Unexpectedly Intriguing!
29 July 2016
Wordle - Pseudoscience

Are there personality traits that characterize the people who intentionally engage in junk science?

You might not know names like Diederik Stapel, Jan Hendrik Schön, or Haruko Obokata, but to the scientists who work in their respective science fields of social psychology, condensed matter physics and developmental biology, they first rose to prominence and then sunk into infamy thanks to their choices to engage in junk science.

Why did they do it?

All three were recently profiled by Ian Freckleton, who dove into the psychological elements that all three appear to have shared as they engaged in extraordinarily damaging behavior (emphasis ours).

Often individuals who engage in scientific fraud are high achievers. They are prominent in their disciplines but seek to be even more recognised for the pre-eminence of their scholarly contributions. Along with their drive for recognition can come charisma and grandiosity, as well as a craving for the limelight. Their productivity can border on the manic. Their narcissism will often result in a refusal to accept the manifest dishonesty and culpability of their conduct. The rationalising and self-justifying books of Stapel and Obokata are examples of this phenomenon.

When criticism is made or doubts are expressed about their work, these scientists often react aggressively. They may threaten whistleblowers or attempt to displace responsibility for their conduct onto others. Such cases can generate persistent challenges in the courts, as the scientists in question deny any form of impropriety....

Research misconduct often has multiple elements: data fraud, plagiarism and the exploitation of the work of others. People rarely engage in such conduct as a one-off and frequently engage in multiple forms of such dishonesty, until finally they are exposed.

Having had some experience in revealing examples of pseudoscience, we can attest that the personality markers noted by Freckleton appear to us to be pretty spot on.

The consequences of pseudoscientific misconduct however go far beyond the perpetrators' behavior.

This intellectual dishonesty damages colleagues, institutions, patients who receive suspect treatments, trajectories of research and confidence in scholarship.

That's certaintly true in the cases of Stapel, Schön and Obokata, whose scientific legacies have proven to be so damaging that they singlehandedly set back real progress in each of their disciplines. As a result, other scientists wasted far too much of their time in trying to build on their false foundations, which meant that years of good faith effort had to be scrapped. The same scientists had to then add the hard work of reestablishing credibility for their disciplines to the challenge of having to restart their regular work from scratch because of the scholarly misconduct of their corrupt peers.

And all for nothing on the part of the perpetrators, because in the end, all their pseudoscience was exposed as the fraud it was when real science prevailed and they lost their jobs, their titles and their reputations. The sad part is that at least two of the three seem happy with achieving infamy, if their book deals and sales are any indication.


About Political Calculations

Welcome to the blogosphere's toolchest! Here, unlike other blogs dedicated to analyzing current events, we create easy-to-use, simple tools to do the math related to them so you can get in on the action too! If you would like to learn more about these tools, or if you would like to contribute ideas to develop for this blog, please e-mail us at:

ironman at politicalcalculations.com

Thanks in advance!

Recent Posts

Stock Charts and News

Most Popular Posts
Quick Index

Site Data

This site is primarily powered by:

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

CSS Validation

Valid CSS!

RSS Site Feed

AddThis Feed Button


The tools on this site are built using JavaScript. If you would like to learn more, one of the best free resources on the web is available at W3Schools.com.

Other Cool Resources

Blog Roll

Market Links

Useful Election Data
Charities We Support
Shopping Guides
Recommended Reading
Recently Shopped

Seeking Alpha Certified

Legal Disclaimer

Materials on this website are published by Political Calculations to provide visitors with free information and insights regarding the incentives created by the laws and policies described. However, this website is not designed for the purpose of providing legal, medical or financial advice to individuals. Visitors should not rely upon information on this website as a substitute for personal legal, medical or financial advice. While we make every effort to provide accurate website information, laws can change and inaccuracies happen despite our best efforts. If you have an individual problem, you should seek advice from a licensed professional in your state, i.e., by a competent authority with specialized knowledge who can apply it to the particular circumstances of your case.