Monday, March 2, 2015


ON FEBRUARY 28, 1998, the eminent medical journal  The Lancet published an observational study of 12 children: Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive development disorder in children. It might not sound sexy, but once the media read beyond the title, into the study’s descriptions of how those nasty-sounding symptoms appeared just after the kids got vaccinated, the impact was clear: The measles-mumps-rubella vaccine can cause autism.

This was the famous study by Andrew Wakefield, the one that many credit with launching the current hyper-virulent form of anti-vaccination sentiment. Wakefield is maybe the most prominent modern scientist who got it wrong—majorly wrong, dangerously wrong, barred-from-medical-practice wrong.

But scientists are wrong all the time, in far more innocuous ways. And that’s OK. In fact, it’s great.

When a researcher gets proved wrong, that means the scientific method is working. Scientists make progress by re-doing each other’s experiments—replicating them to see if they can get the same result. More often than not, they can’t. “Failure to reproduce is a good thing,” says Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch. “It happens a lot more than we know about.” That could be because the research was outright fraudulent, like Wakefield’s. But there are plenty of other ways to get a bum result—as the Public Libary of Science’s new collection of negative results, launched this week, will highlight in excruciating detail.

You might have a particularly loosey-goosey postdoc doing your pipetting. You might have picked a weird patient population that shows a one-time spike in drug efficacy. Or you might have just gotten a weird statistical fluke. No matter how an experiment got screwed up, “negative results can be extremely exciting and useful—sometimes even more useful than positive results,” says John Ioannidis, a biologist at Stanford who published a now-famous paper suggesting that most scientific studies are wrong.

The problem with science isn’t that scientists can be wrong: It’s that when they’re proven wrong, it’s way too hard for people to find out.

Negative results, like the one that definitively refuted Wakefield’s paper, don’t make the news...
Read More HERE

1 comment:

  1. You are making a grave error. Science is perpetually wrong, true. Now stop there. Peer-review has proven to be a complete failure. The scientific method is rarely strictly adhered, more so when politics and the politics of money is involved. Further, it seems just as often scientists will finally agree that the old theory is bunk (still can't swallow that their current, and past, notions of evolution are fail... for hundreds of years now... hint: it's not blind chance)... then they just jump into another wrong, and often fairly obviously wrong, theory.

    They have several major problems at this point. Government funding for projects where the outcome is desired, along with some private purchased results. Government involvement in creating debt through an increase in college attendance, to very wasteful, in all ways, processes. A bias that suggest anything but God can be involved. And, from the flood of money and past and present communist involvement, a political agenda to prove... one that has been disproved in a very blood century of genocide and war.

    No, science is not working the kinks out. It is ignoring the truth as hard as it can.


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