September 26, 2012
Real Scientists Change Their Minds To Fit The Facts
Personally, I prefer to take my science without politics.
Let’s actually study preconceived ideas and see if they stand up to scientific scrutiny. If they do not, perhaps it’s time to change our views. However, as we all have known since the days of Galileo, science and politics can get messy. And there’s nothing messier than a scientist gerrymandering, contorting his research to fit an already-reached conclusion.
According to media reports, it appears that an activist against genetically modified (GM) food “studied” the effects of GM corn and found that, surprise, it’s toxic to laboratory animals. The problem is that Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen in France, who is also the lead scientist at an organization devoted to lobbying against genetically modified foods, appeared to have manipulated, and even falsified, data to reach this erroneous conclusion.
The study was on Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready corn. And for those who follow the anti-GMO movement, Monsanto is considered the evil empire among activists. That may or may not be, but manipulating data is obviously not the way to prove it.
You can draw your own conclusions in the links I’ll place on the bottom of this post, but Forbes contributor Steven Salzberg put it concisely, writing:
It turns out to be a very badly designed study, and the report itself omits many crucial details that may (and probably do) completely invalidate the findings. The scientists leading the study have a strongly biased agenda and a conflict of interest, which they failed to reveal. More here
As I’ve written before on the anti-nanotech movement, just because you think it’s harmful since it fits your preconcieved world view, and repeat the same lie over and over again, doesn’t make it so no matter how many times it’s “liked” or “retweeted” or “upvoted,” or whatever.
The way science works is that one study builds upon another, which builds upon another until, over time, real conclusions can be reached. There are no shortcuts. Take, for example, these former climate-change skeptics who just could not ignore the evidence.
Real scientists change their minds to fit the facts, rather than the other way around.
- Read more in this Forbes report
- The Scientist covers the story as well
- So does Reuters
- And my old friends at BoingBoing ran an excellent commentary on “why peer review doesn’t mean accurate”
Image Credit: FikMik / Shutterstock