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Can you trust science? – Episode 002

Can you trust science? – Episode 002

Can you trust science when it comes to your health? Is there a crisis in science? We take a crack at science versus scientism, bias versus corruption, and even discuss the spooky stuff that happens when human beings try to study life in a lab.

Is there a crisis happening in science, and can you trust it to make choices about your health?

Some critics say we are seeing a crisis in science. Not that the scientific method has stopped working, but that some scientists, especially in the field of medical research, have been corrupted, casting a shadow on the rest of their community.

The corruption may come in the form of pressure to publish new and significant research at a faster rate. Or in the need to support the industry with the evidence that says that new products, services, and treatments are safe and effective.

A large number of retractions of scientific papers in recent years suggests this corruption is actually happening.

What does this potential crisis mean for the field of health care and bio-medicine? A field that is supposed to rely on scientific evidence to justify the methods used to treat and care for patients?

Topics in this podcast include:

  • The difference between the scientific method and scientism – a philosophy that interprets the meaning of life through scientific data
  • How the scientific method is a process that relies on measurement of a quantifiable experience in order to test a hypothesis of how something might work
  • How science is naturalistic, and doesn’t include supernatural explanations for how the world works
  • Science answers the question of what and how, but the question of why isn’t really answered without scientists engaging in a little bit of scientism or philosophy
  • How health care uses both biological science with its hard numbers, but also social science techniques, such as the SF-36, in order to measure subjective patient experiences
  • How science is supposed to be based on measurements from large populations, and health care science is based on the measurement of many patient experiences after a treatment
  • Science, depending on the philosophy of the scientist or the lack of the philosophy of the scientist, may be susceptible to influenced by outside agendas, not just driven by a search for truth
  • Science is driven forward by entrepreneurs, free-market capitalism, and government grants and sponsorship who all have an interest in studies having certain outcomes
  • How we understand scientific studies and the importance of science is interpreted largely by commentators and public relations people, not by the scientists themselves
  • How scientists are validated by peer review (a group of fellow scientists) which helps increase the quality of scientific data, but can also limit the research in areas that aren’t seem as worthy or are seen as controversial
  • How peer validation may encourage scientists to self censor in order not to be seen as controversial, or to hide data that goes against accepted ideas
  • How chiropractors run up against scientism in their discussion of their results
  • How real science has a predictive value – it allows us to make predictions on how patients will respond to a certain treatment, in larger percentages
  • How science can be influenced through an unconscious bias of the the scientists, or because of politics, or the need to get studies done and published, or even the influence of sponsorship (who is paying for the research)
  • How over 50% of funding of clinical trials comes from private funding, and how this is an imperfect system, but might be the best one we have
  • How research has been published with fake peer reviews on Biomed Central, and that the practice of fake peer reviews may be widespread, as reported in the Washington Post
  • How a Harvard researcher faked a research paper in order to expose how the peer review process isn’t happening like it should, allowing less then moral researchers to take advantage of the system
  • How the open access model of research publication may be allowing papers not actually peer reviewed into publication, driving down the quality and reliability of the research
  • The possibility of “astro-turfed” research from pharmaceutical companies, who publish research in lower tier journals, without disclosing that those journals are closely associated with the company
  • The creation of woozles, or proof via citation, as justification
  • The appearance of “spooky effects” when human beings observe the world around them, especially in research
  • How the sex of a scientist in a lab could change the outcome in a study on animals
  • How the placebo effect is getting more powerful, and why its presence casts doubt on the effectiveness of many treatments
  • A strange story involving healing from terminal cancer and the placebo effect
  • Why it might be necessary to be skeptical of anything that reports to be beneficial for your health, even if it seems to be backed by research
  • How a lack of evidence for doesn’t mean there is evidence against, and why stuff that looks like quackery from the outside might work for you, and how to approach it

Related Resources:

Washington Post: Major publisher retracts 64 scientific studies in fake peer review outbreak

The Retraction Watch Website

Astroturfers rule the day: FDA’s reviewers were emotionally blackmailed by a slick lobbying campaign

Male Scent May Compromise Biomedical Research

Quantum Theory Demonstrated: Observation Affects Reality

Brian Peskin:: A controversial researcher in the study of the effects of fish oil

Rise in predatory open access journals mostly limited to researchers in Asia and Africa? BioMed Central weighs in with a study

Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science – Dr. John Ioannidis Exposes the Bad Science of His Colleagues

A Medical Madoff: Anesthesiologist Faked Data in 21 Studies – a pioneering anesthesiologist has been implicated in a massive research fraud that has altered the way millions of patients are treated for pain during, and after orthopedic surgeries

What do you think?


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The cultural effects of happy pills? Antidepressants from a different angle – Episode 008

The cultural effects of happy pills? Antidepressants from a different angle – Episode 008

Modern people are depressed. Especially in America. And especially women. Or at least that’s the conclusion we come to looking at the levels of persons taking medication for depression. Specifically a kind of anti-depression medication called SSRIs, or selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. Today we asked the question: what are the cultural effects of so many… Continue Reading