Saturday, March 14, 2009

"When Science Is a Siren Song"

Source: David A. Shaywitz, The Washington Post, March 14, 2009.

Shaywitz points out that not only are a lot of published scientific studies wrong but scientists are as human as the rest of us, often driven by less than a sublime search for truth. He writes:
Does all this mean the system is broken? Surprisingly, no. Ultimately, science tends to be self-correcting, and flawed ideas are eventually recognized and disregarded. There really does seem to be a marketplace of ideas, and many good ideas eventually gain traction and persist, while many attractive but incorrect hypotheses eventually fall under the weight of compelling evidence. The system is far from perfect -- especially with regard to the exploitation of the most junior (and most vulnerable) researchers, who support much of this ecosystem -- but like capitalism, it may represent the best available option.
His point is that it would be as dangerous for the Obama administration to put too much faith in the advice of individual scientists as it was for the Bush administration to ignore the advice of the scientific community that conflicted with its ideological positions.

Comment: Right on!!! JAD

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