Science and Public Policy
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Science and Public Policy

The Virtuous Corruption of Virtual Environmental Science

Aynsley Kellow

This book is an examination of a neglected form of scientific corruption – corruption by political attachment to noble causes.
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Chapter 5: Sound Science and Political Science

Aynsley Kellow


Rudyard Kipling I despise exaggeration – ’taint American or scientific. There was considerable irony in the exaggerated response to Lomborg’s book, because it rather proved his claim that there was an exaggerated Litany, not supported by science, that the world was on course for unmitigated ecological catastrophe. It is uncertain whether the attack by Lomborg’s critics was ‘un-American’, but it certainly wasn’t very scientific, and was distinguished by the distinct absence of errors of substance it identified in Lomborg’s book. All areas of science are acknowledged to be subject to error, deliberate or inadvertent. There is perhaps most attention focused on the causes and prevention of error in medical science, where errors can be a matter of life or death, and there are numerous studies which have sought to identify sources of error. For example, one study has suggested that medical research findings are less likely to be true under certain conditions, such as when the size of the effect being measured is smaller, where there is greater flexibility in research design, definitions, outcomes and analytical modes, and when more teams are involved in a competitive chase of statistical significance (Ioannidis, 2005). There is also a greater chance of false findings when there is greater financial interest involved; in other words, despite what is known as the genetic fallacy (that there is no logical reason why the origin of research should produce ‘contaminated’ findings), the presence of financial interests should alert us to the possibility...

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