You Should Worry About Scientists-Frauds, Hoaxes, Nonsense, and Bias in Scientific Papers

This essay takes a few words to discuss the problem of false reports in peer-reviewed academic journals. Evidently, there are a number of problems with publishing scientific “facts” these days. There is the garden variety error. Then there is the fraud. After this is the Hoax, in which clever pranksters make fools of the system.  Evidently there are more than a few PhDs that are eager to confirm their bias about the emperor’s clothes. Last is the nonsense paper. Keep reading.

Remember, science is NOT what scientists say. And because of this you should always be skeptical. And we are learning that we have to be skeptical even when groups of scientists insist on things. And sadly, the scientific community has no one to blame for themselves for this mess. Thankfully there are some whistle-blowers in the ranks.

This article is entertaining and frightening at the same time. Someone actually published an article on the feminizing of melting glaciers…

The authors mention how the progressive-left bias of scientific community, especially social scientists, makes them easy prey for claims that fit their pre-conceived view of the world. Of course that danger doesn’t only affect the left, it just so happens that they have a majority, and they are the ones insisting that their beliefs are facts.

Note well how he ends the article:

“Social science is especially hard-hit these days; one psychologist described it as “riddled with flaky research and questionable theories.” There is a surprisingly broad consensus about the cause—that is, everyone from Michael Shermer to Uncommon Descent agrees on it—namely, that the field’s overwhelmingly progressive-left bias makes it an easy mark for both hoaxes and frauds.

“It also makes it an easy target for a third category of problem paper that is neither a hoax nor a fraud exactly: the nonsense paper that may well be believed by its authors. Examples of these include the widely cited “positivity ratio” in psychology, which was assessed as “entirely unfounded” in 2013, and the recent, apparently serious attempt to “feminize” melting glaciers.

“This sort of thing should come as no surprise. Monochromatic bias exposes a community to greater risk because few of its members even notice a hoax, fraud, or nonsense thesis that passes their bias filter. Usually, the person to whom it doesn’t sound right has different commitments and life experiences, and he or she is the one motivated to investigate.

“Ironically, many defenders of the status quo in recent years have claimed to be “scared to death of the anti-science lobby.” Their worries are misplaced. It’s actually science that is coming to get them. Soon.” (emphasis added)

Source: The Hoax on Us by Denyse O’Leary

What Science Can Tell Us About Bad Science

Scientists and scientific claims are too often regarded as unquestionable.  Yet, few things are manipulated as often as scientific data points.  I feel like I am more aware of scientists making confident claims in nonscientific areas (like politics, morality, etc).  Is it happening more often? I don’t know, it could just be me. But I do know that scientific failures are under more scrutiny that in the past.  Because of all this,  I am fascinated when scientific researchers point out what is behind the curtain in Oz. Here is yet more information confirming what we would rather not believe: scientists are frequently wrong and sometimes intentionally so. 

“By one estimate, from 2001 to 2010, the annual rate of retractions by academic journals increased by a factor of 11 (adjusting for increases in published literature, and excluding articles by repeat offenders)…”

“Retractions are born of many mothers,” write Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus, the co-founders of the blog Retraction Watch, which has logged thousands of retractions in the past five years. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reviewed 2,047 retractions of biomedical and life-sciences articles and found that just 21.3 percent stemmed from straightforward error, while 67.4 percent resulted from misconduct, including fraud or suspected fraud (43.4 percent) and plagiarism (9.8 percent) .

“Surveys of scientists have tried to gauge the extent of undiscovered misconduct. According to a 2009 meta-analysis of these surveys, about 2 percent of scientists admitted to having fabricated, falsified, or modified data or results at least once, and as many as a third confessed “a variety of other questionable research practices including ‘dropping data points based on a gut feeling,’ and ‘changing the design, methodology or results of a study in response to pressures from a funding source’ ” [4].As for why these practices are so prevalent, many scientists blame increased competition for academic jobs and research funding, combined with a “publish or perish” culture.” (Emphasis added)

Yikes, this is scary. This kind of attention has the potential to be good for science in the long run. Hopefully it will bring some much needed humility.  It should definitely put to death the false notion of objectivity. Science is always a handmaiden to the allegiances of the scientist.  

Source: What Science Can Tell Us About Bad Science – The Atlantic

A Happy Atheist Challenges The Angry Atheists With The Difference Between A Fact And A Value

I have read several articles by John Gray and enjoy his writing and insight.  I know when an author is connecting with something important to me because I talk out loud while I am reading it.  I mumbled pretty much the whole time I was reading this one. I had to stop and reread several paragraphs for effect, and kept interrupting my wife to read several of his more powerful points to her. Yes, I am a nerd. This essay put into words a number of things I have been thinking.

Gray is not a believer, and so he has a very different outlook than I do (as a Christian), yet his awareness of the history of philosophy allows him to see the naked spots in the emperors wardrobe. He is disenchanted by the vocal tribe of evangelistic atheists that seem to be known for their pulpit-pounding-religion-hating self righteousness. (Dawkins, Harris, etc.) And he takes them to task, not because of their unbelief but because of their inconsistencies in applying what they believe.  He is willing to explore the assumptions beneath their beliefs, and finds them to be often unreasonable.

In this essay, Gray very briefly chronicles the racist behavior of 19th and 20th century evolutionary atheists.  Then he freely acknowledges that while modern atheists disavow these beliefs, they have repeated some of the same intellectual mistakes as their forbears. They have failed to acknowledge the difference between facts and values.  And this is a dialogue-ender if you happen to disagree with them because you will be talking about your values while they dismiss you as unscientific. They believe that their values are scientific, and therefore as unassailable as discussing gravity.  And sadly, too often this leads them to view their opponents with patronizing contempt.

By the way, this was the same problem with the communism of Russian and China. Marx’s writings insisted that his view of economics was “scientific.”

I paused to read several parts of this essay more than once, not only to understand his observations, but also to enjoy them.   I disagree with his view of the world, but enjoy his intellectual honesty and clear view of the logical problems in the foundation of the new atheism.

“It has often been observed that Christianity follows changing moral fashions, all the while believing that it stands apart from the world. The same might be said, with more justice, of the prevalent version of atheism. If an earlier generation of unbelievers shared the racial prejudices of their time and elevated them to the status of scientific truths, evangelical atheists do the same with the liberal values to which western societies subscribe today – while looking with contempt upon “backward” cultures that have not abandoned religion. The racial theories promoted by atheists in the past have been consigned to the memory hole – and today’s most influential atheists would no more endorse racist biology than they would be seen following the guidance of an astrologer. But they have not renounced the conviction that human values must be based in science; now it is liberal values which receive that accolade. There are disputes, sometimes bitter, over how to define and interpret those values, but their supremacy is hardly ever questioned. For 21st century atheist missionaries, being liberal and scientific in outlook are one and the same.”

“For 21st Century atheist missionaries, being liberal and scientific in outlook are one and the same.”

Some other big ideas from this essay:

  • Atheism is not monolithic, and most of the values (and fact claims) advocated by modern skeptics are not self evident, and are not agreed on by everyone in their camp. This alone should challenge their confusion of facts and values.  I have some atheist friends that like to point out how hard it is to find Christians to agree on any matter of doctrine. Well, evidently they live in the same world.
  • Many of the new atheists are ignorant of the nature of their own beliefs. They take their own view of the world for granted and are unwilling to subject it to the same intellectual scrutiny that they demand from others.
  • New Atheists have largely ignored the writings of Nietzsche. Why? Gray writes, “The reason Nietzsche has been excluded from the mainstream of contemporary atheist thinking is that he exposed the problem atheism has with morality. It’s not that atheists can’t be moral – the subject of so many mawkish debates. The question is which morality an atheist should serve.”  Which is to say that Scientific atheism does NOT lead to a self evident view of the moral world. It cannot answer the most basic questions about how we should live without departing from its limiting scientific commitments. Further, many of the tenets of humanism advocated by atheists actually derive from Judeo-Christian religious tradition.
  • The hostility to religion that has been on display from the evangelistic atheists doesn’t make any rational sense.  After mentioning several influential atheists from the past that were NOT hostile to religion, Gray writes, “Above all, these unevangelical atheists accepted that religion is definitively human. Though not all human beings may attach great importance to them, every society contains practices that are recognisably religious. Why should religion be universal in this way? For atheist missionaries this is a decidedly awkward question. Invariably they claim to be followers of Darwin. Yet they never ask what evolutionary function this species-wide phenomenon serves. There is an irresolvable contradiction between viewing religion naturalistically – as a human adaptation to living in the world – and condemning it as a tissue of error and illusion. What if the upshot of scientific inquiry is that a need for illusion is built into in the human mind? If religions are natural for humans and give value to their lives, why spend your life trying to persuade others to give them up?”

I disagree with Gray on much of this, but his point is a good one. If atheism and evolution is true, then it follows that religion is a survival adaptation.  If that is true, why so much angst over gene expression?

Source: What scares the new atheists | John Gray | World news | The Guardian

Science Headlines in the News are Frequently Wrong, & Scientists Are A Big Part Of the Problem

Bad Science Reporting

How Scientists Contribute to Bad Science Reporting – Pacific Standard.

This article from highlights the problem of errors in the way the media reports scientific discoveries.  Reporters are often a part of the problem, but a report from Cardiff University claims that official university press releases, approved by the scientists and their departments are most often the source of errors and exaggerations. Everyone loves to blame the media, but put down your pitchfork, in this case the media may not be to blame. The article reports:

“But a recent study [from the British Medical Journal] suggests that journalists aren’t the weakest link. The source of misrepresentations and exaggerations in science news stories is often much closer to the scientists themselves: press releases put out by researchers’ own institutions. Surveying hundreds of news stories and press releases about medical research, a group of scientists at Cardiff University found that most exaggerations and misrepresentations of science in print news “did not occur de novo in the media but was already present in the text of the press releases produced by academics and their establishments.” (emphasis mine)

There are likely a number of contributing factors. But the authors suggest that one source of the problem may be linked to inflated egos wearing lab coats. Scientists speak and write differently when talking to their educated peers than when they are speaking to the public.  They know that their peers will call them out when they overstate their research.  So official reports in scientific journals are subdued and highly qualified.  On the other hand, they are much more likely to exaggerate their claims when speaking to the uninformed public.

This doesn’t surprise me. I have long felt that the scientific community loves to be seen as the guardians of knowledge and progress.  This is another good reason to be suspect of sensational scientific research, especially when reported in the mainstream media.  These claims are never made apart from the temptations and motivations that corrupt politicians and marketers.


The Evidence and The Conclusions. Anthropologist Found to Be Falsifying Evidence for 30 Years

Evidence & Conclusions

I recently saw this article about Professor Reiner Protsch. He taught at a German university for the last 30 years.  And it turns out that his status as an expert in dating various anthropological finds is not only suspect, he has been shown to be a complete fraud. Indeed many of his “facts” were manufactured.

According to Thomas Terberger, the archaeologist who discovered the hoax, “Anthropology is going to have to completely revise its picture of modern man between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago.”


It seems that in spite of “peer review” the scientific community is really vulnerable to people manufacturing “evidence” to fill in the gaps for conclusions they have already made.  This is true even when their experts don’t even know how to run a carbon dating machine.  And it can go on for decades. The key is that the lies have to fit in with what the scientific community wants to believe. If your lies are inside the box they probably won’t be questioned. In fact it was only when a huge amount of money was at stake that someone started doing some fact checking.  Others have been challenging the “sacred cow” of peer review as being unreliable.

After I stopped laughing (because I have met more than my share of arrogant, table-pounding scientists), I realized that this is actually a sad situation for everyone.  It is horrible when the truth is handled this way.   It should lead the rest of us to  be skeptical of what we are told, even by the “experts.”  And while peer review is important, and the concept is admirable, we can’t even assume that 30 years of peer review in the “hard sciences” is fool proof.  Many well intended scientists like to speak as if their pronouncements are beyond questioning, that they are the only source of pure knowledge.  I would like to think that this will chasten the scientific community into a place of greater humility, but I am not holding my breath.

This is the conversation that came to mind when I read the article:

Skeptic: Do you believe in evolution?
Evolutionist: Not really. It is a fact. I believe in evolution the same way I believe in gravity.  Anyone that even questions evolution is clearly a blind religious zealot with no regard for the facts.
Skeptic: Why do you say it is a “fact?”
Evolutionist: Besides the obvious reality that the vast majority of scientists believe it, there is all the evidence. It is incontrovertible. Let me give you some examples….
Skeptic: So since you believe in evolution because of the evidence, if the evidence changed, or it was found to be incorrect or falsified, then obviously you would change your position that evolution is a fact.
Evolutionist: Well… not exactly. I might change what I believe about how evolution happened, but not THAT it happened.  It is undeniable that all living creatures descended from common ancestors.
Skeptic: Why do you say that it is “undeniable that all living creatures descended from common ancestors” by evolution?
Evolutionist: Because of the evidence.
Skeptic: So if you learned that the much of evidence that lead you to believe that “all living creatures descended from common ancestors” turned out to be totally incorrect, or worse an intentional lie, you would still believe it anyway? You wouldn’t be willing to rethink your conclusion? You would just rearrange some of the details? Is there any finding that would urge you to rethink your position?
Evolutionist: Why do you hate science?

Eric Metaxas: Rumors of God’s Death Were Premature

Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God – WSJ

Eric Metaxas has written a controversial piece in the Wall Street Journal suggesting that the more we learn about Science, the more it points to a creator.

“The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably points with the combined brightness of every star to something—or Someone—beyond itself.”

via Eric Metaxas: Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God – WSJ.

Metaxas’ point is the universe itself is a miracle. That it could not exist on its own.

This probably won’t make much difference for committed skeptics.  It’s not like there was a lack of evidence for design 50 years ago. Although at least one prominent Atheist- Anthony Flew- was persuaded to change his mind due to the complexity of DNA. His book “There is a God” chronicles his change.


I was recently reading in Flew’s book and he was discussing what DNA is and how it is a recipe not only for life via the creation of proteins, but also for the replication of itself and new cells that will contain, protect, duplicate, and enact the code of life.   Some folks have used the illustration of a prehistoric man walking on the beach finding a functioning watch.  It would be absurd to think that natural forces created the machinery of the watch, right? But in reality the problem is much worse. It is more like finding a watch that contains the blue prints for the watch inside. Also inside are the tools to make all the recipes in the DNA cook book, and to copy the blue prints, create the tools to make new watches, and to assemble these new watches so that they can repeat the process. The size of the problem is much bigger than a savage finding a rolex.  It is more like finding a factory along with a bunch of watches and blue prints that makes watches and other factories, as well all the equipment inside.



Everything you have heard about evolution is a lie!!! in a new book, which I admit I haven’t read, but I did get a good chuckle out of the synopsis, Dr. Aaron G. Filler is going to set the record straight. For all of you who chucked your bible in the garbage because you believed that you descended from Apes, prepare for the shock of it all: you believed a lie!

There is now COMPELLING EVIDENCE, even more compelling that the indisputable evidence we had before, but threw away so we could sell more books, compelling evidence that things happened the other way around. APES ACTUALLY DESCENDED FROM US! This explains a lot, especially if you watch wrestling on TV.

I actually am not making this up. look for yourself on Amazon

I agree with Malcom Muggeridge who said that in the future a retrospecitve glance at evolution will view the whole thing as one of the great jokes of history.

Mutations and Evolution, it Doesn’t Add Up

I am just a community college student, but I like to actually think when I am in class. And recently in my human physiology class, we were studying DNA replication and the whole issue of mutations. My professor, Steve Langjahr (one of the best teachers I have ever had) mentioned that sometimes mutations can be beneficial. The result: benefit to the genetics of the species in particular and the gene pool in general. He did admit that this was rare, but said that it was possible. This is of course the operating assumption of evolution. The mechanism that makes natural selection possible is beneficial mutations. This got me to thinking about mutations and the scientific basis for evolution. It sounds plausible on the surface, but when I really started thinking about it, this idea seemed very unscientific to me. Here are a few things that came into my mind:

1. When it comes to mutations and heritability (the ability to pass the mutation, good or bad to your offspring) there are 2 kinds of cells. There are sex cells, which are found in the ovaries and testes-these produce cells capable of sexual reproduction. And there are somatic cells, which are pretty much everything else. The only cells that are involved in sexual reproduction, from a genetic standpoint, are your sex cells. So any other mutations, even though they may conceivably be beneficial, will not harm or benefit your offspring genetically, because they do not pass on to your children unless they affect your gonads. Practically speaking, unless the mutation affects your sperm or ova, it will not help evolution. This takes the vast majority of all possible mutations out of the game of natural selection. Additionally not all mutations of sex cells are passed along to all offspring. Some are recessive.

2. The vast majority of mutations that are translated into protein production are either neutral (because they are in an incodon, aportion of the DNA that is “cut out”) , harmful or even lethal. Whether the mutation is a substitution, insertion, or deletion of a base in the DNA sequence, most mutations that register a noticeable effect are deleterious to the organism. In fact, it is hard to find substantive instances of beneficial mutations that do not simply involve variety within a species. On the web plenty of table pounding evolutionists can point to all kinds of bacteria and yeast that learned to do circus tricks in a petry dish. But this is a far cry from an organism morphing into another organism, and a far cry from showing examples in nature. I read one example on the web of a man who offered as evidence of beneficial mutations, a report that a frame shift DNA mutation produced a new enzyme that worked 1% as efficiently as the normal enzymes. It could just be me, but that doesn’t sound like forward progress. A few examples of the harmful mutations include cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, and sickle cell anemia. This is a real serious problem for evolution, scientifically it is the exact opposite of what evolutionists postulate.

3. For a mutation to “move” evolution along, it must be so helpful that it increases a creature’s chances of survival. It is plain by examining ourselves or many other animals that we can live just fine without many of the supposed adaptations that have “evolved” to make us what we are. Examples: Eyebrows, fingernails, tastebuds, etc. We can live just fine without a spleen, or tonsils. You get the idea. The theory says that the mutations involved in natural selection are so beneficial that they give me survival advantage to the mutant above those around it. Everyone else dies off while the mutant survives.

4. To support evolution, a mutation must not only be beneficial, but it must be heritable (as above #1) and increase the likelihood of reproduction. Let’s say that I had a son who was born with a helpful mutation such enhanced night vision. This would only make a difference if it resulted in my son being more likely to reproduce than his classmates, who would eventually die off because they were unfit. Furthermore, he would have to find a female that he would be able to reproduce with. Some mutations are so radical that they would prevent sexual reproduction unless your mate had the identical mutation (think of donkeys and horses, chickens and falcons can’t reproduce either). Furthermore, as it is, not all “fully evolved” creatures are able to reproduce because of hostile conditions. (e.g. dear competing for a mate, the vast majority of crocodile eggs do not hatch and produce an adult crocodile who reproduces). From a plausibility stand point, here is what bothers me. If a mutation was so small and gradual that it allowed for reproduction it is unlikely that it would have such massive survival value that it would promote natural selection. On the other hand, if a mutation was so radical as to be of great survival benefit it is likely to prevent sexual reproduction.

5. Statistical probability. Admittedly evolutionary biologists have a hard time coming up with anything but imaginary examples of beneficial mutations to support the theory. They can show how existing variety within a species can benefit an organism, a la the black butterflies in the smog, or the drug resistant bacteria. But coming up with mutations that account for a change from one species to another, let alone one genus to another is a tougher row to hoe. This should cause some sleepless nights, especially in light of:
a. The current rate of mutations is more than ever in history because of an increased amount of mutagens in the environment. There are more mutations and more chances of mutations than previously because there are more causes of mutations.
b. Increased population. Let’s think of humans. There are about 6 billion of us on the earth now, more than ever before. Much more than ever before. The rate of reproduction is millions of times greater than it ever has been in the long history of anthropology. The amount of DNA transcription and replication that occurs in one year now, would have taken thousands or millions of years in the past. The mathematical conditions that would need to exist for random mutations to produce benefits are all around us.
c. Medical science has preserved lives and extended our life span more than we have ever seen. Additionally, medicine has enabled people that would not have been able to survive and reproduce to do just that.
The situation is a prime biological stage to demonstrate evolution through mutation. We are more likely than ever to see mutations, and for mutated people to survive and reproduce.

So what has this produced for us? It hasn’t produced any evolution, and it hasn’t lead evolutionary biologists to write a new playbook. To suggest that evolution is unscientific is a form of flat-earth techno-blasphemy. I thought that one of the tenets of science was falsifiability? I thought that we are supposed to change our views when information becomes more clear, or the evidence points in a different direction. I don’t believe in evolution because I am a Christian, and I believe that God made all things in 6 days and all very good. But I admit that what I believe is not pure science, it is a philosophy, it is faith. Though I believe it is a faith with scientific support, that is another discussion. Sadly, many biologists won’t admit the same…namely that this idea is a philosophy and not science. One of the prime evidences of this is that some won’t allow it to be disproved by the facts.


Photo used by permission AJ Cann. Some Rights Reserved