Skepticism about science and medicine

In search of disinterested science

Contemporary science and medicine are losing credibility

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2014/12/31

“The Demise of Science? Hundreds of computer generated studies have been published in respected scientific journals” describes more problems than just the publication of fake articles generated by computer programs.

“Independent research, where funding is unrelated to findings, has become a rarity, and the end result is a dramatic deterioration of credible science” is spot on. What used to be the place for independent purely truth-seeking “basic” research, the “ivory tower” of academe, has become a place where budding researchers must find their own research support from outside sources if they are to have a career — see e.g. Science has become another Bubble; Science rewards hucksters and spin artists, not soundly tested science; The business of for-profit “science”;  and links in those articles.

“The Demise of Science?” cites the increase in articles retracted because of falsification and other breaches of proper conduct.

Clinical trials are biased, and prescription drugs are now responsible for more deaths than anything but cancer and heart disease (David Healy, Pharmageddon, University of California Press, 2012; Peter C. Gøtzsche, Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare, Radcliffe, 2013).

A large proportion of published studies in medical matters cannot be reproduced.
Inveterate defenders of the mainstream will seek to discount the facts discussed in “The Demise of Science?” by noting that it is an Internet publication on a website that favors alternative medicine; but the same critique was made years ago by Marcia Angell, a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine:

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

Drug companies and doctors: a story of corruption
New York Review of Books, 15 January 2009
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2 Responses to “Contemporary science and medicine are losing credibility”

  1. dondeg said

    Ugh. Depressing article, Henry. My favorite quote was:

    “According to the NIH, part of the reproducibility problem stems from poor training, so a program is being developed to educate researchers on good experimental design and transparent conduct. It really is hard to imagine why researchers would not have received this type of training previously…”

    Simply unbelievable and shocking, but still made me laugh because this is how bureaucrats think.

    I’m reading Feyerabend’s Against Method right now. He really emphasizes the historical dimension. He talks about Galileo mostly in AM, but a “between the lines” insight I am getting is that the historical period was ripe for change. Galileo et al were more like conduits or channels for some type of inevitable historical transformation that seems to have been building up. I wonder if these types of things we are seeing with the corruption of modern institutionalized science are symptoms of an analogous type of historical/scientific transformation, where current institutional science will play the role played by the Aristotelian cosmology back in Galileo’s day.

    Thanks for sharing, Henry!

    Best,

    Don

    • Henry Bauer said

      dondeg:
      Yes: historians of science generally regard Galileo as iconic within thoroughgoing changes in attitudes and beliefs, traced back to the 15th century or even earlier, culminating (sort of) in the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution of ~ 17th c.
      And I believe that contemporary science is a quite different thing than several centuries ago. Then it was a largely disinterested enterprise by independent individuals aiming primarily for true knowledge about the world; now it is a largely corporate, bureaucratic enterprise primarily about prestige, status, profits. See From Dawn to Decadence: The Three Ages of Modern Science

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