In the annals of science, there are many heroes. These men and woman advance the frontiers of human knowledge and they bring incredible benefits to humanity, often in the form of additional years of life. Sometimes, however, as was the case with Galileo, they are condemned as heretics for challenging existing beliefs with evidence. Sometimes, as was the case with Jonas Salk, they become rightfully lionized for benefiting people with their breakthroughs in alleviating human ailments.
Many scientific researchers do less important work that goes mostly unnoticed because what they discover is of interest only to them.
And then there are the majority of scientists who are just making unhelpful noise and publishing non-science that is never confirmed never leads to breakthroughs. Such nonsense is not without costs. Their work harms the reputation of legitimate science and scientists.
John Ioannidis wrote about this phenomenon was back in 2006 and his essay is still available and still making waves. He writes:
“Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias.”
Pretty damning stuff and he goes on to say that the big bugaboo is “statistically significant” which really means very little. His article is another marker on the road to this conclusion; you a really can’t trust all doctors to treat you with real, verified, and assured processes that will generate a positive health outcome. Doctors are scientists, but they are not oracles of truth. Some are good, many are not, and the bad ones will “treat” you with things that are at best benign, and at worst, deadly. In other words, they are typical humans, and so “caveat emptor” which is Latin for “let the buyer beware” applies to science as to everything else.
The article can be found here:
Why Most Published Research Findings Are False
Peter Attia’s excellent interview with John Ioannidis can be accessed here:
#143 – John Ioannidis, M.D., D.Sc.: Why most biomedical research is flawed, and how to improve it