Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Scientific Integrity

When I was a child growing up during the cold war we often heard that American science was better that Soviet science because it was free of political influence. While I have come to understand that true objectivity in science or any other human endeavor is probably unattainable and that there are many sources of bias (see, for example, Lewontin's article on dishonesty in science in a recent New York Review of books for more on this subject), I do think that there is a lot of truth to this idea. I feel strongly that scientific investigations and descriptions of the natural world should be made as free as possible from influences of any kind. I am just as offended by those who distort their data in support of their own arguments as I am by those who distort other people's data or reshape their conclusions to fit someone else's view. I am concerned that scientific research is increasingly coming under the influence of politics and I am not alone. Just this afternoon I signed the Union of Concerned Scientists' statement on restoring scientific integrity (http://www.ucsusa.org/rsi_statement). I encourage everyone to read it and scientists to sign it.

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