Big Science Is Broken

goetheScience is broken. That’s the thesis of a must-read article in First Things magazine, in which William A. Wilson accumulates evidence that a lot of published research is false. But that’s not even the worst part. Advocates of the existing scientific research paradigm usually smugly declare that while some published conclusions are surely false, the scientific method has “self-correcting mechanisms” that ensure that, eventually, the truth will prevail. Unfortunately for all of us, Wilson makes a convincing argument that those self-correcting mechanisms are broken. –Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The Week, 18 April 2016

At its best, science is a human enterprise with a superhuman aim: the discovery of regularities in the order of nature, and the discerning of the consequences of those regularities. We’ve seen example after example of how the human element of this enterprise harms and damages its progress, through incompetence, fraud, selfishness, prejudice, or the simple combination of an honest oversight or slip with plain bad luck. When cultural trends attempt to render science a sort of religion-less clericalism, scientists are apt to forget that they are made of the same crooked timber as the rest of humanity and will necessarily imperil the work that they do. The greatest friends of the Cult of Science are the worst enemies of science’s actual practice. –William A. Wilson, First Things, May 2016

Trust in the news media is being eroded by perceptions of inaccuracy and bias, fueled in part by Americans’ skepticism about what they read on social media. Just 6 percent of people say they have a lot of confidence in the media, putting the news industry about equal to Congress and well below the public’s view of other institutions. The poll shows that accuracy clearly is the most important component of trust. Nearly 90 percent of Americans say it’s extremely or very important that the media get their facts correct, according to the study. Readers also are looking for balance: Are there enough sources so they can get a rounded picture of what they are reading. –Carole Feldman and Emily Swanson, Associated Press, 18 April 2016

Bringing drought and increased temperatures, climate change has been widely portrayed as a force that will leave staple food crops struggling in many areas where they are grown today. But a new study has shown that increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may actually lead to greater yields of key crops like wheat, rice and soybeans. –Abigail Beal, Daily Mail, 18 April 2016

In the hours before they took the stage for their March 29 press conference, Democratic attorneys general received a secret briefing from two top environmentalists on pursuing climate change dissenters. Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Climate Accountability Institute’s Matt Pawa spent 45 minutes each providing talking points behind the scenes on “the imperative of taking action now” and “climate change litigation,” according to a cache of emails released over the weekend by the free market Energy & Environmental Legal Institute. For climate change groups, the New York press event was the culmination of four years of planning and advocacy in support of an explosive proposition: using the legal system to link fossil fuel firms and others challenging the catastrophic global warming consensus to fraud and even racketeering, the emails and other documents show. The effort paid off. –Valerie Richardson, The Washington Times, 17 April 2016

What explains our insatiable appetite for stories about shortages? Ever since Thomas Malthus warned of imminent food shortages and mass starvation in 1779, the spectre of a Malthusian resource catastrophe has resurfaced among each new generation of pessimists. –Jason Kirby, Macleans, 16 April 2016