Science Is Not What You Think

How It Has Changed, Why We Can’t Trust It, How It Can Be Fixed

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About the Book

 This book discusses the ways in which science, the touchstone of reliable knowledge in modern society, changed dramatically in the second half of the 20th century, becoming less trustworthy through conflicts of interest and excessive competitiveness. Fraud became common enough that organized efforts to combat it now include a federal Office of Research Integrity. Competent minority opinions are sometimes thereby suppressed, with the result that policy makers, the media and the public are presented with biased or incomplete information. Evidence tending to challenge established theories is sometimes rejected without addressing its substance. While most would agree in the abstract that science can go wrong, few would consider—despite interesting contrary evidence—that official consensus about the origins of the universe or the causes of global warming might be mistaken.

About the Author(s)

Henry H. Bauer is professor emeritus of chemistry and science studies and dean emeritus of arts and sciences at Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University (Virginia Tech). The author of numerous books, including several that examine scientific heterodoxies, he lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Bibliographic Details

Henry H. Bauer
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 260
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6910-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2823-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


List of Figures viii

Preface 1

Introduction and Synopsis 7

1. How Science Has Changed 13

     Precursors of Modern Science  14

     Three Eras of Modern Science  15

     Science Today Is No Less Fallible Than in the Past  24

     Science and Contemporary Society  26

2. Science Is Not Methodical 34

     The Scientific Method Explains Little About Today’s Science  35

     Why Has Science Been Successful?  42

3. Some Other Misconceptions About Science 46

     Science and Evidence: A ­Love-Hate Relationship  46

     Replication and Reproducibility  53

     Falsifiability of Scientific Theories  56

     Scientific Literacy  59

4. Science Is Many Things 65

     Science Includes Which Subjects or Fields?  66

     Science as Truth and Authority  67

     Our Thinking Is Molded by Scientific Concepts  69

     Scientific Institutions  70

     Science Groupies and ­Hangers-on  71

     Mimicking the Natural Sciences—Inappropriately  73

5. Scientists Have Many Faces 77

     Scientists as Individuals  79

     The Cultures of Science  84

     Present-Day Careers in Science  96

 6. How Science Really Gets Done 99

     From Frontier Science to Textbook Science  100

     Three Aspects of Scientific Activity  104

     Diversity of Science  105

     Peer Review  106

     Resistance to Progress  109

     Premature Discoveries  111

     Scientific Revolutions  112

     The Importance of Luck in Science  114

     How Science Gets Done Best  119

 7. What Exactly Is “Scientific Knowledge”? 121

     Facts and Theories: Maps and Stories  121

     Over-Reliance on Science  128

 8. Statistics 135

     Being Misled by Statistics  135

     Correlation Is Not Causation  136

     Interpreting Correlations  138

     Aggregation and ­Dis-Aggregation  139

     Statistical Significance and P Values  142

     Effect Size  144

     Margin of Error  145

     Sampling  145

     Differing Conceptual Approaches in Statistics  147

     Summary: What Everyone Should Know About Statistics  149

 9. Unlike Physics and Chemistry? 151

     Social and Behavioral Sciences  151

     Medical Science  155

     A Little Learning Can Be a Dangerous Thing  158

     Fringe Science, Alternative Science, ­Pseudo-Science  162

     Minority Views Within Mainstream Science  169

     Knowledge to Guide Research—or Ready to Be Applied?  170

     Science and Technology  171

10. How Scientific Knowledge Becomes Known 174

     From Science to Public Knowledge  174

     Who Can Speak for Science?  177

     What the Public Gets to Know: Let the Buyer Beware  181

     What Policy Makers Get to Know  182

     What Scientists Know and Get to Know  183

11. Science Needs Tough Love 187

     Reprise: The Predominant Scientific Consensus Is Not Always Right  188

     Which of Today’s Scientific Consensuses Might Be Wrong?  190

     Where to Turn for the Soundest Judgment

       on Technical Issues?  191

     The Failure to Engage  192

12. A Science Court? 202

     Caveats and Complications  205

     What a Science Court Could Accomplish  216

     Tough Love  220

Chapter Notes 223

Bibliography 231

Index 243

Book Reviews

“excellent…highly recommended”—World Institute for Scientific Exploration