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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Science is objective--but not necessarily scientists

Two science apologists put lipstick on a pig in a USA Today commentary, "Does science have honesty problem?" They assure us that concerns about the documented recent rise in scientific fraud are overblown and that we can trust the scientific community to monitor itself.
Conspicuously absent from the commentary is a monumental scientific fraud case uncovered in 2010, after the journal Science published the false claim of renowned scientist Dr. Hwang Woo Suk to have created human embryonic stem cells matched to patients. The claim conveniently corroborated prevailing dogma within the scientific community and the relentless lobbying of grant-seeking researchers hyping the supposedly miraculous healing power of human embryonic stem cells.
Hardly self-monitoring, the scientific fraternity ruthlessly ostracized anyone who dared question the hype.
The cacophony of claims for cures from this embryo-destructive form of stem cell research led gullible politicians to foolishly fast-track embryonic stem cell research funding. The hype tragically diverted funding away from research on stem cells derived from sources that avoid the destruction of human embryos--research already proven effective in producing cures and therapies for myriad diseases.
Embryonic stem cell researchers already rich from government grants and scientific journal editors who fueled the fire of embryonic stem cell research hype hardly will self-report their own fraud. Self-monitoring alone simply cannot withstand substantial financial and peer pressures. We need to bolster our defense against scientific fraud with a wary and probing public, more thorough media investigations and nonpartisan watchdogs who sniff out and follow the money trail.

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