Government, academia and media have failed us; even religion is politicized; but the cruelest failure of all is science. Problems with science include: (1) junk science; (2) lack of reproducibility; (3) politicization; (4) funding bias; (5) shoddy standards; (6) phony peer-review; and (7) sham journals. Following is a list of over fifty shameful examples of junk science – all subsequently, wholly or mostly, debunked.
Laetrile, pesticides, fluoridation, overpopulation, BPA, organic food, EMFs, acid rain, global cooling, ozone hole, Alar, silicon breast implants, falling sperm counts, killer bees, GMOs, vaccines and autism, manmade global warming, mad cow, SARS, swordfish overfishing, landfill shortage, avian flu, thiomersal, swine flu, dioxin, PCBs, pink slime, campus rape crisis, artificial sweeteners, cell phones and brain cancer.
Junk science continues: paper consumption, gender wage gap, Superbowl spousal abuse, anti-packaging paranoia, fracking, plastics, acrylamide, ethanol, bio energy, infant mortality worse than Cuba’s, Keystone XL Pipeline, arctic sea ice, antibiotics in animals, caffeine, Dakota Access Pipeline, nutritional standards, sodium, baby powder and cancer, E-cigarettes, electric blankets, X-ray scanners and ad infinitum.
Science has a reproducibility crisis. Numerous studies show that only 10%-15% of published, peer-reviewed research can be reproduced to yield the same results. Peer-review is equated with the scientific method and confirmation of research results. Not true! Peer-review simply checks whether or not a paper conforms to accepted research protocols. Peer-review has nothing to do with validating results; this rests solely on the principle of independent reproduction. Until a discovery has been independently reproduced (preferably at least twice), it should be accorded little weight.
Pressure to publish leads to shoddy research techniques. Cherry-picking data is common as is HARKing, i.e. Hypothesizing After Results are Known. Then there is p-hacking, which refers to massaging data until it yields a statistically significant result. Peer-reviewers and journal publishers usually fail to notice when these fraudulent techniques are used, a serious indictment of peer review and science journals.
Then there is funding bias; if you don’t believe you get what you pay for, I can sell you tickets to see Bigfoot. Government funds $3,000 for every $1 funded by others for climate research, which is rife with cherry-picked and altered data like the infamous hockey stick graph. Any scientist minimizing human causation would be savaged, lose future research grants, be shunned by peers and tarred as an heretical climate denier.
Finally, there are outright hoaxes, especially in sociology journals. Three ersatz researchers wrote, had peer-reviewed and published: Human Reactions to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at Urban Dog Parks. Actually, they wrote 20 such articles, all of which were 100% made-up hoaxes. By the time they were exposed, 7 of the papers were peer-reviewed and accepted for publication and 4 more were far along in the process. This tells you all you need to know about peer-reviewed journals.
The politicization and death of science is but the latest failure of once trusted institutions; it joins media, government, academia and religion in the shameful pantheon of derelict institutions. It explains, in no small measure, the coming apart of America, the crisis of incivility, the Trump phenomenon and a great deal more.
Liberals believe the strangest things – that is our topic for next week.