The Dysfunction of Modern Science ~ Science vs Scientism


On this episode of ID the Future, host David Boze examines the plight of Dr. Daniel Shechtman, recent winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of quasicrystals, who had previously suffered much rejection and ridicule for threatening the consensus of the scientific establishment. Listen in and consider the parallels between Shechtman’s once-heretical science and the modern-day rejection and scorn of the ID movement.

Has Modern Science Become Dysfunctional?

WASHINGTON, DC – March 27, 2012 — The recent explosion in the number of retractions in scientific journals is just the tip of the iceberg and a symptom of a greater dysfunction that has been evolving the world of biomedical research say the editors-in-chief of two prominent journals in a presentation before a committee of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) today.

“Incentives have evolved over the decades to encourage some behaviors that are detrimental to good science,” says Ferric Fang, editor-in-chief of the journal Infection and Immunity, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), who is speaking today at the meeting of the Committee of Science, Technology, and Law of the NAS along with Arturo Casadevall, editor-in-chief of mBio®, the ASM’s online, open-access journal.

In the past decade the number of retraction notices for scientific journals has increased more than 10-fold while the number of journals articles published has only increased by 44%.  While retractions still represent a very small percentage of the total, the increase is still disturbing because it undermines society’s confidence in scientific results and on public policy decisions that are based on those results, says Casadevall.  Some of the retractions are due to simple error but many are a result of misconduct including falsification of data and plagiarism.

More concerning, say the editors, is that this trend may be a symptom of a growing dysfunction in the biomedical sciences, one that needs to be addressed soon.   At the heart of the problem is an economic incentive system fueling a hypercompetitive environment that is fostering poor scientific practices, including frank misconduct.

The root of the problem is a lack of sufficient resources to sustain the current enterprise.  Too many researchers are competing for too little funding, creating a survival-of-the-fittest, winner-take-all environment where researchers increasingly feel pressure to publish, especially in high-prestige journals.

“The surest ticket to getting a grant or job is getting published in a high profile journal,” says Fang.  “This is an unhealthy belief that can lead a scientist to engage in sensationalism and sometimes even dishonest behavior to salvage their career.”

Funding is just one aspect of a very complex problem Casadevall and Fang see growing in the biomedical sciences.  In a series of editorials in the journal Infection and Immunity they describe their views in detail, arguing that science is not as healthy as it could be or as it needs to be to effectively address the challenges facing humanity in the 21st century.

“Incentives in the current system place scientists under tremendous stress, discourage cooperation, encourage poor scientific practices and deter new talent from entering the field,” they write.  “It is time for a discussion of how the scientific enterprise can be reformed to become more effective and robust.”

The answers, they write, must come not only from within the scientific community but from society as a whole that has helped create the current incentive structure that is fostering the dysfunction.  In the editorials they outline a series of recommended reforms including methodological, cultural and structural changes.

“In the end, it is not the number of high-impact-factor papers, prizes or grant dollars that matters most, but the joys of discovery and the innumerable contributions both large and small that one makes through contact with other scientists,” they write.  “Only science can provide solutions to many of the most urgent needs of contemporary society.  A conversation on how to reform science should begin now.”

Here are two short videos by MIT nuclear scientist, Ian Huthinson (PDF Bio) discussing scientism:

(Above videos) What is science? And how can we bring the answer to bear on the question of whether science and faith are at war with each other? Ian Hutchinson, professor at MIT and author of “Monopolizing Knowledge,” shares his take at The Veritas Forum.

Faith in science?

So, we’re told, liberals trust science more than conservatives do. The implication — freely peddled in much news coverage — is that conservatives are either dumber or more politicized than liberals. This fits in neatly with a narrative established in screeds like Chris Mooney’s 2005 book, “The Republican War Against Science.” The only problem is it’s not true.

Consider an interesting new study by Gordon Gauchat, a postdoctoral fellow in sociology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The folks at Inside Higher Ed summarized it this way: “Just over 34 percent of conservatives had confidence in science as an institution in 2010, representing a long-term decline from 48 percent in 1974, according to a paper being published today in American Sociological Review.” The report also noted that in 1974 conservatives were likelier to trust science than were liberals.

So what does that mean?

Gauchat points out, correctly, that you can’t lay the blame at the feet of biblical creationists and anti-evolutionists, who were no less common in 1974. Nor is sheer ignorance responsible, as the decline in trust rose with education. Instead, he suggests that it’s the increasing use of science as ammunition for big-government schemes that has led to more skepticism.

There’s probably something to that, but if you read the actual paper something else becomes clear. Despite the language in the coverage, it’s not science as a method that people are losing confidence in; it’s scientists and the institutions that purport to speak for them.

Gauchat’s paper was based on annual responses in the General Social Survey, which asks people: “I am going to name some institutions in this country. As far as the people running these institutions are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them?” One institution mentioned was “the scientific community.”

So when fewer people answered “a great deal” and more answered “hardly any” with regard to “the scientific community,” they were demonstrating more skepticism not toward science but toward the people running scientific institutions.

With this in mind, a rise in skepticism isn’t such a surprise. Public skepticism has grown toward most institutions over the last several decades, and with good reason, as a seemingly endless series of scandals and episodes of dishonesty have illustrated.

In fact, given that Americans have grown broadly more skeptical of institutions in general, it’s not surprising that conservatives are more skeptical of scientific institutions than they were almost 40 years ago. What’s surprising is that liberals have grown less skeptical over the same period. (Perhaps because scientific institutions have been telling them things they want to hear?)

Regardless, while one should trust science as a method — honestly done, science remains the best way at getting to the truth on a wide range of factual matters — there’s no particular reason why one should trust scientists and especially no particular reason why one should trust the people running scientific institutions, who often aren’t scientists themselves.

In fact, the very core of the scientific method is supposed to be skepticism. We accept arguments not because they come from people in authority but because they can be proven correct — in independent experiments by independent experimenters. If you make a claim that can’t be proven false in an independent experiment, you’re not really making a scientific claim at all.

And saying, “trust us,” while denouncing skeptics as — horror of horrors — “skeptics” doesn’t count as science, either, even if it comes from someone with a doctorate and a lab coat.

After a century of destructive and false scientific fads — ranging from eugenics to Paul Ehrlich’s “population bomb” scaremongering, among many others — the American public could probably do with more skepticism, not less.

If scientists want to be trusted, perhaps they should try harder to make sure that those who claim to speak for science are, you know, trustworthy. Just a thought.

Dr. Lanier Examines Christianity’s Worldview vs. a Naturalistic One

Lanier Theological Library (2014) – Does the Christian faith hold up under scrutiny? What does science tell us about the plausibility of a god? Can we trust the alleged eyewitness testimony of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus? These questions are worth investigating in order to find an answer solidified in fact and evidence. Mark Lanier uses his experienced legal eye to examine the plausibility of the Christian faith. Bringing science, current knowledge, and common sense together in a courtroom approach, Mark intends to elucidate a rich understanding of God and a strong foundation for Christian faith. Buy Lanier’s book Christianity on Trial: A Lawyer Examines the Christian Faith.

The Darwinian Ape/Man Split Just Got Older (Subjective Science)

So you can see JUST how arbitrary historical science is (Darwinian evolution in this case), scientists have just doubled the age of man, via Creation Research Society’sCreation Matters newsletter (July/Aug 2014, Volume 19, Number 4) ~ “Your Inner Ape Just Got Older”:

Evolutionists have doubled their date of the chimp-human split from 7 million to 13 million years ago. How, and why? National Geographic announces gleefully, with a picture of a chimp playing with a child, “Ancient Human-Chimp Link Pushed Back Millions of Years.”1 Based on a study of chimp genes in Science,2


The new estimate is based on current mutation rates in the sample, but a lead author confessed, “We also don’t know if mutation rates varied widely in the ancient past; maybe they were different than now.”

1. Vergano, D. (2014, June 12) Ancient human-chimp link pushed back millionsof years: Older male chimps sped evolution and reset era of our last commonancestor with apes. National Geographic Daily News. Retrieved June20, 2014 from

2. Venn, O., I. Turner, I. Mathieson, N. de Groot, R. Bontrop, and G. McVean.2014. Nonhuman genetics. Strong male bias drives germline mutation inchimpanzees. Science 344(6189):1272–1275.

Two observations… the first one being in a form of a question:

  • “Does this cause an increase in confidence towards neo-Darwinian ‘science’ showing evidence of early evolutionary man and ‘his’ origins? Or does the above cause less confidence in the origin of mankind’s history, according to an evolutionary past?”

I argue it cause less confidence. Why? — you so astutely ask. This is why: ALL the evidences and previous timelines based on a wide variety of work from archaeology, paleontology, and dating methods used to date man’s time-table… are thrown out. Why does science, so called, make such giant leaps (remember that the age of the Virgo Cluster being essentially chopped in half?)? Because the previous evidence is shoddy, and very, very subjective.

The second commentary is at least an honest admission from the researchers. I wish such honesty existed in the dating community… not the dating community as in male/female. But the dating community in the radioactive measurements. Even Forbes Magazine is catching up to the idea:

One of the first things that Physics students learn when they study radioactivity is the idea of the half-life. A half-life is the period of time in which it takes one-half of a given amount of a radioactive substance to decay. Radioactive decay happens when a radioactive substance emits a particle. It’s impossible to predict exactly when a given atom of a substance will emit a particular particle, but the decay rate itself over a long period of time is constant.

Or, at least, that’s what we thought. But if physicists at Stanford and Purdue are correct in their findings, the whole theory of constant radioactive decay rates could be thrown out the door.

The story begins, as scientific discoveries often do, randomly. Literally, in this case. The team of physicists was investigating the possibility of using radioactive decay rates to generate random numbers, since the rate is constant but the emission of individual atoms is unpredictable, it seemed like a perfect fit.

Then came the problem:

As the researchers pored through published data on specific isotopes, they found disagreement in the measured decay rates – odd for supposed physical constants.

Checking data collected at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island and the Federal Physical and Technical Institute in Germany, they came across something even more surprising: long-term observation of the decay rate of silicon-32 and radium-226 seemed to show a small seasonal variation. The decay rate was ever so slightly faster in winter than in summer.

Was this fluctuation real, or was it merely a glitch in the equipment used to measure the decay, induced by the change of seasons, with the accompanying changes in temperature and humidity?

As it turns out, they probably aren’t….

…read more…

As you can see in my more lengthy dealing with the matter as a supplement to a men’s group at church, the assumption of continuous decay rates at the present — observable — rates applied to the past is a HUGE assumption that is not scientific at all. Here are other “icons of evolution” decunstructed:

A great magazine for all ages: click to enlarge

Another Failed Origin of Life Prediction for Evolutionary Naturalists

The above video is the “perhaps” of modern science, that the below refutes with more updated information.

This is with a h-t to Fazale Rana. Fazal wrote on the matter here, “Sea Vents Closed as Life-Origin Site.” Below are some excerpts from the Science Daily article:

One of the greatest mysteries facing humans is how life originated on Earth. Scientists have determined approximately when life began (roughly 3.8 billion years ago), but there is still intense debate about exactly how life began. One possibility — that simple metabolic reactions emerged near ancient seafloor hot springs, enabling the leap from a non-living to a living world — has grown in popularity in the last two decades.

Recent research by geochemists Eoghan Reeves, Jeff Seewald, and Jill McDermott at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is the first to test a fundamental assumption of this ‘metabolism first’ hypothesis, and finds that it may not have been as easy as previously assumed. Instead, their findings could provide a focus for the search for life on other planets. The work is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In 1977, scientists discovered biological communities unexpectedly living around seafloor hydrothermal vents, far from sunlight and thriving on a chemical soup rich in hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and sulfur, spewing from the geysers. Inspired by these findings, scientists later proposed that hydrothermal vents provided an ideal environment with all the ingredients needed for microbial life to emerge on early Earth. A central figure in this hypothesis is a simple sulfur-containing carbon compound called “methanethiol” — a supposed geologic precursor of the Acetyl-CoA enzyme present in many organisms, including humans. Scientists suspected methanethiol could have been the “starter dough” from which all life emerged.

The question Reeves and his colleagues set out to test was whether methanethiol — a critical precursor of life — could form at modern day vent sites by purely chemical means without the involvement of life. Could methanethiol be the bridge between a chemical, non-living world and the first microbial life on the planet?

Carbon dioxide, hydrogen and sulfide are the common ingredients present in hydrothermal black smoker fluids. “The thought was that making methanethiol from these basic ingredients at seafloor hydrothermal vents should therefore have been an easy process,” adds Reeves.

The theory was appealing, and solved many of the basic problems with existing ideas that life may have been carried to Earth on a comet or asteroid….


“What we essentially found in our survey is that we don’t think methanethiol is forming by purely chemical means without the involvement of life. This might be disappointing news for anyone assuming an easy start for hydrothermal proto-metabolism,” says Reeves. “However, our finding that methanethiol may be readily forming as a breakdown product of microbial life provides further indication that life is present and widespread below the seafloor and is very exciting.”

The researchers believe this new understanding could change how we think about searching for life on other planets.

Uncommon Descent notes the following after quoting the above Science Daily article:

As noted earlier, origin of life is a problem in the origin of huge amount of information and looking for a way it happened due to some fluke has always been a waste of time.

Software engineer Arminius Mignea’s specifications for a simplest self-replicator in Engineering and the Ultimate would be a useful read on that score. It advances the discussion by setting out what origin of life (by human or other hands) models should look like, to merit consideration.

Too often, people play rhetorical games that sound like: “Life happened, so my ‘stink world’ is plausible” or “The prevailing consensus says Stink World is plausible, therefore life.”

It’s a form of homage to philosophical materialism, not science really, and it suck in lots of well-meaning people. They don’t realize that when we are asked to accept an inherently implausible idea because it is materialist, we are invited to put materialism above every other consideration, including logic, reason, and evidence.


Chris Rosebrough Quickly Critiques Author Peter Enns’s Postmodern View of the Bible

Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Radio ( discusses quickley a new book by author, Peter Enns, entitled, The Evolution of Adam. As is the problem with postmodernity and the liberal viewpoint of revelation and the Bible, eisegesis is practiced rather than exegesis.