The Most Important Recommendation of Allwhite paper on scientific rigor. The problem is, as we discussed here and here, life science research has been found to lack reproducibility. John Ioannidis is a bit more blunt as he explains that “most published research findings are false,” and that “claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias.” The ASCB white paper is no doubt a step in the right direction. It offers 13 recommendations to encourage more rigor in training, publishing, and standards. But the most important recommendation of all continues to be ignored.
Daniel Sarewitz has noted not only the problem of bias in scientific research but also the causes. Note his final thought in this quote:
All involved benefit from positive results, and from the appearance of progress. Scientists are rewarded both intellectually and professionally, science administrators are empowered and the public desire for a better world is answered. The lack of incentives to report negative results, replicate experiments or recognize inconsistencies, ambiguities and uncertainties is widely appreciated — but the necessary cultural change is incredibly difficult to achieve.
And so it is that science’s much touted self-correcting, feedback loop which ensures science converges on the truth (after all, that’s what Mr. Wells told us in seventh grade science class) is sometimes a little slow to act.
And if the ASCB is still needing to remind scientists to clean their beakers and use checklists, imagine the difficulty in achieving more fundamental change?
This brings us to the recommendation that ASCB did not make—the most important of all. And that is for science to free itself of the excessive metaphysics. Unfortunately, progress on that front is glacial. As Sarewitz notes, one reason bias persists, and is so harmful, is that in the moment it is not perceived as bias. Asking an evolutionist to stop with the metaphysics goes nowhere because it isn’t recognized as metaphysics. Deep philosophy is a part of their “science” as much as red meat is a part of hamburgers.
Even if the ASCB task force members wanted to address this fundamental problem, they wouldn’t for the backlash would be overwhelming and their professional reputations would be ruined.
So while the pipettes will be sterilized and results double checked to the third decimal point, ASCB will continue to publish junk science driven by the Epicurean mandate that the world must have arisen spontaneously. Unfortunately, the ASCB task force has missed the most important recommendation of all.