Monday, February 15, 2016


Really?  Michael Brooks is a physicist (Ph.D. in quantum physics from the University of Sussex in England), and a noted science writer.  He's also written a novel (which I didn't know about until I read his Wikipedia page this morning).  The New Scientist is currently running an article by him, which includes this:
How can this be so, when honesty is supposedly such an essential attribute? Because it gets the job done. Raymond De Vries at the University of Michigan and colleagues have argued that data manipulation based on intuition of what a result should look like is “normal misbehaviour”. They see such common misbehaviours as having “a useful and irreplaceable role” in science. Why? Because of “the ambiguities and everyday demands of scientific research”.

In other words, data isn’t often as clean as you would like. According to Frederick Grinnell, an ethicist at the University of Texas, intuition is “an important, and perhaps in the end a researcher’s best, guide to distinguishing between data and noise”. Sometimes you just know that data point was an anomaly to be ignored.

Should we do something to make science more virtuous? Probably not.
In brief, he's arguing that it's just fine for scientists to cook and cherry-pick their data (which is, in large part, where any “evidence” for AGW comes from).  A scientist is arguing that honesty in science isn't essential.

The entire edifice of science is built upon the notion of seeking the truth about nature, whether it comports with our preconceived ideas or not.  Honesty in the process is utterly essential, and rooting out dishonesty is one of the hallmarks of science (though sometimes it takes a lot longer than one would hope!).  If Brooks' ideas here were to become the norm, it's easy to see that what we think of today as science would degenerate into something like ... what climatology and social sciences are today.  It's appalling that Brooks (apparently) believes otherwise.  I can only hope that he was drunk when he wrote this...

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