Saturday, October 2, 2010


If it were up to me, those who are commonly called modern scientists would instead be classified by their more accurate name—technicians. That would not make them any less valuable—indeed, the work of technicians is often precisely what is called for and can often be the most valuable. For instance, as scientists, Michelson and Morley were not in the same league as Lorentz and Einstein, but where might Lorentz and Einstein have been without the clever experiments of Michelson and Morley helping to light the way. Credit must always be given where credit is due.

But these days, both taxonomic groups—scientists and technicians—find themselves gravely damaged by the insistence of the tens of millions of technicians among us on calling themselves the only true scientists, a total eclipse of the former upon the latter. If one truly understood the nature of science, if one truly thought about it for a moment, then the idea of tens of millions of scientists walking among us would of course be laughable. But this is a joke that never occurs to the gathering throng.

When Ben Goldacre exposes the characteristics of bad scientists, what he is actually describing are the characteristics of bad technicians—science in fact never enters the discussion. Indeed, that's the main problem in nearly every instance of this so-called modern age of science—science never enters the discussion.

In an era in which being a good technician is both stubbornly and somewhat obnoxiously mistaken for being a good scientist, count me as one proud to be instead a bad scientist.

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