Any “science deniers” out there? Hehe … I think those opposite me in online debates sometimes see me that way. A post by “Insufferable Intolerance Blog” about “how science deniers think” got my attention (1). Ultimately this blogger sees deniers as “the problem”; specifically, deniers are “con-artists in lab-coats” and folks who can’t tell the difference between these cons and real scientists.
Well, I’m not the lab-coat wearing type. And as for not being able to recognize a real scientist… hmmm, well here’s the thing. I’ve linked an article (below) by Dr Richard Horton who is the chief of real scientists, and he admits that “much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue” (2). As a case in point, The Lancet itself published the now famously retracted study by Andrew Wakefield (linking autism to vaccines). As a long-term editor of The Lancet, I presume Horton himself would have presided over that oversight. Apparently even the chief of real scientists can struggle to separate the real and fake science … so tell me, Insufferable Intolerance Blogger, does that make him a denier, and a part of the problem?
I can go one better. Although I haven’t read this article (due to inaccessibility), and I’m presuming this is an accurate quote, Horton is upfront about the paucity of the “peer review process”: “Editors and scientists alike insist on the pivotal importance of peer review. We portray peer review to the public as a quasi-sacred process that helps to make science our most objective truth teller. But we know that the system of peer review is biased, unjust, unaccountable, incomplete, easily fixed, often insulting, usually ignorant, occasionally foolish, and frequently wrong” (3).
I’m no hater, so Insufferable Intolerance Blogger, it’s cool – you’re entitled to have a spray. And the thread below your comment is a brilliant venting-ground for the frustrated boffin. But I hope your bias doesn’t blind you to the reality of the challenge here because real scientists mess up too, and the implications of this are huge. Science isn’t always pure, particularly considering that it often comes to us via media channels, and deniers are just people – often extremely intelligent people – with questions, fears and real experiences holding sway.
And for the record – I LOVE science! I simply exercise my right to remain skeptical towards any given publication, and use my critical thinking as fits my conscience. As a real scientist should.
(3) Horton, R (2000). “Genetically modified food: Consternation, confusion, and crack-up”. The Medical journal of Australia172 (4): 148–9. PMID10772580 (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Horton_(editor) )