Question Authority

Has science taken a wrong turn? If so, what corrections are needed? Chronicles of scientific misbehavior. The role of heretic-pioneers and forbidden questions in the sciences. Is peer review working? The perverse "consensus of leading scientists." Good public relations versus good science.

Moderators: MGmirkin, bboyer

Question Authority

Unread postby phyllotaxis » Thu Apr 14, 2016 12:02 pm ... ore-119845

Read the whole thing...

Scientific Regress by William A. Wilson

The problem with ­science is that so much of it simply isn’t. Last summer, the Open Science Collaboration announced that it had tried to replicate one hundred published psychology experiments sampled from three of the most prestigious journals in the field. Scientific claims rest on the idea that experiments repeated under nearly identical conditions ought to yield approximately the same results, but until very recently, very few had bothered to check in a systematic way whether this was actually the case. The OSC was the biggest attempt yet to check a field’s results, and the most shocking. In many cases, they had used original experimental materials, and sometimes even performed the experiments under the guidance of the original researchers. Of the studies that had originally reported positive results, an astonishing 65 percent failed to show statistical significance on replication, and many of the remainder showed greatly reduced effect sizes.

Their findings made the news, and quickly became a club with which to bash the social sciences. But the problem isn’t just with psychology. There’s an ­unspoken rule in the pharmaceutical industry that half of all academic biomedical research will ultimately prove false, and in 2011 a group of researchers at Bayer decided to test it. Looking at sixty-seven recent drug discovery projects based on preclinical cancer biology research, they found that in more than 75 percent of cases the published data did not match up with their in-house attempts to replicate. These were not studies published in fly-by-night oncology journals, but blockbuster research featured in Science, Nature, Cell, and the like. The Bayer researchers were drowning in bad studies, and it was to this, in part, that they attributed the mysteriously declining yields of drug pipelines. Perhaps so many of these new drugs fail to have an effect because the basic research on which their development was based isn’t valid.

When a study fails to replicate, there are two possible interpretations. The first is that, unbeknownst to the investigators, there was a real difference in experimental setup between the original investigation and the failed replication. These are colloquially referred to as “wallpaper effects,” the joke being that the experiment was affected by the color of the wallpaper in the room. This is the happiest possible explanation for failure to reproduce: It means that both experiments have revealed facts about the universe, and we now have the opportunity to learn what the difference was between them and to incorporate a new and subtler distinction into our theories.

The other interpretation is that the original finding was false. Unfortunately, an ingenious statistical argument shows that this second interpretation is far more likely. First articulated by John Ioannidis, a professor at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, this argument proceeds by a simple application of Bayesian statistics. Suppose that there are a hundred and one stones in a certain field. One of them has a diamond inside it, and, luckily, you have a diamond-detecting device that advertises 99 percent accuracy. After an hour or so of moving the device around, examining each stone in turn, suddenly alarms flash and sirens wail while the device is pointed at a promising-looking stone. What is the probability that the stone contains a diamond?
User avatar
Posts: 224
Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2011 3:16 pm
Location: Wilmington, NC

Re: Question Authority

Unread postby Brigit Bara » Mon Apr 18, 2016 7:29 pm

The Bayer researchers were drowning in bad studies, and it was to this, in part, that they attributed the mysteriously declining yields of drug pipelines. Perhaps so many of these new drugs fail to have an effect because the basic research on which their development was based isn’t valid.

To illustrate your point phyllotaxis, it is astonishing to realize that one in four adults and also teens are being prescribed psychotropic medications. The use of antidepressants, medications for ADHD, and anxiety treatments is at an all-time high. The whole basis of the use of psychoactives to treat mental symptoms is that chemical imbalances in the brain cause mental disorders. It follows that these imbalances can be addressed by the psychoactives routinely patented and marketed by the drug companies.

However, there is no physical test to detect any kind of chemical imbalance in the brain. Nor is there any real evidence that chemical imbalances are at the root of emotional or psychological swings. It has become a huge, vast industry with children now as young as 3 years of age being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and treated with medication and young people in their most important developmental years being prescribed drugs to keep them manageable in schools.

It really is a pandemic. And the perpetrators are the psychiatrists who use a list of symptoms in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5 to diagnose patients. Symptoms include compulsive shopping and constant internet use.

Again, there is no physical test for any actual chemical activity in the brain. I think it is largely also because of the attitudes of the Boomer Generation, which always has thought they could use drugs to become perceptive or intelligent, or augment moods chemically like choosing a jacket to wear with a shirt. But the effects of these drugs are often disastrous and/or permanent. Also, I get really tired of being affected by the decisions made by people who are drug users or sellers.

Well I will let some one else have a go at the social sciences! (:
“Oh for shame, how these mortals put the blame upon us gods, for they say evils come from us, when it is they rather who by their own recklessness win sorrow beyond what is given…”
User avatar
Brigit Bara
Posts: 544
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 1:37 pm

Re: Question Authority

Unread postby phyllotaxis » Tue Apr 19, 2016 6:36 pm

Very true, and a great example of this problem.

It's very disturbing to me that school, and science writ-large, has devolved from an art of critical exploration into a rote memorization of text written by those influential enough to be printed.

The critical logic is gone, and with it, the mooring upon which knowledge weathers the storm of reality.
User avatar
Posts: 224
Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2011 3:16 pm
Location: Wilmington, NC

Re: Question Authority

Unread postby phyllotaxis » Tue Apr 19, 2016 11:55 pm

Here's another: Cancer. ... 000-words/

Linus Pauling, Ph.D, and two time Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, has revealed: “Everyone should know that most cancer research is largely a fraud, and that the major cancer research organizations are derelict in their duties to the people who support them.” (source)(source)

He is considered one of the most important scientists in history. He is one of the founders of quantum chemistry and molecular biology, and was also a well known peace activist. He was invited to be in charge of the Chemistry Division of the Manhattan Project, but refused. He has also done a lot of work on military applications, and has pretty much done and seen it all in the scientific field, so his words are not to be taken lightly.

And it’s not just Pauling making these kinds of statements. Many other well respected scientists, who are definitely in a position to know about this type of thing, have made similar statements. For example, Dr. Marcia Angell, a physician and longtime Editor in Chief of the New England Medical Journal (NEMJ), which is considered to be one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed medical journals in the world, said that:

It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgement of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of the New England Journal Of Medicine. (source)

Dr. Richard Horton, Editor in Chief of another one of the world’s most best known medical journals, The Lancet, recently published a statement expressing that a large quantity of published peer-reviewed science is actually completely false. He revealed:

The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. (source)

A lot of the ‘credible’ research out there has been supported and funded by the pharmaceutical companies themselves, and much of it conflicts with the work of independent scientists from all over the world.

The field of U.S. cancer care is organized around a medical monopoly that ensures a continuous flow of money to the pharmaceutical companies, medical technology firms, research institutes, and government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and quasi-public organizations such as the American Cancer Society (ACS). – Ralph Moss, Ph.D., quoted by John Diamond, M.D., & Lee Cowden, M.D. in Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide to Cancer
User avatar
Posts: 224
Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2011 3:16 pm
Location: Wilmington, NC

Re: Question Authority

Unread postby dd6 » Sun Nov 06, 2016 12:10 pm

I have found that the vast, vast majority of people, especially intelligent & well educated people, are not capable of challenging authority. I think it is a deep seated trait in their minds. You could provide all the evidence and all the logic to definitively prove that just 1 of the truths taught to them by authority is wrong.. and they would never be able to understand your point.

I used to be frustrated trying to get people to see blatantly obvious arguments, as I wanted to work with them and bounce ideas off of them in finding out more truths. But I eventually came to believe that through no fault of their own, their brain is simply not capable of seeing outside of what authority says is the truth, what they have already learned, etc.
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:00 am

Re: Question Authority

Unread postby Grey Cloud » Sun Nov 06, 2016 4:09 pm

Welcome aboard and well done for bumping this topic, I hadn't noticed it first time around.

phyllotaxis, Thanks for the links in the OP.

One of the points I try to get across to people is that there is a world of difference between the self-assured, 'case closed' finality of what these experts (science or humanities) put out to the public and the ongoing debates and arguments in their journals.

The charges made in the above links, that the actual research doesn't replicate etc, come as no surprise to me. I'd wager that if they checked they would find a correlation between the result and the position of whoever paid for the research. 'Who pays the fiddler, calls the tune'.
If I have the least bit of knowledge
I will follow the great Way alone
and fear nothing but being sidetracked.
The great Way is simple
but people delight in complexity.
Tao Te Ching, 53.
Grey Cloud
Posts: 2477
Joined: Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:47 am
Location: NW UK

Re: Question Authority

Unread postby GaryN » Thu Nov 17, 2016 9:04 pm

Looking at some ancient Egyptian quotes,
There are two kinds of error: blind credulity and piecemeal criticism. Never believe a word without putting its truth to the test; discernment does not grow in laziness; and this faculty of discernment is indispensable to the Seeker. Sound skepticism is the necessary condition for good discernment; but piecemeal criticism is an error.

~ Egyptian Proverbs
And nothing to do with the thread, but it seemed topical,
When the governing class isn't chosen for quality it is chosen for material wealth: this always means decadence, the lowest stage a society can reach.
In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete. -Buckminster Fuller
User avatar
Posts: 2624
Joined: Tue Apr 01, 2008 8:18 pm
Location: Sooke, BC, Canada

Re: Question Authority

Unread postby Keith Ness » Fri Nov 18, 2016 2:55 pm

While the author of "Scientific Regress" does point out some valid biases in sections after his stone analogy, his stone analogy is ultimately advocating art and religion over strict science. If you give equal weight to all possibilities in the endless pool of possibilities, as he does to the 101 stones, then you're never going to get anywhere, which is exactly what art and religion want (art perhaps more because it likes to flit about from possibility to possibility without regard for probability; religion typically more because it likes to obsess on one possibility regardless of probability).

Here's how science resolves the matter: People can continue to assume the Earth is at the center of the universe, there's literally NOTHING wrong with that assumption, except that it requires us to accept more on faith than the best heliocentric model. One reason that is important is because the efficiency of expressions, descriptions, formulas, calculations, et c. regarding the issue is greater in the less-faith-based/simpler assumption of two equally fit assumptions. But the more important reason that is important is because, whenever you have two equally fit theories, the one which requires less faith is deterministically GUARANTEED (by the definition of faith as devoid of evidence) to be the more likely, and in proportion to how much less faith it requires. To make the deterministic nature of the relationship between faith, knowledge, and probability clearer, let's take an extreme example: one person looks in a jar and sees five dollars in it; another person does not look in the jar and assumes, based on no evidence whatsoever, there are six dollars in the jar. Which person is more likely to have an accurate assessment of the jar's contents? Or, in which situation are you more likely to have difficulty navigating at walking speed: walking through a typical but unfamiliar living room with or without a sensory deprivation helmet on? Wake up, people, wake up.
Keith Ness
Posts: 41
Joined: Fri Jun 06, 2014 6:53 am

Re: Question Authority

Unread postby saul » Tue Nov 29, 2016 12:32 am

“All authority of any kind, especially in the field of thought and understanding, is the most destructive, evil thing. Leaders destroy the followers and followers destroy the leaders. You have to be your own teacher and your own disciple. You have to question everything that man has accepted as valuable, as necessary.” — J. Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known

“Having realized that we can depend on no outside authority in bringing about a total revolution within the structure of our own psyche, there is the immensely greater difficulty of rejecting our own inward authority, the authority of our own particular little experiences and accumulated opinions, knowledge, ideas and ideals. You had an experience yesterday which taught you something and what it taught you becomes a new authority — and that authority of yesterday is as destructive as the authority of a thousand years. To understand ourselves needs no authority either of yesterday or of a thousand years because we are living things, always moving, flowing, never resting. When we look at ourselves with the dead authority of yesterday we will fail to understand the living movement and the beauty and quality of that movement.

“To be free of all authority, of your own and that of another, is to die to everything of yesterday, so that your mind is always fresh, always young, innocent, full of vigor and passion. It is only in that state that one learns and observes. And for this a great deal of awareness is required, actual awareness of what is going on inside yourself, without correcting it or telling it what it should or should not be, because the moment you correct it you have established another authority, a censor.” — J. Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known
Posts: 184
Joined: Tue May 20, 2008 2:06 am

Re: Question Authority

Unread postby Keith Ness » Tue Nov 29, 2016 6:03 pm

...Also note that much of the examples William Wilson cites involve inferential statistics, and there are considerable issues with inferential statistics itself, separate from science. I remember one of my psych professors saying that we don't do inferential statistics on housing prices because we know their population is too skewed from normal, and instead we look at the medians of housing prices. Another of my psych professors said the medical field is well-known for being bad at statistical methods (I think he said they use too many t-tests in particular). There are different approaches, for example frequentist and Bayesian; and my best recollection of the history of how we established things like significance thresholds was someone said that X was a good rule-of-thumb based on their experience. Meanwhile, Yu [1] points out that there is a great deal of misconception regarding inferential statistics stemming from instructional methods which contribute to, among other things, placing too much reliance on one result, and thus, obstructing the self-correcting process William Wilson mentions. Further, while Yu gives the impression that neither population variance nor skew are much, if at all important to the central limit theorem, Wilcox [2] suggests that they are important to power, with, for example, one graph showing thousands of sample means of a certain size and taken from a significantly skewed population diverging greatly from the predicted curve around the population mean based on the central limit theorem. All of this cacophany means that I generally don't place much weight in central limit theorem-based inferential statistics, especially in single studies by themselves, and rely more on other considerations.

[1] ... etric.html
[2] Wilcox, R. (2001). Fundamentals of Modern Statistical Methods: Substantially Improving Power and Accuracy. New York: Springer.
Keith Ness
Posts: 41
Joined: Fri Jun 06, 2014 6:53 am

Return to The Future of Science

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests