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Canadian journal pleads: Make science skepticism great again

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As the cultural edifices of western civilization are torn down one by one, there’s one institution whose prestige and authority continues to grow – science. Respect for scientists has, in many quarters, been transformed into a form of worship. And questioning their authority akin to heresy. Yet this confidence is often misplaced. A disturbing number of scientists have been proven to be charlatans, their methods slipshod and their results bogus. Surveying numerous disciplines, Peter Shawn Taylor explains the implications of what’s known as the “replication crisis” and reveals how science is trying to fix itself. Even non-scientists should be paying attention.

Peter Shawn Taylor, “Make Skepticism Great Again: The Replication Crisis in Science and What it Means for the Rest of Us” at C2C Journal (December 2, 2021)

Actually, non-scientists should be paying even more attention:

Take the claim that climate change will alter the behavior of tropical fish in troubling ways: Catnip to people whose air fare to conferences is paid, but…

But despite repeated attempts at replicating Munday and Dixson’s work, the team produced only null results. “We couldn’t find any evidence of behavioural effects of ocean acidification,” Raby says in an interview. Another team member, Dominique Roche, a researcher based at Carleton University in Ottawa and Université de Neuchâtel in Switzerland, notes that in hindsight the entire thesis never even made much sense. That’s because at night coral reefs already emit levels of CO2 similar to what Munday and Dixson were warning about far into the future. “And the fish sleep inside the reefs,” observes Roche. If rising levels of CO2 were going to change the behaviour of fish, it should already be evident.

After several years of meticulously documented research, in 2020 the seven-member team, including Raby and Roche, published a comprehensive refutation of the “Crazy Nemo” thesis in the prestigious science journal Nature. Some of the team went further and requested various international funding bodies investigate Munday and Dixson for academic misconduct since their work contained statistical anomalies generally associated with data fraud. “There are irregularities in the data that need to be investigated,” states Roche firmly.

The failed replication effort and calls for an investigation led to an explosion of controversy within the former clubby confines of marine biology. Munday and Dixson issued an angry refutation, declaring the replication study itself to be hopelessly flawed. An ally of the pair tweeted the accusation that “cruelty is the driving force of the work” of the replicators. Raby accepts this animosity as part of the process. “It’s pretty common for the person whose work has been refuted to attack the replication effort,” he shrugs.

Peter Shawn Taylor, “Make Skepticism Great Again: The Replication Crisis in Science and What it Means for the Rest of Us” at C2C Journal (December 2, 2021)

Fish then, the rest of us today. It’s getting to seem like a bad religion.

One Reply to “Canadian journal pleads: Make science skepticism great again

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    It’s good to see this problem getting a bit more airtime, but it’s not new at all. I’m not convinced that the slight increase in publicity will cause any meaningful changes. As long as funding comes solely from tyrannical governments and insane foundations, scientists will continue to create tyranny and insanity.

    BIG alternate funding sources with a firm and unyielding demand for truth would start to move the needle, but that’s a dream.

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