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pdfernhout · 2018-03-08 · Original thread
Here are some related quotes on social problems in science cover a wide range of concerns (from an essay I wrote in 2011: http://pdfernhout.net/to-james-randi-on-skepticism-about-mai... ) -- although perhaps they mostly all fit under the broad categories of fraud or culture as you suggest? Even if they all do fall into one or the other, perhaps one could use them -- long with your examples -- to begin to categorize the specific types of fraud and the types of dysfunctional cultural interactions and then begin to try to assess their frequency and impact?

From an article about a sociologist and anthropologist who studies science and technology, Bruno Latour: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruno_Latour "In the laboratory, Latour and Woolgar observed that a typical experiment produces only inconclusive data that is attributed to failure of the apparatus or experimental method, and that a large part of scientific training involves learning how to make the subjective decision of what data to keep and what data to throw out. To an untrained outsider, Latour and Woolgar argued the entire process resembles not an unbiased search for truth and accuracy but a mechanism for ignoring data that contradicts scientific orthodoxy."

A quote from another academic, Brian Martin, involved with Science and Technology Studies: https://web.archive.org/web/20100221213343/http://www.suppre... "Textbooks present science as a noble search for truth, in which progress depends on questioning established ideas. But for many scientists, this is a cruel myth. They know from bitter experience that disagreeing with the dominant view is dangerous - especially when that view is backed by powerful interest groups. Call it suppression of intellectual dissent. The usual pattern is that someone does research or speaks out in a way that threatens a powerful interest group, typically a government, industry or professional body. As a result, representatives of that group attack the critic's ideas or the critic personally-by censoring writing, blocking publications, denying appointments or promotions, withdrawing research grants, taking legal actions, harassing, blacklisting, spreading rumors. (1)"

From David Goodstein, who was Vice Provost of Caltech: http://www.its.caltech.edu/~dg/crunch_art.html "Peer review is usually quite a good way to identify valid science. Of course, a referee will occasionally fail to appreciate a truly visionary or revolutionary idea, but by and large, peer review works pretty well so long as scientific validity is the only issue at stake. However, it is not at all suited to arbitrate an intense competition for research funds or for editorial space in prestigious journals. There are many reasons for this, not the least being the fact that the referees have an obvious conflict of interest, since they are themselves competitors for the same resources. This point seems to be another one of those relativistic anomalies, obvious to any outside observer, but invisible to those of us who are falling into the black hole. It would take impossibly high ethical standards for referees to avoid taking advantage of their privileged anonymity to advance their own interests, but as time goes on, more and more referees have their ethical standards eroded as a consequence of having themselves been victimized by unfair reviews when they were authors. Peer review is thus one among many examples of practices that were well suited to the time of exponential expansion, but will become increasingly dysfunctional in the difficult future we face. "

About a book by Jeff Schmidt, a previous editor of Physics Today magazine: http://www.disciplined-minds.com/ "In this riveting book about the world of professional work, Jeff Schmidt demonstrates that the workplace is a battleground for the very identity of the individual, as is graduate school, where professionals are trained. He shows that professional work is inherently political, and that professionals are hired to subordinate their own vision and maintain strict "ideological discipline"."

From Marcia Angell: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2009/jan/15/drug-co... "The problems I've discussed are not limited to psychiatry, although they reach their most florid form there. Similar conflicts of interest and biases exist in virtually every field of medicine, particularly those that rely heavily on drugs or devices. It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine."

From the Atlantic from a few years ago: "The Kept University" http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/2000/03/press.ht... "Commercially sponsored research is putting at risk the paramount value of higher education -- disinterested inquiry. Even more alarming, the authors argue, universities themselves are behaving more and more like for-profit companies..."

Also from the Atlantic, just recently: "Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science" http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/11/lies-dam... "Much of what medical researchers conclude in their studies is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong. So why are doctors -- to a striking extent -- still drawing upon misinformation in their everyday practice? Dr. John Ioannidis has spent his career challenging his peers by exposing their bad science."

From a book about how mainstream biologists have systematically edited out or been oblivious to evidence for homosexuality in animals: http://www.amazon.com/Biological-Exuberance-Homosexuality-Na... "Bruce Bagemihl writes that Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity was a "labor of love." And indeed it must have been, since most scientists have thus far studiously avoided the topic of widespread homosexual behavior in the animal kingdom--sometimes in the face of undeniable evidence. Bagemihl begins with an overview of same-sex activity in animals, carefully defining courtship patterns, affectionate behaviors, sexual techniques, mating and pair-bonding, and same-sex parenting. He firmly dispels the prevailing notion that homosexuality is uniquely human and only occurs in "unnatural" circumstances. As far as the nature-versus-nurture argument--it's obviously both, he concludes. An overview of biologists' discomfort with their own observations of animal homosexuality over 200 years would be truly hilarious if it didn't reflect a tendency of humans (and only humans) to respond with aggression and hostility to same-sex behavior in our own species. In fact, Bagemihl reports, scientists have sometimes been afraid to report their observations for fear of recrimination from a hidebound (and homophobic) academia. Scientists' use of anthropomorphizing vocabulary such as insulting, unfortunate, and inappropriate to describe same-sex matings shows a decided lack of objectivity on the part of naturalists. ... Throw this book into the middle of a crowd of wildlife biologists and watch them scatter. ..."

Some more links I've collected about failures of science as a social enterprise (including educational aspects, like David Goodstein also talks about) are posted in comments here: http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1932134&cid=3474... http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1932134&cid=3474...

More on the schooling aspects of dumbing people down and making them conformists (according to New York State Teacher of the Year, John Taylor Gatto): https://web.archive.org/web/20110815021909/http://listcultur... https://web.archive.org/web/20110815021909/http://listcultur... https://web.archive.org/web/20110815021909/http://listcultur...

No doubt one could find quotes celebrating science (or even schooling, as opposed to true education). I am not denying science (and even some schooling) has not been useful in some cases. I agree science may move by fits and starts and to an extent be self-correcting. Even as science and academia tend to take the credit for a lot of engineering skill learned on-the-job and the innovation that such skills may lead to. :-)

Still, if you think about all these quotes from professionals in the field of science, you can see that science, as a human enterprise, has some major social problems operating within a capitalistic framework. Now, science also has problems operating within a feudal/religious framework, like Galileo encountered (and David Goodstein discussed in "The Mechanical Universe"). And science has problems operating within a totalitarian framework like with Lysenkoism in the USSR. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysenkoism

But the key point is, science can have major systematic problems related to the socioeconomic system it is part of. No amount of skepticism can really fix that as a big issue. Skepticism can help us to deal somewhat with the consequences, but ultimately, pervasive skepticism related to worries about fraud and dumbed-down people everywhere is very wearing and psychologically expensive.

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