Friday, January 13, 2012

Great Science Frauds

Why is it that every Christian knows about the Piltdown man fraud, but they don't know about any of the really cool evidences from paleoanthropology that correspond with Genesis? Rather than looking to scientific discovery as a positive thing, many Christians are firmly entrenched in the dubious belief that frauds abound in science.

Here is another perspective on the issue.
Scientists abide by a strict set of principles that ensures their work is both innovative and sound — most of the time. On rare occasions, the pressure to publish, win grants and earn tenure tempts some to stray from the hallowed pledge that maintains our faith in their results: commit no fraud. And when they do, our censure is swift and merciless.
This is what my colleague, Fuz Rana, calls the "self-correcting" nature of science. It's important to teach children how to be discerning about science, but at the same time we don't want to teach them to be so entirely distrustful of the scientific establishment either. Overarching mistrust and conspiratorial beliefs will cause Christians to miss out on the best evidences for the accuracy of the Bible. And engender skepticism in Christian young people.

Do frauds happen? Sure. But they're the rare exception. And judgment within the scientific community is often harsh when it's uncovered. And entire careers can be built on proving someone else's work is false. Conspiracies only stay secret for so long. Eventually, the truth has a way of coming out.

Here is a gallery of the most spectacular falls from scientific grace.

1 comment:

Luke said...

I'm torn with this issue: On the one hand, I absolutely agree. It's very troubling the amount of dismissal I see from people skeptical of science.

On the other hand, while outright fraud may be rare, scientific thought and data are not in a vacuum, and so are highly susceptible to influence by outside factors (such as politics). Just one example (selected because it's the least charged I know of): Celiac disease has long been missed by doctors because they are not taught about it in school. Why? Because there are no drugs to treat it, so there is no money behind it. Thus, there is no financial backing. And so, completely unintentionally, this important and common (though how common is unknown due, in part, to the money problem above) issue is missed almost entirely by the medical community "simply" because of the way economics work.

Another reason I find myself distrustful of "science" is that those who share the information with me aren't scientists. By the time the information gets to me--because I'm a layperson with a degree in filmmaking [smile]--it's so watered down and simplified, it's hardly true at all. And then, if I want more information to untangle the mess, I find little more than name-calling in the discussion of the ideas. Latest example for me: The documentary "Cool It" about Bjorn Lomborg. Again: The issue isn't science--exactly--it's the politicized nature of scientific discussion.

Okay, enough rambling for now.