Science Guardian

Truth, beauty and paradigm power in science and society

I am Nicolaus Copernicus, and I approve of this blog

News, views and reviews measured against professional literature in peer reviewed journals (adjusted for design flaws and bias), well researched books, authoritative encyclopedias (not the bowdlerized Wiki entries on controversial topics) and the investigative reporting and skeptical studies of courageous original thinkers among academics, philosophers, researchers, scholars, authors, filmmakers and journalists.

Supporting the right of exceptional minds to free speech, publication, media coverage and funding against the crowd prejudice, leadership resistance, monetary influences and internal professional politics of the paradigm wars of cancer, HIV(not)AIDS, evolution, global warming, cosmology, particle physics, macroeconomics, information technology, religions and cults, health, medicine, diet and nutrition.

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HONOR ROLL OF SCIENTIFIC TRUTHSEEKERS

Halton C. Arp wki/obit/txt/vds/txt/txt/bk/bk, Henry Bauer txt/blg/ blg/bks/bk/txt/bk/vd, John Beard bk, Harvey Bialy bk/bk/txt/txt/rdo/vd, John Bockris bio/txt/ltr/bk, Donald W. Braben, Peter Breggin ste/fb/col/bks, Darin Brown txt/txt/txt/txt/txt/vd, Giordano Bruno bk/bio/bio, Frank R. Buianouckas, Stanislav Burzynski mov, Erwin Chargaff bio/bk/bio/prs, James Chin bk/vd, Nicolaus Copernicus bk, Mark Craddock, Francis Crick vd, Paul Crutzen, Marie Curie, Rebecca Culshaw txt/bk, Roger Cunningham, Charles Darwin txts/bk, Erasmus Darwin txt//bk/txt/hse/bks, Peter Duesberg ste/ste/bk/txt/vd/vd, Freeman Dyson, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman bio, John Fewster, Rosalind Franklin, Bernard Forscher tx, Galileo Galilei, Walter Gilbert vd, Goethe bio/bk/bio, Nicolas Gonzalez tlk/rec/stetxt/txt, Patricia Goodson txt/bk/bk, Alec Gordon, James Hansen, Etienne de Harven bk/txt/vd, Alfred Hassig intw/txt, Robert G. Houston txt, Steven Jonas vd, Edward Jenner txt, Benjamin Jesty, Adrian Kent vd, Thomas Kuhn, Fred Kummerow, Stefan Lanka txt/txt/vd, Serge Lang, John Lauritsen vd, Paul Lauterbur vd, Mark Leggett, Richard Lindzen, James Lovelock, Andrew Maniotis, Lynn Margulis, Barbara McClintock, Christi Meyer vd, George Miklos, Marco Mamone Capria, Peter Medawar, Luc Montagnier txt/txt/vd, Kary Mullis, Linus Pauling prs/vd/vd, Eric Penrose, Roger Penrose vd, Max Planck, Rainer Plaga, David Rasnick bio/vd/bk, Robert Root-Bernstein vd, Sherwood Rowland, Otto Rossler, Harry Rubin, Marco Ruggiero txt/txt/intw/vd, Bertrand Russell Carl Sagan vd, Erwin Schrodinger, Fred Singer, Barbara Starfield txt, Gordon Stewart txt/txt, Richard Strohman, Thomas Szasz, Nicola Tesla bio/bio, Charles Thomas intw/vd, Frank Tipler, James Watson vd/vd, Alfred Wegener vd, Edward O. Wilson vd.

ACADEMICS, DOCTORS, AUTHORS, FILMMAKERS, REPORTERS AND COMMENTATORS WHO HAVE NOBLY AIDED REVIEW OF THE STATUS QUO

Jad Adams bk, Marci Angell bk/txt/txt/txt, Clark Baker ste/txt/rdo/vd, James Blodgett, Tony Brown vd, Hiram Caton txt/txt/txt/bk/ste, Jonathan Collin ste , Marcus Cohen, David Crowe vd, Margaret Cuomo, Stephen Davis BK/BK,/rdo, Michael Ellner vd, Elizabeth Ely txt/txt/ste, Epicurus, Dean Esmay, Celia Farber bio/txt/txt/txt/vd, Jonathan Fishbein txt/txt/wk, T.C.Fry, Michael Fumento, Max Gerson txt, Charles Geshekter vd, Michael Geiger, Roberto Giraldo, David Healy txt, Bob Herbert, Mike Hersee ste/rdo, Neville Hodgkinson txt /vd, James P. Hogan, Richard Horton bio/vd/vd, Christopher Hitchens, Eric Johnson, Claus Jensen vd, Phillip Johnson, Coleman Jones vds, William Donald Kelley, Ernst T. Krebs Sr txt, Ernst T. Krebs Jr. txt,/bio/txt/txt/ltr, Paul Krugman, Brett Leung MOV/ste/txt/txt/tx+vd/txt, Katie Leishman, Anthony Liversidge blg/intv/intv/txt/txts/txt/intv/txt/vd/vd, Bruce Livesey txt, James W. Loewen, Frank Lusardi, Nathaniel Lehrman vd, Christine Maggiore bk/ste/rec/rdo/vd, Rouben Mamoulian txt/txt/txt/txt/txt/doc/flm/flm, Noreen Martin vd, Robert Maver txt/itw, Eric Merola MOV, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Michael Moore bio/MOV/MOV/MOV, Gordon Moran, Ralph Nader bk, Ralph Moss txt/blg/ste/bks, Gary Null /txt/rdo/vd, Dan Olmsted wki, Toby Ord vd, Charles Ortleb bk/txt/bk/intw/flm, Neenyah Ostrom bk, Dennis Overbye, Mehmet Dr Oz vd, Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos ste/vd, Maria Papagiannidou bk, Thomas Piketty bk/bk/bk/bk/bk/bk/bk/bk/bk/bk, Robert Pollin txt/vd/bk, Jon Rappoport bio/bk/bk/ste/bk/bk/vd, Janine Roberts bk/bk, Luis Sancho vd, Liam Scheff ste/txt/bk/bk/rdio/vd, John Scythes, Casper Schmidt txt/txt, Joan Shenton vd/vd, Joseph Sonnabend vd, John Stauber, David Steele, Joseph Stiglitz bk/txt, Will Storr rdo Wolfgang Streeck, James P. Tankersley ste, Gary Taubes vd, Mwizenge S. Tembo, John Tierney vd, Michael Tracey, Valendar Turner rec, Jesse Ventura bk, Michael Verney-Elliott bio/vds/vd, Voltaire, Walter Wagner, Andrew Weil vd, David Weinberger bio/bk/blg/blg/BK/bk/pds, Robert Willner bk/txt/txt/vd, Howard Zinn.

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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 that ever interfered with my learning was my education. I am Freeman Dyson, and I approve of this blog, but would warn the author that life as a heretic is a hard one, since the ignorant and the half informed, let alone those who should know better, will automatically trash their betters who try to enlighten them with independent thinking, as I have found to my sorrow in commenting on "global warming" and its cures.
Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

The progress of science is strewn, like an ancient desert trail, with the bleached skeletons of discarded theories which once seemed to possess eternal life. - Arthur Koestler

One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison. – Bertrand Russell

Fraud and falsehood only dread examination. Truth invites it. - Samuel Johnson

A sudden bold and unexpected question doth many times surprise a man and lay him open. – Sir Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626)

He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. – John Stuart Mill

Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform. – Mark Twain

Although science has led to the generally high living standards that most of the industrialized world enjoys today, the astounding discoveries underpinning them were made by a tiny number of courageous, out-of-step, visionary, determined, and passionate scientists working to their own agenda and radically challenging the status quo. – Donald W. Braben

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I am Richard Feynman and I approve of this blog

When even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition. I doubt if I could do it myself. – Mark Twain

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his income depends on his not understanding it. – Upton Sinclair

A clash of doctrines is not a disaster, but an opportunity. - Alfred North Whitehead

Fraud and falsehood only dread examination. Truth invites it. – Samuel Johnson

Man’s mind cannot grasp the causes of events in their completeness, but the desire to find those causes is implanted in man’s soul. And without considering the multiplicity and complexity of the conditions any one of which taken separately may seem to be the cause, he snatches at the first approximation to a cause that seems to him intelligible and says: “This is the cause!” – Leo Tolstoy

The evolution of the world tends to show the absolute importance of the category of the individual apart from the crowd. - Soren Kierkegaard

Who does not know the truth is simply a fool, yet who knows the truth and calls it a lie is a criminal. – Bertold Brecht

How easily the learned give up the evidence of their senses to preserve the coherence of ideas in their imagination. – Adam Smith

Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned. – Mark Twain

The mind likes a strange idea as little as the body likes a strange protein and resists it with similar energy. If we watch ourselves honestly, we shall often find that we have begun to argue against a new idea even before it has been completely stated. – Arthur Koestler

Whenever the human race assembles to a number exceeding four, it cannot stand free speech. – Mark Twain

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He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. – John Stuart Mill

It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere. – Voltaire

People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.- Blaise Pascal.

Illusion is the first of all pleasures. – Voltaire

The applause of a single human being is of great consequence. – Samuel Johnson

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Signs of skepticism about the literature now in the media


But they fail to understand the subtler point

The Times notes that the naive faith that many science reporters have in the impeccable validity of papers in science journals is a little dented by the Dr Hwang debacle.

For their benefit, Nicholas Wade tells it like it is:

“Beyond Hwang, the more fundamental issue is that journals do not and cannot guarantee the truth of what they publish,” said Nicholas Wade, a science reporter for The New York Times. “Publication of a paper only means that, in the view of the referees who green-light it, it is interesting and not obviously false. In other words, all of the results in these journals are tentative.”

However, there is no hint of the biggest elephant on the room, which is that science journals do virtually nothing to counter the overly zealous tendency of established scientists to protect a ruling paradigm from demolition, at least initially.

Science journals would do the public and science itself a favor if they would break free from this pattern, since a fundamental characteristic of science is that progress often means that ruling wisdom is replaced.

Journals should host worthy paradigm debate, rather than exclude it too easily. As the cases of Science and Nature in HIV?AIDS shows, it is all too easy for them to become the fellow travelers of those in power in a field, rather than serve science and the public interest by empowering debate.

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1) HEALTHY SCEPTICISM: REPORTERS FIND SCIENCE JOURNALS HARDER TO TRUST

The New York Times, 13 January 2006

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/13/business/media/13journal.html

By JULIE BOSMAN

When the journal Science recently retracted two papers by the South Korean researcher Dr. Hwang Woo Suk, it officially confirmed what he had denied for months: Dr. Hwang had fabricated evidence that he had cloned human cells.

The journal Science recently retracted two papers by the South Korean researcher Dr. Hwang Woo Suk.

But the editors of Science were not alone in telling the world of Dr. Hwang’s research. Newspapers, wire services and television networks had initially trumpeted the news, as they often do with information served up by the leading scientific journals.

Now news organizations say they are starting to look at the science journals a bit more skeptically.

“My antennae are definitely up since this whole thing unfolded,” said Rob Stein, a science reporter for The Washington Post. “I’m reading papers a lot more closely than I had in the past, just to sort of satisfy myself that any individual piece of research is valid. But we’re still in sort of the same situation that the journal editors are, which is that if someone wants to completely fabricate data, it’s hard to figure that out.”

But other than heightened skepticism, not a lot has changed in how newspapers treat scientific journals. Indeed, newspaper irs openly acknowledge their dependence on them. At The Los Angeles Times, at least half of the science stories that run on the front page come directly from journals, said Ashley Dunn, the paper’s science editor. Gideon Gil, t

he health and science editor for The Boston Globe, said that two of the three science stories that run on a typical day were from research that appeared in journals.

Beyond newspapers, papers from journals are routinely picked up by newsweeklies, network news, talk radio and Web sites.

“They are the way science is conducted, they’re the way people share information, they’re the best approximation of acceptance by knowledgeable people,” said Laura Chang, science editor for The New York Times. “We do rely on them for the starting point of many of our stories, and that will not change.”

There are limits to the vetting that science reporters, who are generally not scientists themselves, can do. Most journal articles have embargoes attached, giving reporters several days to call specialists in the field, check footnotes on an article and scrutinize the results.

“Scientific discoveries are more difficult because they often require in the generalist reporter a good deal of study, follow-up interviews and some guidance on how to make sense of technical matters,” said Roy Peter Clark, a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, which studies journalism. “But I think the scandals do require both a new level of skepticism on the part of the reporter and also maybe some new protocols between scientists and journalists.”

The Hwang case was not the first time journals had been duped: recently, editors at The New England Journal of Medicine said they suspected two cancer papers they published contained fabricated data. In December, the same journal said that the authors of a 2000 study on the painkiller Vioxx had omitted the fact that several patients had had heart attacks while taking the drug in a trial. A study on the painkiller Celebrex that appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association was discredited when it was discovered that the authors had submitted only six months of data, instead of the 12 months of data they had collected.

While the journals have a peer review process that is in part meant to filter out fallacious papers by checking research techniques and conclusions, perhaps the greatest difficulty for science reporters is trying to catch what journal editors have missed.

After hearing the news of Dr. Hwang’s fabrications, Mr. Gil of The Globe said he immediately remembered his newspaper’s coverage of the stem cell papers.

“We were blown away, in part because we had written those stories on Page 1,” Mr. Gil said. “And when we wrote them, we called the leading experts in the world on all this embryonic stem cell stuff, who are here in Boston. And they were as hoodwinked as anybody else.”

Despite the fraud cases, most of what the journals publish is basically credible, said David Perlman, the science editor of The San Francisco Chronicle. Among the most prestigious science journals that reporters consult regularly are Nature, Science, The New England Journal of Medicine and The Journal of the American Medical Association.

“I think they and we have been burned enough that they’re making efforts,” Mr. Perlman said. “They’re being more careful now, and I think reporters are too. I definitely have more of a ‘Hey, let’s look more carefully’ attitude now that I did 5 or 10 years ago.”

Donald Kennedy, the editor of Science, said in a statement in December that the journal itself was not an investigative body. But when reporting on journal findings, most news outlets fail to caution that studies must be replicated to be truly authenticated.

“Beyond Hwang, the more fundamental issue is that journals do not and cannot guarantee the truth of what they publish,” said Nicholas Wade, a science reporter for The New York Times. “Publication of a paper only means that, in the view of the referees who green-light it, it is interesting and not obviously false. In other words, all of the results in these journals are tentative.”

The journals’ own peer review processes, which are intended to be the first barrier against fraud, have come under criticism lately. A cover story in the February issue of The Scientist said that the top-tier journals were receiving more submissions every year, overtaxing peer reviewers and weakening the screening process.

After the Hwang scandal, Science announced it was considering a set of changes to better prevent fraud: Dr. Kennedy said in January that new rules could include “requiring all authors to detail their specific contributions to the research submitted, and to sign statements of concurrence with the conclusions of the work,” as well as “implementing improved methods of detecting image alteration, although it appears improbable that they would have detected problems in this particular case.” (Through a spokeswoman, Dr. Kennedy declined to be interviewed and said the editors were currently conducting a review of the episode.)

Some newspapers have adopted guidelines of their own to check for conflicts of interest involving authors of journal articles. The Globe instituted guidelines last July requiring reporters to ask researchers about their financial ties to studies, and to include that information in resulting articles. In its weekly health and science section, The Globe outlines any shortcomings of a study under the heading “Cautions.”

Kit Frieden, the health and science editor for The Associated Press, said: “We’ve always had our own peer review process, where on the major studies we seek outside expert comment. We’ve always regarded scientific research cautiously because mistakes can be made, and I don’t think that’s changed.”

The growing competition for the most important research among the journals may contribute to mistakes and fabrications, even in the most prestigious of the bunch. But in the end, the severe consequences of presenting fraudulent research generally act as a deterrent, said Mr. Dunn of The Los Angeles Times.

“Unlike financial fraud, where you can bamboozle somebody of their money and disappear and then start over again, in science the researchers are in one place,” he said. “If they get caught in this type of thing, their careers are over.”

Copyright 2006, NYT

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