Nu de wetenschap - zeker vandaag de dag - tot de nieuwe godsdienst is verheven (met de Virologen als de nieuwe Goden) - is een boek zoals dit van Henry Bauer een godsgeschenk. Bauer toont aan dat de wetenschap haar religieuze pretenties best kan weglaten. Wetenschap is en blijft mensenwerk; en is dus een feilbare activiteit net als alle andere. En nee, Marc Van Ranst is niet God, al zou hij zelf wel willen, en ook al denken de media van wél.
- De wetenschappelijke consensus is niet altijd wat het lijkt (laat je niets wijsmaken door de media):
“What everyone knows” is in fact disputed by some number of well informed and qualified researchers on a perhaps surprising range of issues: whether Alzheimer’s disease is really caused by amyloid plaques; how specific and effective anti-depressant drugs are; from where came the humans who first settled in the Americas; whether the extinction of the dinosaurs was really caused by an asteroid colliding with the Earth; and more. On those matters, the popular media treat the current consensus as established truth and that becomes what is generally believed. That considerable differences of opinion among contemporary researchers are normal and common constitutes an important..."
- Welke problemen zijn er met de wetenschap (hoewel die problemen regelmatig onder de mat worden geveegd):
The assertion that contemporary science should not be given automatic trust may seem at a minimum controversial. So too with several other points made in this book:
• Science nowadays, and increasingly since the middle of the 19th century, is no longer primarily a truth-seeking activity; to a great extent it is at the mercy of commercial and ideological interests.
• The achievements of science are not owing to application of the scientific method.
• Reproducibility became an expected part of doing science because what was being studied behaved in such regular ways. But if reproducibility is taken as a necessary criterion for doing science, then behavioral and social sciences would be excluded.
• Science does not always put evidence first, it does so only before a theory has been established.
• Medical science has not as yet made the practice of medicine truly evidence-based.
• Scientific literacy should not be measured in terms of knowledge of facts and theories, it should mean an appreciation of the history of science and the understanding that science is a fallible human activity.
• Because experts disagree on major issues of public importance, society needs a mechanism to force open, substantive engagement among and between the various views. Given that these assertions are far from universally agreed to, potential readers should know something about this author’s relevant experience and qualifications.
- Misvattingen over de wetenschap zijn wijd verspreidt:
Misconceptions about science extend beyond the notion of scientific method (Chapter 3). Science is not strictly based on observed evidence as many popular expositions suggest. Reproducibility, often said to be an essential criterion for being scientific, would exclude from science any studies of animals and human beings. Falsifiability, also often said to be an essential criterion for being scientific, was merely a suggestion made many decades ago and abandoned soon after. How scientific literacy is defined and talked about entrenches misguided ideas about science and its place in society.
- De Galileo's van vandaag dagen wetenschappelijke consensusopvattingen net uit (maar de weerstand is groot):
Today’s “Galileos” are the scientists who sponsor claims that radically challenge existing beliefs, the Peter Duesbergs about HIV/AIDS and the Halton Arps about the Big Bang and the Fred Singers about global warming and climate change. Their claims and supporting evidence are no more carefully considered by today’s scientific authorities than Galileo’s were by his era’s religious authorities. Radical novelties continue to be resisted by scientific institutions and by the scientific community at large.
- Wantrouwen in de wetenschap is niet onterecht (De 60 Minutes uitzending waarin Bill Gates zijn advies gaf om wantrouwen in de wetenschap tegen te gaan is een een heel ironische "case in point". De uitzending werd gesponsord door ....Pfizer.):
(O)fficial science is no longer automatically trustworthy because it is far from disinterested and objective. Not widely enough cited is President Eisenhower’s admonition that accompanied his warning about a military-industrial complex in his departing speech (Eisenhower 1961): "in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite". In my view, what Eisenhower warned against has come to pass. On a number of issues, official policies and actions are guided by mainstream assertions and beliefs despite strong, evidence-based dissent from minority voices within the scientific community, for example over theories about the Big Bang origin of the universe, the nature of HIV/AIDS, and global warming.
- Wetenschappelijke bedenkelijke praktijken komen meer voor dan gedacht, zeker in de gezondheidswetenschappen:
The Newsletter of the National Institutes of Health now quite often names individuals found guilty of some kind of dishonest behavior who have been barred for a certain time from seeking grants or serving on advisory boards, the misdeeds comprising the faking of experimental results, plagiarism including stealing ideas from confidential material, and the fudging and cherry-picking of data when publishing. How common such dishonesty has become may well seem astonishing. One survey reported that about 2 percent of researchers admitted fudging results at least once—but since those 2 percent also believed that 14 percent of their colleagues had done so, 2 percent is probably too low an estimate. Beyond that, about one-third admitted to questionable practices less serious than data fudging, but they thought that nearly three-quarters of their colleagues had been guilty of such misconduct (Fanelli 2009).
- Maar zelfs zonder fraude is het testen van een hypothese sowieso minder gemakkelijk dan aangenomen:
In any case, testing an hypothesis can be far from straightforward. The results of a test may not obviously either support or disprove an hypothesis. Typically the observations or experimental results will not give a precise answer, and judgment has to be applied, as it had to be in the first place when deciding how to do the test. All too often, if the hypothesis predicts that a quantitative test result will be 2 rather than 4, the test likely delivers something like 2.7 or 3.2. For example, Watson and Crick conceived a model for DNA that called for bases to be paired in 1:1 ratios, but the experimental results of Chargaff showed ratios between 1.2 and 1.9. Nevertheless, Watson and Crick had refused to be put off by Chargaff’s data, and their model turned out to be right; the experiments had suffered from almost inevitable inaccuracies.
- Er zijn zelfs fundamentele problemen met de wetenschappelijke methode:
The scientific method says nothing about where hypotheses, ideas, come from. It is no more than an attempt, tried out a century or so ago, to explain how so much about the natural world could have been discovered. The scientific method was not developed by researchers looking for better ways to do science, it was thought up by observers of science. The scientific method is a brainchild of the philosophy of science, not of science itself. Many scientists, philosophers, historians and others have pointed out for many decades that science is not actually done by the scientific method (e.g., Bridgman 1955, Kuhn 1970, Brush 1974, Feyerabend 1975; see also Bauer 1992), but this understanding has not spread to the media or to the general public; and, strangely enough, it has not penetrated academic political science, psychology, or sociology, whose textbooks still expound the scientific method as the way to do things scientifically. Those scientists, pundits, or people in the street who refer to the scientific method as a way of explaining successes or as a guarantee for getting reliable information simply do not know what they are talking about. And some scientists seem simply to assume that they must be using the method since they do science, even though they were never explicitly taught that method and have learned little if anything about the history or philosophy of science.
The scientific method prescribes that people who are passionate about their pet idea must go about testing it calmly, disinterestedly, objectively. When they are totally committed emotionally to finding evidence that will prove them right, the scientific method asks them to think of the most likely way to prove themselves wrong—to come up with the toughest, most searching possible test of their idea. People don’t act like that, and scientists are people. Moreover, as already mentioned, progress has sometimes come when scientists stuck stubbornly to a pet theory that experiment seemed to invalidate (Bauer 1992: 20; Brush 1974).
Results get tested in science is when other scientists try to make use of them, to build on them. Thereby it gets discovered whether the originally claimed results can be relied on. That only happens, though, with matters that seem important to individuals other than the original researchers. It turns out that most published bits of science are in fact never cited at all by anyone other than the original researchers (Cole and Cole 1973: 228; Menard 1971: 99; Price 1986: ch. 2), which means that much of what is in the published research literature has never in fact been tested in a meaningful way.
- Bijgevolg blijken vele "ontdekkingen" achteraf fout te zijn. Een lijst van voorbeelden:
Here are a few examples of “breakthrough” discoveries that turned out to be mistakes:
• Genes discovered that cause alcoholism, homosexuality, manic depression, “the search for new things,” TV-watching, and divorce.
• Two drugs designed to prevent irregular heartbeats actually caused heart attacks.
• Left-handed people die younger than right-handed ones.
• “Anti-sense technology,” 1992 Molecule of the Year in Science magazine, doesn’t work after all.
• A cure of epilepsy using magnetic fields didn’t cure after all.
• The claimed anti-gravity action of gyroscopes is not.
• Heavy neutrinos, observed by four independent groups, do not exist after all.
• The stunning discovery of apparently intelligent signals from space—no, they were interference from television broadcasts.3
- Doorbraken worden gerapporteerd in de media, correcties of intrekkingen zelden of nooit:
Hype about brand-new breakthroughs, premature and misleading, appears quite regularly not only in the popular media but also in the News sections of even the leading scientific journals. Retractions or corrections rarely appear in the popular media, however, so those who do not follow the technical literature can remain misled for quite a time.
- Het feit dat er voortduren zelfcorrecties moeten worden doorgevoerd, toont net aan dat hedendaagse wetenschap NIET betrouwbaar is:
But the fact of continual self-correction actually proves the opposite of what is being claimed about the believability and trustworthiness of science. The fact of continual self-correction reveals that contemporary science, today’s science, can never be taken as reliable because there is no way to see into the future to know whether or when more self-correction might be coming.
- Wetenschappers zou niet gauw geneigd hun opvattingen bij te stellen na nieuw bewijs (zie ook alle virologen over de hele wereld):
As to scientists changing their beliefs when further evidence comes in, not so: Once a theory has become generally accepted, it functions as a taken-for-granted belief. Apparently contradictory evidence is then viewed with much suspicion; typically it is for as long as possible ignored or dismissed as probably mistaken; see “Science and evidence: A love-hate relationship” in Chapter 3, “Resistance to progress” in Chapter 6, and “Minority views within mainstream science” in Chapter 9.
- Nog een tekortkoming van de wetenschappelijke methode:
The scientific method explains nothing about the history of science. Did “modern” science take off in the 17th century because the scientific method was now being used when it hadn’t been before?
But science is also often said to have been inaugurated by the Greeks; did they fail to create “modern” science because they were not using “the method”? What about the even earlier Sumerians? Their insights are embedded in modern science through their use of base-60 calculations: we still count 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour, 360 degrees in a circle. Was knowledge of “the method” somehow lost for a time after the Sumerian and the Greek and other early achievements of science? The scientific method is simply irrelevant to an understanding of the history of science.
- En nog een:
The scientific method does not explain why some things—and which things—are dismissed as “not real science” and are called fringe science or alternative science or in extreme cases pseudo-science: alternative medicine, psychic phenomena, Bigfoot and Yeti and Loch Ness Monster, UFOs, and much more (Bauer 2001a). When one asks about criteria for distinguishing science from these alleged impostors, it turns out that there is no way that the job can be done objectively, and certainly not by invoking the scientific method. Such topics are labeled pseudo-science because their claims do not fit with the accredited science of the particular time, because they seem unbelievable, not because the scientific method was not properly used by the investigators.
- Wetenschappelijke theorieën zijn niet exclusief gebaseerd op bewijzen:
Scientific theories are not only and strictly evidence-based—they come into being under a variety of influences and for a variety of reasons besides the evidence; and once accepted into the prevailing consensus, theories are defended vigorously against dissenting voices and evidence, see below “Evidence against an established theory.”
- Integendeel: van veel gevestigde theorieën kan gezegd worden dat ze helemaal niet in overeenstemming met de bewijzen zijn:
Strong evidence exists that currently established theories are inadequate or even downright wrong about quite a lot of things: the cause of Alzheimer’s disease; the mechanism of smelling; the action and efficacy of antidepressants and other drugs for mental illnesses; whether high cholesterol and high blood pressure actually cause heart disease and strokes; who first “discovered” the Americas in modern times and where the first native Americans had come from; whether the dinosaurs were extinguished by an asteroid impact; whether nuclearfusion reactions can occur at ordinary temperatures; whether plate tectonics (continental drift) can really explain all geological phenomena; whether the universe really began as a Big Bang; and more. Most remarkably, perhaps, there is strong evidence that HIV is not the cause of AIDS and that carbon-dioxide emissions are not causing appreciable global warming and climate change (Bauer 2007, 2012a, b).
- Voorbeeld: global warming:
Also pertinent are computer modeling; methods of measuring temperature, including reconstructing past temperatures, which relies on tree-ring data and on ratios of oxygen isotopes (16 and 18) in sea-water and in seashells and in gases trapped in bubbles in ice cores. There are innumerable variables in models of global climate, and uncertainties abound everywhere. Even contemporary measurements of temperature are controversial: temperature sensors in forests and in built-up areas are cooled and warmed, respectively, by their environments: how to extract a measured temperature that is at all representative of “global” temperature? And how to cope with variations of temperature with height in the atmosphere? Those who do modeling do not aim to find out whether a greenhouse effect causes global warming, they assume that it does and manipulate the data only to estimate a magnitude for the presumed effect.
The degree to which authorities will commit blatant self-contradiction to defend a theory is illustrated by a pamphlet from authoritative scientific associations4 which professes certainty while acknowledging uncertainty and cites contemporary events as supporting climate-change theory while acknowledging that the models and the theory are only valid in the long term.
- Het replicatieprobleem in de wetenschap:
In practice, the obligation that reported results be reproducible is not interpreted to mean that there must be evidence of replication by other researchers, it is usually taken merely to mean that authors should be completely sure of their results, that they had carried out experiments carefully and often enough to be sure that there was no simple or obvious flaw. But this does not ensure that other researchers could obtain the same results; there could be some sort of systematic, inherent defect in the original work: defective instruments, impure materials, poor protocols, incompetent personnel, all of which could produce closely similar results over and over again.
The usual understanding of “reproducibility” is not that this has already been demonstrated by several independent research projects but that the published work seems on the face of it sufficiently well described and sound that other researchers could be expected to get essentially the same results. But that is not often subjected to actual test. It is quite unusual for scientists actually to attempt to replicate precisely what others claim to have done. There is little or no incentive for it. Journals will not usually publish reports of an attempted replication: one of their criteria for publishing is that material should be original, significantly new.
As to replication: even on first principles it is evident that it cannot guarantee authentic insight into nature. When an attempt to replicate fails, it may be that something was wrong in that attempt. Or repeating exactly could well bring the same misleading artefact as was responsible for the original claim.
The grain of truth in the “replicability” shibboleth is that published work is expected to be true to Nature, in other words reproducible in principle. But this is not normally put to a direct test, and scientists trust that what their peers have published was obtained in competent and honest work, that before publication the researchers had convinced themselves that they had not committed errors.
- Het probleem van "peer review":
Losing the trust of scientific peers can bring a career to an end, so most researchers are in fact sensible enough to check and repeat their own experiments or observations before publishing, sufficiently to convince themselves that they have not made significant mistakes. But this is not the replication by independent researchers that pundits talk about.
- Het probleem van "falsifieerbaarheid":
Philosophers and others soon showed that this suggestion could not do the job, and Popper himself abandoned the suggestion quite quickly. For example: there is an effective consensus in the scientific community that searching for Bigfoot, or finding water with hand-held divining rods, or healing people by mind power, are not scientific pursuits; yet all of them are falsifiable since it is easy to envisage ways to show that they are chasing non-existent things or making wrong claims. Yet many science pundits and science writers continue to describe falsifiability as a criterion for being properly scientific, which illustrates widespread ignorance of the history of science and the history and state of philosophy of science. A little learning is a dangerous thing, about science as about other matters. It is easy to become aware, from casual reading, of such shibboleths as falsifiability—or for that matter the scientific method—and to accept them as sound without enquiring further just because they seem reasonable on their face.
Falsifiability can indeed seem plausible at first glance, or by bowdlerizing a genuine insight. No theory can ever be proved to be universally true by any accumulation of facts, because the future—the unknown unknown—may bring disproving facts, black swans. So it could not be required of science that a theory be proven true before being accepted at least provisionally. On the other hand, any theory can be decisively disproved by even a single solid, contrary and pertinent fact. So it occurred to Popper that perhaps the possibility of disproof could be a criterion for being scientific. But it isn’t, as already pointed out.
In any case, to prove something to have been actually falsified raises the question of who is to judge. Do all the appropriate experts have to agree that it was falsified? Proof and disproof may be in the eyes of beholders. Apparent disproof can usually be met by minor modifications of the central theory. Thus Ptolemy attempted to preserve belief in the perfectly circular motions of heavenly bodies by perching smaller circles on the major planetary orbits, leading to a complexity referred to nowadays disrespectfully as too many “wheels within wheels.” Imre Lakatos (1976) pointed out that it is quite a normal part of science to make modifications that preserve the essential core of a theory while adjusting details as necessary to fit new evidence. For example, the general theory of chemical bonding was not discarded when it turned out to be possible to make compounds of the “inert” gases, even though that theory had explained nicely why those gases were apparently incapable of forming compounds; it was possible to add some modifications to the central theory to accommodate the new discovery.
The overall range of human activities, making detailed adjustments to preserve a central doctrine, ideology, or religion is not at all uncommon. Refusing to accept even an apparently irrefutable disproof of a strongly held belief is associated with the psychological state described as “cognitive dissonance,” an inability to appreciate the significance of contrary evidence. The iconic description of cognitive dissonance is by sociologists Festinger, Riecken, and Schachter (1956): a religious sect whose guru had calculated the date when the world would come to an end was faced with the fact that the world had not ended on that date. The resolution was not to abandon the belief of the world ending within living lifetimes but merely to re-calculate when it would happen.
- Wetenschap is dat wat media (vaak ten onrechte) als "wetenschap" bestempelen:
Anything done by people called scientists, or by laboratories or other entities regarded as somehow scientific, is liable to be labeled science or scientific. It’s entirely commonplace for the media to cite an individual researcher or the head of an institute as though what they say represents science.
- Wetenschap heeft de kenmerken van een bureaucratie gekregen met nefaste gevolgen:
All institutions, all bureaucracies, find it very difficult to change their stance on anything. Consequently, socalled “scientific” institutions are powerful entrenchers of whatever the prevailing consensus is on matters of scientific and medical substance. Whenever there are disputes of scientific substance, scientific institutions will support the conventional view. They do not act as mediators between opposing interpretations of the evidence. It would be a multiple blue moon before the National Academy of Sciences or the American Medical Association were to acknowledge that the intellectual consensus or the current practices on any issue might be significantly flawed. Contrarian minority opinions among scientists are seen by scientific institutions as whistle-blowing, not as legitimate discussion within the scientific community.
Part of an institution’s power stems directly from its role in commanding and dishing out resources, awarding honors, and communicating with media and public. Reports and press releases from institutions, “scientific” or not, are exercises in public relations, not in the dissemination of plain facts. Whatever the informational content may be, it will be clothed to some degree in spin. The same holds true for professional associations: There are no more grounds to take as unquestionable what is said by the National Academy of Sciences than to take as unquestionable what is said by the National Education Association or the American Medical Association—what they all say spins the facts in some way or other in order to serve their self-interest.
- Iedereen wil graag mee profiteren van het prestige van de "wetenschap" wat leidt tot misbruiken:
The high prestige of science can be a source of envy. Many would like a share in it: some academic specialties, all sorts of organizations, and a variety of individuals seeking to be listened to try to co-opt the label of “science” or “scientific” for themselves, without necessarily offering adequate justification for it.
The Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), a “nonprofit scientific and educational organization [italics added]” adopted that title when it was founded in the mid–1970s even though it did no investigating and most of its leading activists were not scientists: Of the 50 Fellows of the Committee then listed in their official publication, Skeptical Inquirer,4 only 15 were astronomers, biologists, physicists or the like; an almost equal number were science writers, about the same number again were psychologists or sociologists, and most of the rest were philosophers or magicians. After a schism in CSICOP, only 41 Fellows and officers were listed,5 of whom no more than five could be properly described as active scientists while eleven were writers, ten were philosophers, nine were psychologists, and two were magicians.
- Wetenschappers zijn ook maar mensen, met belangen en ambities (ze zijn niet objectiever dan gewone mensen):
Scientists are no more capable of objectivity than are other humans; they can be relatively objective only so long as their own interests are not involved. The popular misconception of science being done by the scientific method implies that scientific activity is more objective and less subject to personal biases and ambitions than are activities that are not scientific. In fact, personal ambitions have always played a role in science. The history of science includes many disputes over personal rather than scientific matters, for example over who should be credited for getting there first with some notable development—was it Leibniz or Newton who invented the calculus? Darwin or Wallace who first proposed natural selection as the mechanism of evolution? Robert Gallo or the Nobel-Prize winners Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier who discovered HIV?
Nevertheless, scientists like other people do lust for credit, which most often is associated with making identifiable advances. The highly competitive atmosphere of modern science has been described in a number of non-fiction works (Wade 1981; Clark 1985;
A clue may be that the 1981 book is by Nicholas Wade, who is also co-author with William Broad of Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science (1983) which first drew attention to the fact that dishonesty was becoming noticeably frequent in science. It was evidently in the late 1970s and early 1980s that science writers and science journalists were becoming aware that the traditional stereotype of scientists as disinterested, selfless, and honestly truth-seeking is far from the reality. But that had already been described more than a decade earlier by Watson (1968), codiscoverer of the structure of DNA, in his “tell-all” memoir that had been greeted by the scientific community with a certain amount of scandalized shock (the book begins, “I have never seen Francis Crick in a modest mood”).
Scientists who are primarily researchers tend to be highly specialized, fully knowledgeable only in their very narrow field of research. They have their pet ideas, their convictions about where research should be directed, and so are biased in some manner on that specific topic.
“Scientist” is easily confused with “researcher,” even taken as synonymous with “researcher.” But many of those who can properly be called “scientist” may do no research at all; many faculty in academic science departments teach but do no research; that’s quite common in community colleges and many 4-year colleges.
- Verdere problemen in verband met de bureaucratisering van wetenschap:
Directors of the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, etc., do not function as scientists or doctors; no matter what they may have been in their previous lives, they are now bureaucrats. They react against minority views over matters of medicine or science just as political institutions and their officials react against such political whistleblowers as Daniel Ellsberg or Edward Snowden.
- Verdere problemen met peer review:
Peer review is often cited as a guarantee of sound science, but peer review is only as sound as the competence and ethics of the peers and of those who choose them. Being human, scientists are ambitious and competitive, some of them overly so. They are tempted to try short-cuts, to fudge a little, maybe to cheat a little or sometimes even a lot (“Fraud in science” in Chapter 1). They like or dislike colleagues and competitors, and find it difficult to judge objectively the work that others do (as well as their own work, of course). Science as a whole is better or worse according to how ethically individual scientists and groups and organizations behave. As Richard Horton (2003: 306), editor of The Lancet, put it, “Peer review … is simply a way to collect opinions from experts in the field. Peer review tells us about the acceptability, not the credibility, of a new finding.”
So peer criticism is a classic two-edged sword, sometimes sharply objective and helpful to science, at other times sharp in terms of personal disagreement but blunt in the hoped-for purpose of advancing science. On the favorable side, peer review does filter out some incompetence. Researchers can benefit greatly from constructive criticism, from being made aware of things that they might have overlooked. The down-side of peer review is that even when it is not subject to personal animosities it tends to look askance at all drastic novelties, illustrated by the phenomenon of resistance to progress, see the next following section. Peer review nowadays is very formally structured and tends to happen before research is funded and before something can get published. That enhances the tendency for genuine novelty to be resisted or even suppressed preemptively. In earlier times, say up to about the middle of the 20th century, when research was less demanding of resources and there was much less pressure on those resources and less competition for space in journals, peer review was less universal, more likely to happen after publication than before. In particular, really novel ideas were peer reviewed only after they had been tried out and the results published, not before they had even had a chance to be tested.
- Wetenschappers en nonsens:
Reich never attained positive recognition within science (whereas he did in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis), but there is also a rather long list of distinguished people who lapsed into heretical unorthodoxy at a later stage, studiously ignoring peer critiques as they did so. Perhaps highly creative thinkers, accomplished and distinguished scientists, are at perpetual risk of rejecting criticism, possibly tempted by their earlier successes to believe that they can safely ignore disagreement from their less accomplished nominal peers. Einstein never abandoned his faith in ultimate determinism as against the almost unanimous adoption by physicists of fundamental indeterminacy as apparently demanded by quantum mechanics. C. G. Barkla had won a Nobel Prize in 1917 for work on X-rays but later claimed a non-existent “J-phenomenon” supposedly observed by Xrays. René Blondlot, one of France’s most respected physicists, has become a routinely cited instance of “pathological science” for “discovering” non-existing “N-rays.” William Crookes was respected even when he announced that he would investigate Spiritualist mediums; but after he concluded that the medium Home was genuine, he lost respect. Le Verrier predicted the existence and orbit of Neptune, successfully, from irregularities in the orbit of Uranus; but the same approach applied to the orbit of Mercury led him to postulate a planet, Vulcan, that turned out not to exist. Sir Arthur Eddington, a respected early exponent of relativity and pioneer in theoretical astronomy, produced a “fundamental theory” that is generally regarded as numerological nonsense.
A few more instances of quite recent resistance against what turned out to be major advances: • Peter Dennis Mitchell’s ideas about biological energy transfer were pooh-poohed in the 1960s but were rewarded with a Nobel Prize in 1978. • Barbara McClintock was pooh-poohed for ideas about “jumping genes” that gained her a Nobel Prize in 1983. • Carl Woese, ridiculed for suggesting in the late 1970s a new domain or kingdom in the tree of life (the Archaea, as distinct from the Bacteria and the Eukarya), received several major awards for that insight after 1990. • Lynn Margulis described a mechanism of biological evolution of the most far-reaching significance in an article eventually published in 1967 (Sagan 1967) after it had been rejected by a dozen or so other journals.
- Als de wetenschap regelmatig op fundamentele punten niet grondig verkeerd zou zitten, waren er ook geen wetenschappelijke revoluties:
Scientific revolutions demonstrate that science has quite frequently been wrong on fundamental matters, often for quite long periods. Scientific revolutions are not only milestones of progress, they are at the same time gravestones of earlier beliefs. Any and all of today’s scientific theories are possible candidates for rejection in future scientific revolutions. Right up to the present time, the overwhelming scientific consensus on any given topic has invariably been found wanting, sooner or later, to some degree or other. The needed changes may be relatively minor, but sometimes they are wholesale, truly revolutionary. It follows that some at least of today’s consensuses also await modification, perhaps merely in minor ways but perhaps in major ones. That is far from being recognized by today’s media, policy makers, and the general public—or by scientists themselves. Yet this truth should never be ignored when it comes to issues of public policy.
The essence of a scientific revolution is that something once regarded as inconceivable turns out to be real after all. Superconductivity, for example, that electric currents could flow through something material with absolutely no resistance, seemed inconceivable, an electrical example of that classic icon of pseudo-science, a perpetualmotion machine. Yet in 1911 superconductivity was observed, at extraordinarily low temperatures, a few degrees above “absolute zero” (the temperature at which all atomic motions and vibrations would come to a halt). Obviously, superconductivity depended on this extraordinarily low temperature; and that remained the accepted belief for decades. Until, that is, superconductivity was observed at temperatures hotter than that by 100 degrees, leading to the Physics Nobel Prize of 1987 to Bednorz and Muller. By 2015 there came a claim of superconductivity at 190 degrees (Grant 2015)4 and in one-atom-thin films at 60 degrees above absolute zero.5 Again, chemists knew for a very long time that the “inert” gases could not form compounds (hence the name “inert”), and the accepted models and theories of atomic structure explained why. Still, half a century ago, Bartlett (1962) made a compound that combined chemically the “inert” gas xenon with a compound of platinum and fluorine. Since then, compounds of other inert gases have been made as well. Chemists make all sorts of things now that we knew just a few decades ago to be impossible, like graphene, highly electrically-and heat-conductive sheets of carbon only a single atom thick and stronger than steel of equivalent weight.
So here is perhaps the most important lesson that history has for today’s modern science:
No present-day scientific belief, no universal consensus, no accepted theory, can ever be guaranteed to be true to Nature, to reality, for all time. Theories that have worked faultlessly for decades or for centuries might nevertheless turn out—perhaps even as soon as tomorrow—to be in some way wrong. Today’s scientific beliefs, no matter how dogmatically held, are not necessarily true.
- Theorieën zijn nuttige instrumenten, maar geen echt begrip; maar voor de keuze gesteld tussen theorie en bewijs kiest men vaak voor de theorie:
Theories are stories that can be very useful tools. But they are not true understanding. Because theories are so useful, a theory is not readily abandoned when evidence turns up that seems to contradict it. Rather, that evidence is treated with skeptical suspicion until so much of it accumulates that it can no longer be ignored. So the history of science records that theories have often been clung to long past their objective expiration date, to the frustration of the minority voices pointing to their flaws—see “Scientific revolutions” and “Resistance to progress” in Chapter 6. Even when theories have been admittedly superseded, they can remain very useful in limited applications. Relativity displaced Newtonian mechanics by replacing forces with curvatures in space-time, but the simpler Newtonian equations continue to be used within the limits of speed at which they are accurate enough. Equations, theories expressed in symbols, can even be useful when the physical models we associate with them contravene common sense; for instance, things at the sub-atomic level are neither particles nor waves, but chemists and physicists happily make calculations about them using in some situations equations that describe those things as waves and in other circumstances equations describing them as particles. Quantum mechanics is an essential tool even as no one really understands it.2
Theories, no matter how useful they have been, should not be confused with permanently unequivocal knowledge or understanding. Scientific theories are technical devices and should be thought of as akin to the very sophisticated scientific instruments and machines that are successfully used without most of the users understanding exactly how they work. Theories are best viewed as tools. Unfortunately, much popular writing about science is cast in terms of science’s theories without warning that they are not the final word. That tempts non-scientists to draw inferences from those theories as though they understood what they were doing. No one would aim to popularize science by having lay people try to use electron microscopes or tensor analysis as though they knew what they were doing, yet describing science in terms of its theories amounts to much the same thing and paves the way for serious misunderstandings—for instance as non-specialists think they can infer what evolution would or would not do; see “A little learning can be a dangerous thing” in Chapter 9.
Theories should not be used, but too often are, to project past the limits of the facts on which they were based. Theories work with the so-far-known facts, and it is hazardous to go beyond that to extrapolate or predict. For example, Newton’s laws of motion and the concept of a force of gravity are not valid at very high speeds or for such phenomena as black holes. Theories are stories based on facts, and that they seem to explain the known facts is no guarantee that they will also explain facts not yet discovered. Theories can make good so-called predictions within the range of things that the theory was based on: Mendeleev predicted the existence of elements successfully because he was filling in a few blanks in a regular pattern, he was interpolating as opposed to extrapolating. By contrast, one could not successfully extrapolate Newtonian mechanics to speeds approaching that of light or to distances approaching the minuscule size of elementary particles.
- Wetenschap is reductionistisch:
The most damaging consequence of allowing overweening authority to science and its knowledge is the neglecting of the things that mean most to human beings. Wholehearted belief that only scientifically accessible matters have genuine reality entails reductionism: mind and consciousness become epiphenomena, mere byproducts of the brain’s chemical and electrical activity; emotions, free will, aesthetics, and the like, the very things that human interactions and aspirations deal in, are thereby declared illusions (Appleyard 1993; White 2013).
Science adopted as a religion is formally described as “scientism.” Those who automatically believe as true whatever science says on any and every subject can accordingly be called “scientistic”; they might also be called “science groupies,” slavishly following their idol. Such faith in science is obviously unjustifiable, given that scientific knowledge is merely inductive knowledge and that theories are fallible stories.
- "Wetenschapsontkenning": een veel misbruikte term met nefaste gevolgen:
Epithets like “denialism” indicate not only high emotion but also frustration that an argument apparently cannot be won by pointing to clearly undeniable objective evidence. In all arguments, it is a reasonable inference that those who call names and indulge in personalities, in ad hominem remarks, do not have an objectively watertight case for their opinions. Denialism is a particularly objectionable, pejorative-loaded term because it became prominent in the phrase “Holocaust denialism” that was aimed at those who refused to accept the first-hand accounts and physical evidence of the Nazi program of exterminating Jews, Gypsies, and other groups. At least some of those who label as denialism any questioning of any scientific consensus are quite straightforward about intentionally invoking the Holocaust association to arouse moral indignation (e.g., Cameron 2005). But of course there is no logical ground for such a comparison. To question a scientific consensus is not the same as denying historical facts and eyewitness testimony. No scientific consensus is a plain, truthful fact, it is simply an expression of collective opinion which, as history teaches, may well be superseded in the future.
Disclaiming or abandoning religious faith amounts to accepting scientism, although it may be scientism in obeisance to a false, pseudo-science god.
- Wetenschaps is inductief, religie niet:
Science is fundamentally an inductive activity, a bottom-up approach from observed facts to understanding. Religion by contrast is a top-down faith deduced from sacred teachings that incorporate ultimate understanding.
- Wetenschap gaat over de natuur, religie over de mens en hebben dus elk een onderscheiden rol te spelen. Alles laten afhangen van wetenschap is verkeerd:
Religion properly deals with human behavior, not with how Nature works. Science properly deals only with how Nature works, it has no warrant to prescribe what people or societies should do. As Stephen Jay Gould (1997, 1999) suggested, science and religion are separate and distinct but not antagonistic so long as each respects the other’s distinct roles. Science pursues map-like knowledge and cannot discover humanly meaningful purpose. Religion provides stories that are highly meaningful for human beings, but it does not offer understanding of the mechanisms of the physical world.
- Er is dus geen oorlog tussen religie en wetenschap:
The notion of a war between science and religion stemmed from conflict between religious fundamentalisms such as biblical literalism on one side and, on the other side, scientistic claims to disprove everything supernatural including the existence of God. But religious fundamentalism does not represent the faiths of most religious believers, nor does fundamentalist scientism represent the faiths of most scientists and secularists. Any number of highly educated people, well informed in both science and religion, have found it perfectly possible to be traditionally religious believers as well as first-rate scientists (Polkinghorne 1994 and other works; Collins 2007).
- Correlatie is geen causatie:
Such misleading claims are particularly common in medical matters and in social science and on some public issues; for example, the primary evidence offered that human activities cause climate change is that overall global temperatures have increased in the last 150 years or so at the same time as human-generated carbon dioxide has increased, that the two things appear to be correlated. In medicine there is a common belief (slowly being eroded by the weight of evidence) that high blood pressure causes strokes and heart attacks. In fact, the chance of getting a stroke or heart attack increases with age, and blood pressure also increases quite normally with age; blood pressure, risk of heart attack or stroke, and age increase together, just as height and weight of children increase together with age. That does not show that risk of heart attack or stroke causes high blood pressure, nor that high blood pressure causes heart attacks or strokes: those things are correlated, associated, just because both increase with age. (If there is a biological factor involved that is more specific than age, it remains to be discovered.)
Furthermore, there is an excellent reason why the normal increase in blood pressure with age may be Nature’s way of compensating for other age-related changes: arteries become less flexible with age and it requires more pressure to send blood to all the places where it is needed. That speculation is actually supported by some reports that peripheral neuropathy—loss of feeling in the extremities—is less common in people with high blood pressure (Cho et al., 2006).
- Het waanbeeld van "statistische significantie":
Statistical significance appears as almost a magical talisman of reliability in a great deal of the research literature in medicine and social science. It is very common to read something like “the results were statistically significant” or “the effect did not quite reach statistical significance” as though such a statement could be a guide to whether or not to believe a conclusion. “Statistical significance” means absolutely nothing unless the criterion for that is explicitly stated: was it p ≤ 0.05? or p ≤ 0.01? or p ≤ 0.037? Even then, as Gigerenzer (2004) makes plain, the type of statistical analysis used might well have been inappropriate. One major reason for paying little attention to something just because it is statistically significant is that the actual effect might be negligible in size even if it is statistically significant.
Everyone should understand that “statistically significant” does not mean true, and that even a highly statistically significant effect says nothing about whether that effect is of non-negligible size. In the usual form of statistical analysis, trials with a large number of subjects or measurements will yield statistically significant differences even with tiny, negligibly small effects.
Some specific points: • Statistical analysis never yields a definitive yes-or-no answer, it is always a probability. • Correlation never proves causation. • Something that is statistically significant is not necessarily true. Commonly it will be wrong at least 5 percent of the time, too often to bet anything really important on it. • Even if something is statistically significant, the effect may be so small as to be of negligible practical value. • Especially if the issue is about something that seems inherently unlikely, the commonly used (frequentist, Fisherian) statistical approach is likely to overestimate the probability by a large margin. • “Margin of error” and “confidence interval” do not describe a definite range. The true value is quite possibly outside the mentioned range, typically 5 percent or more of the time. • The frequentist approach is so easily used that it is employed by many social scientists and doctors who are not sufficiently expert in statistical analysis to avoid pitfalls; see for instance Gigerenzer (2004) and Altman (1994). • Equally expert statisticians may disagree with one another over the proper interpretation of any given data or even over what the proper technical approach might be.
- Medische wetenschap is een contradictio in terminis:
Medicine can never become “scientific” if that adjective is taken to mean doing as the natural sciences do. Medicine ought to be concerned above all with individuals, while the general laws that science discovers treat individuals of a given group as all the same. Present practices are largely misguided in overlooking this basic principle, for instance by setting as treatment goals the same levels of cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, etc., for everyone. “One size fits all” is appropriate in science when dealing with electrons and atoms and molecules, but it is entirely inappropriate in medicine. Occasional initiatives toward individualized medicine are so far barely in their infancy, going only so far as dealing with groups but not individuals; for instance, it has come to be realized that certain drugs are best administered in different doses to people of different racial groups.
- Docters zij niet onafhankelijk en staan onder druk van diverse belangen:
Nowadays, however, physicians are subject to a variety of pressures to do what everyone does and to treat patients in the same way as others would treat them—pressures from managers of clinics and health-care systems, from patients responding to drug advertisements, from insurance companies that reimburse for some things but not for others, from sales representatives of drug companies.
Doctors are trained to absorb the most up-to-date, generally accepted beliefs and to apply them in practice. As time goes by, good doctors learn a great deal through experience with individual patients, including the limited applicability of some of what they were taught. The most important aspect of doctoring may not even be the degree of scientific know-how about viruses or drugs but rather the interaction with patients. It is being increasingly appreciated how important bedside manner is. Studies related to the placebo response have invariably found that patients do demonstrably better when they trust their doctor, when the personal interaction is congenial. Even powerful drugs are more effective when prescribed by an empathetic doctor who causes the patient to believe wholeheartedly that the drug will be beneficial (Harrington 1997; Miller et al. 2013). It has even been argued that the whole history of medicine before the 1930s (when antibiotics were introduced) is the history of the placebo effect (Shapiro and Shapiro 1997).
- Bijwerkingen is een misleidende term:
“Side effect” is a grossly misleading term since it implies that a drug is doing something that it should not be doing, something that it does not always do. But no chemical substance knows what we want it to do, it just performs its chemical functions. As my acquaintance Dr. Frank Ofner used to reiterate, “‘Side’ effects are main effects that doctors don’t like to mention.” Even more to the point, “side” effects are main effects that drug companies improperly strive to sweep under the mat as much as they can.
For example, orally administered antibiotics kill not only the harmful bacteria we want them to kill, they also kill other bacteria, notably among the microflora in our stomachs that help digestion and which also form an important part of the immune system, protecting in particular against fungal infections, among other things. Because of the deadly effect that antibiotics have on the beneficial microflora, it’s a good idea to take probiotics at the same time as antibiotics. Some doctors do indeed advise that, perhaps in the minimally helpful form of yogurt. My personal experience includes that one of the standard treatments for urinary tract infections, Cipro, kills my antifungal bacteria so efficiently that I almost immediately contract thrush (candidiasis, yeast infection). Again, statins lower blood levels of cholesterol, as we desire. But they also inhibit production of ubiquinol (coenzyme Q10), which is an essential participant in generating energy; for that reason, muscle weakening is an inevitable “side” effect of using statins. Many sources—but chiefly unofficial ones—advise the use of CoQ10 supplements by everyone who is taking a statin. Drug companies, however, do not do so, apparently for commercial or legal reasons. One of this author’s personal friends, quite a distinguished researcher whose expertise is in biochemistry, aging, and the role played by ubiquinol, once made a formal proposal to a drug manufacturer that a combination of a statin with CoQ10 could be marketed as a “super statin” that lacks the normal muscle-weakening effect of statins. The manufacturer’s scientific staff were enthusiastic about the idea, but the legal department exercised a veto because this would have admitted implicitly that the company had not in earlier years issued appropriate warnings about the muscle-weakening “side” effects.
- Medische wetenschap is een contradictio in terminis:
Quite in general, significant numbers of standard medical practices do not deliver their claimed benefits (Prasad et al. 2013).
- De gebreken van klinische testen:
There are two types of flaws in clinical trials. One set of problems, discussed in Chapter 8, has to do with improper or incompetent statistical analysis, above all the almost universal reliance on frequentist calculations with the very weak criterion of p ≤0.05, together with accepting statistically significant as a useful result without considering whether the effect size is meaningful. A second set of problems concerns how the trials are, in practice, designed and carried out and evaluated. Most regrettably, the actual data and details are often not made publicly available. A great deal of critical literature has documented such deficiencies in a variety of specific cases, for instance the recent works by Healy (2012), Goldacre (2013), and Gøtzsche (2013). The inadequacy of the present way of approving drugs is illustrated by the fact that newly approved medications have had to be withdrawn from the market4 after shorter and shorter times in the last few decades (Bauer 2012a: 240). As already mentioned (“From medicines for healing to medicines for profits” in Chapter 1), one result is that law firms launch class-action suits because of harm from a drug at the same time as the manufacturer is still advertising the drug’s claimed benefits.
- Pseudo-wetenschap bleek later volledig correct, ook al werd het door de "wetenschap"' weggezet als pseudo-wetenschap:
That the mainstream labels something as pseudo-science does not mean that the claim so labeled is necessarily wrong, however, no matter how pervasively iconoclastic it is. Some matters once generally dismissed as pseudoscience later became accepted into officially accredited knowledge (Bauer 2001a: ch. 5): • Ball lightning was long proclaimed not to exist, now it is a recognized phenomenon. • Acupuncture was long labeled pseudoscience, now it is being accepted increasingly by many doctors including in the Western world. • Electromagnetic therapy was once dismissed as fraudulent. Nowadays it is a standard treatment to stimulate bone growth or re-growth. • Hypnosis was also once dismissed as fakery. • That the builders of Stonehenge and similar constructions in various parts of the world several thousands of years ago had accurate knowledge of heavenly movements of sun and moon was long pooh-poohed, but archaeoastronomy is now accepted as legitimately scientific. On the other hand, mainstream scientists once accepted what by hindsight we now label pseudo-science: Isaac Newton, for example, a central figure in the creation of modern science, spent much of his time in alchemical studies.
Studies of fringe-science subjects are pursued not only by dedicated amateurs but also by scientists whose careers are already solidly established, or who have retired. Brian Josephson, 1973 Nobel-Prize winner in Physics, takes a serious interest in several matters that mainstream science calls pseudo-science: parapsychology, cold fusion, water memory.7 Linus Pauling, winner of Nobel Prizes for chemistry and also for peace, often described as the outstanding chemist of the 20th century, was later derided as having entered the fringe over his claims (“orthomolecular medicine”8) for the health benefits of much larger than the conventionally advised amounts of vitamin C and other dietary supplements. J. Allen Hynek, sometime head of the Astronomy Department at Northwestern University, came to be regarded as outside the scientific mainstream after he became convinced that some residue of unexplained observations (UFOs) warranted serious study. Serious studies of the evidence about UFOs have also been carried on by such individuals as Peter Sturrock, a distinguished astrophysicist. Hannes Alfvén was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1970 for work on space plasma, yet his cosmological ideas about magnetic effects in space were widely dismissed as belonging to the fringe (Brush 1990). Martin Fleischmann, one of the world’s leading electrochemists and a Fellow of the Royal Society, became a maverick outsider following his announcement of “cold fusion.” John O’Mara Bockris, for decades one of the world’s most prolific and well-funded electrochemists, was harassed by his colleagues in the Chemistry Department and by his fellow Distinguished Professors at Texas A&M University because he had studied possible transmutation of elements. Psychic phenomena have been looked into by such accomplished individuals as Robert Jahn, at one time Dean of Engineering at Princeton University. Seekers of Loch Ness Monsters have included the highly respected naturalist Sir Peter Scott and Harold Edgerton, inventor of strobe photography. Paul McLean was one of the trailblazers of neuroscience in the 1940s and 1950s, but his model of the “triune brain” was disdained by his peers.
Jacques Benveniste, head of an official French laboratory, was excommunicated for experiments that appeared to support some claims made for homeopathy.
This statement had the signature of 186 individuals. Several critics (Westrum 1976; Feyerabend 1978) soon pointed out that these individuals claimed to be speaking for all of science without having been appointed to do so; that they expected the authority of science to be accepted without offering any evidence on the specific points at issue; and that some of them admitted to having never actually looked into any details of what astrologers claim and do. Again, decades earlier some scientists dismissed Immanuel Velikovsky’s writings as pseudo-science while admitting that they had not read his works (Bauer 1984: 58, 223, 233). When the U.S. Air Force wanted advice about UFOs, it turned to the University of Colorado to form a committee of established scientists, it did not enlist the amateur, voluntary associations of people who had made the subject their special study, even though those groups included some well credentialed scientists. For comment about cryptozoology, the media turn to zoologists as authoritative, not to the people who have spent time and effort to collect and collate evidence about the possible existence of these “cryptid” creatures.
- En soms wordt het héél lelijk (voor een recent voorbeeld zie hier):
However, within what everyone would agree is mainstream science it is not at all uncommon to find divergent interpretations. Arguments over interpreting evidence have always been a part of normal scientific activity. In recent decades, though, there have also been a number of instances where, in fully mainstream topics, quite legitimate disagreements over interpretation of evidence about have brought massive denunciation of minority views (Bauer 2012a). For example: • Astronomer Halton Arp (1987, 1998) was denied further use of telescopes in the United States for contradicting, on the basis of observational data, the accepted belief that all red-shifts are owing solely to a Doppler effect. • Peter Duesberg is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and former winner of a coveted Outstanding Investigator award from the National Institutes of Health, recognized as one of the world’s leading retrovirologists; yet he has become a pariah (Farber 2006: ch. 1) after explaining why the retrovirus HIV is not and cannot be the cause of AIDS. • Distinguished individuals who question whether carbon dioxide has actually been proven to be responsible for global warming and climate change are maligned as denialists and conservative stooges of industry, for example Frederick Seitz, who had been President of the National Academy of Sciences and of Rockefeller University, or Fred Singer, who had held senior positions both in academe (Distinguished Research Professor at George Mason University, Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Virginia) and in government agencies (National Weather Satellite Center, Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency).
These individuals illustrate how harshly the mainstream defends its consensus nowadays. They must not be confused with “hermit scientists” like Wilhelm Reich. While they are iconic of dissent on the particular topic and few other names are associated with them in the mass media, in reality in each of those cases there are many other competent professionals who independently reached the same critical view of the mainstream consensus. Quite a few astronomers agree with Arp that the present Big-Bang consensus is wrong.9 Many biologists and doctors and others agree with Duesberg that HIV does not cause AIDS.10 A great many meteorologists and environmental scientists agree with Seitz and Singer that proof remains lacking that carbon dioxide is the cause of global warming.11
- Een voorbeeld: HIV/AIDS (ook toen al was Anthony Fauci een authoritaire klootzak):
Thus journalist Celia Farber was warned of potential loss of access by Robert Gallo because of her coverage of dissenting views of HIV (Lauritsen 1994; Hodgkinson 1996: 347–8); Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, gave a more general warning: “Journalists who make too many mistakes, or who are too sloppy, are going to find that their access to scientists may diminish”; being sloppy or making mistakes means, of course, not accepting what the authority says (Fauci 1989).
Feeling intimidated is unwarranted. Science is done by human beings, and the soundness of what scientists say can be judged by how they respond in disagreements with equally qualified other scientists.
- Voorbeed: klimaaverandering: de zognaamde 97% consensus die niet bestaat:
For example over climate change (NASA 2016): Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. Note that 3 percent of actively publishing climate scientists do not agree. Bear in mind too that the conservative, mainstream-biased nature of peer review makes it quite difficult to publish dissent from the consensus; climate-change denialists might even be a silenced majority. Further, “very likely” is merely an opinion, it is not even a claim of certainty. Yet the whole tenor of this blurb from NASA is aimed at convincing readers that the official position should be taken as true.
- De oplossing zal niet van wetenschappelijke tijdschriften komen:
Commercial publishers of technical journals (among the leading ones are Elsevier, Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, Springer, Taylor and Francis) steadily raised their subscription prices, putting continuing pressure on the finances of academic libraries, which began to pressure faculty to agree to cut subscriptions for journals not constantly needing to be read. Nevertheless, new commercially published technical journals continue to appear, because it continues to be profitable. For instance, after Elsevier took over the prestigious British journal The Lancet in 1991, it added 7 more Lancet journals in specialties like oncology; Nature, one of the two (with Science) most prestigious science journals of all, also has a commercial publisher, Palgrave Macmillan, and it too had generated 17 new Nature specialty journals by 2015.1
Access to scientific periodicals is restricted to subscribers, most of whom are the academic and other research libraries to which most researchers have access. That restriction to subscribers has brought another moneymaking gimmick to science publishing: “open access” on-line publishing. The publishers of these open-access periodicals sell the idea to prospective authors that their articles will be available to all and sundry under open access, not restricted just to those who pay journal subscriptions, and the existence and availability of their openaccess pieces will also be known to all and sundry thanks to Google and other search engines. For open access to their writings, authors pay quite handsomely, as much as thousands of dollars per article.2 It remains to be seen whether future studies will show that open-access articles gain more readers; skepticism about that is suggested by the publication glut and the long record that most articles are never cited.
Not only are established science publishers like Elsevier and Nature cashing in on the profits to be made from on-line open-access publishing, entrepreneurs entirely new to science publishing have rushed in, founding an avalanche of new journals that are highly profitable, since it costs almost nothing to do the publishing while the authors pay substantial fees. Such ventures have been described as “predatory” by Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado at Denver, who collates a list of “Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers”3; by June 2015, his list included more than 800 publishers, each of which issues a sometimes large number of purported journals. For instance, as of July 2015, Bentham Open was publishing more than 100 periodicals4 with charges of $600–900 for most articles, while Hindawi listed 437 journals with “article processing charges” typically at $1500.5 I receive several e-mailed invitations a week to submit articles to such journals.
Nobel-Prize recipient Randy Schekman has pointed out that the influence exerted by the journals of highest prestige (Nature, Science, Cell) has distorted the literature (entrenching mainstream views, biased against younger researchers and innovative claims)7 and has founded a new publication to ameliorate this influence (for a discussion of the inadequacy of this approach, see Bauer [2014b]). Harvard Medical School became a pioneer quite some time ago by deciding to evaluate faculty by quality rather than quantity, restricting candidates to offer no more than their five most worthwhile published contributions as support when applying for employment or tenure or promotion.
- Over Kary Mullis:
Kary Mullis, the Nobel Laureate who had invented the technique now universally used for detection of DNA, including measuring the so-called viral load of HIV present in supposedly infected individuals, has asked steadily —starting decades ago—for citation of the specific scientific publication(s) that are said to prove HIV to be the cause of AIDS. Mullis never received a response to what might seem a straightforward and easily answered query, not even from Luc Montagnier, who shared the Nobel Prize for discovering HIV and whom Mullis confronted in person (Mullis 1998: 171–4). An analysis of all published data on HIV tests shows trends that are quite unlike what is seen with infectious diseases including sexually transmitted diseases, for instance “HIVpositive” in all studied groups increases with age into middle age and then decreases again; and there are remarkably constant ratios of proportions of HIV-positive individuals when comparing racial groups (Bauer 2007). The Army HIV Research Group, which had published some of these data, simply ignored my repeated requests for comment on this conundrum. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after initially ignoring my query, responded to a follow-up by asserting that behavior could explain why black Americans are always much more likely than white Americans or Asian Americans or Native Americans to contract a sexually transmitted infection (Bauer 2007: 75). In most contexts, such a claim that race determines sexual behavior in this sort of way would be dismissed as resulting from racist bias, particularly since they are empirically unfounded (in respect to sexual behavior of African Americans see Bauer [2007: 77–78]), yet such claims are repeated in publications of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC 1992: 37).
- Michael Mann's onwetenschappelijke praktijken:
Michael Mann, for example, has refused to reveal the detailed data and analyses that underlie his published “hockey-stick” graph illustrating sharply increased recent rates of global warming; in absence of those data, there have been lawsuits and typically undisciplined polemics.