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Fraud is Okay

Check out this gem from the London Times:

Fraud may also be good for science, according to Steve Fuller, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick. Since most scientific duplicity involves researchers “idealising” results that they probably would eventually have achieved anyway, such fact-fiddling actually oils the wheels of discovery. He even questions whether it should be labelled fraud at all.

Fuller does draw the line at drug studies, where people could be physically harmed if researchers fudged data. But everything else is fair game. Take the recent discovery of the heaviest element (atomic number 118 for those of you scoring at home), which had been “discovered” seven years earlier. Only the previous discovery was bullshit. A lie. A fraud. But Fuller thinks that’s a-ok because the element would be was created anyway.

And, in the interest of academic integrity, the connection between Fuller’s thesis and the discovery of element 118 was not made by me. Our graduate program secretary pointed this out to me. It’s good to have the wheels of the local bureaucracy greased by intelligent folks.

Bonus point: Steve Fuller was an expert witness for the defense (the school board) in the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial. Yup. Nothing like a guy who defended creationism arguing that real scientists don’t need real data.

Comments

  1. #1 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    October 19, 2006

    Bonus point: Steve Fuller was an expert witness for the defense (the school board) in the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial. Yup. Nothing like a guy who defended creationism arguing that real scientists don’t need real data.

    I recall his brilliant testimony, which was based on the premise that ID is doing so badly in terms of scientific research production that it needs to be taught in the schools as a form of ‘affirmative action’.

  2. #2 Andrew Wade
    October 19, 2006

    Fraud may also be good for science, according to Steve Fuller, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick. Since most scientific duplicity involves researchers “idealising” results that they probably would eventually have achieved anyway, such fact-fiddling actually oils the wheels of discovery.

    It’s more like taking the governor off the engine of discovery. Sure you may be able to go faster for a bit; but it’s not a good idea if you want to reach your destination. One wonders what Steve Fuller thinks experiments are for, seeing as how he doesn’t seem to think the actual results are important. He’d fit right in with the Discovery Institute’s “Queen of Hearts” school of science.

  3. #3 sparc
    October 19, 2006

    Fraud may also be good for science, according to Steve Fuller, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick. Since most scientific duplicity involves researchers “idealising” results that they probably would eventually have achieved anyway, such fact-fiddling actually oils the wheels of discovery. He even questions whether it should be labelled fraud at all.

    Since obviously nothing matters at all Fuller will next tell us that the wheel was developed from an primordial square design. If science works this way the Discovery Institute should not keep its “top secret” research secret. And indeed it should be published in Nature or Science without reviewing by evil referees who would only decelerate the progress of science and mankind.

  4. #4 Thinker
    October 20, 2006

    No, it absolutely does not “oil the wheels”, but rather throws a spanner in them. New “discoveries” which are not based on real data will send other research groups on wild goose chases trying to repeat and verify the claims, thus squandering time and money that could have been put to better use in other efforts.

    Besides, you have the “slippery slope effect”: where do you draw the line between “idealising” and outright fraud?

    Excluding outliers after a rigorous statistical analysis (and preferrably also publishing that analysis) is one thing, disregarding them because they don’t fit with the result you “know” you are going to “achieve anyway” is something very different.

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