from The WSJ, Scientific Fraud and Politics


Similar bias contaminates inquiries across the social sciences, which often seem to exist so liberals can claim that “studies show” some political assertion to be empirical. Thus they can recast stubborn political debates about philosophy and values as disputes over facts that can be resolved by science. President Obama is a particular aficionado of this bait and switch.

As for those supposedly “anti-science” Republicans, they stand accused by Science magazine of trying to introduce more transparency and accountability to federal science grants. The House GOP is also guilty of attempting to spend more on the harder sciences, passing a bill last month that allocates money for the National Science Foundation by directorate—for example, boosting engineering spending by 13.2% over 2015 and biology by 12.6%. Money for the social and behavioral sciences declines by 44.9%.

Scientific misconduct does seem to be mercifully rare, but a lesson of the LaCour retraction is to show more humility amid the illusion of scientific omniscience and to be more skeptical of studies that carry heavy political freight. That goes for the profusion of foods that are purported to cause or prevent cancer, and macroeconomic literature that claim to document a stimulus “multiplier.”

Meanwhile, Science magazine editors who rebuke politicians might have more authority if their own science wasn’t so political.