Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

I am Nicolaus Copernicus, and I approve of this blog

I am Richard Feynman and I approve of this blog

Qualified outsiders and maverick insiders are often right about the need to replace received wisdom in science and society, as the history of the Nobel prize shows. This blog exists to back the best of them in their uphill assault on the massively entrenched edifice of resistance to and prejudice against reviewing, let alone revising, ruling ideas. In support of such qualified dissenters and courageous heretics we search for scientific paradigms and other established beliefs which may be maintained only by the power and politics of the status quo, comparing them with academic research and the published experimental and investigative record.

We especially defend and support the funding of honest, accomplished, independent minded and often heroic scientists, inventors and other original thinkers and their right to free speech and publication against the censorship, mudslinging, false arguments, ad hominem propaganda, overwhelming crowd prejudice and internal science politics of the paradigm wars of cancer, AIDS, evolution, global warming, cosmology, particle physics, macroeconomics, health and medicine, diet and nutrition.

HONOR ROLL OF SCIENTIFIC TRUTHSEEKERS

Henry Bauer, Peter Breggin , Harvey Bialy, Giordano Bruno, Erwin Chargaff, Nicolaus Copernicus, Francis Crick, Paul Crutzen, Marie Curie, Rebecca Culshaw, Freeman Dyson, Peter Duesberg, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, John Fewster, Galileo Galilei, Alec Gordon, James Hansen, Edward Jenner, Benjamin Jesty, Michio Kaku, Adrian Kent, Ernst Krebs, Thomas Kuhn, Serge Lang, John Lauritsen, Mark Leggett, Richard Lindzen, Lynn Margulis, Barbara McClintock, George Miklos, Marco Mamone Capria, Peter Medawar, Kary Mullis, Linus Pauling, Eric Penrose, Max Planck, Rainer Plaga, David Rasnick, Sherwood Rowland, Carl Sagan, Otto Rossler, Fred Singer, Thomas Szasz, Alfred Wegener, Edward O. Wilson, James Watson.
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Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy? – Carl Sagan (The Burden of Skepticism, keynote address to CSICOP Annual Conference, Pasadena, April 3/4, 1982).

It is really important to underscore that everything we’re talking about tonight could be utter nonsense. – Brian Greene (NYU panel on Hidden Dimensions June 5 2010, World Science Festival)

I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing ever interfered with my learning was my education. My name as you already perceive without a doubt is George Bernard Shaw, and I certainly approve of this blog, in that its guiding spirit appears to be blasphemous in regard to the High Church doctrines of science, and it flouts the censorship of the powers that be, and as I have famously remarked, all great truths begin as blasphemy, and the first duty of the truthteller is to fight censorship, and while I notice that its seriousness of purpose is often alleviated by a satirical irony which sometimes borders on the facetious, this is all to the good, for as I have also famously remarked, if you wish to be a dissenter, make certain that you frame your ideas in jest, otherwise they will seek to kill you.  My own method was always to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine) One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways. – Bertrand Russell, Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 9

(Click for more Unusual Quotations on Science and Belief)

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The crumbling ethics of scientists

Bad news today (Thu Jun 9) in Nature for those of us who like to believe that science is one of the last remaining bastions of resistance to lying, cheating and fraud, even if as we all know the professional pressures have risen to new heights with every decade that passes.

According to a Minnesota study of 3,200 young and mid-career US scientists three years ago, while few admitted to falsifying data, a third of them confessed to stealing credit, or changing the results of a study to suit a sponsor.

The lead author is Brian Martinson, a sociologist at the HealthPartners Research Foundation in Bloomington, and as he says the bad behavior amounts to more than “just a few bad apples”.

Apparently this comes as a shock to some, who haven’t yet cottoned on to the fact that that scientists are human, too, and when they have to compete for grants and sponsors and produce results they are going to behave just like other communities in business and in universities.

Possibly all the decent folk who have found this kind of ethical deterioration hard to imagine will finally realize that even science is capable of producing it Enrons and WorldComs, and look a little harder at fields such as AIDS where the science is unproven and the stakes very large.

What is equally surprising is that this is the first time such a study has been carried out. This surely reflects the high level of trust that has been accorded scientists up to this point. Or the naivete of the few sociologists who study them.

Or at least, the fact that those who are aware of the inside story of science have managed to keep it to themselves.

One-third of scientists admit to research violations

(show)

One-third of scientists admit to research violations

Maura Lerner, Star Tribune

June 9, 2005 BADSCIENCE0609

One-third of scientists admit to research violations

A third of the scientists in a nationwide survey admitted to violating some

of the bedrock rules of scientific research, according to a report by a team of Minnesota researchers.

The survey, of more than 3,200 U.S. scientists, found that hardly anyone

admitted to falsifying data outright.

But a surprising 33 percent confessed to other kinds of misconduct — such as claiming credit for someone else’s work, or changing results because of

pressure from a study’s sponsor.

The survey indicates that the misconduct involves more than a “few bad

apples,” said the lead author, Brian Martinson.

Martinson is a sociologist at the HealthPartners Research Foundation in

Bloomington.

“Our findings suggest that U.S. scientists engage in a range of behaviors

extending far beyond falsification, fabrication and plagiarism that can damage the integrity of science,” the authors report in today’s issue of the British journal Nature.

The researchers surveyed young and mid-career scientists throughout the

United States in 2002. They asked about a long list of questionable actions, from making up data to improper relationships with research subjects.

Among the findings: only three-tenths of 1 percent admitted to “falsifying or cooking research data.” Slightly more, 1.4 percent, said they had potentially

improper relationships with students or subjects. The survey did not define

improper, but researchers said it could include such things as hiring relatives or having an affair. A significant number –15 percent — said they had changed the design, methods or results of a study in response to pressure from a financial sponsor.

In addition, 7 percent admitted ignoring “minor” rules for protecting human subjects. And 6 percent said that they failed to report data that contradicted their previous work.

Martinson said this was the first survey of its kind, so it is not known

whether the conduct is growing more common.

If anything, he said, the survey probably underestimates the misconduct,

because some scientists may have feared discovery if they admitted their actions.

The survey also suggested that younger scientists (average age 35) were less likely to admit to most types of misconduct than their colleagues in

mid-career (average age 44).

Scientists, Martinson said, are “one of the hardest-working groups of people that I know.” But he said there may be something about their working environment — the mountains of rules, the pressure to compete for grants and to produce results — that leads them to compromise their ethics.

“A lot of other professions engage in a lot of misbehavior — look around at

corporate America,” he said. “There’s been this kind of idea that scientists

… are super-humans or something, that they’re immune from these kinds of

pressure. But scientists are human.”

The survey results came as a surprise to R. Timothy Mulcahy, vice president for research at the University of Minnesota. He called it “a very important study,” but said that some of the categories of misconduct may not be as black or white as they seem.

“I think there are a lot of gray zones,” he said. Scientists may not always

realize they’re crossing a line, he said, and universities should do a better

job training them in research ethics.

A top official with the Association of American Medical Colleges, which

represents major research institutions, declined to comment on the findings, saying she hadn’t had time to study them.

But Susan Ehringhaus, the group’s associate general counsel in Washington, D.C., praised the researchers for raising the issues. “Of course, it’s a matter that should be taken seriously,” she said. “I am glad to see the questions engaged, and look forward to the debate that I’m sure that they will produce.”

The survey was conducted jointly by Martinson and two researchers from the University of Minnesota, Melissa Anderson, an associate professor of higher education, and Prof. Raymond de Vries of the university’s Center for Bioethics.

Comments are closed.

The crumbling ethics of scientists

Bad news today (Thu Jun 9) in Nature for those of us who like to believe that science is one of the last remaining bastions of resistance to lying, cheating and fraud, even if as we all know the professional pressures have risen to new heights with every decade that passes.

According to a Minnesota study of 3,200 young and mid-career US scientists three years ago, while few admitted to falsifying data, a third of them confessed to stealing credit, or changing the results of a study to suit a sponsor.

The lead author is Brian Martinson, a sociologist at the HealthPartners Research Foundation in Bloomington, and as he says the bad behavior amounts to more than “just a few bad apples”.

Apparently this comes as a shock to some, who haven’t yet cottoned on to the fact that that scientists are human, too, and when they have to compete for grants and sponsors and produce results they are going to behave just like other communities in business and in universities.

Possibly all the decent folk who have found this kind of ethical deterioration hard to imagine will finally realize that even science is capable of producing it Enrons and WorldComs, and look a little harder at fields such as AIDS where the science is unproven and the stakes very large.

What is equally surprising is that this is the first time such a study has been carried out. This surely reflects the high level of trust that has been accorded scientists up to this point. Or the naivete of the few sociologists who study them.

Or at least, the fact that those who are aware of the inside story of science have managed to keep it to themselves.

One-third of scientists admit to research violations

(show)

One-third of scientists admit to research violations

Maura Lerner, Star Tribune

June 9, 2005 BADSCIENCE0609

One-third of scientists admit to research violations

A third of the scientists in a nationwide survey admitted to violating some

of the bedrock rules of scientific research, according to a report by a team of Minnesota researchers.

The survey, of more than 3,200 U.S. scientists, found that hardly anyone

admitted to falsifying data outright.

But a surprising 33 percent confessed to other kinds of misconduct — such as claiming credit for someone else’s work, or changing results because of

pressure from a study’s sponsor.

The survey indicates that the misconduct involves more than a “few bad

apples,” said the lead author, Brian Martinson.

Martinson is a sociologist at the HealthPartners Research Foundation in

Bloomington.

“Our findings suggest that U.S. scientists engage in a range of behaviors

extending far beyond falsification, fabrication and plagiarism that can damage the integrity of science,” the authors report in today’s issue of the British journal Nature.

The researchers surveyed young and mid-career scientists throughout the

United States in 2002. They asked about a long list of questionable actions, from making up data to improper relationships with research subjects.

Among the findings: only three-tenths of 1 percent admitted to “falsifying or cooking research data.” Slightly more, 1.4 percent, said they had potentially

improper relationships with students or subjects. The survey did not define

improper, but researchers said it could include such things as hiring relatives or having an affair. A significant number –15 percent — said they had changed the design, methods or results of a study in response to pressure from a financial sponsor.

In addition, 7 percent admitted ignoring “minor” rules for protecting human subjects. And 6 percent said that they failed to report data that contradicted their previous work.

Martinson said this was the first survey of its kind, so it is not known

whether the conduct is growing more common.

If anything, he said, the survey probably underestimates the misconduct,

because some scientists may have feared discovery if they admitted their actions.

The survey also suggested that younger scientists (average age 35) were less likely to admit to most types of misconduct than their colleagues in

mid-career (average age 44).

Scientists, Martinson said, are “one of the hardest-working groups of people that I know.” But he said there may be something about their working environment — the mountains of rules, the pressure to compete for grants and to produce results — that leads them to compromise their ethics.

“A lot of other professions engage in a lot of misbehavior — look around at

corporate America,” he said. “There’s been this kind of idea that scientists

… are super-humans or something, that they’re immune from these kinds of

pressure. But scientists are human.”

The survey results came as a surprise to R. Timothy Mulcahy, vice president for research at the University of Minnesota. He called it “a very important study,” but said that some of the categories of misconduct may not be as black or white as they seem.

“I think there are a lot of gray zones,” he said. Scientists may not always

realize they’re crossing a line, he said, and universities should do a better

job training them in research ethics.

A top official with the Association of American Medical Colleges, which

represents major research institutions, declined to comment on the findings, saying she hadn’t had time to study them.

But Susan Ehringhaus, the group’s associate general counsel in Washington, D.C., praised the researchers for raising the issues. “Of course, it’s a matter that should be taken seriously,” she said. “I am glad to see the questions engaged, and look forward to the debate that I’m sure that they will produce.”

The survey was conducted jointly by Martinson and two researchers from the University of Minnesota, Melissa Anderson, an associate professor of higher education, and Prof. Raymond de Vries of the university’s Center for Bioethics.

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