Corrupted Science

John Grant. Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology and Politics in Science. Facts, Figures and Fun, 2007.

Scientists like to portray themselves as dedicated and impartial seekers after truth, and to contrast their virtues with the vices of pseudoscience etc. John Grant here shows that sadly are far too many occasions personal ambition, commercial, military and political agendas and corporate greed get in the way. From the plagiarisers who steal others research to the frauds who fiddle experiments to produce the right result, scientists can be as foolish and venal as the rest of us.

What is perhaps more worrying is the extent to which universities and other institutions collaborated in trying to protect the guilty and demonise the whistle blowers. Science too can become blinded by ideological considerations, for example the rampant racism of much anthropology in the years before 1945, and the ease by which military and commercial interests can be got to endorse pseudoscience. The last is especially bad in totalitarian states, where the normal processes of scientific review break down, and the issue becomes not whether a theory is correct or not, but whether it has the support of powerful figures in the regime.

Not surprisingly all sorts of pseudoscience developed in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, because it had the support of the regime or powerful groups within it. Grant warns us however that democracies are not immune to such things and takes has his example the abuses, political interference and censorship of science by the Bush administration in the fields of climate change, family planning, evolution, stem cell research etc. – Peter Rogerson.

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