Current Editorial June, 2003
Relating the Subjectively Born Inquiry to Objective Proof in Science: More than Ethics
Reverence for Truth As the Essence of Scientific Method and Knowledge
By Marilynn Stark
The motto for this Web site came to me in response to an editorial I happened upon in a leading scientific journal.1 The author steadfastly maintained that in the questions purported in scientific research the validation of results pertaining to those questions is a process which might not work as well for deliberate fraud as it works for genuine error. However, the wording the author used allowed that he should tread conceptually upon the now moot validity of the validation process as differentiated from its use wherein human error occurs to its use to effect willful fraud; such differentiation in the application of that validation process belied his own conceptual treatment of the meaning of true scientific method. It is not so much that the author's bland purport according to the idea that scientific method is not fully operative upon the data associated with fraudulent scientists was presented in the guise that only the question of this should be raised; rather, his words overall in the editorial can only have misrepresented his own ability to sort the truths of scientific endeavor as according to fundamental principles of proper scientific thinking and reasoning. Since the workings of the intellect are most astute when the mind behind the thinker discriminates well, one can only derive a truer answer to the questions posed regarding the utility of scientific method to equally unravel fraudulent scientific doings as it does prove valid and uncontestable results in the first instance. To beg this question forthwith, is the bulk of this by now immeasurable body of scientific knowledge in all of its many and varied branches not true? The stentorian caliber of any answer to the affirmative cannot be outweighed by a diminutive few researchers who manage to deceive the larger lot of good scientists for a brief while. Yet, most certainly, one can sympathize with any author who has the mental steel to draw up a stand on an issue such as fraudulent measure and further remind one and all that the thinking processes at work in scientific probing are subtle, indeed. It is purely out of my profound regard for science and what 'doing' in science had taught me that I would address these questions with more insights of my own. My most sincere wish would respectfully remain that posing such questions is itself a healthy demeanor to bear and is commendable in the balance; only when controversy and challenge arise past the good intentions of that also good demeanor may these differences be regarded as inevitable to the nature of the debate so inspired. Neither is anyone to be deprived of the opportunity to reconsider on such matters to which strict truth may be addressed through the appointment of one who had first seen past the doubts of another; nor does the order matter if I can also be the one to have learned further herein. Indeed, the most truthful quest in science concerns not the attachment by ego to advances made through solid scientific research to whose veracity in results do we even owe these questions of the power of truth to see in and through deceit and concoction; if one day were I to be deceived by a fraudulent report and to have been propelled by its force upon my intellect into an extension of its false purport into action, then the sheer weight of caution as exercised the through the verbiage of the author's essay should also cause my ego of the knowledge of the method and truculent nature of scientific insight and reasoning to take pause, to reflect and to necessarily regroup. However, one's ardor for truth can easily court its essential place when derived from its more universal source as supremely transcendent. This apical stature of truth according to an unqualifiedly asserted conditional -- that truth can only but reclaim from any who would squander with fraud its power, its moment, its effectuality or its own transcendence -- deserves equal if not greater attention than to say that scientific research should fall conceptually into the trough of some trial with a mind for contriteness on the matter of simple guile in report. The mere transience of one who beguiles further renews the joy to be found in the excellence of truth as platform and not only of truth as a tower of light whose elevation invites its utility as the source of all solutions for impartation into practical benefits to be slated from any particular platform.
Now the question of the nature of knowledge must be affixed also to the method of science since method produces a furtherance of that knowledge. The poetic verisimilitude of what might be commonly termed a body of knowledge gives a starting ground for a more in-depth consideration of what is knowledge. However, the question of what is knowledge must be elucidated before the consideration of how to validate that which is genuine knowledge from that which is in err. Moreover, such elucidation as to the nature of knowledge must be applied in the equivalent way to that which is genuine and honestly derived from that which is derived from the deceit of fraud. The body structurally in basic biological terms is served by the higher order intelligence system, the nervous system, which includes the head, and the head carries the unit of cognitive reasoning power--the brain. Similarly, in scientific progress the thinker and the doer, the brain and the hands, combine to glean results which are sorted and ultimately contained as in a body. This body of knowledge must answer to the more evolved and implemental abilities of the brain, located adjacent to the body, interacting with the body, but more responsive yet to new input, new data, or new ideas. Thus does that body of knowledge grow, true. However, this knowledge grows according to strict truth -- the application of pristine scientific method -- or its growth will be interrupted. Henceforth, to refer to a body of knowledge as a structure and to include it in words chosen around knowledge referred to as a structure is to form a teleological platform which obviates the way in which knowledge as a body is first formed and then further tested. To also defer to the concept of the power of prediction and to the process of valid scientific method as tautologically part of such a body of knowledge actually constitutes forming such a teleological platform. This teleological defense of knowledge for the sake of knowledge lies clearly outside an active parley which must truthfully concern precisely how that knowledge is ever born. Knowledge is born through dynamic process. Therefore, such a teleological defense of knowledge does not serve well in this instance of merely implicating the nature of method in science to uncover truth only where truth had been exploited and tauted and then touted perhaps as sincere -- sincere when it was not so. It is not that knowledge is a structure beholden unto itself as if it has power as its leading attribute since mankind must answer to that very power with continuing research in some of the most vital and leading questions which can arise out of knowledge; rather, instead of viewing knowledge as a structure of power, any discourse which arises out of the awareness of the bridging process of valid scientific method to the native establishment of knowledge would out of hand include truth as superseding to invalid scientific reporting.
This cogent point regarding how
knowledge forms would allow such implemental polemic as is offered here unto
the scientific community on the behalf of sincere faith in science.
May this polemic further allow those concerned with questions of
ethics in science to wax conceptually even more in the abstract tenets
of truth. May these hallowed
tenets of truth guide well the reasoning processes out of which have
arisen this wondrous invention of scientific man: our modern culture and
its technological as well as ideological capabilities.
Indeed, both ideological and technological realities derive from
the truth that is science. In which case, if classical language
will trace for us the kind of regard for truth which is innate in its
own structural attributes, then the motto of this Web site might be
elaborated accordingly. Then the ancients might say, Cogito et
scio invicem, sed veritas et inscientia de rebus tantum ratione
scientiam certe facti erant, or, 'I think and I know
interchangeably, but truth and ignorance of things must produce
knowledge assuredly only by method.' If a fraud sabotages a
leading edge in the growth of scientific knowledge, and when that
knowledge is regarded intuitively and awarefully as a structure which is
labile to further reasoning processes, then ignorance has been in the
works all along; no knowledge can be posed as through hypothesis unto
working theory by applied scientific research except as it first answers
to ignorance. Therefore, it
is not enough to hold a sheer regard even if a high regard for
knowledge as a structure outside of any consideration for the dynamic
relationship which that knowledge originally held to ignorance.
Neither is it proper to dispose knowledge as an indurated entity
in relation to future ignorance as the power of the human subjective
mind relates such knowledge further to the objective reality and the
ever-demanding quest to conquer more ardently through truth.
Thinking and knowing are interrelated so that as one thinks upon
what one knows, one may learn more and thus know more in a constant,
positive feedback way. Truth is hypostatic to ignorance; this explains the joy in discovering truth--it is as if it had always been
there, always had been so. Knowledge is also hypostatic to
thinking. Scientific method is the active fulcrum or motivating
force upon the questions which arise from thought upon knowledge,
knowledge ever processing thought, in order to conquer ignorance with
truth. The use of careful scientific method upon questions
designed to prove through valid results the truth of a theory will give
birth to knowledge, but knowledge which when gained may be dangerously
disposed to thinkers who view it as staid and possessed of the leverage
to make successful predictions upon future questions regarding ignorance
versus truth. However, if a scientist reasons along the lines that
knowledge of the objective realm will empower one to know more than that
which has been scientifically validated, he or she will so arrogate the
structure of knowledge as a stable entity of great purport to the
subjectively-derived vantage thus had. This
leap of knowledge beyond the bounds of its real scientific validation
will flummox one; now rendered incapable of the mental stature to reason
out of and past any smoke cloud set up by a fraudulent scientist and the
results concocted by such fraud, such a scientist will fall prey to the
simple lack of good, sound reasoning which had infiltrated the sanctity
of good works. Granted, it takes knowing truth to skirt the truth
and thus egoistically prove an hypothesis past its own worth through
dishonest measure. However,
it takes also the dynamic application of truth through strict scientific
method to process and sort well conceptually the underpinnings of such
fraud when it presents just as it requires a mind for the dynamics of
truth in science in order to completely comprehend what a body of
knowledge is essentially. In a metaphoric sense, then, knowledge is more
of a frontier than a body, and a scientist is as much a doer as a
thinker since scientific method involves doing. Doing is the way,
but it is not possible without proper thinking, either.
Experiments must be of meticulous design in a reasoning sequence of
sound logic so as to perturb precisely that which is sought. When
the physically applied method is precise and interpreted as the body of
data it might yield, then strict objectivity will also yield a proof or
a lack of proof as according to proper and strict analytic acumen.
Let us consider here a leading question in the cited article which should be reiterated in order to illustrate the subtle ambivalence which is introduced through a conceptually-based reliance upon scientific knowledge as a repository so imposing that fraud itself can evade discovery. The author says,
"These new cases of fraudulent research, though hardly the first, raise the question of whether the validation process that corrects honest error works as well for deliberate fraud."
R. Stephen Berry; Validity and Ethics in Science; SCIENCE, 300(5624),1341, 30 May 2003.
Whether unintentional or laden with deceit, it is not so much the question of which kind of error causes a mishap in the progression of knowledge that is science. Sadly, the one who resents the ever driving quest for high parley with great and unique truth in research findings for its unpredictable appointment may force that desire into false yet seemingly correct candidacy; some results are foisted upon the scientific thinkers through a manipulation of data, a supposition is thereby being turned into a positively true result, and the light of science has been misapplied accordingly to fraudulent intent. On the other hand, researchers may arrive at false conclusions through misinterpretation of data, poor experimental design, or a much too all-encompassing subjective bias which weighs possibly even good results grossly out of proportion to the real case for the finding. To compare these two instances of error in scientific work from the human interest side should render great displeasure towards both in the defense of the sanctity of regard for science. Notwithstanding, to ask whether the fraudulent error is more or less disposed to correction through the process of proving in scientific mode now reapplied to two such kinds of error in scientific work only begs the question of the nature of truth as it works in and through scientific processes. The author quoted above does not directly answer his own rhetorical question in real discourse. This passive stance in answer to his own inquiry might seem more to suggest that his answer if put to the force of requirement upon him should come out in less favorable proportion than what stately presence of scientific accomplishment would project to us. We indeed admire the great attributes of such a giving expositor of truth as is science. One point remains beyond the disappointment in the ambivalence thus engendered by such a tacitly posed truth: that all of the success and dint of science cannot convince him that any results of fraudulent thinking and saying are as open to the validation process as are their innocent neighbors of honest err? Of course are the corrective measures of science yet vibrant and in force. This fact does not defend the posing of such a broad miscalculation of the power to apply truth and to thus win over ignorance whether that ignorance is out of genuine error or has been inculcated upon the scientific community by a fraud who believes in concoction. The supposition in fair words towards the optimistic side that the stolid body of knowledge that is science can survive the power of deceit does not mollify a trenchant thing when that trenchant thing is the love of truth, the sheer love of perceiving reality through the ability to apply a dynamic force of truth upon inquiry in the objective realm of scientific endeavor. Ignorance itself lies behind a veil; that veil when lifted leaves the light of knowledge. Similarly, a scientific wrecker can impose a veil upon a question and then feign having lifted that veil and so give a false representation of truth to others. Now he only fools himself, for he is only imitating how science works when it is real, and the power of truth has its absolute hold upon all questions of its dominion. Therefore, why give in to the misery of one whose veracity has been sacrificed to poor character when ultimately all that there is in any case to discover is truth itself; the scientific validation of results takes care of itself according to a bounden process which does not stumble where a frail character would stumble. The scientific validation of results is a golden process which takes patience to wait out, certainly. Be apprised that it is only time which undoes the undoer of good science, for truth applies universally only because it is universal in its most ultimate, its most rarefied nature.
Without attempting to take apart an optimistic statement of belief that the self-validation of science is indeed an integral and functioning force in the field of human endeavor was a smoke cloud of doubt visited herein by me; this smoke cloud had to be dispelled upon my immediate consideration. It is not the question that the body of knowledge of science can survive the wrongdoers which visit its corridors and laboratories. Instead, it is the question: what is it that scientific validation cannot figure out most perfectly, and especially does this include the deceit of fraud? Furthermore, in so doing, in so taking apart a fraudulent experiment has a new observation or group of observations been had by those fortunate enough to have corralled back to truth the less than desirable conclusions for the good of all and for the good of science? Then there is no argument here; rather, there is only a defense of the power of truth as applied in staunch scientific method relegated to a quest to validate pre-existing work.
In summary, then, the question of ethics in science will be subsumed under the power of leading scientists to ever establish the way for all simply by seeing through those results which do not meet proper accord with strict truth; it is strict truth which is essential to their own deepest insights as to valid conclusions arrived at through valid logic and experiment design. The subjective ponder of the astute and exacting scientist is as profound as what reverence for truth he/she holds. Such reverence for truth is the key to working, seeing, doing and thinking towards scientific discoveries. To be able to match a subjectively born reality to the actual, real truth of the objective realm in science requires an unbending intellectual honesty and a strict adherence to the greatest heart for truth. Inasmuch as they are devoted to truth, such gifted individuals as those who teach and explore in science must honor strictly and unerringly the ethics which are the underpinnings of scientific method and the knowledge to which that methodology leads; however, such ethics only speak through actions ultimately. If due to honest error results are not repeatable and cannot be built upon in subsequent experiments, those whose error had yet been inadvertent can even definitely reconnoiter to good standing; and this is a profound point most worthy of further explication. For any who have honestly erred in research, reverence for truth has tremendous weight towards ultimate consequence regarding such mishap; indeed, reverence for truth has in such instance the power and the moment to fortify an equally sound duty-mindedness so as to place the validity of contribution to science above any personal slight and, further, even beyond the lesson or lessons taken from due refutation of results. Those lessons may now have only nurtured a scientific mind unto a keener perceptive ability whilst they had more importantly preserved a building-block point in a series of experiments -- the ego must be relinquished on the behalf of objective truth when objective truth is to be culled through research. How to perceive using scientific method -- from experiment design, to materials and methods in experiment design, to culling data and compiling it, to proper analysis of data, and finally to the drawing up of results which propound conclusions useful to proof or disproof of an hypothesis -- this is a multifaceted challenge which can still be redeemed unto a team of researchers who in honesty err. Indeed, does this point of possible redemption not shore up the sidedness of the good versus bad character traits under scrutiny in these considerations? Yes, certainly a greater distinction between the two sets of traits, the good and the bad, will be drawn up if by contrast between the two. This differentiation between the willful and the accidental or human error in scientific reporting will earn its merits to the extent that a fraud and the undesirable results of a fraud upon the innate tendency of scientific knowledge to grow cumulatively can be that much more extricated from the folly of an exaggerated and exceptionally transparent breach of ethics. This argument of validity and ethics as pertains to scientific research and knowledge becomes therein only one of proving that an honest mistake can aid in making more obvious by such contrast a kind of mistake which constitutes downright planned, fraudulent scientific telling. Forgiveness of simple error may also be consoling as much as it is elevated, yet is the quest for truth through scientific research not in the first instance also elevated? Therefore, let the contrast between the two fundamental sources of scientific misrepresentation allow the consolation which forgiving intellects can achieve; had all not studiously learned overall, as well?
Even so, it was not so many centuries ago when the typical scientist was most likely to hypothesize more on what was unseen and unknown than upon what was even to be validated by empirical endeavor as we now know it. First, biological science had been founded by description rendered on the behalf of classification. Then, the attitude of the mind engaged in the study of life told all: endless speculation upon the unknown became the way, and such sheer speculation was highly accepted. It was quantification that was to become vitally essential towards drastically altering the mode of the scientific genius insofar as its connection to factual assays in biological science. This turning point in biology to the real came in its own manner of timeliness with the work of Gregor Mendel concerning the passage of heritable traits in the pea plant, Pisum sativum. Mendel's experiments in the hybridization of the pea plant effectively disproved that traits are blended in their passage from generation to generation. This conclusion of Mendel contradicted Lamarck's idea of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Darwin's idea of pangenesis which had extended Lamarck's thinking and purported that activities in the lifetime of an individual affect the heritable genealogical makeup of that individual was also contradicted by Mendel's discoveries in Pisum sativum. Mendel was a physicist. His own attitude of mind had been formed alongside other physicists and astronomers of his time who had instituted a quantitative method in the empirical realm. Biology in the time of Mendel had not even developed a language of mathematics in its respective constitutive approach to an understanding of life. Therefore, Mendel's elegant work was not to be recognized immediately; Mendel's work involving the hybridization of peas was as much as written in a language whose translation had yet to be performed even though it was cognizable and brilliantly correct. The dynamics of hybridizing plants stood in the darkness of the lack of cytological know-how in the time of Mendel. Cytologists were to formulate a methodology for scientifically verifying an hypothesis three decades after Mendel's work. Mendel's quantification must have seemed to be some hyperbolic form of speculation which would only challenge other biologists and natural scientists from that era. Those others who were in the business of speculation must have been somehow vaguely challenged to be perhaps more concise in such as their abstract ponderings by Mendel's intellect.
However, as inverted as this case in early biological science may be to the theme at hand herein, since a totally new method of scientific work made a great scientist, Mendel, go unnoticed and unclaimed by his own, this case illustrates how the scientific mind of man seeks its own. The scientific mind wishes to know so ardently regarding that which it seeks by inquiry that in the throes of passion to speculate the otherwise strong character can fall victim of the surge of desire to become known for knowing even where that knowing is still speculation; like a gambler can the character now turned faulty speculate wishfully, thinking perhaps that at least the purport of what is not truly proven will make a mark. Then even one day, so the desire may build, will such speculation itself which had been made out to be real be made good at last and validated for all to see. Ironically, as in the case of Mendel, great scientific breakthroughs can also be disregarded in a time when current hypotheses are not useful to gaining ground in knowledge of a particular question of science. As preposterous as such cases sound to a modern day scientist wherein scientific method is solidly established, such an element of 'quasi - black box thinking' when infused into the scientific arena by one whose fraudulence is striking to others may basically be an expression of the human intellect to believe more of what it can imagine and only hope to find as valid; even pioneering brilliance as an opposite case of quasi - black box thinking can turn out to have been far more real than speculation. This aspect of human nature -- to expand the conscious awareness into the unknown and to thus defy all scientifically applied intellectual empiricism -- had known its fullest expression in a time centuries ago when scientific method was yet prenatal to mankind, and it could therefore be understood and forgiven in its own historical context. The very growth of objective science, indeed, proceeded in history in starts and stops to truth and fallacy respectively. Nowadays, those who enter into such as is regarded as a breach in ethics when it comes to the proper and empirical validation of scientific results have no excuse, certainly, which would be tenable to the rest of the scientific community. This point is made once again only to point up the observation that the intellect of man, having been saddled now to scientific method which further renders its valid results in the practical world, relies partly on technological prowess and computer science in order to accomplish great progress in the growth of scientific knowledge in all the various branches of science; notwithstanding, there can never be a substitute for the human intelligence as applied to scientific thinking. The subtle points of logical connection which are necessary in undoing the erroneous work of a fraudulent scientist must eternally evade the power of a computer program to accomplish the same task. Therefore, technology remains a tool of man's intellect and genius in this sense and not vice versa since a computer program cannot speculate into the unstated or into the unseen as does the scientific dreamer who regards the unknown with great fondness and with a spirit of undaunted inquiry. Does this realization of the importance of the place of the honest scientific intellect to make known to colleagues any discrepancies in a paper or any wrong equation in the active research lab not lighten the sense of burden which accompanies the responsible mind for producing in science and for safeguarding its annals for posterity? Forsooth, that dutiful correction of errors perceived in science as it would grow sequentially from experiment to experiment lies essentially within the options not of the machines, not of the computers, and not of the satellite-level communications -- all of which may lend their collective and mighty support to this scientific day. Rather, it is to be with a spirited fervor for truth that anyone should offer an insight so as to rectify when the discovery of a fraudulent nick in the ongoing mark of scientific progress has been made. This rectification will bring about the wholesome correction which can be used for any necessary counterbalance on the behalf of truth and on the behalf of science.
Finally then, the question of the difficulty of proving fraud and its comparative anatomy in light of sound reasoning according to truth in the defense of scientific knowledge as an ongoing body under structural development has been dissected carefully here, and it has been seen that this supposedly difficult task indeed pales to the love of truth for its universality, its sheer universality. Universal truth conquers all when once it is actuated through active deed; therein is derived the inexorable success of ongoing science. Neither error by the deceit of fraud nor error by the honest misperception of an innocent mind can daunt the power of truth in science; nor is there a valid conclusion to be made that the fraudulent report requires more skill for the one who finds it than that amount of skill which would be required to uncover a mistake made by honest human error. This point of differentiation as to how deep lies a buried truth in scientific work, I concede, cannot be a matter for direct measurement, yet it concerns matters which are of direct measurement; that is, such matters as are the data at hand in research work comprise the question.
As a matter of faith in science, to lend credence to the place of frauds to be more evasive due to some superiority of their deceit is itself a value judgment that will weaken the faith of many in the veracity of new discoveries in ongoing scientific topics. Such a weakening of faith should not be necessary when one believes in the power of truth to conquer from the subjective inquiry after an objective match, for example, that seems to be awry somehow upon more careful scrutiny of a scientific paper; still then, upon a rematch through active experiment itself can the honest regard and reverence for truth above all be reapplied to reveal the one-to-one mapping of truth to the objective realm from the vantage point of subjective perfection which will nab the spurious report of a fraud as an end result which owes its ultimacy to truth.
Marilynn Stark June 9, 2003; revised May 12, 2007; revised further August 22, 2007
1Validity and Ethics in Science
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