Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Putting Too Much Trust In Flawed Science Can Bring Bad Consequences

Sometimes science based on incomplete knowledge causes no harm.  Not too long ago, the Mid-Atlantic braced for what experts predicted would be a massive and destructive storm of wind, heavy rain, hail, and dangerous lightning.  Some changed travel plans while others stocked up.  The front passed with less sound and little fury, but residents were relieved at the mistake.

Science will always suffer from errors because it springs from the mind of humanity.  Nothing worldy exists in a state of perfection and no human or collection of people cannot account for every variable.  Science at best is the most educated guess possible based upon years, decades, centuries, or even millenia of analysis, experience, and observation.  That being said, sometimes science proceeds with less tested and known ideas.

This Forbes piece describes what happens when agendas take over in science.  The pressure to not be wrong creates situations where even lives may be lost because of the reluctance to admit failure.  In this case, the head of a study on ways to protect the heart during non cardiac surgery screwed up the results and covered up the dangers.  Many lives were lost to standards and practices based on bad medicine.

Obviously the researchers had agendas above and beyond truth and patient safety.  That is the other variable in science.  People bring in worldviews and goals that have little to do with scientific fact.  Drug companies have an incentive to push pills, so their motives should always be examined.  Those benefiting from huge grants for studies have to answer for money that they get from advocacy groups.

The general public and the media optimally should examine variables and incentives for certain results that can skew science.  Also, one must look at the possible harm caused by making decisions based upon flawed studies.

In the case of the controversial research on climate change, too many scandals, agendas, and bad research have clouded the results.  Leftist politicians want people to accept new regulations that hurt jobs, productivity, and wealth production.  They want the US to accept even more economic disadvantages even while the future is threatened by accelerating debt and rising prices. 

Any war needs a solid cause, not a constant shifting of reasons.  The War on Coal was launched on the supposed certainty of global warming.  Now that the Earth has been shown to not be warming over the past 15 years, they switched to "climate change."  This absurdly ignores the fact that the main climactic constant is change, showed by the Little Ice Age of 1350-1750 (dates approximated), for example.

Science is not shamanism.  It relies on imperfect minds and sometimes imperfect motivations.  When shown to be beneficial, we should use it.  But when we have reason for skepticism, we must ask science to study further.

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