Watch a real scientific controversy

It is fun to watch an actual scientific controversy unfold. The fake ones like climate change denial or intelligent design, which are orchestrated for political purposes or reasons of ideology, draw scientists in because the public has been cajoled into buying bad (or non-) science by modern hucksters and charlatans. Not really fun or interesting, but necessary I suppose. No, the real deal, the full blown genuine real scientific argument is so much more exciting. Not only do you get the full of drama of the faked stuff: personality, egos, careers be made and broken, insults, posturing, and all the accoutrements of human disagreement. But you get the stuff of science: data analysis and reanalysis, experiments and field studies, new theory and new looks at old theory, and battles fought where science is done—in the peer reviewed literature. And you don’t know how its going to end! It’s not clear who is going to win. And what the outcome will hinge on is not who pays for the most advertising, or which side owns a news corp. But on the facts mam’ nothing but the facts. Continue reading Watch a real scientific controversy

Unmasking some of the ‘Conspiring men’

Suppose your friend came to you and said that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Suppose he said that he had seen 100 doctors and using best medical practices 98 had told them that he should start treatment immediately. Further, suppose that the 98 say that it is not too late to intervene, but time is critical. Suppose that the 98 come from all over the world and represent a number of specialties and disciplines and have come to the conclusion that he has cancer from multiple tests, procedures and such. Then suppose that your friend tells you that he’s decided not to get treatment because the doctors have not reached a consensus. That 2% still believe that he doesn’t have cancer, and given its cost it would be better until we have more data before deciding on whether to treat his cancer—and the costs will be substantial. Once treatment starts he may have to give up his job, it will drain his life savings, and he will undergo significant pain and discomfort. Nothing in his life will likely be the same. The question is, is your friend acting rationally? What’s the best thing for your friend to do? Is there an argument that he is not getting treatment because he really wants to believe he can avoid the unpleasantness he must face? Or is the evidence really as insufficient as your friend argues. What would you advise? Continue reading Unmasking some of the ‘Conspiring men’