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What's Wrong With Science And Science Education


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#1 FrankM

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Posted 04 September 2010 - 09:01 PM

The growth in science and science education varies by country, thus all the comparisons to one particular country in the article cited below are not totally valid, different factors are at work. Some of you may have already read the material by Dr. David Goodstein of Caltech.

http://www.its.calte...crunch_art.html

"I would like to propose a different and more illuminating metaphor for American science education. It is more like a mining and sorting operation, designed to cast aside most of the mass of common human debris, but at the same time to discover and rescue diamonds in the rough, that are capable of being cleaned and cut and polished into glittering gems, just like us, the existing scientists. It takes only a little reflection to see how much more this model accounts for than the pipeline does. It accounts for exponential growth, since it takes scientists to identify prospective scientists."

I have read that China is producing more scientists and engineers than their economy can absorb, relegating large number of graduates to scrape by in whatever job they can find, most not in their field of education. This is a totally different mechanism than being explained by Goodstein. One of the mechanisms is what induces individuals to pursue engineering and science educations in the first place. You can point to the U.S. space program of the 1960s as being a major influence in inducing individuals to get technical educations, and as this program stagnated, so did the enthusiasm for science educations. Now, where is the vision of doing something great? Now, how many children want to grow up to be astronauts? The enthusiasm to pursue many additional years of education is not being created. This desire for a science education starts at a very early age. It was what I read in grade school that induced me to pursue an engineering education, there was no family history in this area.

I think the slow down in the "scientific enterprise," a term Goodstein uses in his bio, has other elements, and they are caused by issues created by the "scientific elite" themselves over the years, some starting over a century ago and others before that and carried forward to this day. The scientific enterprise has hit a wall created by its own elite. I perceive one part of the wall is a technical barrier, but it was created by the scientific elite. Another part of the wall is the authority structure enforced by the scientific elite. If you do not accept the generally accepted scientific explanations you will be thrown out of the main stream boat. Contrary views are not accepted. Is that good science?

So, how can the scientific enterprise be stimulated to reverse its current trend? How can the walls created by the scientific elite be torn down?

#2 Little Bang

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 10:03 AM

Frank, the situation is quite similar to the one in 1905 except it's a thousand fold worse. I think that Heisenberg and Bohr set the mainstream on a path that we can never recover from unless some outsider finds the solutions. My education was in the early sixties working for an electrical engineering degree. I was required to give answers to questions were the instructor had told me what answer was correct even though I felt there was something wrong with it.

#3 FrankM

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 03:11 PM

Frank, the situation is quite similar to the one in 1905 except it's a thousand fold worse. I think that Heisenberg and Bohr set the mainstream on a path that we can never recover from unless some outsider finds the solutions. My education was in the early sixties working for an electrical engineering degree. I was required to give answers to questions were the instructor had told me what answer was correct even though I felt there was something wrong with it.


It isn't enough that we feel there is something wrong with the scientific enterprise, it is necessary to identify specifics such that attention can be focused on the problems, and these issues are constantly hammered on until it hurts the credibility of the authority structure such they decide to do something about it.

There was the good intentions of the arXiv system, funded with tax payer dollars, to allow scientists in all areas to publish, bypassing the peer review system. The authority structure used the peer review system to protect theories and positions of the scientific elite, but arXiv by-passed them, but not for long. The authority structure has surreptitiously taken over the arXiv management. Scientists of note are now banned from publishing in arXiv because their theories contradict those of the current authority structure. The current arXiv management is much like the old Vatican that controlled what was acceptable scientific thought for centuries.

I assume the 1905 issue you refer to, cemented in place with the help of Heisenberg and Bohr, can be described as a technical issue. Max Planck was a member of the authority structure in that era, and the theory of energetics, of which he was a major proponent, was the dominant theory before 1905. Would it be hard to convince contemporary particle physicists that the structure of an atom is made up of discrete specialized forms of energy? Now, the term particle physicist is somewhat an oxymoron.

There have been a series of wrong paths taken by the scientific authority structure over the last 150 years that have brought the scientific enterprise to its decline identified by Goodstein and others. Unfortunately, these path errors have been and are still being taught to everybody with science educations all over the world, such that any objection to one of these errors will arouse a vast army of defenders of the accepted orthodoxy, and this from individuals with every level of technical knowledge, including here at Hypography.

#4 Little Bang

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 11:52 AM

Actually I'm referring to Einsteins 1905 realization that time was not the same in all observations, to me, the most astounding leap of understanding in his new theory. Bohr and Heisenberg turned science on it's current road in 1927 at the Copenhagen convention. I completely agree with your assessment. The only way a change will ever happen is for someone to explain everything there is to know about the electron. Why it has mass, why and how does it have a field that is still expanding outside the visible Universe and why the energy of the electron and proton is stable (not turning back into energy) exactly at their energy level.

#5 FrankM

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Posted 12 September 2010 - 12:47 PM

I would like to explore one of the other barriers that I believe the scientific authority structure itself has created to the advancement of the scientific enterprise, the peer review system that is policed by the authority structure. In his book, Goodstein mentioned the peer review system has problems, but it cannot be abolished completely for a number of reasons. Peer review is supposed to keep bad science out of scientific journals, and sometimes it doesn't work. Goodstein identified outright scientific fraud committed by individuals with standing in the scientific enterprise, and they cheated to enhance their standing. These individuals duped those that performed peer review on their material, giving the peer review process a black eye in the process. The intimidation factor may have played a role in getting fraudulent results passed through peer review.

The intimidation factor is where a person higher in the authority structure can get a paper containing rather startling new information published where a person of less stature will have their material challenged, more thoroughly examined, and rejected if questions remain.

Unfortunately, the peer review can keep good science from being published in traditional journals, but that isn't the whole story. The peer review system is a filter, but it can become clogged by more submissions than it can handle. Everyone of the 40,000 or so science journals receive thousands of submissions every year, much more than they can publish. The 40,000 number was taken from the Goodstein article, published 1994, "The Big Crunch." http://www.its.calte...crunch_art.html

If you are not black-listed, and have the correct credentials and sponsors, you can post articles in arXiv without limitation. There is a big difference between arXiv and a traditional journal, one printed in hard copy for distribution to those that subscribe to them, versus where arXiv readers must find and download the articles themselves. If you know whose article you are looking for it is easy, otherwise one has to search through thousands of articles to find a paper that you think has special merit. A posting to arXiv allows an author to cite his article such that it can be readily accessed. Then there is the issue of getting the word out about your article, which isn't limited to arXiv. Two authors that successfully used arXiv are noted below.

Grigori Perelman posted, in arXiv, a series of 3 papers that presented his solution to the Poincaré Conjecture. The first paper was submitted in Nov 2003, the second in Mar 2003, and the last in July 2003. He received recognition from the mathematical authority structure, in 2008, that they confirmed he had solved the Poincaré Conjecture.

http://arxiv.org/abs/math.DG/0211159
http://arxiv.org/abs/math.DG/0303109
http://arxiv.org/abs/math.DG/0307245

How long do you think it would have taken Perelman to get his three papers published if he tried to go the traditional peer review route? Perelman elicited peer review from the best mathematicians in the world, and they were scattered all over the world. Perelman, and those that were aware of his work, and supported him, had to spread the word that his material was available on arXiv. arXiv is definitely easier to access than trying to find a library that carries a particular journal that contains an article. This is another reason, electronic distribution, why there hasn't been an associated increase in traditional print journals in parallel with the number of PhDs produced; see The Big Crunch article cited earlier.

A paper titled, "A Simple Theory of Everything" was posted to arXiv, Nov 2007. A. Garrett Lisi's paper is described as a preprint in popular articles because it has not been accepted by any scientific journal publisher for publication. Lisi didn't just sit on the beach all the time he was preparing his paper; one instance, he went to a conference where some of the top authority figures in the area of quantum theory were meeting and he obtained the interest and encouragement from some of them. When Lisi's posted his paper to arXiv and it started to get attention, arXiv changed the subject classification from [hep-th] to [gen-ph], this in an attempt to bury it. There were objections from influential individuals in the quantum theory community and arXiv put it back into [hep-ph].

http://www.arxiv.org/abs/0711.0770

Just as Perelman chose arXiv to post his papers, it would have been futile for Lisi to try getting his paper through the peer review process of a significant scientific journal. First, Lisi isn't associated with an academic institution, and second, he had no stature in the area of quantum theory. One elite, high in the authority structure related to quantum structure theory, refused to even read Lisi's paper, its basic approach doesn't fit his interpretation of quantum structure; this person has a lot of acolytes in the quantum theory authority structure that could reject Lisi's paper using a variety of reasons. Lisi's paper follows the structure of E8 geometry using just four dimensions, three dimensions in space and one in time, which is much too simple for many quantum theorists. There is an organization that takes chances on individuals with a different approach to science, and provides funding, FQXi. Take a look at their members list.

Another group has started an electronic posting service, with an objective like the original arXiv. http://vixra.org/why

Even though an author can post to arXiv, it is difficult to get recognition for their article just by posting it. Perhaps some form of rating can be applied to arXiv papers, similar to how Hypography readers can flag a post as "like." arXiv, and every electronic posting service, needs something that can be called a "peer rating." Rating systems can be abused, thus this must be considered when establishing an electronic "peer rating" system. First, I suggest individuals be required to register as a "peer" in a particular subject area; no such thing as a blanket peer status. If they register in too many peer areas, that should raise a red flag. Individuals like John Baez, who could qualify as a peer in a number of areas, probably doesn't spend a lot of time reviewing a broad range of arXiv articles, thus I don't think he will be affected.

#6 Vox

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 12:32 AM

Frank, the situation is quite similar to the one in 1905 except it's a thousand fold worse. I think that Heisenberg and Bohr set the mainstream on a path that we can never recover from unless some outsider finds the solutions. My education was in the early sixties working for an electrical engineering degree. I was required to give answers to questions were the instructor had told me what answer was correct even though I felt there was something wrong with it.


"Who is saying rather than what is said" is alive and kicking in both science and religious groups?

#7 FrankM

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 12:20 PM

Professor Goodstein knows something is wrong with the current scientific enterprise, but he can not identify the specific reason it is spending so much money and not really going anywhere. The proliferation of consumer gadgets doesn't count as scientific progress. It reminds me of a current ad on TV, a guy starts digging a hole and pretty soon he is in so deep he doesn't know how to get out of the hole, so he keeps digging because that is the only thing he knows how to do.

One reason the scientific enterprise is foundering are the assumptions made decades, some centuries ago, that are now considered as facts and never mentioned in any contemporary scientific papers. Assumptions grow into being facts by the use of the term "It is generally accepted". Put the quoted phrase, including quote marks, into your favorite search engine and add the +physics modifier to observe how many returns you get. You have to use the +physics modifier to try and limit the returns just to that branch of the sciences; it is used in all the sciences and by teachers at all levels.

That is one of the most irksome statements that a person can hear when it is used in the presentation of some physical science issue. That statement is persistently used when something has been observed that is repetitive, but all of the factors (the why's) that constitute the observed action have not been specifically quantified or identified. That word phrase is no different than what one hears when teens pepper sentences with the terms "like" and "you know," never considering a listener hasn't a clue what they are referring to by "you know" or "like." Either way, it avoids having to be precise in describing something.

As a consequence, all of our lives we have been exposed to the "It is generally accepted," and when we enter into an institute of higher learning we carry that baggage with us. We are expected to not ask the hard questions that lie behind the generally accepted curtain. As an undergraduate, I recall asking my physics professor a question about a phenomena where everyone was taught a common answer, but I didn't believe it was completely correct. I received the common answer. A few years later, a scientific paper identified the why that was never provided by the common answer. Little Bang mentioned the same type of issue in his post.

PostLittle Bang, on 05 September 2010 - 07:27 AM, said:
.....My education was in the early sixties working for an electrical engineering degree. I was required to give answers to questions were the instructor had told me what answer was correct even though I felt there was something wrong with it.


We are not always correct in our "belief something is not correct," but our beliefs should be explored to eliminate why we don't accept the currently accepted answer. One observation from my experience with academia is that students do not ask questions in fear they will be appear to be stupid. This failure to ask questions is not limited to the academic environment. Next time you are in a presentation and somebody uses the "it is generally accepted," and, if it is allowed, ask a pertinent question about the issue. You might receive a long hard stare before you get some type of answer, because the presenter is going to have to think about the unknown whys.

If we do not require the authority structure to provide a complete background on assumptions, and the why's behind what is generally accepted, they will go their merry way happy in doing what they think they do best, thus the scientific enterprise keeps on foundering.

This forum exists because there are a large number of why's that haven't been satisfactorily answered, or we don't believe the current accepted answers are correct.

#8 FrankM

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Posted 04 October 2010 - 06:54 AM

There are constant reminders why the scientific enterprise is foundering. I thought a goal had been set that would free the scientific enterprise from a blunder made over a century ago (1875), but it seems they have retracted good sense and returned to 18th century goals.

A statement in the 2005 report of the Consultative Committee on Units (CCU) is worth quoting.

• the consensus that now exists on the desirability of finding ways of defining all of the base units of the SI in terms of fundamental physical constants so that they are universal, permanent and invariant in time;

www.iupap.org/commissions/interunion/iu1/u1-2005.pdf

The Royal Society is approaching the 350th year of its founding, 2011. The first discussion meeting for 2011, 24-25 Jan, deals with the new-SI

Royal Society - From the origins of the metric system, when the metre was a fraction of the arc of the Paris meridian and the kilogram the weight of a cubic decimetre of water, the ultimate goal has been a system of measurement based on invariant quantities of nature. ... With the metre already being defined by the speed of light and the second by an atomic microwave transition, but likely soon to be redefined by an optical transition of much higher frequency, we shall have at last achieved what the savants of the 18th century had sought.


The stated ultimate goal is a major backslide from defining the SI in terms of fundamental physical constants to now defining them in terms of invariant constants of nature. Don't bother to ask where one can find invariant constants of nature, they have already decided that earth is the place. One can just as easily make the English foot related to an invariant constant of nature by defining its length in relationship to the number of counts per second of some particular electromagnetic emission of an atom, or isotope thereof.

What the savants of the 18th century had sought was limited to what they knew about the characteristics of the universe in that time period. The savants did not know about the existence of electromagnetic waves, nor that light was an electromagnetic wave, nor anything about the structure of atoms, nor that rocks could fall from the sky, and the sun was a ball of some heated substance. One must also understand the still rather rigid religious conformity that had to be followed by all of the Western scientists in the 18th century, they couldn't stray too far from the generally accepted religious worldview. In 1799 the French adopted the metre as their official unit of length, a fraction of a segment of dirt, along with a few other units of measure.

As technology changes, the authority structure of the scientific enterprise can link their units of measure to ever more precise measurement devices, but that will not change these units basic character, they have nothing to do with the rest of the universe.

#9 Little Bang

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Posted 04 October 2010 - 12:03 PM

If you try to question a problem that the mainstream has already answered (with an unprovable answer) then you must do so in alternative theories. It's alright to grab straws from the air as long the mainstream is the one doing the grabbing.

#10 HydrogenBond

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Posted 04 October 2010 - 12:04 PM

When I was in college, I simply accepted what the professors said. I did this to expedite studying, so I had more time for other things. I was practical minded and realized I was not an expert and the professors were there to prepare me for a job.

Once I began to work, I had the time to use my education to study further and question things. One thing that I noticed early, it was easy to lose track of the forest because of the trees. I might start with some broad questions. As I began to investigate and I would get bogged down trying to figure out the accepted details. Then I would forget the original broad questions (forest). since I am spending so much time looking at one of the trees. From that tree, it was no longer easy to see the entire forest, since I was too close to the details to see the big picture.

Once I realized that, I decided to back off to a place I could look at the forest, to make sure the valid details of the near sighted views were extrapolating the right forest. Specialization can create this problem, which could explain the need for random, since extrapolation may not always integrate with the basic parameters of the entire forest. A few maples trees in an oak forest, if one is too close to the maples trees, may not allow one to see oak forest, rather that oak tree is within the margin of error.

Let me give an example of this mind effect using an analogy. Our forest will be a large photograph. What we will do is zoom in, to look at one area on the photo, and then try to extrapolate out from there to the entire photo. Based on that zoomed in perspective, we see the face of a female. Based on that, we can extrapolate that to almost anything female, we agree on.

As we zoom in to look at a somewhat bigger picture, we notice the face belongs to a female dancer who is dressed in sweats. With this bigger picture, the context of the face changes and eliminates many extrapolations. From this wider perspective we know she is a dancer and based on her sweats she is practicing.

We zoom in even further, but due to bias, at little too much to the left. The consensus seems to head in this direction. Now we see other dancers who are also dressed in sweats, but some are much better dressed. So we conclude she is a female dancer at practice, but based on her position in the photo and her clothing she is one of the extras. This seems very reasonable. As we zoom in to get the entire stage, we now notice she is actually center stage; minus the bias. We change the theory to her being the prima but she is still in some random dance house. As we finally zoom in all the way, we notice this is the Moscow ballet.

Say through specialization, we have a 100 scientists, each focusing on 1/100 of the forest, and each extrapolating their specialty to the big picture. It might be possible to fill in the big picture. But it is also possible the bias of some can influence the extrapolation of others. This special mind effect is less likely to happen if we start at the biggest picture, but specialization is not trained to to begin the extrapolation at the perimeter. Instead they extrapolate up to a certain point, and then create a discontinuity to another speciality field.
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#11 Little Bang

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Posted 05 October 2010 - 11:59 AM

Amen

#12 FrankM

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Posted 09 October 2010 - 10:19 PM

A senior member of the scientific enterprise and a person high in the authority structure has resigned from the American Physical Society.

October 9th, 2010 4:54 Professor Emiritus Hal Lewis Resigns from American Physical Society

Hal Lewis resigns

The details provided in the resignation letter illustrate just one of the problems that is wrong with science, the corruption of money. The politicization of science through money grants to push an agenda can not have a good result. Whether it is a religious authority or a political authority deciding the result of a science outcome the scientific enterprise suffers.

#13 CraigD

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 11:09 PM

A senior member of the scientific enterprise and a person high in the authority structure has resigned from the American Physical Society.

Hal Lewis resigns

Though Hal Lewis’s letter to Curtis Callan, as well as his career (not obviously biographied, but gleanable at this 1986 interview, is interesting, I don’t believe it’s accurate to describe Lewis as “a person high in the [science] authority structure”, because he’s 86 years old, long-retired from academic and research physics and policy consulting, and was merely an APS fellow and long-ago committee chairperson, not a council member, officer, or current committee member.

I feel I empathize with him when he writes

How different it is now. The giants no longer walk the earth, and the money flood has become the raison d’être of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs.

Lewis’s PhD advisor was Robert Oppenheimer. He worked on computers in the 1950s with folk including John Von Neumann. So when he states that giants no longer walk the Earth, I credit him at least with remembering giants. As someone who moved from academia to private industry to defense and security and back again, he was a firsthand witness to the growth of the “Military–industrial complex” Eisenhower warned of in 1961, a warning Lewis mentions in his letter.

The details provided in the resignation letter illustrate just one of the problems that is wrong with science, the corruption of money.

I believe Lewis’s letter expresses not only his concerns of the corruption of science by money, but his believe in its integrity when it is not so corrupted. He writes

ndeed, the choice of physics as a profession was then a guarantor of a life of poverty and abstinence—it was World War II that changed all that. The prospect of worldly gain drove few physicists. As recently as thirty-five years ago, when I chaired the first APS study of a contentious social/scientific issue, The Reactor Safety Study, though there were zealots aplenty on the outside there was no hint of inordinate pressure on us as physicists. We were therefore able to produce what I believe was and is an honest appraisal of the situation at that time. We were further enabled by the presence of an oversight committee consisting of Pief Panofsky, Vicki Weisskopf, and Hans Bethe, all towering physicists beyond reproach. I was proud of what we did in a charged atmosphere. In the end the oversight committee, in its report to the APS President, noted the complete independence in which we did the job, and predicted that the report would be attacked from both sides. What greater tribute could there be?

To me, this emphatically expresses Lewis’s faith that what FrankM has termed “the scientific authority structure” – traditionally educated and trained scientists respected by a consensus of their peers – a true “scientific elite”. He’s not suggesting, I think, that the traditional academic authority system is flawed, but rather that when controlled by outside interests through granting and denying money, it can be corrupted. In short, he appears to be reiterating Eisenhower’s warning about the influence of the MIC on government and its influence on “economic, political, even spiritual” matters, with special focus on its influence on theoretical physics.

The trigger for Lewis’s ultimate disillusionment with and resignation from the APS appears to have been its 11/2007 policy statement expressing the scientific consensus that “emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth's climate.”. In his letter, he writes:

For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.

I disagree with Lewis’s belief that the APS is party to a scam, that mainstream climate research and theory is a scam, that literally trillions of dollars have been spent by vested interests to influence climate science to reach the consensus expressed in the APS’s 2007 policy statement, or that the “climategate documents” support any of these claims. In this opinion, I fear he speaking as an 87 year-old retiree, not a respected academic and research physicist.

The politicization of science through money grants to push an agenda can not have a good result. Whether it is a religious authority or a political authority deciding the result of a science outcome the scientific enterprise suffers.

I agree. How to prevent such corruption, however, is a difficult question. I don’t think eliminating “the scientific elite”, the educational systems that produces it, or “authority structures” enforcing traditions such as peer review will, as elite scientists, their schools, authorities, and peer reviewers appear to me, and I believe to commentators like Lewis, to be parts of the answer, not the problem. The problem appears to me to be the control of funding of scientific research by people and organizations interested in influencing the specific conclusions of scientific research.
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#14 FrankM

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 12:08 AM

... The problem appears to me to be the control of funding of scientific research by people and organizations interested in influencing the specific conclusions of scientific research.


That issue has never changed, it is sheer size of the funding, from multi-national sources, that is being directed at organizations that agree to create a scientific outcome that complies with some political agenda. Additionally, the APS leadership can control what is or is not published in its various journals, which is the ultimate corruption. If the APS leadership violates its own constitution, as claimed by Lewis, suppressing the publication of reports that disagree with what the leadership is being paid to promote would be a minor ethical problem.

In CA, it was just revealed that the California Air Resources Board (CARB)(non-elected bureaucrats) were using emissions figures that had been inflated by 340%. These figures were used to justify draconian new air cleanup regulations. CARB hired scientists to create reports with a desired outcome. I see little difference in what the APS leadership is doing and what the CARB bureaucrats are doing, a scientific result is being manipulated.

#15 CraigD

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 09:00 PM

... it is sheer size of the funding, from multi-national sources, that is being directed at organizations that agree to create a scientific outcome that complies with some political agenda. Additionally, the APS leadership can control what is or is not published in its various journals, which is the ultimate corruption.

I don’t think your characterization of the APS governance is accurate. The APS is a membership organization. Anyone can join it membership of about 48,000 by paying a $32 (student rate) to $124 (professional rate) yearly fee, which entitles the member to read its publications, participate in its forums, and vote for its executives and councilors members. Its council (about 32 people) governs it, presided over by its president, who serves a 1-year term rotated with 4 others over a 4-year election cycle. As they’re not paid, and put in many hours outside at it in addition to their regular jobs, executives and councilors, most of whom are university science faculty, tend not to stay in governance long. Information on APS governance can be found at this APS webpage.

This system of governance seems to me pretty resistant to widespread corruption, especially by financial means. I’m unaware of any accusations of corruption against APS executives or councilors, either by Hal Lewis of other credible source. Rather, Lewis appears in his resignation letter to be expressing his disappointment that the APS council and membership don’t share his view that the scientific position that “human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth's climate” is a hoax. He’s not accusing the APS of corruption, rather of ignorance in accepting and restating this scientific consensus, which he believes is a revolting scam. He believes that his position is supported beyond reasonable doubt by the collection of emails and documents leaked or stolen from East Anglia U commonly known as climategate.

I believe Lewis is wrong about this.

If the APS leadership violates its own constitution, as claimed by Lewis, suppressing the publication of reports that disagree with what the leadership is being paid to promote would be a minor ethical problem.

Although, having first read it only minutes ago, I’m barely acquainted with the APS constitution, as I read it, the council is not violating it by denying Lewis’s petition for a particular “Topical Group”, as according to the constitution (italics mine), “Following Council approval, the new Topical Group shall be officially initiated ...”. Thus 200+ members may petition the council to create a Topical Group, but not compel them to. I think Lewis misunderstands the APS constitution.

In CA, it was just revealed that the California Air Resources Board (CARB)(non-elected bureaucrats) were using emissions figures that had been inflated by 340%. These figures were used to justify draconian new air cleanup regulations. CARB hired scientists to create reports with a desired outcome.

I don’t think this is an accurate description of the CARB’s overestimation of diesel fuel consumption by off-road machinery on which it based 2007 rules affecting this machinery. I think this SFGate article gives an accurate description.

In particular, no credible source I’ve read claims that any of CARB’s 11 board members or the staff or scientists employed by them intentionally overestimate diesel fuel use. According to the SFGate article, even representatives for industry groups seeking to relax off-road diesel regulations believe CARB is being “fair” and acting in good faith, though some believe they have attempted to time the publicizing of the error to their political advantage – The Republican candidate for governor has promised to suspend a more important regulation, AB32, for at least 1 year, while the Democratic candidate has promised his support for it. As CARB’s board members are appointed by the governor, whoever is elected can easily keep her or his promise.

I see little difference in what the APS leadership is doing and what the CARB bureaucrats are doing, a scientific result is being manipulated.

I don’t find evidence of either organization manipulating, suppressing, or falsifying scientific results.

The APS continues to publish its several journals, which are available to but not editorially controlled by its council and membership. The council can manipulate APS’s online forums and meeting agendas, but not its journals, which are the main conduits for original science.

CARB is cabinet-level department of the California government charged with writing, inviting comment on, reviewing and enforcing regulations mandated by the state legislature. It doesn’t publish journals, or support basic science, but rather solicits policy advice from scientists.

#16 Kharakov

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 10:29 PM

We're having a Marcellus shale boom in my area. The business interests hire scientists to say the pollutants that have appeared in water wells (post drilling) around drilling sites are not due to the frac'ing (chemicals from frac'ing appear in well water along with methane and other hydrocarbons around the frac sites).

The lack of punishment directed at the business owners who engage in these immoral practices encourages them. They need to be stopped, as there will always be a desperate poor scientist out there who needs to pay for a child's future and is willing to sacrifice another families welfare for his own. It's a war against unethical scumbags who will do anything for wealth (psychopaths). I know a few scummy individuals who will do anything to gain wealth, put them in a position of power and they would do the EXACT same thing that these scumbags do. They just don't give a *@# about the future or people who don't directly impact their lives: so their lives have to be impacted in order to change their actions.

Punishment is medicine, but if you can't cure a disease with medicine... you put the horse down.

#17 FrankM

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Posted 12 October 2010 - 01:04 AM

It is a matter of degree. It doesn't take a lot of money to hire an individual scientist to prepare a biased report, it is done all the time by businesses and government agencies. How much money does it take to influence the leadership of a major scientific organization? I don't think the American Physical Society (APS) comes cheap, but whatever amount is involved encouraged them to violate their own governing constitution.

I saw two references today to Professor Lewis' resignation in business articles. His resignation, and why he resigned, is spreading well beyond science circles. The release of the UK Climategate emails spread virally across the internet, and it has damaged the credibility of the UK group and the professional reputation of individual members in the minds of the public. The APS leadership may be able stiff their own members by ignoring their governing constitution, but it has probably damaged the credibility of the APS leaders in the minds of other scientists and the leadership in other professional organizations. All they need now are cartoons to make the APS leadership look ridiculous.

Science has been corrupted by the whims or desires of various country's leaders through recorded history. The Prime Meridian, Zero Longitude, was coveted by a number of European countries, but it went to the country that had the biggest Navy, and other military attributes, at that time. The Piri Reis map has the Prime Meridian in the Eastern Atlantic ocean; we don't know the science behind that Prime Meridian selection. The French couldn't get the Prime Meridian through Paris, so they pushed through their desire to have a unit of length, the meter, based upon a fraction of the distance of a Meridian that ran from Dunkirk, through Paris, to Barcelona. In the U.S., stem cell research, and funding, was influenced by government interference expressed in legislation; if you didn't abide by the legislated directions it would be a criminal offense.

Professor Goodstein addressed the corruption of individual scientists in his book. On Fact and Fraud: Cautionary Tales from the Front Lines of Science. There are deeper problems in the scientific enterprise than the corruption of a few scientists, or even a group of scientists.