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Money has corrupted science, including some individual scientists

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2017/03/11

Some years ago, I had blogged about “The business of for-profit ‘science’”, pointing out that “A number of trends, in society as a whole as well as in science and medicine, have led to the present dysfunctional state of affairs. It is not the result of conspiracies or overt evil-doing . . .”.

Systemic change means that just “doing what everyone does” results in bad things for the public as a whole. An obvious illustration at the moment is that politics has become so pervaded by “spin” that truth has essentially disappeared from what politicians and their spokespeople say, with consequences that everyone should fear.

But that “normal” behavior has become dysfunctional does not entail that there is not also deliberate additional mischief being done, and things that seem so out of order that they ought to be criminally prosecutable.

One aspect of present dysfunctionality in scientific activities is the proliferation of what has been aptly described as predatory publishing on-line of what seem on their face to be scientific journals but whose entire raison d’être is to make money for the publishers from the fees paid by author. The steadily updated list of apparently predatory publishers and journals inaugurated by Jeffrey Beall was no longer on-line as of some time between 12 and 18 January 2017, but the Wayback Machine makes an earlier version available .

Admittedly, every active, publishing researcher knows that peer review and editorial judgments are far from infallibly expert and impartial, but the predatory journals have no quality control at all, illustrated by the acceptance of entirely fake articles, for instance in Open Information Science published by Bentham Science (Jessica Shepherd, “Editor quits after journal accepts bogus science article”, 18 June 2009 ); the editor of another Bentham journal, Open Chemical Physics, resigned after an article she had never seen was published, a piece that alleged the presence of “nanothermite” particles in the dust from the Twin Towers terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 (Thomas Hoffmann, “Chefredaktør skrider efter kontroversiel artikel om 9/11”, 28 April 2009; Denis G. Rancourt, “Editor in Chief resigned over the Harrit et al. nanothermite paper”, 11 November 2010).

Beall had listed more than 1100 publishers, some of which publish hundreds of ”journals” where “article processing charges” run from a few hundred dollars upwards to more than $1000. Any honest researcher with results of any importance seeks publication in a long-established and respected journal, so all this “publication” by the predators is sheer waste, much of it money that had been awarded to scientists as research grants. Bentham Science, perhaps iconic of the more prominent predators, lists well over 100 journals. In 2013, Science published the report of a sting operation in which fake manuscripts with obvious flaws were sent to a number of open-access journals; more than half the fake articles were accepted for publication (John Bohannon, “Who’s Afraid of Peer Review? A spoof paper concocted by Science reveals little or no scrutiny at many open-access journals”, Science 342 [2013] 60-5).

Of course not all mainstream print journals manage always to detect even obvious deficiencies, but predatory journals leave other clues, for example, that they continually solicit people for submissions and to serve as editors and on editorial boards (e.g. D. H. Kaye, “Flaky academic journals”, 21 December 2016; Gunther Eysenbach, “Black sheep among Open Access Journals and Publishers”).

Legitimate journals employ copyeditors, but the predators do not. Recently I benefited from e-mails that revealed yet further deceitful money grubbing. Bentham Science journals suggest that authors get (and pay for) copy-editing and language improvement services offered by Eureka Science — whose staff happens to be the same people who also run Bentham Science. The “two” companies also pretend to be separate entities in the arranging of conferences, for example the International Conference on Drug Discovery and Therapy (six since 2008).

Conferences can be real money-makers. For the 2017 International Conference on Drug Discovery and Therapy, registration fees range from about $500 for mere attendees to, for speakers ~$1000 (academic) o r~ $1600 (corporate) (the approximate “~” because fees vary a bit according to when they are paid). Invited speakers pay the same fees as non-invited, which strikes me as odd. When I’m invited to speak I’m offered expenses, even an honorarium; but then I haven’t been active in mainstream science research for quite some time. The Conference organizers do offer free travel and accommodation to a few eminent people, say Nobel Prize winners, since having those attend lends apparent legitimacy to the proceedings. These meetings can be lucrative indeed for the organizers: the 2015 International Conference on Drug Discovery and Therapy listed more than 360 registrants.

The identity of Bentham Science and Eureka Science was revealed to me by Fiona Hayden, self-described as a researcher in the field of corporate ethics with a special interest in the STM publishing industry. She discovered that
Ø      Bentham Science hides its identity and location.
Ø      It organizes conferences but tells potential audience that it is just a media partner, that the organizer is a different company.
Ø      It asks authors to pay for grammar and English editing to its own company with the different name Eureka Science.
Ø      It does not allow its employees to disclose on their social media accounts that they work for Bentham Science.
Ø      It puts people who expose them on a black list.

The version of the black list Hayden sent me had about 30 names. The criterion for inclusion seems to be anyone who might be a whistleblower about improper happenings: one person on the list whom I had known reasonably well was an activist for integrity of academic ideals; another has been one of the most prominent advocates of respectable high-quality open-access publishing.

At one of the “Eureka” conferences, several of the staff had identified themselves as Bentham employees to Hayden and her colleagues, who also identified by name and e-mail address several individuals active in “both” companies, which are registered in Karachi as Information Technology Services (ITS). Among the registrants at the 2015 Conference on Drug Discovery and Therapy, about 15 were Bentham employees listed as ITS or Eureka.

ITS, Bentham Science, & Eureka Science are one and the same, owned by retired Professor Atta-ur-Rehman who is always president or vice president of Eureka conferences (Fiona Hayden e-mail, 2 March 2017). While serving as Chairman of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, Atta-ur-Rehman had been warned about the publishing of fake journals in Pakistan (Q. Isa Daudpota [professor at Pakistan’s Air University], “Scourge of fake journals”, 30 November 2011, ).

I had posted recently about The Scourge of Wikipedia; Wiki’s unreliability is illustrated by its Google summary for Bentham Science, which makes it appear as a perfectly respectable mainstream outfit instead of the reality:

Fiona Hayden also supplied links to some articles by a range of authors deploring predatory publishing and other sad aspects of contemporary science:

http://www.dcscience.net/2011/12/16/open-access-peer-review-grants-and-other-academic-conundrums/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4315198/

http://neurodojo.blogspot.de/2015/04/how-much-harm-is-done-by-predatory.html

http://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/articles/2013/05/10/16/21/straight-talk-predatory-publishers

http://blog.pokristensson.com/2010/11/04/academic-spam-and-open-access-publishing/

http://www.editage.com/insights/simple-steps-authors-can-follow-to-protect-their-research-from-predatory-publishers

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17288-crap-paper-accepted-by-journal/

*                     *                   *                   *                   *                   *                   *                   *

Predatory publishing exists because of how the whole enterprise of science has been corrupted by outside interests and the overweening pursuit of financial profit. I deplore what Bentham/Eureka/ITS does, though the conferences are evidently found useful, given that they attract so many attendees. Meeting fresh faces from distant places can be a rewarding experience, as I found at a couple of the Conferences on the Unity of the Sciences  despite that they were organized by the Unification Church, many of whose other activities I deplore.

The degree to which “normal” mainstream science has succumbed to financial corruption may be illustrated by the Institute of Global Environment and Society, established by a professor at George Mason University. It has cashed in on the hysteria over climate change  by garnering “82 federal grants and 3 contracts from 5 agencies totaling $26,222,420 from Fiscal Year 2008 to FY 2016: (Source: www.USASpending.gov)” and spending most of it on salaries:

“IGES 2014 Income: $3,846,141 including $3,832,383 federal contributions; 2013 income $4,186,639 including $4,174 658 federal contributions; IGES spent $3,296,720 on salaries in 2014; $3,194,792 on salaries in 2013”. Principals of IGES moreover had the gall to urge criminal action against “global warming deniers” — Political correctness in science, 2017/03/06.

Not that long-established scientific publishers abstain from money grubbing, also profiting exorbitantly from open-access publishing designed to extract more money from authors and their patrons: Nature also publishes more than 30 open-access on-line journals as well as 42 journals with “hybrid open access” with per article fees between $1350 and $5200 for different journals. Elsevier charges fees ranging between $500 and $5,000, depending on the journal, for “open access” publishing.

It may be that predatory publishing will inevitably continue so long as science continues to be characterized by cutthroat competitiveness and judgments made by quantity of research grants and of publications.

There may be an analogy with drug trafficking or prostitution: so long as the demand exists, entrepreneurs will find profitable ways to satisfy the demand. So long as scientific careers call for long lists of publications, sleazy publishers will continue to exist.

 

Posted in fraud in science, funding research, peer review, science is not truth, scientific culture, scientists are human | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How Science Has Changed — notably since World War II

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2017/01/01

The way science is usually mentioned, including its history, seems to imply a fundamental continuity in the development of modern science from its origins around the 16th-17th centuries (Galileo, Newton) to the present time, via the understanding of heredity (Mendel, much later DNA), of evolution (Darwin, Lynn Margolis, many others), of atomic structure and chemical bonding, of relativity and quantum mechanics, and much else.

One can certainly discern a continuity in these discoveries and accumulations of facts and the development of ever-better, more encompassing explanations. But the nature of scientific activity — who does science and how they do it — is best understood not as a continuum over this period but as three clearly distinguishable stages in which the interaction of science with society as a whole is significantly different: what the social place of scientists is, how their work is supported, how the fruits of science are disseminated and how they are accepted (or not accepted) outside science itself.

To understand the role of science in today’s worlds it is essential to understand this history.

The birth of “modern” science is credited uncontroversially to “The” Scientific Revolution of the 17th century, but there is not equally general recognition that there have been three distinctly and significantly different stages of scientific activity since then.

In the first stage, a variety of people — clergy, craftsmen, aristocrats, entrepreneurs —were seeking to satisfy their curiosity about how the world works; truth-seeking was effectively in the hands of amateurs, people doing it for the sake of doing it, truth-seeking was their chief controlling interest. Missteps taken at this stage resulted chiefly from the inherent difficulty of making discoveries and from such inherent human flaws as pride and avarice.

The second stage, roughly much of the later 19th century and first half of the 20th, saw science becoming a career, a plausible way to make a living, not unlike other careers in academe or in professions like engineering: respectable and potentially satisfying but not any obvious path to great influence or wealth. Inevitably there were conflicts of interest between furthering a career and following objectively where evidence pointed, but competition and collegiality served well   enough to keep the progress of science little affected by conflicting career interests. The way to get ahead was by doing good science.

In the third and present stage, which began at about the middle of the 20th century, science faces a necessary change in ethos as its centuries-long expansion at an exponential rate has changed to a zero-sum, steady-state situation that has fostered intensely cutthroat competition. At the same time, the record of science’s remarkable previous successes has led industry and government to co-opt and exploit science and scientists. Those interactions offer the possibility for individual practitioners of science to gain considerable public influence and wealth. That possibility tempts to corruption. Outright fraud in research has become noticeably more frequent, and public pronouncements about matters of science are made not for the purpose of enlightenment on truths about the natural world but largely for self-interested bureaucratic and commercial motives. As a result. one cannot nowadays rely safely on the soundness of what authoritative institutions and individuals say about science.

For a full discussion with pertinent citations and references, see my article “Three Stages of Modern Science”, Journal of Scientific Exploration, 27 (2013) 505-13.

Posted in conflicts of interest, fraud in science, funding research, politics and science, science is not truth, scientific culture, scientists are human | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Psychological toll of climate-science belief

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2015/07/11

Mountainmere  just drew our attention to the devastating psychological impact of belief in human-caused climate change.

Esquire carried (7 July) a story by John Richardson, “When the End of Human Civilization Is Your Day Job: Among many climate scientists, gloom has set in. Things are worse than we think, but they can’t really talk about it” — they are afraid to talk about it because of “the relentless campaign against them” in which the poor folk are labeled “alarmist”. (The heartbreaking Richardson story was picked up in a number of places, for instance “Climate Scientists Are Dealing with Psychological Problems”  as well as the Judith Curry blog that mountainmere had cited, “Pre-traumatic stress syndrome: climate scientists speak out”.)
If climate “scientists” want to know what a relentless campaign really looks like, they should examine the treatment meted out to those “denialists” who draw attention to the lack of evidence to support the hypothesis of human-caused global warming.

Richardson’s featured climate-scientist victim, Jason Box, is a stereotypical ultra-environmentalist: an American who has worked for Greenpeace, demonstrated at the White House, claimed that sea levels would rise inevitably by 70 feet in the next few centuries, and “escaped America’s culture of climate-change denial” by moving from Ohio to Denmark. A report of methane seeping into Arctic sea-water so terrified Box that he immediately tweeted “If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we’re f’d”, which naturally brought a flurry of headlines.
Box looks at the worst, and among the least likely, of the various scenarios generated by the computer models used by climate “scientists” — models that have been demonstrably wrong for the last 15-18 years or so during which there has been no warming while carbon dioxide levels have continued to rise; models that fail to account for the 1940s-to-1970s period when global temperatures were actually decreasing while carbon-dioxide levels were steadily rising.
Box thinks “most scientists must be burying overt recognition of the awful truths of climate change in a protective layer of denial (not the same kind of denial coming from conservatives, of course). I’m still amazed how few climatologists have taken an advocacy message to the streets, demonstrating for some policy action.”

Richardson’s story is full of errors, notably that “warming is tracking the rise of greenhouse gases exactly as their models predicted”. No. The models have not predicted the empirical fact that global temperatures have been stable rather than rising since about 2000; some reports even have it as a cooling rather than a slowing or halt in global average temperature: http://isthereglobalcooling.com; http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/01/11/the-portland-state-university-study-of-shrinking-mt-adams-glaciersa-good-example-of-bad-science; http://notrickszone.com/2013/09/12/no-warming-left-to-deny-global-cooling-takes-over-cet-annual-mean-temperature-plunges-1c-since-2000/#sthash.mowZKMjF.dpbs; http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterferrara/2013/05/26/to-the-horror-of-global-warming-alarmists-global-cooling-is-here; http://www.globalresearch.ca/global-cooling-is-here/10783.

Richardson describes the terrible stress that climate scientists are under for bringing their message of lack of hope: “targets of an unrelenting and well-organized attack that includes death threats, summonses from a hostile Congress, attempts to get them fired, legal harassment, and intrusive discovery demands so severe they had to start their own legal-defense fund, all amplified by a relentless propaganda campaign nakedly financed by the fossil-fuel companies”.
It’s just as well that they can continue to do their depressing work with the help of large grants and that any attempts to have them fired went nowhere; and that the “intrusive discovery demands” were no more than to ask for the raw data on which Michael Mann conjured his alarmist “hockey-stick” graph of unprecedented rate of warming — a graph that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change dropped from its Reports because it was shown to be not a valid reorientation of the data. Professional scientific journals have increasingly being demanding that all data on which articles are based need to be made publicly available; it is not clear to me why climate “science” should be exempt. The only reason to keep data secret is to avoid that others could show that published analyses are flawed.
And those poor climate scientists suffered from having their e-mails hacked, revealing that they were deliberately fudging the evidence. (Google “Climategate” for details about that.)

So, anyway, those poor activist climate “scientists” are suffering gloom, sadness, fear, anger; “Dr. Lise Van Susteren, a practicing psychiatrist and graduate of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth slide-show training, calls this ‘pretraumatic’ stress.” Some are retreating off the grid to await the catastrophe. “No one has experienced that hostility more vividly than Michael Mann”, who barley manages to keep going as a well-paid tenured full professor at Penn State.

I urge you to read Richardson’s full story, especially the later parts that describe all the suffering that climate scientists endure.

For yet more insight, go to Judith Curry’s earlier blog post, “Pre-traumatic stress syndrome: Climate trauma survival tips”  which informs, among other things, about “the relatively new field of psychology of global warming”; followed by Curry’s sensible deconstruction of climate-change hysteria.

The unfortunate pre-traumatically stressed climate-“science” activists suffer quite unnecessarily. I recommend resort to the school of psychology, “rational-emotive therapy”, associated with the name of Albert Ellis; see his A New Guide to Rational Living, or Help yourself to happiness through rational self-counseling by Macie C. Maultsby, an acolyte of Ellis.
The essence of this approach is to list in writing one’s depressing thoughts, and then the emotions they arouse. Merely writing these down tends to reveal how out of all proportion the emotions are. Then, the really important part, annotate those depressing thoughts with the actual evidence.
With climate “scientists”, this should bring immediate relief, since all their depression arises only from computer models, whereas reality demonstrates that global warming is the result of the Earth recovering from the last Ice Age and that carbon dioxide has no appreciable effect, as proven by the periods from the 1940s to the 1970s and again since 2000, when “carbon” was being emitted relentlessly but Earth warmed not at all or even cooled.

 

Posted in denialism, funding research, global warming, media flaws, peer review, science is not truth, science policy, scientific culture, scientism, scientists are human, unwarranted dogmatism in science | Tagged: , , , , , | 10 Comments »

All vaccines are not the same; some are worse than useless

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2015/07/02

I am not among those who question the value of all vaccines on principle. I don’t doubt the value of vaccines in controlling smallpox, measles, polio. I do question the use of adjuvants and preservatives in vaccines, and I do think it makes sense to vaccinate babies against measles and the rest in single shots administered over a period of time instead of all at once in multiple vaccines.

But it gets difficult not to over-react as Big Pharma concentrates on generating vaccines that do more harm than any good that has ever been proven.

It seems that Big Pharma has been running out of new diseases to invent (see Moynihan & Cassels, Selling Sickness: How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All Into Patients and other works listed in “What’s Wrong with Present-Day Medicine”) and has been turning increasingly to inventing vaccines supposed to guard against old or new infections.

The expected but not forthcoming “swine flu” epidemic led to rapid invention and marketing of a vaccine that turned out to have nasty “side” effects, for example, “How a swine flu shot led to narcolepsy”.

Gardasil and Cervarix, anti-HPV vaccines claimed to prevent cervical cancer, are a scandalous illustration; see for example “Merck Dr. Exposes Gardasil as Ineffective, Deadly, Very Profitable”  and related links. The only suggestion that HPV causes cervical cancer — or rather, that 4 out of four or five times that number of strains of HPV cause cervical cancer — comes from a correlation: those strains have often been found in women who have cervical cancer.

But correlations never, never, never prove causation, no matter that too many medical “experts” ignore this well established, long established fact.

I’ve become all too cynical about Big Pharma, lack of regulation, conflicts of interest, and the like. Yet I was taken aback to find that the National Institutes of Health profit from royalties from sales of Gardasil, and that there are exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act that enable them to hide that fact and the amounts involved.

Posted in conflicts of interest, fraud in medicine, funding research, legal considerations, medical practices, politics and science, prescription drugs | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

“Cold fusion” never disproved, lives on under other names

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2015/03/29

“Cold fusion” began in 1989 as a claim that fusion of deuterium could be accomplished at room temperatures in electrochemical cells using palladium electrodes. The claim was quickly dismissed after quick and dirty attempts at replication, but hundreds of researchers have continued to look into that and similar systems, including activation by sound energy or lasers. Further claims of nuclear transformations followed, and the field is now being pursued under other names: ‘condensed matter nuclear science (CMNS)’;  ‘low energy nuclear reactions (LENR)’; ‘chemically assisted nuclear reactions (CANR)’; ‘lattice assisted nuclear reactions (LANR)’.

There is a dedicated professional society, the International Society for Condensed
Matter Nuclear Science (www.iscmns.org) and journal, the Electronic Journal of Condensed Matter Nuclear Science (http://iscmns.org/CMNS/publications.htm).

For an up-to-date review of the field, see Current Science 108 #4, pp. 491-659, freely available at http://www.currentscience.ac.in/php/toc.php?vol=108&issue=04.

 

Posted in funding research, resistance to discovery | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

R. I. P., Ivory Tower

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2015/02/15

There was a time, well within living memory, when academic institutions expected their faculty to teach conscientiously and to do research with the resources provided by the institution. Freedom to follow one’s hunches was aided by tenure.

Then governments started to support research through separate agencies, and faculty could obtain support from them; whereupon academic institutions increasingly came to view their faculty as geese bringing in golden financial eggs from those government agencies. At my first job in the USA, the Research Director at my university tripled the budget I had estimated in a grant application, in order to increase what the university could rake off the top for “overhead”, “indirect costs”, and even reimbursement of part of my salary.

For a decade or so, everyone loved this arrangement, because the funding sources had enough goodies to distribute to satisfy almost everyone asking for them. But then more and more people wanted to feed at that same trough, and things became competitive and then cutthroat. For instance, if you were an engineer at my university 30 years ago and wanted tenure, you needed to bring in about $100,000 annually, and if you wanted to be a full professor your target was $300,000 annually.

I’ve described how The Science Bubble has continued to bloat and become increasingly dysfunctional in EdgeScience #17.

Faculty as milch cows for their institutions was invented in the USA, but the innovation has become viral. Here  is a description of one of the consequences in England.

As I was beginning my career in Australia more than half a century ago, academe seemed and largely was an ivory tower in which one could pursue scholarly and scientific interests sheltered from the hurly-burly rat-race of industry with its single-minded pursuit of commercial profit. So I was surprised in the mid-1950s in the USA when a newly minted chemistry PhD told me that he was planning to enter industry in order to get out of the academic rat-race. How prescient he was.

Posted in conflicts of interest, funding research, scientific culture | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

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

Posted in fraud in medicine, fraud in science, funding research, science is not truth, scientific culture | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Magical statistics: Hearing loss causes dementia

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2014/07/27

Magical thinking sees a meaningful, causal link between two things that happen to occur together or to look alike in some way. On this view, there are no actual coincidences, links owing purely to random chance: what might appear to be coincidences are actually linked in some manner that we do not understand; Carl Jung described them as “synchronous” and meaningful, not coincidental.

The Skeptic’s Dictionary gives many examples, as does Psychology Today.

What needs to be said is that much, most, or perhaps all of medical statistics is pervaded by magical thinking, the confusion of correlation with causation. For example, increasingly fashionable (or faddish?) emphasis on prevention is replete with references to “risk factors”, things that are “associated = correlated” with some condition. In short order, “risk factor” becomes confused with actual risk, and drug companies capitalize on this to sell drugs that claim to lower risks when actually they only affect risk factors: symptoms and not illnesses are being “treated”.

This deception inaugurated the era of “blockbuster” drugs, enormously profitable because they are taken lifelong: drugs to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and to increase bone density. But data on morbidity and mortality fail to detect any actual benefit from “statins, antihypertensives, and bisphosphanates” *, and anti-diabetes pills continue to be marketed at the same time as law firms carry on class-action suits because of the toxicities of those drugs, which have highly unpleasant ands sometimes deadly “side” effects including allergic reactions, bloating, diarrhea, flatulence, hypoglycemia, cardiovascular troubles, cholestatic jaundice, lactic acidosis, nausea, urinary tract infections, weight gain.

Blockbuster drugs rely on the confusion
of symptoms (risk factors)
with actual risks (causes),
exemplifying magical thinking
whereby actual harm is actually caused
to those who take the drugs

Another instance of magical thinking is the increasingly prominent insinuation that hearing loss leads to (causes) dementia.

The charge on this seems to be led by Dr. Frank Lin, MD, PhD, at Johns Hopkins University:
Hearing Loss and Dementia Linked in Study
Release Date: February 14, 2011
Seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing, a study by Johns Hopkins and National Institute on Aging researchers suggests. The findings, the researchers say, could lead to new ways to combat dementia, a condition that affects millions of people worldwide and carries heavy societal burdens. Although the reason for the link between the two conditions is unknown, the investigators suggest that a common pathology may underlie both or that the strain of decoding sounds over the years may overwhelm the brains of people with hearing loss, leaving them more vulnerable to dementia. They also speculate that hearing loss could lead to dementia by making individuals more socially isolated, a known risk factor for dementia and other cognitive disorders.
Whatever the cause, the scientists report, their finding may offer a starting point for interventions — even as simple as hearing aids — that could delay or prevent dementia by improving patients’ hearing.”

This press release from Johns Hopkins gives the clear impression that hearing loss is a cause dementia. The last sentence also delivers the astonishingly nonsensical assertion that even if hearing loss is not the cause, treating it could have a beneficial effect on the risk of dementia!

Public media of course parrot this pseudo-scientific stuff. Most of the headlines as well as the texts of these pieces support the idea that hearing loss can lead to dementia:
A 2011 study found that hearing loss may increase your chances of developing dementia
Johns Hopkins: Hearing problems lead to dementia
Hearing loss linked to dementia — Can getting a hearing aid help prevent memory loss?
Hearing loss speeds up brain shrinkage and could lead to dementia, researchers claim
The link between hearing loss and dementia — A new discovery gives you a new reason to check your hearing now
Straining to hear and fend off dementia
Could hearing loss and dementia be connected?

Manufacturers of hearing aids jumped on the bandwagon:
Hearing loss is now linked to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
According to several major studies, older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, compared to those with normal hearing. Further, the risk escalates as a person’s hearing loss grows worse. Those with mild hearing impairment are nearly twice as likely to develop dementia compared to those with normal hearing. The risk increases three-fold for those with moderate hearing loss, and five-fold for those with severe impairment.
Specifically, the risk of dementia increases among those with a hearing loss greater than 25 decibels. For study participants over the age of 60, 36 percent of the risk for dementia was associated with hearing loss.
How are the conditions connected?
Although the reason for the link between hearing loss and dementia is not conclusive, study investigators suggest that a common pathology may underlie both”

Also on the bandwagon is a local Speech & Hearing Center.  From an“Ask the experts” page of SENIORS GUIDE magazine:
“Researchers have shown a strong correlation between un-treated hearing loss (i.e., having hearing loss and not wearing hearing aids) and dementia. A study completed by Dr. Lin and colleagues at Johns Hopkins and the National Institute for Communicative Disorders revealed that for every one year an individual with a mild hearing loss went without hearing aids, there was a seven year cognitive decline”.
That’s quite an extension and distortion of the published study.
That published scientific article is Lin et al., “Hearing Loss and Incident Dementia”, Archives of Neurology, 68 (2011) 214–20. Its stated conclusions are that “Hearing loss is independently associated with incident all-cause dementia. Whether hearing loss is a marker for early stage dementia or is actually a modifiable risk factor for dementia deserves further study.”
Unwary readers might take the first sentence as meaning that hearing loss does cause dementia. The second sentence makes the mistake of confusing risk factor with risk and adds to the impression of a causative link.

“[H]earing loss was independently associated with incident all-cause dementia after adjustment for sex, age, race, education, diabetes, smoking, and hypertension, and our findings were robust to multiple sensitivity analyses. The risk of all-cause dementia increased log-linearly with hearing loss severity, and for individuals >60 years in our cohort, over one-third of the risk of incident all-cause dementia was associated with hearing loss.”

Lay readers might again be inclined to take these comments as supporting a causative link. But “independently associated” means only that these particular variables were fed into a computer program looking for degrees of association. Considerable uncertainty remains because of possible effects of other variables not taken into account, notably history of health, diet, and exercise, all of which are likely to be very influential on the rate of age-related deterioration; and there are obvious uncertainties associated with the manner in which education, smoking, hypertension were coded.

But bear in mind the inescapable fact that the probabilities of every type of organ failure and physiological dysfunction increase with age. Age is indubitably independently associated with hearing loss, dementia, diabetes, hypertension, as well as cancer, kidney failure, lung disease, etc.
Hearing loss is independently associated with age.
Dementia is independently associated with age.

It would take more than this study to make a plausible let alone convincing case for hearing loss as a potential cause of dementia. The original article actually spells out quite well the uncertainties that ought to stop speculation about causation, but it steps back from those sound observations to speculate about possible causative mechanisms: “exhaustion of cognitive reserve, social isolation, environmental deafferentation [presumably meaning deficiency of environmental stimuli], or a combination of these”. None of those appears to be amenable to study in any potentially convincing manner.

By contrast, direct evidence from the people studied is waved aside: “self-reported hearing aid use was not associated with a significant reduction in dementia risk”.
The researchers measured the dementia risk in this prospective study, that was not a subjective assessment by the people in the study. They could surely, however, be regarded as largely reliable in their testimony as to use or non-use of hearing aids.
The conclusion is clear: hearing aids did not help to avoid dementia among the people studied.
However, this ugly fact might destroy the hypothesis and impede ongoing research, so reasons are offered for ignoring it: “data on other key variables (e.g. type of hearing aid used, hours worn per day, number of years used, characteristics of subjects choosing to use hearing aids, use of other communicative strategies, adequacy of rehabilitation, etc) that would affect the success of aural rehabilitation and affect any observed association were not gathered. Consequently, whether hearing advices [sic; should perhaps be devices?] and aural rehabilitative strategies could have an effect on cognitive decline and dementia remains unknown and will require further study”.

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*  Järvinen et al., “The true cost of pharmacological disease prevention”, British Medical Journal, 342 (2011) doi: 10.1136/bmj.d2175

 

Posted in funding research, medical practices, peer review, science is not truth | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Idiotae non carborundum

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2014/07/01

Common slang advice for coping with nincompoops is the pseudo-Latin phrase, “Illegitimi non carborundum” — “Don’t let the bastards grind you down”. But I grew up in Australia, where a common affectionate greeting to a friend ran, “How are ya, ya old bastard?”.

I have no friendly feelings at all for those who parrot shibboleths about matters of science without knowing anything about the particular subject, so I prefer the less friendly and more accurate “Idiotae non carborundum”: “idiota, idiotae = uneducated person, ignorant person, layman” (New College Latin& English Dictionary).

It does wear me down, though, especially when people with whom I agree over lots of important things hold forth about matters of science about which they know nothing. I don’t so much mind as they prattle on about carbs, proteins, vitamins, “getting your potassium from bananas”, and so forth, because that may harm only themselves and their dependents. But I do care when it’s about HIV/AIDS or global warming, because promulgating untruths about those does tangible damage to hordes of people.

The evidence that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS (The Case against HIV), and that human-caused release of carbon dioxide has not appreciably warmed the Earth, is very strong, and has been published by competent scientists for several decades. The most dispassionate and objective possible take on these issues is that the mainstream consensus remains to be translated into beyond-doubt-proven fact because of the competent fact-based objections raised against the mainstream interpretation. Yet most media and most pundits have been seduced into regarding HIV=AIDS and human-caused global warming (AGW, for anthropogenic GW) as “settled science”.

Sadly, people acquire their beliefs on these issues not from any acquaintance with the evidence but according to their political ideologies: left-leaners tend to believe one thing and right-leaners tend to believe the opposite (A politically liberal global-warming skeptic?). That’s a dreadful way to form views on matters of science. One wonders for how long a democracy can function when facts take second place to ideology.

I’m politically and socially left of center (though strongly critical of the politically correct extreme Left), and it saddens me deeply that President Obama is in the thrall of his ideologue Science Advisor John Holdren, that the most accurate view I heard recently on global warming came from a Republican politician (Marco Rubbio), and that my usually favorite sources of insight on television (The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, GPS) treat global warming “skeptics” as willfully ignorant denialists.

The Daily Show of Monday, 2 June 2014, labeled as equally flat-earthish those who campaign against vaccination and those who question a human cause of global warming.
But think for just a moment about what substantive commonality there might be between those two matters.
There is absolutely none.
The only commonality is the non-substantive one that both are contrary to the contemporary official mainstream consensus. Yet the lesson of history is absolutely clear, that no contemporary mainstream scientific consensus can be counted on in the long run; indeed, the greatest scientific advances have come though overturning well established scientific dogmas, even ones that had held sway for decades. If there is one fact that everyone should know, it is that contemporary scientific experts and any contemporary scientific consensus are to be trusted just as much as, but no more than, experts on economic or social or political or religious matters. When all of them agree, then they may be right (but they may still all be wrong, as history proves). But if even a few competent ones disagree with the majority, then it is far from a settled matter. Always remember Michael Crichton on consensus: No one says there’s a consensus that E = mc², “consensus” is invoked only when the matter is not settled.

The actual evidence for the efficacy of vaccination is of an entirely different order than the evidence for human-caused global warming (AGW, for anthropogenic GW). The Daily Show doesn’t understand that because it has not looked at the evidence. Vaccination against smallpox appears to have eliminated that scourge, as evidenced by the tangible fact that people don’t get smallpox nowadays. (That not all vaccinations are of proven value doesn’t gainsay that the concept has strong facts in its support — so strong, indeed, that unwarranted extrapolations of the concept have seduced large swaths of society, as with Gardasil (Deadly vaccines).

On the other hand, there is no good evidence at all that carbon dioxide causes global warming.

The trouble is that the AGW enthusiasts have managed to monopolize official agencies and the media, as illustrated by the pertinent entries at Wikipedia (The Wiles of Wiki). Furthermore, although there’s a vast literature debunking the claims of human-caused global warming, it’s of highly uneven quality. Books come from small or niche publishers (1,2), or they are self-published (3), often with incompetent copyediting (or none at all), perhaps lacking an index and with sourcing only to Internet sites (2). The best-presented as well as substantively sound works are much denigrated ad hominem because the authors or publishers are politically conservative (4-8).

A further difficulty in bringing dissenting views to public attention is that those who dissent from an entrenched mainstream dogma tend to become frustrated and to react in counterproductive ways (9,10). Some of the books mentioned above illustrate this with repetitive rants that detract from their substantive message.

As to the insinuation that funding by conservative viewpoints drives dissent from AGW dogma, it is at least equally true that funding drives the mainstream claim that global warming is significantly human-caused. Huge resources are available from governments and official agencies for research specifically on human-caused global warming because the dogma is promulgated by  “The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) [which] is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It is the UN system’s authoritative voice on the state and behaviour of the Earth’s atmosphere, its interaction with the oceans, the climate it produces and the resulting distribution of water resources”. Together with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “the voice for the environment within the United Nations system”, in 1988 WMO established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which issues periodic reports about how human activities affect the climate.

Yet the case against the mainstream consensus includes some indisputable and easily understood points. For one, the consensus is based on computer models that are inherently, inevitably incapable of reflecting accurately the complex interactions among innumerable variables that determine global climate (2:111ff., 11). Further, the models consider only very recent times, a century or two, and fail to account properly for hotter temperatures only a millennium ago (the Medieval Warm Period) or the even more recent Little Ice Age which made it inevitable that present times would be experiencing warming from entirely natural causes. And none of the models can account for the undisputed fact that there has been no warming for at least the last 15-18 years despite significant increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide:

17yearsNoWarming

In ignorance of these facts, Fareed Zakaria’s GPS (CNN TV) of 29 June 2014 featured the bipartisan pair of esteemed economic experts, Henry Paulson and Richard Rubin, promulgating the Risky Business Report, “The Economic Risks of Climate Change”, which accepts without question the most dire predictions made by the proponents of worst-case AGW: “Risk catastrophic to life on Earth as we know it”, said Rubin.

What the media fail to reveal, culpably and unforgivably, is that even the IPCC’s own Scientific Reports make abundantly clear that the computer modeling is beset with inescapable uncertainties, whereas the IPCC’s “Summaries for Policy Makers”, released to press and public before the Scientific Reports, portray the role of carbon dioxide as established beyond doubt and its consequences as terrifying.

(The same tactic is used by UNAIDS, where Foreword or Preface signed by some eminent person lays out the horrible consequences of the continuing epidemic, while the actual data in the body of the Report contradict those projections [10: 197ff.]. What media and pubic need to know is that “Official reports are not scientific publications” [10: chapter 8].)

Those who insist on the catastrophic progression of human-caused global warming are either self-interested because their careers are vested in that conclusion or they are the idiotae of this blog-post’s title, people who take on faith what the mainstream scientific consensus is and then do not hesitate to parrot it and to malign dissenters who know far more about the issues than they do. Thus a lawyer holds forth about “Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change”, and a respected academic press (Oxford) publishes him (12). A compendium about “Junk Science” (13) is rightly critical of many things but is woefully ignorant about the credentials of global warming “skeptics” (and I’m always suspicious when both author and well established publisher feel the need to emphasize the author’s “Ph.D.” on the title page).

There is no lack of examples in hardcover and in softcover and in “news” reports and television punditry and internet blogs and comments that idiotae feel free to hold forth passionately for or against, depending quite predictably on political ideology and displaying no interest in the actual evidence.

Anyone who wants an informed opinion needs to dig into the evidence. Eventually, fairly well documented and fairly evenhanded sources can be found. They are easily recognized by relatively measured tone and by concentration on evidence instead of ad hominem charges. My recommendation currently goes to Warren Meyer’s site Climate Skeptic.
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1 A. W. Montford, The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science, Stacey International, 2010
2 Tim Ball, The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science, Stairway Press, 2014
3 David Dilley, Natural Climate Pulse Global Warming — Global Cooling — Carbon Dioxide, free download at http://www.globalweatheroscillations.com/#!climate-pulse-e-book/cav2
4 S. Fred Singer & Frederick Seitz, Hot Talk, Cold Science Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate, The Independent Institute, 1999
5 S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery, Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years, Rowman & Littlefield, 2008
6 Patrick J. Michaels, Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media, Cato Institute, 2005
7 Roy W. Spencer, The Great Global Warming Blunder: How Mother Nature Fooled the World’s Top Climate Scientists, Encounter Books, 2010
8 Brian Sussman, Climategate: A Veteran Meteorologist Exposes the Global Warming Scam, WND Books, 2010
9 Henry H. Bauer, Confession of an “AIDS Denialist”: How I became a crank because we’re being lied to about HIV/AIDS, pp. 278-82 in YOU ARE STILL BEING LIED TO: The REMIXED Disinformation Guide to Media Distortion, Historical Whitewashes and Cultural Myths, ed. Russ Kick, The Disinformation Company, 2009
10 Henry H. Bauer, Dogmatism in Science and Medicine: How Dominant Theories Monopolize Research and Stifle the Search for Truth, McFarland, 2012, p. 251
11 Ian Plimer, Heaven and Earth: Global Warming — The Missing Science, Taylor Trade Publishing, 2009
12 Andrew T. Guzman, Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change, Oxford University Press, 2013
13 Dan Agin, Ph.D., How Politicians, Corporations, and Other Hucksters Betray Us, Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, 2006

 

 

Posted in conflicts of interest, consensus, funding research, global warming, media flaws, politics and science, science is not truth, science policy, scientific culture, unwarranted dogmatism in science | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

More reviews of DOGMATISM book

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2014/05/22

Two substantial reviews offering much room for further thought have just been published of Dogmatism in Science and Medicine: How Dominant Theories Monopolize Research and Stifle the Search for Truth:

Journal of Scientific Exploration, 28 (2014) 142-48, by Donald J. DeGracia
Dogmatism in Science and Medicine (DSM) by Henry H. Bauer is about the corruption of modern science. For practicing scientists it is a disturbing book to read. Medicine is bitter, yet we put up with it to get better. DSM is bitter medicine intended to improve the health of science.
. . . .
Dr. Bauer does a professional, competent, and important job bringing the corruption of modern science into the light. The criticisms offered above do not detract from the fundamental correctness of the picture DSM paints, but instead underscore its seriousness, and the need to further refine the picture. To scoff at DSM or to think it is off-base is merely to reveal that the scoffer is woefully uninformed about the transformations that have occurred in science over the past decades. If one is a practicing scientist, or a concerned citizen of good will, one ignores this book at one’s own peril.

Journal of Scientific Exploration, 28 (2014) 149-52, by Brian Josephson
At the end of this fascinating book, Bauer asks the question: Can 21st century science become trustworthy again? He suggests that change must come from outside the existing institutions, which merely serve to perpetuate knowledge monopolies, but first the need for change must become generally recognized . Possibilities discussed include a Science Court; independent, publicly funded institutions that can assess scientific claims of public importance; and designated funds for non-mainstream research. Something of this nature is clearly needed.

 

 

 

Posted in denialism, fraud in medicine, fraud in science, funding research, global warming, media flaws, medical practices, peer review, politics and science, prescription drugs, resistance to discovery, science policy, scientism, scientists are human | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »