Lots of people are starting to notice that the textbooks are full of it

Ken Connor, commenting on Jonah Lehrer’s New Yorker piece (December 13, 2010) on the loss of replicability of science findings over time, writes,

But now all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings have started to look increasingly uncertain. It's as if our facts were losing their truth: claims that have been enshrined in textbooks are suddenly unprovable. This phenomenon doesn't yet have an official name, but it's occurring across a wide range of fields, from psychology to ecology. . . . For many scientists, the effect is especially troubling because of what it exposes about the scientific process. If replication is what separates the rigor of science from the squishiness of pseudoscience, where do we put all these rigorously validated findings that can no longer be proved? Which results should we believe?" Which results should we believe? Which theories should we place our faith in? These are not questions that the scientific community likes to wrestle with publicly. Uncertainty tends to undermine authority, after all. Perhaps this is why some scientists go to such extreme lengths to preserve the integrity of their pet theories, even to the point of manipulating or falsifying data or suppressing information that doesn't support their desired conclusion (remember Climategate?). What this reveals is that the "scientific" world view is a rather fragile one, in which there is little room for debate outside the accepted parameters of prevailing scientific dogmas. Those scientists with the courage to challenge these dogmas quickly find themselves blacklisted – relegated to the fringes of the profession, unable to secure prestigious positions in the community and unlikely to get their work published in prominent journals. This is hardly conduct befitting a field of study that prides itself on the objective pursuit of truth.

Actually, the problem isn’t that the claims are losing their truth. Many, especially anything to do with Darwinism, were unprovable and probably untrue in the first place, and can be kept in circulation only by the sacrifice of intellects. Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.