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Philosopher: “Physics envy” is the heart of the widespread research cheating problem

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Recently, we’ve been looking at the problem of psychology researchers admitting they fudge data, in an apparent effort to get media attention (here and here). In “More Scientists Behaving Badly” (Best Schools, November 17, 2011), James Barham comments

The sciences devoted to the study of Man cannot but be different in kind from the exact sciences. Human beings are not billiard balls, and it is vain to found “sciences” on the pretence that they are.

Therefore, we should not look for an end to the scandals in the social sciences until researchers in those disciplines finally get over their “physics envy.”

That’s the heart of the problem – expecting that all viable areas of research should be like physics. Questions like accused fraudster Stapel’s “When do people show more prejudice?”, for example, are themselves inherently fuzzy, never mind that the answers are. Some situations may be ethically straightforward – race prejudice, for example – but others are not. That’s when implicit value systems come into play.

For example, one researcher may choose to regard parents who don’t want convicted pedophiles living in their neighbourhood as showing “irrational bigotry,” which he wants to study as such. The parents themselves (and other researchers) might say that there is nothing irrational about it: They have made a rational decision that the pedophile is a danger that their children can, and should, live without.

Is there a “science” perspective from which we can say which side is right? File that under Faint Hopes.

Eventually, inappropriate demands for physics-like certainty promote fraud. Cynicism sets in: The researcher can’t tell them what’s true, so he tells them what sells. Media are always happy with that, until the roof caves in.

Can change happen? Barham thinks

that is not likely to happen until our profoundly mistaken image of Man—one that is reductionist, mechanist, and determinist—is replaced by a more realistic view of ourselves as the feeling, willing, reflecting, and aspiring beings that we are.

It would sure be a different social psychology. One we recognize.

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4 Replies to “Philosopher: “Physics envy” is the heart of the widespread research cheating problem

  1. 1
    DrREC says:

    Funny, some of the largest scandals in my memory are in the “hard physical” sciences. Seems a flawed hypothesis to pick on one field because of a few bad eggs.

    I’d blame human nature, and the pressure to succeed. Not that any field” finance, journalism, sports or religion are free from cheaters, liars and plagiarists. We do what we can, and police ourselves.

    “Jan Hendrik Schon, a star researcher in electronics, was fired after the outside committee found he falsified experimental data.
    The review committee concluded Schon, 32, made up or altered data at least 16 times between 1998 and 2001 — the first case of scientific fraud in the 77-year history of the Nobel Prize-winning laboratory, Lucent Technologies said yesterday. Bell Labs is the research arm of Lucent, which makes telecommunications gear; the labs used to be part of AT&T.
    The research involved work by Schon and other scientists in the fields of superconductivity, molecular electronics and molecular crystals, which could bring improvements to computers and telecommunications in a decade or more. The findings were published in several prominent scientific publications, including the journals Science, Nature and Applied Physics Letters.”

    http://www.seattlepi.com/busin.....096933.php

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    “In science there is only physics. All the rest is stamp collecting” Ernst Rutherford, the “father” of nuclear physics

    Because experimental physics gives us our clearest view for how reality is actually constructed, it is, in my opinion, afforded the higher measure of respect by the public not generally given to the other sciences (sorry chemists).,,, As such, there are two major problems, that I can see from experimental physics, which render the materialistic/atheistic form of neo-Darwinism completely impossible. First ‘impossibility’ is the fact that neo-Darwinism requires a gargantuan violation of the second law of thermodynamics for the hypothetical first life on earth, as well as a sustained ‘incremental’ violation of the second law thereafter:

    “The probability for the chance of formation of the smallest, simplest form of living organism known is 1 in 10^340,000,000. This number is 10 to the 340 millionth power! The size of this figure is truly staggering since there is only supposed to be approximately 10^80 (10 to the 80th power) electrons in the whole universe!”
    (Professor Harold Morowitz, Energy Flow In Biology pg. 99, Biophysicist of George Mason University)

    Ilya Prigogine was an eminent chemist and physicist who received two Nobel Prizes in chemistry. Regarding the probability of life overcoming thermodynamic barriers and originating by accident, he said:

    “The statistical probability that organic structures and the most precisely harmonized reactions that typify living organisms would be generated by accident, is zero.”
    Ilya Prigogine, Gregoire Nicolis, and Agnes Babloyantz, Physics Today 25, pp. 23-28.

    To get a range on the enormous challenges involved in bridging the gaping chasm between non-life and life, consider the following: “The difference between a mixture of simple chemicals and a bacterium, is much more profound than the gulf between a bacterium and an elephant.”
    (Dr. Robert Shapiro, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, NYU)

    The Law of Physicodynamic Incompleteness – David L. Abel – August 2011
    Summary: “The Law of Physicodynamic Incompleteness” states that inanimate physicodynamics is completely inadequate to generate, or even explain, the mathematical nature of physical interactions (the purely formal laws of physics and chemistry). The Law further states that physicodynamic factors cannot cause formal processes and procedures leading to sophisticated function. Chance and necessity alone cannot steer, program or optimize algorithmic/computational success to provide desired non-trivial utility.
    http://www.scitopics.com/The_L.....eness.html

    The second ‘impossibiliy’ that experimental physics has presented to the materialistic/atheistic form of neo-Darwinism is that ‘information’ is now shown to be its own completely unique ‘physical’ entity, that is completely separate (does not ’emerge’) from any material (mass-energy) basis, as well information is now shown to have dominion over mass-energy, actually telling mass-energy what to be and do!!! Moreover, this transcendent information, which CANNOT emerge from a material basis, is now found in molecular biology on a massive scale!

    Falsification Of Neo-Darwinism by Quantum Entanglement/Information
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1p8AQgqFqiRQwyaF8t1_CKTPQ9duN8FHU9-pV4oBDOVs/edit?hl=en_US

    verse and music:

    1 Corinthians 2:14
    The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

    Brooke Fraser – Lord of Lords(Legendado Português) –
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkF3iVjOZ1I

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    further notes:

    Stephen Meyer – Functional Proteins And Information For Body Plans – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4050681

    Dr. Stephen Meyer comments at the end of the preceding video,,,

    ‘Now one more problem as far as the generation of information. It turns out that you don’t only need information to build genes and proteins, it turns out to build Body-Plans you need higher levels of information; Higher order assembly instructions. DNA codes for the building of proteins, but proteins must be arranged into distinctive circuitry to form distinctive cell types. Cell types have to be arranged into tissues. Tissues have to be arranged into organs. Organs and tissues must be specifically arranged to generate whole new Body-Plans, distinctive arrangements of those body parts. We now know that DNA alone is not responsible for those higher orders of organization. DNA codes for proteins, but by itself it does insure that proteins, cell types, tissues, organs, will all be arranged in the body. And what that means is that the Body-Plan morphogenesis, as it is called, depends upon information that is not encoded on DNA. Which means you can mutate DNA indefinitely. 80 million years, 100 million years, til the cows come home. It doesn’t matter, because in the best case you are just going to find a new protein some place out there in that vast combinatorial sequence space. You are not, by mutating DNA alone, going to generate higher order structures that are necessary to building a body plan. So what we can conclude from that is that the neo-Darwinian mechanism is grossly inadequate to explain the origin of information necessary to build new genes and proteins, and it is also grossly inadequate to explain the origination of novel biological form.’ – Stephen Meyer – (excerpt taken from Meyer/Sternberg vs. Shermer/Prothero debate – 2009)

    With a Startling Candor, Oxford Scientist Admits a Gaping Hole in Evolutionary Theory – November 2011
    Excerpt: As of now, we have no good theory of how to read [genetic] networks, how to model them mathematically or how one network meshes with another; worse, we have no obvious experimental lines of investigation for studying these areas. There is a great deal for systems biology to do in order to produce a full explanation of how genotypes generate phenotypes,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....52821.html

    The next evolutionary synthesis: Jonathan BL Bard (2011)
    Excerpt: We now know that there are at least 50 possible functions that DNA sequences can fulfill [8], that the networks for traits require many proteins and that they allow for considerable redundancy [9]. The reality is that the evolutionary synthesis says nothing about any of this; for all its claim of being grounded in DNA and mutation, it is actually a theory based on phenotypic traits. This is not to say that the evolutionary synthesis is wrong, but that it is inadequate – it is really only half a theory!
    http://www.biosignaling.com/co.....X-9-30.pdf

    A few comments on ‘non-local’ epigenetic information implicated in 3-D spatial organization of Body Plans:
    https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1iNy78O6ZpU8wpFIgkILi85TvhC9mSqzUSE_jzbksoHY

    Moreover, besides mutations to the DNA being wholly inadequate to explain 3-D body-Plan morphogenesis, mutations to DNA are now found to be ‘bottom rung of the ladder’ as far as the information hierarchy of the cell is concerned:

    Stephen Meyer on Craig Venter, Complexity Of The Cell & Layered Information
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4798685

    Revisiting the Central Dogma in the 21st Century – James A. Shapiro – 2009
    Excerpt (Page 12): Underlying the central dogma and conventional views of genome evolution was the idea that the genome is a stable structure that changes rarely and accidentally by chemical fluctuations (106) or replication errors. This view has had to change with the realization that maintenance of genome stability is an active cellular function and the discovery of numerous dedicated biochemical systems for restructuring DNA molecules.(107–110) Genetic change is almost always the result of cellular action on the genome. These natural processes are analogous
    to human genetic engineering,,, (Page 14) Genome change arises as a consequence of natural genetic engineering, not from accidents. Replication errors and DNA damage are subject to cell surveillance and correction. When DNA damage correction does produce novel genetic structures, natural genetic engineering functions, such as mutator polymerases and nonhomologous end-joining complexes, are involved. Realizing that DNA change is a biochemical process means that it is subject to regulation like other cellular activities. Thus, we expect to see genome change occurring in response to different stimuli (Table 1) and operating nonrandomly throughout the genome, guided by various types of intermolecular contacts (Table 1 of Ref. 112).
    http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.ed.....0Dogma.pdf

    etc.. etc..

  4. 4
    uoflcard says:

    I tend to agree with you there. I’ve had this thought before when someone who hates religion (not necessarily an atheist, but some famous ones like Dawkins apply) says that religion is the source of much/most/all of the suffering in the world (wars, rape, terrorism, etc.). I say that it is not religion that causes these problems, but humans. Of course religious leaders and movements have been the source of plenty of horrible things in our history, but that is because so many people have been religious. If everyone were atheists, we would still screw everything up because human nature is the problem, not religion, directly.

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