30 jul. 2011


This defense of Hauser, fired (or resigned) Harvard scientist, seems very weaselly.
But is Hauser therefore a bad scientist? If all we have is interpretation, then no, although he is probably “guilty” of confirmation bias, a persistent and ubiquitous problem in all science. His data are less reliable than Pasteur’s, so he should have used his judgement. The problem is that it is entirely subjective and he clearly overinterpreted. That is not enough to kill a career.

A scholar who faked his data and intimidated his graduate students is guilty only of what all scientists are guilty of, confirmation bias. Note how "guilty" goes in scare quotes. As in: not really guilty at all. The comparison to Louis Pasteur is really over the top. If we can find something Pasteur did wrong with his data, then wouldn't that let all faking, intimidating scientists off the hook for all eternity? After all, Pasteur gave us pasteurized milk, so if even he is a fake, then why worry about anyone else?

There are plenty more weasel techniques in this brief blog post that I don't have the energy to enumerate right now. Pretending that you are looking at something from both sides when you really are just defending someone, for example. Confusing shifts of perspective...