Just a few more nuanced clarifications:
Philipp Markolin
1

That is overexaggerated. There are plenty of people who have no stake anywhere and produce good science. Look no further than most hard sciences.

If we take an evidence-based approach to looking at this issue, we see that, according to 2016 Pew data, only 48% of Americans believe climate change is due mostly to human activity. 31% believe it is due to natural causes, and 20% don’t even believe climate change is real.

This is about what is needed by monied interests to continue a culture of confusion and inaction. You do not need to corrupt 100% of climate scientists to achieve this level of erosion in public trust in science. Apparently, you only need to corrupt about 3%. But, this same corruption occurs in every branch of science, undermining public trust in psychology, anthropology, neuroscience, nutrition, epidemiology, biology, petrochemical engineering, seismology, vulcanology, the entire space program… you name it.

You describe yourself as a biologist. Here we are over 150 years after Darwin published On the Origin of Species, and we still have 34% of Americans who reject the theory of evolution entirely. What’s interesting in that dataset is that 2% of scientists surveyed believe that humans have existed in the same state since the beginning of time. The question is, what is going on with that 2%? Are they morons or are they subject to something along the lines of “it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

In my own high school biology class, we were not taught evolution. My teacher was a Christian fundamentalist who had no trouble talking about cell division or dissecting frogs, but who absolutely would not countenance evolution. I imagine my teacher was an exception, not the rule, but it doesn’t take a huge number of exceptions to instill doubt.

Furthermore, scientists are obliged to subjugate themself to conflict-of-interest statements of everything they publish, additionally scientists are among the most aware part of any subset of human populations who are trained to recognize their own cognitive biases and try to minimize them.

This is subject to the same confirmation bias as unreported studies. How many scientists don’t disclose and aren’t caught? How many scientists do disclose, but that disclosure goes unreported by subsequent stories that cover that scientist? How many scientists are subject to means of influence that do not require specific disclosure statements?

Obviously, monied interest generate a very abstruse incentive structure for scientists, where less ethical or rightout unethical “scientists” get ahead publication-wise, money-wise and career-wise for not being rigorous. Basically, the current monied incentive system opens the doors for cheaters while punishing careful researchers. That is indeed a huge problem.

On this, we are very much agreed. Income inequality and larger stores of money and influence continually getting transferred to people who are already billionaires means this is just going to get worse. If the gap between a scientist’s wages and a tycoon’s coffers gets larger, so, too, does the ability of the tycoon to influence scientific discourse.

Again, most scientists do not get paid to push a narrative, but a subset of people in science (cheaters) who know how to push a narrative get rewarded by monied interest. Plenty of scientists purposefully push against narratives where they feel the data do not support the conclusion, and scientific cheaters are always exposed by scientific peers who try to reproduce what they were claiming and fail to do so.

I’m not going to conjecture what fraction of scientists are being paid to push a narrative. My earlier point stands, that it need not be most for it to be a problem that erodes public confidence in science. Sites like Retraction Watch are great at exposing these people, but it also exposes an interesting truth that you seem to want to avoid: somehow, the exact same people come up over and over again in Retraction Watch. What this means is that, despite being exposed once, the same corrupt scientists keep getting funded and, more problematically, keep getting published in scientific journals. The story gets out, it makes a splash in the headlines, and later gets retracted to no great amount of fanfare. The damage is done.

Why do these same people keep getting published? Because the corruption extends beyond the individual scientists and into the world of scientific publishing. This becomes a double hit, because now journalism is compromised. Not only can people not rely on scientists to be shooting straight, but they can’t rely on science journalists to report the truth.

Also, “most studies can not be replicated” is also an over exaggeration and unfair to so many domains of science that are highly reproducible. There are in fact hard numbers for the subfields of how much can be produced. Furthermore, there is huge impetus for scientists to try to be as reproducible as possible, from scientific associations, major journals and institutions. The only problem is the monied interests, who do not support of culture of science where reproduction & validation of findings are rewarded. No, what is rewarded is novel and sexy science fiction, or politically-loaded bullshit, because it makes for good headlines.

This is neither here nor there with regard to public perception of science. I am aware the replication crisis hits certain disciplines harder than others. As interested as I am about gravitational waves and inspiraling neutron stars, and how LIGO and other detectors have now confirmed previous black hole events, my guess is the average American really doesn’t give a shit. There is no need for monied interests to influence experiments like that, because virtually nobody really understands General Relativity anyway (including probably 99% of professional scientists), and neutron stars colliding at relativistic speeds and producing gravitational waves 130 million lightyears away will have no bearing on some corporation’s ability to sell you stuff. The minute it does, get ready for a vicious anti-neutron star campaign (to be clear I don’t mean anti-neutrons; I mean a campaign that is against neutron stars somehow).

Yes. This has always been the case since the inception of science. Religions, ideologies, governments and now big money all tried and try to restrict, control and abuse science for their agendas. Because science is important and powerful.

Just for the record, the religion of which I am a member has the following tenet: “Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.”

I also object to your use of the word “tried.” They have very much succeeded, and still do succeed.

Again, as a quite junior scientist, I know that most of my peers are neither corrupted by money or in science for the money. Scientists make aggressively little money for their commitment, work hours and intellectual capacities. We are in it because we are curious, or want to solve a problem that can help us and others in the future. We sacrifice for that.

It is an unscientific statement to say that “most of my peers are neither corrupted by money or in science for the money.” You believe that, but I have to imagine you have not subjected that to scientific scrutiny. You are probably right, though, because, according to the most recent data I could find, about 2% of scientists admitted to fabricating, falsifying, or modifying data at least once, and about 14% of scientists admitted to having at least one colleague who had.

That’s what they admitted. Who knows what they aren’t admitting. But, as with the 3% of anti-science climate scientists, the number does not have to be very big to muddy the waters.

All we want in return is not being demonized and ostracized, just some support and goodwill from the public. And, if possible, change the incentive structure so the cheaters do not get rewarded and pushed up the ladder, while we drop out because our research is not pleasant or sexy for the powerful.

The demon in the room is not science or scientists. That should be clear. The demon is corruption and, unfortunately, all available evidence suggests that corruption is inevitable in a capitalistic system. If somebody can turn a buck by bribing a scientist, he will. And, if he has a thousand or even a million times the wealth of some scientists, he’ll be able to find one to go along with him.


In the end, science works. We do not want you to belief, we want you to take a closer look.

That is a big ask when people are being deliberately robbed of tools to create a functioning epistemology by our dysfunctional education system from a very early age, only to grow up to be castaways on a seemingly infinite ocean of disinformation. How much time does a factory worker or office manager have to “take a closer look” and sift through prodigious amounts of nonsense to go and find the truth? And, even if he did, would he recognize it when he sees it? Being able to seek out the truth is a luxury in a world like ours.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.