Friday, June 30, 2017

Can we trust scientific research?

Science is often flawed. Did you realize that?

I just read a very well written article of 2015, in which the authors set out to find out what has happened in the scientific research world to produce such variable outcomes that are so prevalent today.

The article begins with a look at social psychologist Dr. Stapel at Tilburg U. in the Netherlands.  Your jaw will drop as you read his description of his fraud process that brought him notoriety.

But outright fraud is just one potential derailment in the research process, there are multiple ways a study and its dissemination can be tainted. 
There are now researchers who do meta analyses of studies to see if there is any truth in any of them and where they ‘went off the rails’.  As an example,  the article contains a graph of 9 foods shown to both protect us against cancer and cause cancer as found in various scientific studies!

When the public hears about research misconduct or fraud and sees contradictory studies, it is easy to fall into not trusting science.

For those of you who rely heavily on scientific articles to ‘prove’ a point or to justify  or not justify a treatment or set up a project or just change your diet, be sure to read this article.

Here is a summary of the derailment points in any research study that can have huge ramifications: (these are well flushed out in the article with interesting and shocking examples.)

1.     Researcher may falsify data. Not as prevalent as the following points.
2.     Biases are not reduced – meta researchers found more than half of studies fail to do this.
3.     Too small in sample size or effect to generalize
4.     Much research has no enduring value, ie., unimportant, redundant, flawed.
5.     Studies cannot be replicated.
6.     Peer reviews can be flawed through the reviewer’s bias, lack of time or knowledge, and even fraud.
7.     University press offices can be full of hype
8.     Press can exaggerate claims.
9.     Difficult to access scientific research, i.e. from cost, or broken internet links

Because of these now well-known problems, it's not unusual to hear statements like those from the The Lancet editor Richard Horton that "Much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue." He continued: "Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness."

Even if you are not a researcher or read scientific articles, it is important to understand science as a human construction, the result of a tedious, incremental process that can be imperfect in its pursuit of truth.  Look for meta research articles on a topic for a broader picture.

AND, remember that humans are always influencing each other in overt, covert, and energetic ways. In a conversation I had with the astronaut Edgar Mitchell many years ago, he was aware at that time of studies showing how the energy of the researcher was unconsciously influencing what cancer cells were doing to liver tissue in the petri dishes.  Certain researchers petri dishes always had the same results, while other researchers always had opposite results when doing the same study protocol.

One of the key principles of quantum physics is entanglement.  This occurs when two people/particles/objects become related.
 Institute of Heartmath did a variety of studies where 2 people sat next to each other or across from one another and first their heart rates became the same, then their brainwaves.

Makes you wonder how many research experiments can become unconsciously biased.


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