SCIENCE FICTIONS

Science, once dominated by quiet truth seekers, is now ruled by shrill attention seekers:

The problem with ­science is that so much of it simply isn’t. Last summer, the Open Science Collaboration announced that it had tried to replicate one hundred published psychology experiments sampled from three of the most prestigious journals in the field. … Of the studies that had originally reported positive results, an astonishing 65 percent failed to show statistical significance on replication, and many of the remainder showed greatly reduced effect sizes.

At the same time as an ever more bloated scientific bureaucracy churns out masses of research results, the majority of which are likely outright false, scientists themselves are lauded as heroes and science is upheld as the only legitimate basis for policy-making. There’s reason to believe that these phenomena are linked. When a formerly ascetic discipline suddenly attains a measure of influence, it is bound to be flooded by opportunists and charlatans 

And because it draws attention, doom and gloom is endlessly served up. Vaccines cause autism. Eggs and animal fats are deadly. Every synthetic chemical from saccharin to DDT causes cancer. Dioxins are the most toxic substances known to man. Silicone breast implants destroy recipients’ health. Hurricanes will be both more powerful and more numerous. And on and on.

We can thank Rachel Carson; her 1962 best-seller Silent Spring was a hit not least because it is full of exaggerations, half-truths and facts that aren’t. Tim Flannery, anyone?

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