A scientist explains the problem with bias in science
|November 26, 2011||Posted by News under News, Peer review, Science|
It’s Impossible to Avoid Bias
We are all familiar with competing experts in a trial who have diametrically opposed opinions on some matter, even given the same evidence. This happens in science all the time.
Even if we have perfect measurements of Nature, scientists can still come to different conclusions about what those measurements mean in terms of cause and effect. So, biases on the part of scientists inevitably influence their opinions. The formation of a hypothesis of how nature works is always biased by the scientist’s worldview and limited amount of knowledge, as well as the limited availability of research funding from a government that has biased policy interests to preserve.
Admittedly, the existence of bias in scientific research – which is always present — does not mean the research is necessarily wrong. But as I often remind people, it’s much easier to be wrong than right in science. This is because, while the physical world works in only one way, we can dream up a myriad ways by which we think it works. And they can’t all be correct.
So, bias ends up being the enemy of the search for scientific truth because it keeps us from entertaining alternative hypotheses for how the physical world works. It increases the likelihood that our conclusions are wrong.
As it happens, this was written by one of those awful, evil climate change skeptics, which means that all right-thinking people should reject it in favour of “the scientist as zealous advocate whose findings always support approved causes.”
That’s how consensus science always leads to progress, as we illustrate here.
Note: “Progress” in consensus science means more consensus science. It is difficult to evaluate that reliable measure against other measures.