t (Nature, 21 June 2022).

In the early days of scientific publishing, findings were for the people. Individuals were concerned about priority, but once published, data were for sharing with the world (with a few exceptions like those leading to dual-use risk; see 9 July 2020). Livia Puljak led a team that studied thousands of journal papers.

Puljak was “flabbergasted” that so few researchers actually shared their data. “There is a gap between what people say and what people do,” she says. “Only when we ask for the data can we see their attitude towards data sharing.”

It’s quite dismaying that [researchers] are not coming forward with the data,” says Rebecca Li, who is executive director of non-profit global data-sharing platform Vivli and is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Some of the failings are understandable; “Reasons included a lack of informed consent or ethics approval to share; misplaced data; and that others had moved on from the project,” Nature‘s subtitle points out. Those reasons were not what shocked and dismayed the investigators. When they went to the researchers and asked for the data that they had promised to share, “more than 90% of corresponding authors either declined or did not respond to requests.” It should be noted that many of the papers investigated were from Nature journals.

“Write fewer papers, take more risks”: researchers call for ‘rebellion’ (University of Cambridge, 6 June 2022).

The venerable home of some of the world’s greatest physicists of the 19th century—champions of observation, measurement and experimental rigor—has a rebellion on its hands. Across campus in the education building, radicals are screaming that the old way of doing science has to go! With conservatives threatening, leftism must rule now. Big Science should bring art and fantasy into the lab.

The appeal is the starting point for a new book which questions prevailing orthodoxies in academia. Its editors, who are four academics based in Britain and Australia, invite university staff to “rise up and rebel” against these conventions. They attack the assumption that the main output of research should be papers for scholarly journals, describing this as the “boring stuff” of their profession, which often undermines its quality and public value.

Instead, the book calls for more university researchers to “depart radically” from traditional modes of academic production and combine forces with organisations beyond the ‘academy’, “to do the radical kind of work that the world needs right now, in a time of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and rising nationalism and populism.”

Like what? Circuses? Poetry? Magic acts? Really?

No comment.

Peer review: Can this critical step in the publication of science research be kinder? (The Conversation, 20 June 2022).

Reviewers of scientific papers should follow the Golden Rule. That’s the upshot of this article by five professors in medicine who look at the human toll of harsh words by peer reviewers. They begin by calling peer review “the least worst system for assessing the merit of scientific work.” Horror stories follow about young researchers almost quitting science because of harsh words by reviewers.

This article points to the inescapable human side of scientific work (only humans do science), but also the moral side. Reviewers need to learn kindness, and scientists need to learn acceptance of criticism. None of this can be cranked out by some “scientific method” that, once followed, generates factual truth about nature. The authors end by noting this is an old problem.

These are not new ideas. In 2006, Prof. Mohan Dutta suggested 10 commandments for reviewers, all of which focus on the collaborative nature of relationship between reviewer and reviewed. Advice for reviewers often includes a recommendation to write constructively, though sometimes this is phrased as something like “write constructively, and then turn to criticism,” as if those are mutually exclusive.

We can take this principal further and — thanks to our community of reviewers in kidney medicine — we and other kidney journals make a commitment to kindness in review. Dutta’s 10th commandment is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.Every branch of science would be improved by implementing this idea.

Mohan should have cited his source: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” — Jesus, 27 A.D.

No model is perfect, but some are useful (Science, 26 May 2022).

This article is posted here as a lead-in to the next one. Science says that some models are “useful” even if they have flaws. In this instance, they’re talking about a non-political issue: a model of algal blooms in Lake Erie. But whenever one sees the word “useful” the follow-up question should be asked, “Useful to whom?”

Models must be constructed with the greatest care, avoiding unwarranted initial assumptions, weighing the quality of existing knowledge and remaining open to alternate explanations.

Study explores the promises and pitfalls of evolutionary genomics (Arizona State University, 6 June 2022).

Who is more guilty of Monkey Business than evolutionary biologists? They claim that we humans are no different in kind than other primates, including chattering apes. What does that imply about evolutionary theory itself? If the human mind is a product of natural selection, as Darwin himself worried, then everything evolutionists say has no connection to Truth. Alfred Russel Wallace could not swallow the notion that his mind was a product of natural selection from lower animals. Nor should anyone; it is a self-refuting tale.

It’s a rare occasion when evolutionary models are undermined by evolutionists. This one is a doozy. The implications reverberate far beyond the particular case that these ASU scientists identified. They compared some evolutionary models to the iconic case of Ptolemy, whose model of the planets may have been “useful” but were wrong.

The field of evolutionary biology is no less subject to misguided theoretical approaches, sometimes producing impressive models that nevertheless fail to convey the true workings of nature as it shapes the dizzying assortment of living forms on Earth.

A new study examines mathematical models designed to draw inferences about how evolution operates at the level of populations of organisms. The study concludes that such models must be constructed with the greatest care, avoiding unwarranted initial assumptions, weighing the quality of existing knowledge and remaining open to alternate explanations.

Jeffrey Jensen and Jennifer Pfeifer can be commended for pointing out these sober and credible warnings about evolutionary models, but perhaps their cautions do not go far enough. They espouse the neutral theory of evolution (see PLoS Biology paper), but as Bergman reported here yesterday from findings at the University of Michigan (see also 8 June 2022), the neutral theory itself is based on flawed assumptions! “Existing knowledge” is already tainted. One is reminded of Colin Patterson’s statement in 1981, “Can you tell me anything you know about evolution, any one thing, any one thing, that is true?”

You can trust some individual scientists who work with integrity to bring solid evidence and analysis to work in an honest search for truth, just like you can trust an honest carpenter who builds you a solid house, even if he belongs to a union.

Big Science and its comrades in Big Media, though, have capitulated to the political Left. Give them as much trust as you would Antifa or AOC. Their goal now is to destroy conservatism, censor critics of Darwin and Democrats, and bring on global communism.

It’s not like the early days with Francis Bacon, Antony van Leeuwenhoek and James Joule (read “In His Own Words” at the end of our biography). Don’t be naive. Get real, and think the way Lincoln did in severe political times: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our” (he said “country” but we can insert “science”).

Humpty Darwin sits on a wall of foam bricks held together by decayed mortar. Cartoon by Brett Miller commissioned for CEH. All rights reserved.

 

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