• November 1, 2014

One Bad Apple, and the Threat to Science

One Bad Apple, and the Threat To Science 1

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At the beginning of August, Mark V. Hurd, chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, resigned abruptly under a cloud. It took a week or two for the full story to emerge and for the world to discover precisely what cloud it was that had fallen on him. At first, we learned that he was accused of sexual harassment. But then quickly that allegation was dropped, and we learned next that he had fudged his expense accounts.

Then, finally, after more digging by the press, the real story came out. Nobody in the company could stand him. He was a dreadful bully. More than this, although he was making a major profit for Hewlett-Packard, the feeling was that he was doing so at the expense of the company's long-term prospects. The board grabbed the pretext of the expenses, and he was gone.

Now compare that with the story of Hurd's near namesake, Marc D. Hauser. As the world now knows, Hauser is a leading evolutionary psychologist and a full professor at Harvard. For the past decade, he has been a rapidly rising star. He has published major papers (in good journals) on humans and other primates, on issues to do with language acquisition and on the possible biological bases of morality. One recent paper purported to show that moral feelings and reasoning can be separated from religious beliefs and commitments. He wrote a very well-received book, Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong (Ecco, 2006). And he has spoken far and wide. Last year, he was a keynote speaker at a major conference at the University of Chicago, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, The Boston Globe reported that, following complaints by his graduate students, he had been under investigation by his university for the last three years for scientific misconduct. As with Hurd, the story has been slow in emerging, and we still don't have it in full. But from a letter released by the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard, it appears that in a number of experiments, some published, some not, he had been fiddling with the results in some fashion.

What some saw as clearly going one way, he recorded as going other ways­—other ways that confirmed his hypotheses about the importance of biology in the acquisition of language and moral abilities. As a result, Hauser has been found "solely responsible" for eight instances of "scientific misconduct," and he told a reporter from The New York Times that he made "some significant mistakes," and he was "deeply sorry for the problems this case has caused to my students, my colleagues and my university."

Suppose Immanuel Kant had invented a moralometer­—an instrument you point at someone who has done wrong, and it tells you where he or she falls on a scale of one to 10. ("Ten" being ethnic cleansing and "one" being sticking your tongue out at the teacher when he is not looking.) My suspicion is that, with respect to actual misdeeds, Hurd and Hauser would score about the same, say around five or six. It might be more if Hurd were actually guilty of sexual harassment, and it might be more if it turned out that Hauser had really bullied his students. But you can get the idea.

And yet, by and large the Hurd case leaves me cold, or rather (like everyone else), I could not understand why Hewlett-Packard would want to fire someone who was so successful, even though the illicit expenses ran into tens of thousands of dollars. Sure, he did wrong, but that is for him to live with. Get the money back, put in controls, and move on.

The Hauser case, however, really makes me mad. In part, this is because I was taken in by Hauser's actions. I have been praising his work to the sky, and I feel a bit stupid. I blame Hauser, and in part I blame Harvard for taking so long to tell us about it­—something the university has done only with reluctance as the news became public.

For once, I think my reaction tells us less about Michael Ruse and more about something else, namely about the nature of science. Seventy years ago, the great sociologist Robert K. Merton made a number of points about science, and they seem still to hold today. Above all, he stressed that science is a community activity. Scientists may not always work together, although of course that is now very much the norm, but they do rely on each other, particularly for the ideas and theories that they use in their own research. In turn, they contribute—and want to contribute—to the general pool of knowledge.

Charles Darwin sat on his ideas about evolution through natural selection for 20 years, but when his priority was threatened (by the arrival of a paper from Alfred Russel Wallace with the same ideas), he quickly wrote up The Origin of Species and published it. What is distinctive about science (excluding commercial science and the obvious demands of making a living and so forth) is that scientists do not do what they do for money, but rather for respect and acclaim. You don't charge others for your ideas and equally you don't expect others to charge you for their ideas.

Now against this background, ask what can go wrong, why it doesn't normally go wrong, and why it does sometimes go wrong. What can go wrong is that someone doesn't play the game. Most obviously, someone pinches someone else's results—plagiarism—or someone fakes the results—fraud. Morally, there really isn't a lot of difference between the two. But the scientific community judges the latter far more sternly than the former.

If you pinch the ideas from someone else, say a grad student, one person suffers, but the community does not; it still gets a good idea or result. If you fake the ideas or results, and publish them, the poison spreads. We are all now at risk of using phony information, and our own work suffers. The community suffers.

This explains my reaction to Hurd and Hauser. By and large, no one much suffered from Hurd's bad behavior in regard to his expense reports. Many of us stand to suffer from Hauser's bad behavior. But now you ask why did they do it? Hurd is no big puzzle. Padding your expense accounts so you can spend on a pretty actress is too common to need remark—which explains why no one thought this could be the real reason for firing Hurd. But Hauser? A full professor at the world's leading university? Even if the results were not as he expected, it might have taken a bit more time, but surely he could have done something with them? It is rare that a good experiment fails to show anything interesting, even if it is not quite what you set out to find in the first place. Indeed, sometimes it is the experiment that did not seem to work that turns out, down the road, to be the really exciting investigation.

Sociologists offer conflicting explanations for scientific misconduct. Perhaps Hauser is just a "bad apple:" He just doesn't care about the integrity of science. However, sociologists and psychologists point out that a lot of the motivation for doing science (and very much part of the training) is getting it right for its own sake. I used the metaphor of science as a game, and there is truth to it. You can get a good score in golf by cheating, but there is more satisfaction in working hard and getting a good score without cheating. Likewise in science.

We don't know the full story about Hauser, but the problems with the bad-apple scenario lead many to another explanation, "organizational climate." Today, you have to build teams, attracting grad students and postdocs, and this costs money. You have got to get grants, preferably from well-respected sources like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, in a highly competitive world. Fail to do this, and as a researcher, as a major player, you are dead. Or at least, you cannot do the sophisticated and expensive work that today's science demands. Perhaps in part, even Hauser at Harvard felt those pressures. Perhaps in part, precisely because he was at Harvard and so much was expected of him, he felt those pressures. My suspicion is that if that is the case, we will still be pretty cross, but we will all feel a certain sympathy. The grant imperative has taken a lot of pleasure out of being an academic.

Finally, a word about why the Hauser affair particularly is so upsetting and why it might have bigger consequences. Evolutionary biology today, especially anything to do with humankind, is loathed and feared by a range of critics, from prominent philosophers (like Jerry A. Fodor, author of What Darwin Got Wrong?), to the supporters of intelligent-design theory (like Phillip E. Johnson, author of Darwin on Trial), to the out-and-out young-earth creationists (like Ken Ham, the force behind the Creation Museum in Kentucky). Like sharks in the water, they circle waiting for a sign of blood. They seize on issues that supposedly discredit evolution and parade them publicly as the norm and the reason to reject modern science.

If anyone doubts what I am saying here, think of the recent controversy over global warming sparked when critics of the idea illicitly obtained e-mails and other confidential material of the researchers at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. For several months, much was made of incautious remarks made by the researchers about using "tricks" to conceal unwelcome findings and pushing for the firing of unfriendly editors. More measured reflections showed that in fact the researchers were guilty of virtually none of the sins of which they were first accused and that their work was of good quality. Global warming is a reality. But the damage was done.

Most of us feel a tremor of schadenfreude at the troubles of a prominent Harvard professor, but no one will be following the Hauser story with the unabashed glee of the critics of modern evolutionary theory. Wait for them to start pumping up the publicity, and fear the sideways damage that might be inflicted on all of the good work out there. One man's mistakes rebounds on every evolutionist. But that's science for you.

Michael Ruse directs the program in the history and philosophy of science at Florida State University. His latest book, Science and Spirituality: Making Room for Faith in the Age of Science, was just published by Cambridge University Press. He contributes to The Chronicle Review's blog, Brainstorm.

Comments

1. dank48 - August 24, 2010 at 08:31 am

"I could not understand why Hewlett-Packard would want to fire someone who was so successful, even though the illicit expenses ran into tens of thousands of dollars."

Why would bullying be any more tolerable in the business world than in academia? Okay, it's possible that not everyone Hurd came in contact with, supervised, worked with/against, and rubbed elbows and hackles with has a Ph.D. Well, believe it or not, some of us without higher degrees--brace yourself--have feelings too. "If you prick us, do we not bleed?"

If there's one thing neither academia nor business needs at all, much less needs more of, it's pricks. Hauser sounds like a nice enough fellow, except when pressed by grad students about dubious data collection or interpretation or both. Hurd sounds like a pretty effective fellow, in terms of corporate earnings, aside from being one on those things that makes people bleed. But Hauser stands accused of fraud, and nobody can stand to work with Hurd.

Tough world out there. It's not enough just to be smart. You also have to be good. Both Hauser and Hurd seem to have forgotten about treating other people the way one wants to be treated.

2. firstyearttguy - August 24, 2010 at 09:10 am

"What is distinctive about science (excluding commercial science and the obvious demands of making a living and so forth) is that scientists do not do what they do for money, but rather for respect and acclaim. You don't charge others for your ideas and equally you don't expect others to charge you for their ideas."

HA! Clearly Ruse thinks that humanities professors are just 'in it for the money'. In fact, I can think of lots of professions that aren't in it for the money (and who have much less chance to earn respect and acclaim): peace corps, social workers, monks/nuns, people who work for non-profit charities, etc.

3. kaybar47 - August 24, 2010 at 09:31 am

I agree with comment #2. I am mystified by the writer's seemingly callous disregard of what Hurd did to the employees of HP. Two thirds of the HP employees would have opted for other positions at other companies. This is compared to single digit percentages previously. These are PEOPLE being made miserable by this "thing that makes people bleed". While Hauser's misdeeds may have a more significant negative effect in the long run, please do not give short shrift to the immediate suffering of those who had to work under Hurd.

4. 11147066 - August 24, 2010 at 09:43 am

This article is heartfelt but Ruse misses the point on many counts. Why would he assume that people do not cheat in academica for economic motives but rather to gain esteem and praise? In the university superstar system a professor such as Hauser is highly rewarded financially as well as in other ways. He may be just as motivated by money as a corporate CEO.
Professor Ruse is also hurt by his trust in Hauser's scientific discoveries. That is understandable, but other scientists were skeptical of Hauser's methods for some time. Evolutionary psychology is not quantum physics, although its practitioners may well dispute that claim. Hauser's theories are interesting and provocative but many have claimed that his methods and "proofs" of his hypotheses have not been as rigorous as his proponents have claimed. (That doesn't mean that his theories won't later be proven accurate by other scholars using more careful studies).
I wholly agree that one of the worst outcomes of this mess will be its use by anti-science advocates as some kind of definitive proof in their systemic attack on rationalism and the scientific method. Hauser is to blame for that, although bullying students would also place him high on my one to ten scale of immoral behavior in academe.
Emily

5. schultzjc - August 24, 2010 at 09:51 am

There are a couple of fallacies in this analysis.

1. "What is distinctive about science (excluding commercial science and the obvious demands of making a living and so forth) is that scientists do not do what they do for money, but rather for respect and acclaim."
Perhaps this is true in evolutionary biology, but yesterday's court ruling about embryonic stem cell research was based on the argument that ESC research competes with adult stem cell research, causing financial harm. The suit was brought by 2 adult stem cell researchers. Scientists care about money? You bet!

2. The author - despite his 'moral meter' measurement - seems to think that bullying and being a jerk is less destructive than manipulating data. The presence of a disruptive faculty member can wreck the productivity of those around him/her, and sometimes has spreading and even lethal consequences. Academia would be a far better place if academics had the nerve to get rid of their Mark Hurds. But they don't, and tenure protects disruptive, destructive, and damaging jerks.

6. bolender - August 24, 2010 at 10:06 am

@ firstyearttguy

That is the worst possible interpretation of what Ruse wrote, and I'm sure he didn't mean that. In fact, he teaches in a philosophy department.

7. honore - August 24, 2010 at 10:09 am

sad...

8. 12080243 - August 24, 2010 at 10:16 am

But "That's science for you."? No, that's humankind for you. But take heart, this is an opportunity to critically assess your own and other's science, and inform and educate others. Is your theory reliable? Is your data reliable? Are your conclusions reliable? That's your advantage and non-science's weakness.

Chauncey M. DePree, Jr., DBA
Professor
School of Accountancy
College of Business
University of Southern Mississippi
m.depree@usm.edu
www.usmnews.net

9. cleverclogs - August 24, 2010 at 10:23 am

While I think the concern about what Hauser's behavior has done to the integrity of science is probably justified, I don't believe that's what's really bothering anyone. I suspect Prof Ruse had it right in the first place - he's been taken in by what appears to be a charlatan and he's embarrassed. Scientists are intellectuals, like people in the humanities, and intellectuals hate to have their intellect called into question. Intellectuals don't say, "Fool me once, shame on you"; they say, "I should never have been fooled."

It violates one's sense of self, and it's perfectly fine to be angry about it. No need for intellectual distancing or mournful dispassion.

Having said that, the path forward seems clear. Assuming all of these allegations are true and proved, the community has to shun Mr. Hauser, as HP has done to Hurd. That's the real point HP was making - "we see that this man violated our norms and we shun him." The scientific community will have to do the same. Rescind his memberships, excise his work from journals, reward the student whistleblowers. And make Harvard work a bit harder in the future to prove they deserve to run this here town.

10. 11182967 - August 24, 2010 at 10:29 am

Two themes are emerging already in these comments, and I suspect many of the rest of the comments will cluster around them: (1) How dare Ruse suggest that bullying and/or sexual harrassment and/or fiddling your accounts aren't just as bad fiddling your experiment? and (2) How naive of Ruse not to think that scientists are the same sort of money/fame-grubbers as everyone else (especially business people).

But the main issue ought to be that Hauser did bad science--or, rather, that he did science badly. His experiment may or may not have been well designed to yield data which could be taken as demonstrative, but it certainly was not well carried out. There should have been more observers of the primate behavior, and at least some of these observers should have been more independent of the head of the lab doing the experiment. I've not seen the video, of course, but anyone who has seen instant replay from several angles knows that seeing behvaior from one anlge is not automatically determinate. How often was the experiment repeated? Did the observers change? Etc.

While many of the evolution-deniers simply refuse to acknowledge commonly accepted forms of scientific data as constituting proof (of the best, but never-absolutely-certain sort), sloppy experiments provide easy pickings for diversion from more fundamental issues. With friends like Hauser, evolutionary theory . . .

11. eeels - August 24, 2010 at 10:29 am

Persistent, malicious bullying by a powerful professor damaged me badly enough so that I never finished my Ph.D. or published my work. Yet those who knew me before it happened agreed that I was one of the most promising young scholars in my field. I was an award-winning teacher and had the potential not only to contribute to but to help shape the thinking in my field, but I never got the chance. Bullying has its wider effects too.

12. erictho - August 24, 2010 at 10:52 am

If you "pinch the ideas from someone else. . . one person suffers" -- I disagree. If you "pinch" someone else's ideas, lots of people suffer, from the person whose work you stole, to your committee who didn't catch your academic dishonesty and so whose credibility now suffers, to the university who hires you not realizing you didn't do your own work, to the students you teach, to . . .

13. 12080243 - August 24, 2010 at 11:07 am

By all means shun the miscreant! Cleans yourself of association. But wasn't shunning the practice perfected by religions? Belief is paramount in religion, not evidence, sound reasoning, all the principles that focus our attention on truth (with a small t). Yes be angry. Also, acknowledge that science is a human activity like everything else we do. Science, or any endeavor whose goal is sound reasoning, is the path many of us have chosen. Now, prove that it is the best one.

Chauncey M. DePree, Jr., DBA
Professor
School of Accounting
College of Business
University of Southern Mississippi
m.depree@usm.edu
www.usmnews.net

14. cleverclogs - August 24, 2010 at 11:46 am

"Shun" means to turn oneself away from - essentially, to adhere to one's own priciples. The religious connotation is a red herring. All communities shun those who violate their norms (that's what prison is, that's what expulsion is, and so on).

Using sound reasoning then, shunning is the only course of action, as I see it. Science values X. This man violated X. Therefore this man is not a scientist, and therefore his work does not belong in science journals and he does not belong in a scietific community.

Thus the logical course of action is to turn away from him, as a scientific community - although feel free to invite him to your next cocktal party.

15. 12080243 - August 24, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Sorry to have offended you, cleverclogs. Please note that a clever syllogism is not sound reasoning. See a logic text for a detailed discussion of sound argument (sound reasoning). Try again. We may reach agreement.

Chauncey (#s 14 and 9 above)

16. dank48 - August 24, 2010 at 01:51 pm

What on earth has shunning got to do with this blog?

17. _perplexed_ - August 24, 2010 at 03:06 pm

Judges, members of the clergy, and academics all wear robes on occassion. In part, this signifies (or at least it used to) a commitment to certain ideals that permit no exception. Corrupt judges, unholy clergy, and lying scholars deserve more contempt for moral failings because of these commitments, and because certain kinds of protections are offered to make it easier to adhere to a high standard. Marc Hauser had tenure. He didn't need certain kinds of results and didn't need grants in order to maintain his position. Part of what tenure is for is to enable adherence to schloarly values. Marc Hauser's contempt for the protections provided by tenure show clearly that he does not deserve it. Harvard sinks lower into the hole Hauser dug with every moment it permits a continuing association with him.

18. ralphelton2 - August 24, 2010 at 04:21 pm

Psychology is science?

19. sdryer - August 24, 2010 at 06:11 pm

It is not obvious to me why a Bad Apple-and Marc Hauser qualifies- should taint science any more than it taints any other collection of people. Critics who loathe and fear anything to do with evolution of humans should be ignored, just like flat-earthers and people trying to build perpetual motion machines. Maybe they will seize on this. So what. If Marc Hauser had never existed, those people will still just make stuff up. Just like Marc Hauser.

20. arrive2__net - August 24, 2010 at 06:27 pm

"And yet, by and large the Hurd case leaves me cold, or rather (like everyone else), I could not understand why Hewlett-Packard would want to fire someone who was so successful, even though the illicit expenses ran into tens of thousands of dollars."

In my opinion, one reason to fire a (well paid) CEO who is stealing from the company is that such a CEO can breed a organizational climate of corruption. It is possible that before long you won't even know if the company really is doing well, because the numbers could be corrupt too (ala Enron). (Assuming Hurd & Hauser really did what they are accused of ... ) The common motive seems to have been "power".

Bernard Schuster
Arrive2.net


21. lhcoleman - August 25, 2010 at 12:58 am

What ever happened to common decency and personal integrity? Why are the acts of workplace bullies so often glazed over and tolerated in today's society? For whatever reason, we seem to forget that the cost of their action translates into the loss of experienced personnel whose training (often at company expense) and contributions to revenue production, goes with them. Unfortunately, the resulting damages to the target after being submitted to the daily tactics of a bully are beyond measure. If success is defined by the amount of money generated by leadership for an organization, shouldn't the collective losses caused by the actions of that individual be deducted for a true picture of production? Stealing is stealing - whether its talent, hope, self-esteem, fudged expense reports or misrepresented scientific results - and as a result, people suffer. Maybe it would help to take a little shine off of the bottomline trophy and just try to do the right thing.

22. jffoster - August 25, 2010 at 06:36 am

Mr Dryer=- 20, not all of Prof. Hauser's critics are simply dismissable as people " who loathe and fear anything to do with evolution of humans. There were criticsand sceptics WITHIN that particular paradigm of "evolutionary psychology" and the whole field of evolutionary psychology, innate universal grammar, and the general area has been taken issue with for years by people in Anthropology, Biology, Psychology and Linguistics. If a bad apple in that field fudges their data, it taints an already suspect field.

23. rayswei - August 25, 2010 at 07:46 am

Michael Ruse's problem is that he trusted the investigator, which is like trusting a guru or spiritual advisor. In scinece it is always the data that needs to be carefully scrutinize, not who presents the data.

24. barbarapiper - August 25, 2010 at 08:40 am

Has Prof. Ruse (a historian) so quickly forgotten John Darsee, the Harvard Medical School cardiologist who faked data, was caught, and was more or less expelled from human society? He was certainly fired, and I imagine that Marc Hauser is at least mildly anxious at any mention of Darsee.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of differece between the fraud in the two cases, so one may wonder if the outcomes -- at least so far -- reflect the higher cultural value placed in medicine/cardiology. A kind of "who cares if Hauser intentionally misread a few monkey gestures?" No one died.

I have also been struck by the schadenfreud displayed by many of my colleagues who know Hauser and his work -- he seems to be regarded as excessively ambitious and lacks caution as a result. One colleague said that Hauser has always been known for his "Ready, Fire, Aim" approach to science. Could just be professional jealousy, but they're loving his current fall.

25. dank48 - August 25, 2010 at 01:47 pm

Schadenfreude.

26. barbarapiper - August 25, 2010 at 03:21 pm

@25 -- dank48

Thanks! My fingers type faster than my eyes catch the errors.

27. dank48 - August 25, 2010 at 04:17 pm

@26--Barbarapiper

You're welcome. My eyes catch errors more avidly than common sense tells me to lighten up.

28. mreimers - August 25, 2010 at 08:48 pm

Although I cannot speak with expert knowledge about Marc Hauser, I find that many senior administrators, who hold the future of young faculty in their hands, speak always and only about the importance of grant money. Although we have mandatory 'trainings' on research ethics, I have been at many meetings where it is commonplace to decide which results to suppress, because they don't make the project look good. It seems to me that the current situation in American science and professional schools is rather like that in Sparta in classical times. We are earnestly told not to cheat, but everyone understands that some form of misdirection (some 'white lies' - especially of omission) is essential for success. Some people get quite skilled at this; the problem is always where to draw the line.
It is also reminiscent of the situation in Enron, where the motto 'rank and yank' (a decimation every year) summarized their winner-take-all philosophy. I think the odds that held at Enron are pretty close to those in modern academia. Given the way that administrators are rewarding faculty, I don't see how anyone can expect outcomes other than those we see.

29. gerrymander - August 30, 2010 at 09:49 am

Now that the editor of Cognition has said that he thinks the evidence is that data were fraudulent in the retracted paper, would Dr. Ruse change his assessment of where Dr. Hauser falls on the moralometer?

There is another aspect of this which seems to be ignored. I would be interested if anyone who has read the retracted Cognition paper thinks it was worhty of publication. Even if the control data are faked, the experimental results section still consists of a single sentence, a single data point, and an inappropriate statistical comparison (the statistic used is inappropriate for the data Dr. Hauser purported to have collected).

There was widespread concern about Dr. Hauser's loose definition of meaningful data. Combine that with his track record of miraculous discoveries that don't fit with other people's experience and add failures to replicate his own studied, and there were plenty of reasons to be suspicious of Dr. Hauser's work, from his own published record. To Now discover that he likely faked some of the data (how much no one knows and we apparently are not going to get to know as only Hauser knows which data are fake and which are not and who would believe him now), just seals the case. Hauser should lose the tenure he has abused, be banned from applying for federal funding, and be fired from Harvard. If he has faked data he has lost all right to being trusted. Could he earn trust back? I think that is as likely as Darsee earning our trust and being put in a position of reponsibility. Hauser may not be the Madoff of science, but he is certainly on a par with Darsee, worse even because Hauser was a tenured professor, whereas Darsee was struggling to get into the field and decided to take a short cut.

30. ryanashton - August 30, 2010 at 03:32 pm

"Evolutionary biology today, especially anything to do with humankind, is loathed and feared by a range of critics...Like sharks in the water, they circle waiting for a sign of blood. They seize on issues that supposedly discredit evolution and parade them publicly as the norm and the reason to reject modern science."

This is quite the picture Ruse is painting. Rather than opt for verbs like "scrutinize" or "critique," Ruse uses "loath" and "fear" to refer to the actions of evolutionary critics. Is it really fair to say that Jerry Fodor is loathsome or fearful of evolutionary theory? He's a professed atheist!

Also, Ruse intimates that it is inappropriate for critics of evolutionary theory to highlight instances of scientific fraud. Perhaps it would be wrong to take an "exception" for a "rule," but how do we know, a priori, which are the exceptions and which are the rules? If a tenured professor in the top eschelons of academia bypassed a number of "quality control" mechanisms, it is by no means trivial if there are other, perhaps widespread, instances of such fraud. I certainly don't know, but I will not naively assume Hauser is the exception here.

31. dr_orient - August 30, 2010 at 08:14 pm

Has anyone considered that Professor Hauser's misdeed(s) may be related to social pressures that were consciously fostered during the W regime? I recall instances where out-and-out Lysenkoism was promoted by government agencies (including those wacky folks in the White House), in terms of scientists being bullied to alter data to suit (right-wing) party ideology.

While that certainly does not exculpate Professor Hauser, who should be tossed out of the science community if guilty, it may explain some of the more recent scandals in both the corporate and academic worlds (and in reality, of course, there's only one world)...

32. marka - August 31, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Bravo - 28. mreimers - August 25, 2010 at 08:48 pm - for telling it like it is!

This is not just one 'bad apple' outlier - as some of the other comments suggest, there is more to this than the scientism/evolutionism community would like to admit. This is more of an example of not only the corrupting influence of grant $, but the continued hubris and ambition of self-promoting priests of science. Lest we forget, Korean stem cell research, the many drug company paid medical 'researchers,' and plenty of others that are motivated by $, fame, status, the prospect of Nobel prizes, awards, etc. 'Scientists,' as well as many others, still give too much weight to who conducts the enterprize, not the actual data.

Which is why the suppression of data by climate researchers is not some trivial matter - it goes to the heart of the scientific process. Unfortunately, data suppression is fairly widespread - because conformance to current accepted theory is more important to a career (confirmation bias), and the acclaim of peers, than true adherence to data collection, and following the data, not the theory. I've heard too much dismissal of inconvenient data as anomolies, or outliers ...

And by the way, 29. asghjghj - August 29, 2010 at 09:02 am ought to have the account yanked for continued spam ...

33. nominalize - September 01, 2010 at 09:09 am

Competition breeds immorality. It does in sport, it does in business, it does in academia. The higher the stakes, the worse it gets--- it starts with a little fudging, then it moves to full-on cheating, and pretty soon, bullying and physical violence become "necessary" (e.g., the shooting at UAB) to keep alive in the competition.

This is the downside to the competitive spirit that can push us to excel; we would do well to stop ignoring it.

34. ryanashton - September 01, 2010 at 11:57 am

I have to disagree, Nominalize. Since morality is only a coherent system of values, competition itself cannot be the source of immorality. Human choice is the source.

What has happened with Hauser and others is that they have chosen a goal that is irrational or incoherent: that they can achieve scientific 'success' by violating the principles of science itself. This is an irrational aim. If it is true that Hauser was motivated by prestige or wealth, then he was not really 'competeing' for these things in the scientific arena; rather, he was merely 'competeing' against other con-men or charlatans.

Competition, at least 'genuine' competition, involves rules and boundaries. Of course, one can write the numbers on a bowling score card that represent a perfect game without rolling a single ball, but such a person is not really 'competing' against other bowlers--they are simply delusional if they think what they've done really represents a perfect game. Fraud is not a 'genuine' form of competition--the only 'rule' with fraud is that there is no rule.

We ought to hold individuals accountable for their actions, not the context. Competition can be healthy so we shouldn't through the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

35. walkerst - September 01, 2010 at 11:57 am

I worked at Harvard for some time, and this story didn't surprise me. The pressure there is indeed extreme, and it's hardly surprising that for a few, the pressure to succeed and the desire to be an academic star eventually trump academic integrity.

36. roleypole - September 06, 2010 at 12:55 pm

on grant pressure: I am sure that nobody who reads this from a research university of even modest reputation will have ever heard of my little school and if you visited you would be shocked by the lack of infrastructure for research. A few years ago we hired a very promising researcher with a high impact publication and promptly put her to work teaching two and (mostly) three classes per term. She successfully established herself here, worked on several research projects and produced 6 new publications before tenure, including another high impact article. She co-organized a symposium at an international meeting and her tenure letters, from top researchers at top institutions, were glowing. But the 60k grant she obtained came with no overhead so our provost has denied her tenure. Oh, by the way, she is a great teacher as well. I have served on my last search committee.

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