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Selling Confabulation as Science

Science is supposed to be all about demonstrable proof through experiment. Should some scientists get away with confabulation – mere storytelling? Look at these recent headlines published on science news sites and consider whether some serious housecleaning is in order.

Man, Mammals, and Ice Ages

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

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

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?

New Worlds

Members of our solar system that were little more than points of light for decades or centuries have now become familiar family members, seen up close and personal by spacecraft. Here are introductions to three worlds that are no longer mere names in a catalog. Even the names of members in this trio may be unfamiliar to some. They’re worth getting to know.

Amazing Bird Tricks

“Angry Birds” are perhaps the best known species among electronic bird-watchers these days, but we should never forget that real birds are amazing creatures. Incredibly diverse (think ostrich to hummingbird to penguin), they continue to fascinate scientists and laymen. Here are some recent science stories about our feathered friends.

Aliens Among Us

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

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.

Can Biomimetics Shed Light on Evolution?

Biomimetics is part science and part engineering. The scientific part is to observe and understand the structure and function of a living thing. The engineering part is to apply that science into useful products. Science news articles today are claiming that a biomimetic flying machine modeled on insects is shedding light on evolution. Such a claim deserves some scrutiny.

Amazing Fossils: What Do They Mean?

Almost every week, on continents around the world, remains of once-living creatures come to light. Here are just a few of the fascinating fossils that have been reported this month. What do they suggest about life in their day?

Evolutionary Guru Deceives Himself

Maybe you’ve had this experience: you’re in class, taking notes, and after a long lecture, the teacher realizes something wrong, and announces, “Forget everything I just said.” Frustrating, isn’t it? That’s what a recent article on evolution did. An evolutionary psychologist explained the origin of lying, then admitted he is self-deceived.

Comety Show: Oceans from Space

Finally, a comet has been found with a deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio that is close to that found in Earth’s oceans. That had not been true of many other comets. Astrobiologists claim this ration in Comet Hartley 2 as “proof” that our water came special delivery from water-balloon comets. But why do they believe that, what constitutes proof, and what new problems does the “proof” lead to?

Three Strikes Against Uranus

Uranus has an axial tilt of 98 degrees, giving it the appearance of a bulls-eye as it revolves around the sun. Its moons revolve comfortably around the planet’s equator. This unusual arrangement, unique in the solar system, has challenged planetary scientists since its discovery. A new model accounts for it through a series of gentle bumps from impacts as the planet was forming from dust and gas, but how would one ever test such an idea?

Human Cloning Advanced Despite Ethics

A researcher in New York obtained women’s eggs and conducted experiments on them that could lead to human cloning. While done in the name of regenerative medicine, the experiments on embryonic stem cells involved the destruction of a human embryo. This kind of experimentation raises multiple ethical concerns, but the researcher went ahead anyway, and scientific journals are hailing the advance, albeit with a palpable twinge of conscience about ethics.

Are Aliens Part of Evolution’s Plan, Too?

What would the discovery of intelligent aliens mean for Christianity? A recent article made a splash asking that question. Maybe, though, the question should be turned around: what would it mean for evolutionary science?
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