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 & Awards

“Bauer delves into issues that are at the core of science…recommended”—Choice; “excellent…highly recommended”—World Institute for Scientific Exploration