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Whistling cheerfully while science burns

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What’s hot? What’s not?/Niklas Bildhauer, Wikimedia

Here’s an entirely too self-satisfied item from The Conversation that, hard on the heels of another well-earned jab at “nutrition science,” captures one of the things that is wrong with science today: unearned self-satisfaction. Molecular biologist Merlin Crossly tells us that we should trust name journals, peer review, and impact factors. Are we to believe that none of the questioned nutrition science passed those tests?

If they had all flunked such credibility tests, the question would be: Why was the pattern not noticed earlier? This has all been going on a while…

If they passed Dr. Crossly’s tests, then his advice is not going to help us much. He closes with:

Can you trust the edifice that is modern science?

Usually, one can get a feel for how likely it is that a piece of peer reviewed science is solid. This comes through relying on the combination of the pride and the reputation of the authors, and of the journal editors, and of the peer reviewers.

So I do trust the combination of peer review system and the inherent fact that science is built on previous foundations. If those are shaky, the cracks will appear quickly and things will be set straight. Merlin Crossley, “When to trust (and not to trust) peer reviewed science” at The Conversation

In one word: No.

Cracks will not necessarily appear quickly and things will not necessarily be set straight. Decades will pass. People will write more silly papers seeking arcane reasons why the public doesn’t trust science.

See also: Another well-earned jab at “nutrition science” Why this matters? Because science’s authority is no more or less valid in principle than a church’s or a government’s. The validity depends on what it actually represents, so far as we can tell, as opposed to the claims it makes.

2 Replies to “Whistling cheerfully while science burns

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    What Crossly means is: “I trust the people who write my grant checks, and you should also trust them so they will stay in power and keep writing my grant checks.”

  2. 2
    lantog says:

    The journals that Crossly says we should trust are generally not the ones publishing ‘nutrition science’

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