10 Scientific Frauds that Rocked the World

C

conservative

#1
10 Scientific Frauds that Rocked the World

1. The Cold Fusion Incident

Fusion power has been heralded as the solution to our future power needs. After all, it promises to provide a nearly limitless supply of energy with minimal environmental impact. The current problem, though, is that it takes a tremendous amount of energy to fuse together nuclei.

So, when Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann announced to a hungry scientific world that they’d discovered cold fusion in 1989 (a process that supposedly used much less energy), the duo were welcomed with splashy headlines.

Other scientists were dubious, and when Pons and Fleischmann withdrew their paper from Nature magazine and refused to answer questions, charges of fraud were made. Pons and Fleischmann never gave enough details of the experiment to allow others to replicate it, and more than 10 years later no one has been able to replicate their results.

There are still scientists who believe Pons and Fleischmann were on to something, but the premature claims of cold fusion cast such doubt on these two researchers that they were doomed to ignominy.

2. Scientist in on God’s Prank

In the early 18th century Dr. Johann Beringer of the University of Würzburg devoted his research to the discovery of fossils that seemed to indicate prehistoric life. Beringer, however, believed that these fossils were "capricious fabrications of God," used to test man’s faith. His belief seemed confirmed when at one site he discovered fossils of birds, beetles, moons, and stars. Little did he know that two mean-spirited colleagues had planted the fake fossils. Perhaps trying to get caught, they even planted tablets inscribed with the Hebrew and Arabic words for God. Beringer published a book, Lithographia Wirceburgensis, in 1726 describing his findings and his theory. But then he made another discovery: a similar buried tablet inscribed with his own name. He immediately began trying to buy back all the available copies of his book, but it was too late. Because of the hoax, his book became a bestseller.

3. George and the Cardiff Giant

George Hull had no patience with fools, but he exhibited great patience for making a fool of others. After arguing with a clergyman who claimed that giants had walked the earth because the Bible said so, Hull proceeded to carve a 10-foot gypsum statue of a man. He then buried his creation on a neighboring New York farm. In 1869, a full year later, Hull hired some well diggers, who discovered his stone man on the job. Of course people gathered to see this oddity, and rumors began to spread that it was a fossilized human of gigantic proportions. Many saw it for the hoax it was, but when two Yale professors declared it genuine, the proof of giants on earth became set in stone. Eventually Hull had to admit it was a fake after he sued P.T. Barnum for exhibiting a copy of it. Barnum claimed his statue was just a hoax of a hoax and was found not guilty.

4. The Most Unnatural of Selections

In the mid-1800s pollution from factories in Britain was darkening trees by killing the lichen, and scientists also noted a decline in the ratio between lighter-colored peppered moths and darker varieties.
It was hypothesized that the lighter moths were easier to spot and thus were eaten by more birds. Here was evolution in action. Bernard Kettlewell sat in the woods and watched to see whether birds preferred the lighter version to darker, and he reported that indeed they were twice as likely to eat the lighter moths.
Three problems, though: (1) Kettlewell was responsible for nailing dead moths to the trees for the birds to feed on, (2) peppered moths rarely alight on tree trunks, and (3) birds don’t normally feed on months moths that are on the side of trees. Even after scientists were informed of these inconsistencies, many still clung to the validity of the experiment, perhaps because they wanted to believe it as the canonical example of observed natural selection.

5. Sex and the Seedy

Alfred Kinsey’s landmark studies of the 1950s, known as the Kinsey Reports, were the major emphasis on late-20th-century views of human sexuality. The incidence of homosexuality, bisexuality, adultery, and childhood sexual behavior were higher than previously thought, which helped lead to different views of adult and childhood sexual behavior. According to Judith Reisman, however, Kinsey’s research was fraught with very bad scientific method and possibly fraud. He obtained much of his data by interviewing prisoners, his interviewing technique was biased, and he used reports from pedophiles to hypothesize about childhood sexual behavior. Kinsey’s estimates on the extent of homosexual behavior (38.7% in males ages 36 - 40) have not been validated in subsequent studies. In contrast, a Batelle report found that 2.3% of men reported having sex with another man. Nonetheless, Kinsey’s landmark study still remains one of the primary sources for current sexuality discussions.

6. Anything for Albert

Arthur Eddington was so convinced of the theory of general relativity that he altered his data to support it. Eddington set out to put Einstein to the test by carefully measuring how light was bent during a solar eclipse.

But apparently the examiner went soft. When the results were in, Eddington threw out 16 photographic plates that didn’t support Einstein’s theory. Even worse, he then published his research without those 16 plates and showed how Einstein’s theory accurately predicted the resulting data. It was this experiment that helped launch the public acceptability of relativity. Strangely enough, the hoax still has legs. You can still find the experiment listed in current textbooks as "proof" of Einstein’s theory.

7. Errors of a Graphic Nature

A more recent incident of fraudulent science concerns Jan Hendrik Schön, a physicist at Bell Laboratories. Considered brilliant, Schön was on the fast track in the field of nanoelectronics. His name was even mentioned for a possible Nobel Prize. But his rate of publication (40 a year) and his amazing results began to make some colleagues curious. Eventually Schön was caught falsifying data when he presented identical graphs in two different papers - and the graphs were supposed to be on different topics. Bell Labs themselves initiated an investigation and were rightfully horrified to find gross misconduct.

8. The Great Tasaday Hoax

One of the most startling anthropological discoveries of the 20th century was the discovery of a primitive, cave-dwelling society in the Philippines in 1971. The Tasadays, as they were called, were a find of enormous proportions because they lived a life undisturbed by hundreds of years of society. And to many an academic’s delight, anthropologists could now directly observe how people lived in such societies. The Tasadays even used stone tools.

If you’re thinking it’s impossible that such an isolated group could exist in the Philippines as late as the 1970s, you’re right. It turns out that their "discoverer," PANAMIN (Private Association National Minorities) secretary Manuel Elizalde Jr., paid local farmers to live in the caves, take off their clothes, and appear Stone Age. In return he gave them money and security from counterinsurgency and tribal fighting.

The fact that the Tasaday were a hoax was not confirmed until the fall of Marcos in 1983, invalidating, no doubt, many PhD dissertations that had been written in the interim.

9. Don’t Worry about the EMF, but Please Don’t Talk and Drive

Concerns about the dangers of living close to high-tension wires or of frequent use of cell phones have been hot topics for the past decade. Unfortunately, one of the studies that warned about the dangers of electromagnetic field (EMF) damage was a case of fraudulent science.

Robert P. Liburdy, a cell biologist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, was a leading researcher looking into the dangers of EMF. No study up to that point had shown any increase in risk due to electromagnetic field. Liburdy set out to change that, however, as his papers claimed that the fields could cause a disruption in calcium, which is important to cell function.

According to external reviewers, however, Liburdy left out, manipulated, and otherwise misrepresented the data to support the conclusions he was looking for. While the intense debate about the possible dangers of EMF will continue, it will do so without Liburdy’s findings.

10 Further Proof That Scientific Education Is Essential

The Quadro Corporation of Harleyville, South Carolina, had an impressive client list: public schools, police agencies, the U.S. Customs office, and Inspector General’s offices to name a few. The product they sold, the top of the line Quadro QRS 250G (also known as the Quadro Tracker, available for $1,000), boasted the ability to find drugs, weapons, or virtually anything worth looking for. The small plastic box supposedly contained frequency chips of an advanced sort not known to regular science. Driven by static electricity, the Quadro would resonate at exactly the same frequency as the searched-for item. When the FBI opened the box, however, they found nothing inside. Quadro threatened to sue Sandia Laboratories when Sandia suggested that the device was fraudulent, but eventually Quadro became the bigger company, and just closed shop.

Neatorama » Blog Archive » 10 Scientific Frauds that Rocked the World.
 
T

Technocratic_Utilitarian

#3
I do too, since it has no bearing on whether science is valid.

Most of the "frauds" are entirely irrevevant, since ZOMG it's a vanishingly small minority of cases where they lie, and in most of them, they are caught switfly and punished. It therefore has no bearing on the truth of natural selection.
 
C

conservative

#4
It bears truth to the nature of the industry of science....it isn't totally objective, nor error free, nor perfect. Like religion...as long as men are involved, there is potential for fraud and abuse of power.
 
T

Technocratic_Utilitarian

#5
It bears truth to the nature of the industry of science....it isn't totally objective, nor error free, nor perfect. Like religion...as long as men are involved, there is potential for fraud and abuse of power.

But none of this is important, which is the point. It's a strawman of people who don't exist who claim that all scientists are always all right.

No one said that.

Even if there are occausional hiccups, overall, science is vastly superior to religion. You are trying to put them on equal grounding because sometimes--just sometimes--there are hoaxes.

That doesn't fly, and it doesn't prove anything about Evolution. That the frauds were caught actually shows, again, a strength of the scientific method and peer review. The exact opposite of what you want to point out is what is made evident.
 
C

conservative

#6
Even if there are occausional hiccups, overall, science is vastly superior to religion. You are trying to put them on equal grounding because sometimes--just sometimes--there are hoaxes.
Science and Religion do not perform the same function....I am in no way putting them in the same arena of function.

Religion compliments Science...Science compliments religion. To deny either based on ones bias is faulty logic.
 
T

Technocratic_Utilitarian

#7
You claim that science and religion don't fulfill the same function, yet religion always tries to do just that. Let me explain.

1. Science explains how something exists and by what means it came to exist. For instance, it will say that life came about as a result of X process, and X process is defined and comprised of Y.

2. Religion, let's take Christianity, necessarily strays into that field. It goes beyond normativism and tries to be explanatory and descriptive. We see this in the claims that "not evolution, but God created man and the other animals." We see it when fundamentalists claim that the Earth is really not 4 billion years old, but 10,000 like is calculated from the Bible. In the Bible, there's intricate descriptions of events, such as global floods, water-filled firmaments, and descriptions about the Earth's place in the Universe.

These are all the realm of science, so the claim that science and religion don't attempt to do the same thing I don't know how you can tell me with a straight face. Religion entirely attempts to describe existence, the world, nature, and the universe, and it provides some mechanism, no matter how poor a one it is.

These are all questions of why and how.



2. You might say, however, that religion describes the "why" of existence, but that, from a non-religious point of view, isn't all that important. If you look at it from a naturalist perspective, and a scientific one, there is no ultimate why anyway.

In essense, religion invents a why and thus provides an answer to a self-generated question.
 
T

Technocratic_Utilitarian

#8
Of course they endeavour to serve the same function. I don't know how you can tell me that and keep a straight face. Religion always attempts to move from normativism to descriptivism.
 
F

Freedom for All

#9
What? Pointing out how science polices itself and reveals fraud as a means of demonstrating the equivlance of relgion which doesn't police itself and is based on fraud? What purpose is served by comparing Newton's Apple to the manure at the bottom of Noah's alleged Ark?

None. Science is a process of observing the real world, creating a hypothesis explaining that observervation, and then working to disprove the hypothesis. The Cardiff Giant, Cold Fusion, and the rest? Those are examples of how science WORKS.

Religion is a process of observing the real world, making up a story explaining that observation, making sure that the story is marginally consistent with other stories in the mythology, and defending the made up story from competing made up stories and real science, with death if necessary.
 
C

conservative

#10
You claim that science and religion don't fulfill the same function, yet religion always tries to do just that. Let me explain.

1. Science explains how something exists and by what means it came to exist. For instance, it will say that life came about as a result of X process, and X process is defined and comprised of Y.

2. Religion, let's take Christianity, necessarily strays into that field. It goes beyond normativism and tries to be explanatory and descriptive. We see this in the claims that "not evolution, but God created man and the other animals." We see it when fundamentalists claim that the Earth is really not 4 billion years old, but 10,000 like is calculated from the Bible. In the Bible, there's intricate descriptions of events, such as global floods, water-filled firmaments, and descriptions about the Earth's place in the Universe.

These are all the realm of science, so the claim that science and religion don't attempt to do the same thing I don't know how you can tell me with a straight face. Religion entirely attempts to describe existence, the world, nature, and the universe, and it provides some mechanism, no matter how poor a one it is.
Nice strawman....I said they don't perform the same fuction, and that they compliment each other. You go on to say that science exists to do x and y, blah, blah, blah....and Religionists stray over into science....bad religionists!

If you were honest, you would not set up that strawman...religionists do dabble in science, sometimes because scientists who are bias won't do the science, sometimes because they enjoy science (individuals dabbling in science doesn't equate all religionists as dabbling in science), and in fact some people of religion are actual scientists!

Are you going to sit there are say that no scientist has ever dabbled in religion for experimental purposes? Is that not the same thing as religionists dabbling in science?


2. You might say, however, that religion describes the "why" of existence, but that, from a non-religious point of view, isn't all that important. If you look at it from a naturalist perspective, and a scientific one, there is no ultimate why anyway.

In essense, religion invents a why and thus provides an answer to a self-generated question.
You are correct about they "why", and are inserting your own bias prejudices on the rest of your statement.

I made my point. Science is a great thing, but it can be a bad thing as Scientists interject their own beliefs into the process. To me, true science is performing experiments that are replicatible, all the rest is theory and conjecture, based on available facts, and interpreted through the lense of scientists with either unconscious groupthink, or bias based upon their own personal beliefs.