Is Science Really Self-Correcting?

Posted: April 12, 2016 by oldbrew in research

Great scientific advances over the years don’t mean that all science is great, as Donna Laframboise rightly points out.

Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Managers, journals, and colleagues are all averse to the possibility that scientific fraud is being committed.

physicist_found_guilty_miscclick for source

We’re told that science is special. Not only is it based on evidence rather than dogma – so goes the argument – it contains a built-in mechanism that identifies and corrects errors. How marvelous.

But what if this is one of those blind faith mantras that has been repeated so frequently everyone believes it’s true irrespective of the actual facts? Eugenie Samuel Reich is the author of Plastic Fantastic: How the Biggest Fraud in Physics Shook the Scientific World. In telling the story of a young physicist named Jan Hendrik Schön, her book demonstrates that there’s nothing systematic or straightforward about how the scientific record comes to be corrected.

Lots of people tried and failed to reproduce Schön’s work, in the process wasting months of their lives and significant portions…

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  1. p.g.sharrow says:

    This happens more often then you might imagine.
    Once published these things take on a life of their own and become cited facts as they are “Peer Reviewed” as arguments in later papers. Many times in physics the cost of of recreating an experiment is prohibitive and the ability to get grants to redo them is not possible.
    I was told by the engineer in the above story ” do not believe everything that comes out of those physics experiments”. AGW was founded in sloppy science done by a Nobel winner who’s work has been cited for 130 years. Many scientific fields that are not corrected by the needs of hard engineering facts are beset by this problem of BS-phd (Bad Science- piled higher and deeper) Kind of like Religious Dogmas…pg

  2. Brian White says:

    I have 2 things where I found gross errors. After my “pulser pump” (A combined low pressure trompe and low pressure airlift pump) was a little more efficient that it was supposed to be. I discovered the reason. Engineering book efficiency for airlift was based on experimental results in the 1950’s that was extrapolated to low pressure situations. People routinely read the books and dismiss my experimental proof that (for low pressure situations with small diameter tubes) the figures are completely wrong. The other one is Halperin’s 1990 paper about ALS and Lyme. He guestimated a 10.5% background level of lyme antibodies in the population in Suffolk Co. New York. (Using a sample of much less than a hundred people to make this guestimate!) and from that population, he tested 19 ALS patients in a hospital in New York for Lyme antibodies. 9 were positive for Lyme antibodies! What are the chances? (I have the statistical math to compute them and just to be sure, I got it verified by a mathematician in England) By the way, they suggested the level of lyme antibodies in blood donations in that area was 5 to 8% of the population. Halperin concluded that the high incidence in the hospital was random chance. How can you get away with saying a 1 in 21,159 chance coming up in an experiment is random? In a peer reviewed publication! To this day, people newly diagnosed with ALS are NOT immediately tested for Lyme. And to this day, a small percentage show magnificent improvement when given antibiotics (for incidental infections like strep throat. (Kills off some of the lyme bacteria). Sometimes Lyme hits a certain part of the brain or certain nerves and gives the poor patient the exact same symptoms as ALS. Denying a lyme test to any patient who is newly diagnosed with ALS or motor neuron disease is criminal. And we have Halperin and unchangeable peer review to thank for that.

  3. Lest anyone forget an item that appeared in WUWT a few years ago: “Researcher Who Studied Benefits Of Red Wine Falsified Data Says University”

  4. Paul Vaughan says:

    A core problem in the climate discussion is the american blogs aggressively and small-mindedly pushing administratively-corrupted notions of “science”.

    For example the truth of 1+1=2 is not determined by publication status and what “expert” endorses it. It’s true with ANY framing, including quiet framing in your mind, crumpled-up pieces of paper in a garbage can, or whatever.

    Corruption within the pool of self-appointed critics has completely undermined the climate skeptic movement. I believe it’s deliberate. I believe those people deliberately sabotaged. They chose a set of false assumptions (spatiotemporal, geometric, & residual) that would empower them to artificially hold up sun-climate propaganda to brainwash righties for the lefties.

    They stick to the false assumptions underpinning their politically-crucial narrative come h*ll or high water. Their 0.1 C narrative fails elementary diagnostics and they belligerently ignore this fact. Their narrative is based on false geometric and spatiotemporal assumptions and they ignore this fact. Who the f*** are these people and why do morons surrender to them??? The whole thing stinks to high heaven of deliberate head-f*****g and timid morons just let them pull the stunt off. It’s beyond ridiculous.

    So long as these people have the center stage it’s pure corruption all the way. Banning 6 individuals from the climate discussion without further delay is the heavy-handed approach I would recommend as step 1. It’s way, way, way overdue.

    People are such gullible morons for letting these distortion agents pull the wool over their eyes.

  5. Oldmank says:

    For lubricating the cog wheels of the mind doctored snake oil has always been a profitable brand.

  6. Paul Vaughan says:

    Oldmank: They’re corrupt. Face it.

  7. Paul Vaughan says:

    Repeating THEIR talking points indicates submission, surrender (and worse).

  8. oldbrew says:

    Agenda-driven science is a dud.

  9. Oldmank says:

    An interesting read is the review of the book by Hal Jordan (at Amazon).

    Many who have worked in industry have come across such frauds, at various levels. For many the deceit is intentional (typically in ‘sales’), but in some rare cases it is psychological — compulsive ‘inventors’.

  10. oldbrew says:

    Plenty of inventors – compulsive or not – in the climate crisis manufacturing industry.

  11. jim says:

    My only statement, is when does science become a religion? I believe, science, being an outgrowth of religion, adopted the trapping of psuedo science. If you have to create enemies of the mind,obscure truths, and tell half stories, to create a paradigm, then you are no better then a religion. You have become an oppressor. A shame. Or should that be a shamen.

  12. Paul Vaughan says:

    Concisely well-said jim. Fluxing, warring tribal religions kind of thing.

    One of the things that has turned me firmly against the american climate “skeptic” (they’re not skeptics) blogs is that they (in effect) advocate administrative corruption and bureaucratization of science. Like as though truth is as much or even more a function of framing than content. Like 1+1=2 only passes if you fill out a form in a prescribed manner. And like knowledge has only reached true ascension when the government bows to it and funds it. And like truth is determined by a panel of corrupt judges. The term science has a mostly negative connotation today thanks in part to the darkening effect of such campaigning.

    But still there’s something fascinating about exploring nature. But I cringe at the thought of having such activity labeled “science” — “don’t insult me like that” kind of reaction. I just hike the trail and report seeing hemlocks, ferns, and whatever kind of thing. Please don’t try to pin negative connotations to clean, refreshing, inspiring, healthy activity by calling it bad names like “science” kind of outlook. Craving a cleaner, depoliticized exploratory culture while facing oppression from creepy “science” fanatics, indeed. What I’d love to market: a depoliticization shower with the instructions “clean up!” Of course it won’t work, so I’m sticking with peaceful exploration.

  13. oldbrew says:


    ‘Science is broken. That’s the thesis of a must-read article in First Things magazine, in which William A. Wilson accumulates evidence that a lot of published research is false. But that’s not even the worst part.’
    ‘Even in physics, supposedly the hardest and most reliable of all sciences, Wilson points out that “two of the most vaunted physics results of the past few years — the announced discovery of both cosmic inflation and gravitational waves at the BICEP2 experiment in Antarctica, and the supposed discovery of superluminal neutrinos at the Swiss-Italian border — have now been retracted, with far less fanfare than when they were first published.” ‘

    Also: ‘Peer review isn’t any good at keeping flawed studies out of major papers, but it can be deadly efficient at silencing heretical views.’

    Climate science knows about that tactic.

  14. oldbrew says:

    If people don’t agree with your ‘science’, threaten them with the law.

  15. Oldmank says:

    There used to be a series of articles in ‘Wireless World’ titled “The heretic’s guide to physics” which were really interesting. Right fodder for the inquisitive mind.

    From oldbrew’s quote “‘Peer review isn’t any good at keeping flawed studies out of major papers”. Critical (and honest) commentators have said occasionally that peer review is frequently only making sure an article stays within the bounds of ‘established thinking’.

  16. oldbrew says:

    OldmanK: making sure an article stays within the bounds of ‘established thinking’ = gatekeeping

    ‘Impartial judgment by the “gatekeepers” of science: fallibility and accountability in the peer review process’

  17. Oldmank says:

    oldbrew ty. From your link ” We recommend that the journal editors conduct periodic internal and external evaluations of their journals’ peer review process and outcomes, with participation of reviewers, contributors, readers and owners.”

    And all must come from the same herd and have the same instinct (bias)?? Why not invite a maverick thinker too? Too heretical?

  18. oldbrew says:

    Gatekeeping can also apply to job applications, career moves and bids for research funding no doubt 😉