A great deal about science and about medicine is misinformed and misguided, in the media and in “the public square” in general. Correspondingly, a great deal of public policy, nationally and internationally, is not based on the best scientific knowledge. This blog is intended to provide corrective commentaries to widely promulgated misleading stuff about science and medicine.
My credentials for doing that are available at my homepage which also has this fairly up-to-date copy of my CV. For some two decades I taught and did research in chemistry, electrochemistry in particular, publishing enough (3 books, a dozen chapters, nearly 100 research articles) to get a good sense of what’s involved in a scientific career. In time I became interested in such wider issues as, Why are some topics apparently beyond the pale of science? — psychic phenomena, UFOs, Bigfoot and Loch Ness Monster?
And why has science been so successful? What guarantees reliability of scientific knowledge?
At about the time that my interest in these questions was growing, philosophers and historians and sociologists of science as well as some scientists and engineers were creating joint ventures in the recognition that understanding the nature of science and its interactions with society, especially concerning public policy, demand at least a multidisciplinary approach. By the 1980s, a new interdisciplinary field, science studies, was emerging, and I was fortunate enough to be associated with one of the first formal, degree-granting programs whose founding was nurtured by a number of well regarded philosophers and historians and sociologists. That program eventually morphed into a Department of Science & Technology in Society, and the pertinent academic field has by now become fairly generally known as Science & Technology Studies (STS). Not only is STS a relatively new specialty, it is also not a monolithic one, perhaps owing to its newness. For a range of views about science, see Ralph Levinson & Jeff Thomas (eds.), Science Today: Problem or Crisis? (Routledge, 1997); for the range of views within STS, see my article in that volume, “A consumer’s guide to science punditry” (this link is to an image file of 16MB, takes several minutes to download).
To put the essence of my concerns in a nutshell: Popular views about how science is done and how trustworthy it is have not caught up with what’s understood within STS. For example, no STS scholar imagines that there exists a “scientific method”, even though that concept continues to be taught in schools and in college-level social-science courses — see my 1992 book, Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method, which was well received and often adopted as a textbook.
In recent years I’ve come to recognize how conflicts of interest and cutthroat competition in research have detracted from the erstwhile trustworthiness of science and supposedly science-based medicine, and my book-length discussion of that, Dogmatism in Science and Medicine: How Dominant Theories Monopolize Research and Stifle the Search for Truth, has gained some decent reviews. My first awareness that medical science could go very wrong indeed came through discovering that the data show that HIV is not infectious and is not the cause of AIDS: see The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory and my HIV/AIDS blog.