As a scientific technical writer, I am very aware that scientific data – and language, terminology, jargon and marketing copywriting – can be used to ‘prove’ almost anything. It is easy to blind people, including scientists, with science. Much scientific data today is dubious. In our times of huge proliferation of science, the majority of published studies cannot be replicated independently by peers. In other words, published science is not necessarily true. The journal Nature calls this situation a ‘crisis’. Furthermore, much data that is passed off as science cannot, by its very nature, be replicated and tested, such as so-called behavioural science and data modelling, that we might call crystal-ball science. Equally concerning is that most scientific experiments fail, and details are hardly ever published, meaning that science does not properly learn from its failures. This is sometimes called ‘publication bias’. Science, of all academic disciplines, is vulnerable to the pressure of ‘publish or perish’. In other words, we must always be cautious of scientists armed with data.
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