|Feature Article - March 2017|
|by Do-While Jones|
Opposition to Fake Science isn’t Anti-science.
Real science and real news have a common characteristic; both are being supplanted by fakes. Real news is an accurate report of something that happened recently. Fake news reports something that didn’t happen, or predicts something the journalist thinks is going to happen. Real science is an accurate report of something that has been observed to have happened. Fake science is false information, or speculation about something the scientist wishes is going to happen, or wishes has happened in the past.
You may have noticed that certain news outlets spend almost all their time on what they fear President Trump is going to do, and hardly any time on what he has actually done. In the same way, science tabloids are filled with fantastic stories about what might be discovered in the future and what might have happened in the past, and hardly any stories about what real scientists have actually discovered.
Why is there so much fake science these days? To discover the answer to that question you have to follow the money.
Science tabloids get their money the same way the gossip magazines do. They sell their rags by putting some outrageous claim on the cover, hoping that the supermarket cashier won’t be slow enough for you to read the article before you check out, so you will have to buy the tabloid and take it home. Their money comes from sales and advertising, which comes from audience size, which depends upon how enticing their stories are.
Unlike real scientists in the private sector, who make money by discovering new and useful information which results in marketable products, fake scientists make their money by telling stories. They are just raconteurs posing as scientists.
Fake scientists are often aided by artists, like the artists who provided the 32 pictures of exoplanets on pages 40 through 44 of the April 2017 issue of Discover magazine. (The on-line version of the article 1 has only 10 pictures.) Even though the article is in the April issue (which arrived in my mailbox on March 10), it isn’t a joke. All these realistic pictures of planets outside our solar system are purely imaginary, based on fluctuation in starlight, presumed to be caused by planets circling distant stars.
If President Trump cuts a lot of waste out of the science budget, that will be news. The fear in the scientific community that he will actually do that is fake news because it hasn’t happened yet, and may never happen.
Every year, Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona publishes “Wastebook”, an exposé of wasteful government projects funded during the previous year. Many of those wasteful projects are fake science projects. Here are some examples:
Studies on the habits of college students funded with $5 million of NIH grants found fraternity brothers drink, smoke and generally party more than other students. They also sleep in later, which led the researchers to speculate “one explanation for this finding is that Greek students recognize their sleep needs.” Perhaps a more likely reason is that they are sleeping off their party lifestyle.
NIH is also drilling down to determine why some people are afraid of the dentist as part of another $3.5 million research project. The researchers found “fear of pain has been shown to be a critical component.” 2
If the American Dental Association wants to spend $3.5 million to discover why some people are afraid to go to the dentist, that’s great. It may be worth $3.5 million to them to discover a way to get more people to go to the dentist. If so, they should be the ones who fund the research.
Our tax dollars should not be wasted on fake science. We aren’t anti-science—we are anti-waste.
The NASA Astrobiology Program awarded more than $1.1 million to the Center of Theological Inquiry (CTI) to examine “the societal implications of the search for life in the universe.” 3
Perhaps the best example of fake science is astrobiology! Astrobiology is the study of life on other planets! How can the study of something that has never been observed be science? (Come to think of it, astrobiology isn’t any different from Darwinian evolution.)
NASA is not the only federal agency hosting discussions on the implications for religion if life is discovered on other planets. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency spent nearly $100,000 for a strategy planning workshop including a session entitled “Did Jesus die for Klingons too?” in 2011. The Klingons are a fictional alien species who were villains and then later allies of humanity in the Star Trek series. The session explored the theological conflict to Christianity if intelligent life was found elsewhere in the universe and how it could be resolved. 4
They spent $100,000 to resolve a problem that doesn’t exist.
Last year the U.S. Government spent $450,000 to discover if dinosaurs could sing 5, $206,000 on a flying monkey puppet 6, and $3.4 million to teach hamsters how to fight.7 Someone who opposes wasting money on these studies isn’t anti-science; but that’s what the universities (who depend upon government grants) claim.
Have we lost all sense of value? We taxpayers paid scientists to put dead animals on the road to attract vultures.
The studies are trying to determine the speed an automobile must be traveling to hit a bird before it can fly to safety. To date, nearly $118,000 has been spent on the bird collision experiments. 8
How much is that information really worth? Is knowing how fast a car has to go to hit a vulture worth more than the cost of a bean and cheese burrito? For $1.18, I’d rather have the burrito. Why are we spending 100,000 times that to find out how fast we have to go to kill vultures?
The theory of evolution is a prime source of income for fake scientists.
Drool from monkeys, gorillas, orangutans, macaques, and humans was compared in an attempt to gain “insights into evolution of saliva.”
The study was funded, in part, from two National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants totaling $817,000 to the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB). 9
Who funded the rest of it, and why, and for how much? And how did they gain insight into the evolution of saliva? Here’s how:
The researchers then simulated evolutionary changes in the composition of the saliva gene over 11 million years from a common ancestor. They assumed “every 1 million year[s], there is a random gain or loss of 0.5/1.0/1.5/2.0 copies for Orangutan and the common ancestor of Human, Chimpanzee and Gorilla separately. At 8 million years ago, the common ancestor of Human and Chimpanzee separated from Gorilla and they started the copy number gain and loss simulation separately. The same simulation continues to 5 million years ago that Human and Chimpanzee separated from each other, and start their copy number gain/loss process independently until present. We simulated this process 1,000 times for 4 different copy-number-change rates (0.5/1.0/1.5/2.0 copies per million year[s]), and for each simulation, calculated the variation of final state of simulated copy numbers for Human, Chimpanzee, Gorilla and Orangutan. The observed copy number state in present is Human 5 or 6 copies, Chimpanzee 5 copies, Gorilla 4 or 5 copies, and Orangutan 6 or 7 copies.”
So what does that all mean?
“This diversity in humans and other primates is ‘fodder for rapid evolution,’” the scientists write in a study published in Scientific Reports. It is “unusual for members of a single species to have varying numbers of tandem repeats,” which are “short strings of DNA found multiple times inside the gene.”
The researchers speculate that by “having numerous copies of the repeated instructions likely conferred an evolutionary advantage to primates— possibly by enhancing important traits of saliva such as its lubricity.”
The authors of the study do caution that “gene predictions, especially for genes that have repeat content as in MUC7, may be error prone.” 10
They did not actually observe any evolution. They made some assumptions, and simulated what might have happened if those unfounded assumptions were true. That’s not real science! It’s fake science!
Their study is as fake as the simulated world created by computer animation for the movie, Avatar. The fact that computers can simulate something doesn’t make it real. Unless a computer simulation can be verified by actual observation, the simulation is nothing more than a high-tech fable.
Scientists can simulate the sound a dinosaur might make, using assumptions based on birds and crocodiles, but that isn’t real science no matter how realistic the sound is. It is just fake science!
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2 http://www.flake.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/4fcf3486-328a-40de-a1cc-f88515002d0d/wastebook-2016-final-pdf.pdf, page 1
3 ibid., page 58
4 ibid., page 60
5 ibid., page 72, (and Disclosure, January 2017, “Top Evolution Stories of 2016”)
6 ibid., page 86
7 ibid., page 90
8 ibid., page 133
9 ibid., page 131
10 ibid., page 132