The discussion of Cargo Cult Science reminds me of something Dr. Dean Edell once said, about how medical research can sometimes misinform culture. As an example, he referred to alcohol and its effects on unborn children, and how much of what we think we “know” about this results from studies never fully explained by science.
It is true, Edell said, women who drink during pregnancy tend to have greater risk for birth defects. However, he added their may be many contributing factors, any of which might not result from moderate alcohol consumption – women who drink often smoke or choose poor diets, may be vitamin deficient, or suffer from emotional trauma or depression. And, a person’s choice to drink often reflects behavior in other areas of life, things which could also contribute to the poor health of an unborn child (FAS not withstanding).
Information about second-hand smoke has been treated much the same way in the United States. With help from the anti-smoking lobby, studies on the subject have been widely distorted, resulting in many misconceptions throughout the culture.
Examples like these should be cause for people to question the role science can sometimes play in their daily life, especially as it pertains to agenda. In fact, these practices have been shown to have dangerous effects.
For instance, it is accepted in medical research that erroneous study results are often provided in peer review literature; overlooking or withholding certain information, which leaves doctors disadvantaged making critical health decisions.
In some cases this is done by accident, where the science is poor or researchers jump to conclusions. In other situations – the more cynical moments – science is skewed to achieve notoriety, maintain research grants, or increase profit margins.
Dr. Richard Feynman – hits the nail on the head
1974 Caltech ” Cargo Cult Science speech”
Listening to Feynman speak, one imagines he would consider feeding code into computer models – designed to establish a “pre-assigned expectation” – just another form of “Cargo Cult Science” (like Milliken’s values for viscosity of air, bad info in = bad info out). Or, when “peer accepted” climatologists attempt to discredit a fellow PhD for “peer dissent,” it equals nothing short of censorship.
Interesting to note here – is how a convention like TED (a forum rife with theory) makes room to argue the disastrous state of “peer review,” as it relates to medicine, but has yet to invite or post discussions held with any leading scientist who disagrees with, and can speak objectively, and non-politically, about theories involving “anthropogenic global climate change” – such as Henrik Svensmark, Richard Lindzen, Lennart Bengtsson, Robert M. Carter, Ross McKitrick, Nir Shaviv, …… and the list goes on.
For those who don’t know already, Dr. Feynman was one of the more brilliant scholars the last century produced – a physicist, and mathematician. As a contributor to The Manhattan project and NASA’s shuttle program, he did not live to see today’s hyperbole surrounding “anthropogenic global climate change.” Though if he had, it would be interesting to hear what he would say.
He did leave us with much great insight about the scientific process however, and about scientists themselves. He spoke often of the need for rigorous integrity in the sciences, teaching his students –
Mother nature is what she is, whether we understand it, approve of it, or want it. He told students to beware of experts, especially those who tout their expertise. He insisted that true scientists are always humble in the face of awesome ignorance, and that even the most knowledgeable people should bear this. He also said that every great truth is immersed in uncertainty.
Looking at the state of science and culture today, it seems Feynman’s rigor is something “die-hard-climate-changers” rather not notice. As they rally for legislation which threatens the world economy; they would further disadvantage the poor, and use tactics not so dissimilar to that of BigPharm or BigTobacco – veritably converse to Feynman’s consultation; they patronize the layman, protect their income and political influence, and prefer to ostracize those results and peers which don’t suit them.
Thankfully, the public seems to be catching on. The 2009 Climategate emails suggest a serious lack of integrity exists among some of today’s most influential climatologists. It is unknown whether global temperature fluctuations the last 100 years are a creation of man, or just mother nature changing her mind. Carbon levels are up, but as to what effect it is having on climate, science is still unclear.
Those who insist otherwise have not been honest with the evidence – “building runways to nowhere, and waiting for planes” – another member of the “Climate Cargo Cult.”