[Coral-List] Coral Reef Curmudgeons

Steve Mussman sealab at earthlink.net
Thu Sep 23 08:03:16 EDT 2010

  In a more perfect world of pure and independent scientific research
your premise that “where the message comes from is and remains irrelevant”
would hold true, but it is apparent that our contemporary societies
do not to occupy that realm.

Contrary to your perspective, the central problem may not be found in what
scientific inquiry is carried out (although that can sometimes be the case),
but in the ability of proprietary interests to influence and selectively use
the results produced for material or ideological ends.

Modern day scientists are not void of social responsibility, but rather appear to be
entrapped by the system in which they operate. It is true that we shouldn’t
disregard the “science” produced from certain sectors a priori, but at the same time
we must insist on a level of transparency that allows for the detection of
potential conflicts of interest. This has to be considered because in our less than
perfect world, there is ample evidence that peripheral factors often influence results.
In a sense, if we ignore this reality, we are choosing to live in a Dark Ages
all our own.

Attacking the blameless messenger may be poor form, but when the Persian emissaries
arrived at the gates of Sparta demanding that it submit to King Xerxes,
can you really fault Leonidas and his soldiers for forcing them into the pit?


-----Original Message-----
>From: Ulf Erlingsson <ceo at lindorm.com>
>Sent: Sep 22, 2010 10:15 AM
>To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Coral Reef Curmudgeons
>This is not about coral, but it is crucial for the future of science.
>How shall we evaluate research?
>Already the old Greeks knew that it was the message, not the  
>messenger, that we shall pay attention to. So how comes that so many  
>today focus on where the message comes from? It is and remains  
>The fact is that scientists depend on funding, and funding is not  
>results-neutral in many cases. Thus, the bias is more likely to be in  
>what scientific inquiry is carried out (or not carried out), than in  
>the results that are published. If we disregard results from a  
>certain sector a priori, we are back to the Dark Ages...
>All results have to be critically evaluated based on merits, without  
>regard for who wrote it.
>On 2010-09-21, at 13:14, Dr. Elaine M. Abusharbain wrote:
>>   Dear Coral Listers,
>> I am not a biological or coral reef scientist, but as I science  
>> educator
>> I see these problems as important in science ed. Are American  
>> Enterprise
>> Institute scientists really scientists? They were funded $ 23  
>> million by
>> Exxon to produce climate change science. Is this stuff peer reviewed
>> when it comes from a think tank? I don't think so. The public sees
>> scientists with PhD's doing research and considers it valid science.
>> How can you blame the public for not understanding this subtle but  
>> huge
>> difference? Yet who is on NPR just about every day posing as a  
>> reputable
>> view on all kinds of matters including climate change.
>> Scientists have produced NAS, IPPC etc reports, years ago.  In my
>> dealings with nonbiology majors in college and most biology majors,  
>> they
>> are unaware of these kinds of influences nor the scientific reports  
>> even
>> though they understand the importance of peer review.
>> There is much to educate about and not enough science educators out
>> there who take on the charge.  Our media is very controlled if even
>> biology students are unaware of these kinds of reports (until they  
>> take
>> ecology of course and many won't)
>> Thanks, I am on the list to become educated in coral science.... so I
>> usually keep to myself.
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