Another case of academic fraud highlights cheating in the sciences
Published: 11 March 2014 (GMT+10)
Many people think that science is about impartial observation and the reporting of facts. But scientists, like all human beings, have biases, agendas and belief systems that cause them to interpret facts in a certain way. It’s normal for people to want to also convince others of what they believe, and unfortunately they sometimes stretch the point in trying to get others on board. Also, in the research world it’s all about tenure and funding. If one makes a spectacular claim or find, money and recognition often follow—as long as these claims fit within the ruling scientific paradigm.
Today, science is equated with naturalism. Naturalism is the belief that everything in existence came about through natural processes. Many currently observed natural processes are extrapolated back into the past over vast eons of time. For example, in geology, one often hears the mantra, “The present is the key to the past.” Only materialistic explanations are allowed to explain the world we live in, no matter if the facts point to a contrary hypothesis.
Evolutionist biologist and geneticist Richard Lewontin wrote:
We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
In order to deny the possibility of a non-materialistic explanation, some scientists will go to great lengths to massage data, exclude discrepancies, or even make up data to support their hypothesis. One of the more recent glaring examples is Dr. Diederik Stapel1, a Dutch social psychologist, who pulled off a daring string of academic frauds by fabricating data to support his underlying hypotheses. After remaining undetected for several years, two suspicious students examined his near perfect data after noting different studies with nearly identical results. When Stapel was confronted by university staff, he admitted to dumping surveys in the trash. He confessed to making up results to look good for scientific journals and grant proposals, and to satisfy his lifelong obsession with elegance and order.
An epidemic in science?
This isn’t the first time that fabricated data has been used to produce expected results. Many secular scientists are caught using fabricated data or cherry-picking data to fit a predetermined result or hypothesis. Even as far back as 2011 the journal Nature sounded an alarm that over 300 papers a year had to be retracted.2 However, due to the perceived success of the research many papers are never questioned and their authors are heralded as scientific heroes—particularly when they are seen to firmly substantiate evolution theory. This is what happened in Stapel’s case. His made-up data fit what evolutionists would expect. That is, to show supposed proof of microbes-to-man evolution. Thus, most simply take this research as fact.
Since Stapel’s work was well-established, students and colleagues were afraid of the repercussions and their own careers if they ‘blew the whistle’. This ‘fear factor’ causes most to stay quiet about suspected fraudulent results or even questioning long-standing theories. As such, the incidence of academic fraud is probably much higher than actually being reported—even though the levels are alarmingly high.
In addition, because Dr Stapel was a well-established member of the scientific community, no one bothered to attempt to replicate the results of his experiments. In this case, since this was a psychological experiment, much of the data could have been replicated with more experimentation, if anyone had actually bothered to do so.
Along with fame and tenure, if someone can gain money for research that is genuinely important in the eyes of the researcher, then that may seem to justify a little dishonesty for a higher goal. In short, the end justifies the means.
There are many examples of supposed evidences that have proven evolution to be true that ended up being blatantly false or completely disproven. We’ve covered many examples of this such as Ernst Haeckel, the Peppered Moth and Piltdown Man just to name a few. Even though they have long been disproved, they were instrumental in making people believe evolution. Even when the hoaxes are exposed, people don’t renounce their belief in evolution that these icons inspired.
The admission that fraudulent results, academic cheating and tweaking results is a common practice2 should shed some light on the integrity of those promoting evolutionary theory with such gusto and vigor. If they’ve lied, why should one trust anything they say? Following evolutionary theory to its logical conclusion, there is no objective basis for morality. Therefore, in a ‘dog eat dog’ world, what’s wrong with fabrication and lying to get ahead?
This also means that as Christians, we don’t need to be overly worried when a study claims to give evidence against the Bible’s historical record. Scientific findings are often revised or retracted entirely; the majority of what scientists used to be sure about has been absolutely proved to be wrong. So why believe what they are sure of today? Rather, we should stand firm in God’s Word.