How likely is it that scientists are engaged in a conspiracy?

Frauds in scientific research

From time to time, the scientific community is rocked by cases of scientific fraud. Needless to say, such incidents do not help instill confidence in the public mind that is already predisposed to be skeptical of inconvenient scientific findings. Some notable cases include: (a) a series of papers in nanoelectronics by a Bell Labs researcher, (b) two papers claiming that electromagnetic fields from cell phones can cause DNA damage, and several dozen articles by Netherlands social scientist Derek Stapel.

How could such frauds have happened? Jonathan Schooler of the University of California, Santa Barbara explains that “the big problem is that the culture is such that researchers spin their work in a way that tells a prettier story than what they really found,” often out of pressure to cast every advance as a breakthrough. Projects in which only one or a handful of researchers have full access to data are particularly prone to this type of distortion. For example, in Stapel’s case he was able to operate for so long because he was lord of the data — not even his doctoral students were permitted to see their own data.

Evolution, climate change and other “conspiracies”

Evolution is evidently considered controversial by many, and allegations of fraud and conspiracy have been raised numerous times. According to a 2014 Gallup poll, 42% of Americans believe that “God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years;” (rates are lower in most other nations but still significant).

However, the basic facts of evolution, namely that living organisms have proliferated on earth over many millions of years, and that species have a common biological ancestry, have not been in question for many years in peer-reviewed scientific literature. Indeed, tens of thousands of radiometric —> Read More