Corrupted Science: the history, cause, effect and state of bad science

Discuss

23 Responses to “Corrupted Science: the history, cause, effect and state of bad science”

  1. 1up mushroom says:

    Im straining to think of Newton’s fraud, anyone know what that could be?

  2. richardchaven says:

    Bad science is not only conscious fraud; those who do not follow two minimum rules cannot accurately call what they do “science”.

    The two rules are: all evidence must be sharable, and all participants must agree: “But I might be wrong”. The best explanation that explains all the evidence is the “truth” until a better explanation comes along (or the evidence changes). One can stubbornly refuse to accept or reject any particular explanation, but none are absolute and beyond challenge.

  3. TiwazTyrsfist says:

    And, in the second to the last paragraph, we get to the meat of this post, and this book.

    Lo, and the George W. Bush be as foul and loathsome and evil as Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin!

    Look, we have a book that we printed that says it. Everyone knows that all research (we do, not right leaning research) is absolutely true and not biased at all, and we aren’t fudging or faking anything.

    Honest.

    Cough, cough, Catastrophic Man-made Global cooling, cough cough cough…

  4. Kieran O'Neill says:

    #10, #11: I don’t think the book is saying that at all, and neither is Cory. Cory is saying that members of the Bush administration are “of a lineage” with commisars of the USSR (and hence underlings of Stalin), but he isn’t drawing a direct comparison. Nowhere there does Cory draw a comparison of any sort with Hitler. Put the strawman away, please.

    Honestly, though, the Bush administration has not been friendly towards science, and that’s concerning, given how much of the world’s science happens in the United States. I think a very strong case can be made that they are indeed the most egregious example of the control and curtailment of scientific research in the world right now. They’re not the only example, by far, but they’ve done the most damage.

    The fact that a large proportion of the public in the United States still believes that anthropogenic climate change is a myth, and that balls of 20 cells should have rights, just goes to illustrate that.

  5. FloydT says:

    Yeah cuz Bush is so like Hitler and Stalin… the book sounded awesome until the last morally relative salvo.

    Are there any chapters on the overselling of Paul Ehrlich’s Malthusian wet dream of overpopulation, Carl Sagan’s nuclear winters (or is it nucular winters?) and the quasi religious evangelism of anthropogenic global warming or “climate change”? What about the overselling of embryonic stem cells when huge breakthroughs are being made through adult stem cells? I assume it’s a bi-partisan attack on the politicization of science because that’s the real issue and not who gets elected in 6 weeks? There are a lot of legitimate targets out there. Bush is hardly the only one currently much less the most egregious example.

  6. Stankgunner says:

    This book is actually a sequel of sorts to the book Discarded Science. In that book the author focuses more on the theories that ended up being misguided. This book (which has been waiting on my shelf for me to actually read) is a good comparison of dumb (the first book) vs evil (this book)

  7. Abby says:

    As Stankgunner said, Corrupted Science is also quite a good read. I’d recommend picking that up, as well.

  8. Thinkerer says:

    All too often, books like these focus on governmental and populist repression and fraud without mentioning the economics. Many of the fraudulent government programs existed because it was profitable to do so.

    Industrial sponsorship of research, either directly through contractual obligations, or indirectly through the sponsorship of endowed chairs and research centers produces similarly doubtful results in fields such as pharmaceutical testing, nutrition and other aspects of the health sciences among others.

    One only has to visit the history of the American Tobacco Institute to find how egregious this kind of scientific fraud and intentional disinformation can become, and how profitable it was for the sponsors.

  9. Kay the Complainer says:

    Undsoweiter is all one word.

    Carry on.

  10. Kay the Complainer says:

    Oh, Amazon.com is out of stock. Good work, BoingBoing!

  11. 1up mushroom says:

    I dont know that i would call what Paul Ehrlich does/did as science. His dire predictions were just alarmist bullshit, not really science, IMO.

  12. raisinlove says:

    While the subject does seem enticing, I wouldn’t exactly call the books’s cover “handsome”. But that’s just my opinion, mind you…

  13. Sekino says:

    Just when I was patting myself on the shoulder for not having spent 1/4 of my paycheck on books (until a month ago, I lived 2 blocks from a Borders: Dangerous).

    This looks like the perfect time to fall off the wagon…

    I am intrigued that, although Cory describes it as ‘little’, the book seems to cover impressive ground according to the synopsis. I will definitely look for it.

  14. JoshuaZ says:

    I think you mean “geocentrism” not heliocentrism. Heliocentrism is the idea that the Earth revolves around the sun. Geocentrism is the sun revolving around the earth.

    However, even then the comment isn’t fair. Geocentrism was not bad science. It was a very useful model for most of its history. And without a good understanding of inertia it made a lot more sense than The problem was not geocentrism; the problem was resistance to better models when they came along.

  15. guy_jin says:


    The social factors that brought Lysenko (and his contemporaries, including Lepeshinskaya, who advocated the idea of “spontaneous generation of life,” despite this notion having gone out with Pasteur.

    Pasteur? more like Francesco Redi.(1626-1697)

  16. felixfelix says:

    #17 As of now, that comment is appended with “citation needed”, which is appropriate for such a bold claim. Cheers.

  17. spazzm says:

    #13: I dont know that i would call what Paul Ehrlich does/did as science.”

    Hm? Paul Ehrlich, Nobel prize winner, inventor of the first modern chemotherpeutic agent, discoverer of the blood-brain barrier and more?

    Or perhaps you mean Paul R. Ehrlich.

  18. Kieran O'Neill says:

    #3: Technically, heliocentrism was the idea that the sun was the centre of the universe, as opposed to the earth. It was certainly a step forward from geocentrism, but I suspect it took a while for them to progress to the modern view.

    (I would guess that would be the origin point of the observed universal expansion, but I also suspect that relativity would come into play – would our centre be the same as the one observed at this point in time on the opposite side of the universe?)

    Anyway, I’m sure there were scientists who, for political reasons, clung to the idea of the sun being the centre of the universe, at least until the existence of other galaxies and the structure of our own were elucidated.

  19. jphilby says:

    Painful though it may be to grasp, Piaget long ago discovered that (as Wikipedia puts it) “Some two-thirds of people do not develop [abstract] reasoning fully enough that it becomes their normal mode for cognition, and so they remain, even as adults, concrete operational thinkers.”

    Understanding of science, therefore, cannot be established in the general populace (short of new educational practices). And, consequently, it constantly needs to protect itself from misunderstanding … including people who are nominally termed professionals.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_cognitive_development

  20. Kieran O'Neill says:

    Thomas Kuhn philosophised quite extensively about this.

    Because science, by necessity, incorporates scepticism, major paradigm shifts tend to require a substantial body of evidence (otherwise every idiot claiming he’d made some great advance, e.g.
    cold fusion, would have the rest of his community chasing phantoms).

    It can be a very tricky area, though – the scepticism can also be driven by political aims, such as the Catholic Church vs Galileo, or the Bush administration vs the majority of the climate science community. (Or Thabo Mbeki vs the majority of the medical community on HIV/AIDS.)

    Neither geocentrism nor heliocentrism were really “bad science”, but in the end, as the evidence was mounting for a shift to the new view, there would certainly have been scientists clinging to the old view for personal or political reasons, and not out of scientific rigour.

    I would guess that would be “bad science” as much as the hoaxing crackpots, and that the whole idea is so subtle that it needs a book (or more) to explore fully.

  21. 1up mushroom says:

    #16 Lol, i did indeed mean Paul R Ehrlich.

  22. ChrisAndHisHorseBallad says:

    Delightful and enervating? I don’t understand that combo/usage.

  23. sabik says:

    Lysenkoism, an ideologically correct biology that led [to] famines that killed millions

    Lysenko did many bad things, but causing famines was a bit beyond him. The famines in the USSR were caused by a combination of natural droughts, (forced) collectivisation, mismanagement of grain reserves and failure to mitigate (or even acknowledge the problem).

    About the extent of Lysenko’s connection with the famines was that he made dubious, wildly optimistic claims about having a solution; but then dubious, wildly optimistic claims were his stock in trade, applied to everything in sight.

    What deaths Lysenko caused were mostly among scientific rivals.

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