Increasingly bad science is still considered sacrosanct

As Democrats and their news media pontificate about the Republican “War on science,” science is increasingly at war with itself. Bogus science is on the rise, but the party who refuses to acknowledge the economic concept of supply and demand or the reality of human life inside the womb tells us to accept science as gospel with regard to hugely theoretical predictions of climate conditions centuries in the future.

I’ve written recently about what some scientists are calling an “epidemic” of bad research. Perhaps driven by the pressure to publish groundbreaking findings and to publish them more often, flawed scientific studies are being published at an increasing rate. The editor of The Lancet has written that as much as half of the scientific literature being published today may be untrue.

Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.

Katie M. Palmer at WIRED posted a blurb today about the journal Science retracting a study they recently published concerning opinions on gay marriage.

Indeed, retractions increased 10-fold from 2000 to 2010. But don’t forcefully introduce your head to your desk just yet: Sham studies are rare, and some recalls result from honest errors or irreproducible results—scientists are humans too, and they screw up. True, they might also (sub)consciously skew results with an eye to tenure or funding.

Palmer goes on to argue that the rise in bad science is actually a good thing because it means scientists are getting more right by weeding out falsehoods that may have gone unnoticed prior to the Internet. There may be some truth to that, but it is naive to assume that bad science is just occurring at the same rate as it always has. The real problem though is that the liberty to publicly criticize science is restricted by highly subjective gatekeepers.

When it comes to the most politically divisive issues related to science, we are not allowed to point out that bad science happens or that scientists are not always driven by purely scientific motives. In certain debates “science” is considered synonymous with “absolute truth.”  There is an unwritten rule that certain fields of science are beyond reproach and above criticism from the lowly lay people who pay for much of it.

Palmer is free to observe that scientists are no more or less objective in their endeavors than human beings in other fields as long as she is only writing in vague generalities. Had she (or anyone else) suggested that the latest global warming doomsday prediction might be in error or that it was possibly influenced by political leanings, she would immediately be accused of being on the payroll of “big oil” or the Koch brothers and her opinions would be summarily dismissed.

The left claims to revere science but as with most things they only wish to control it and use it as a political weapon. Science that conflicts with their worldview is inadmissible and they are the only arbiters of what qualifies as truth. Scientists are themselves expressing concerns about the lack of rigor and veracity in research being conducted by their peers but we are expected to believe that none of these problems apply to climate change research. None of the human foibles applied to scientists generically ever seem to apply to researchers predicting man-caused global climate catastrophe. What makes them so special? Their predictions coincide with the anti-capitalist goals of the left, of course. Should that ever change, climate scientists must know they would immediately find themselves on the left’s compost heap. Perhaps that is a factor motivating their findings.