Here is an article I recommend:
Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science
By David H. Freedman
As a seeker of knowledge, this touches upon a major problem. Science is necessary as the closest thing we have to a fair arbiter of truth. I’m not a naive person and I know science can get manipulated and scientists are prone to biases like any other person. Science is based on noble Enlightenment ideals. When functioning well, it is an example of how a democratic process is implemented to achieve tangible results. When not functioning well (and without ethics to guide it), that is a whole other scenario. Anyone can use science to any end.
Medical science is particularly problematic. So much of medicine has been proven to be placebo. Besides issues of ethics, it’s not even clear how much research even achieves tangible results. To pull back the curtain on the Wizards of Medicine is to take some of the magic away from the placebo effect, the most powerful tool doctors have.
I was wondering about the details for science overall. Are there certain areas of medical research that are more reliable? Are there certain other scientific fields that are more reliable? Are there certain scientific research institutions or peer-reviewed journals that are more reliable? I’m always looking for the exceptions to the rule.
I would think fields involving greater wealth, power and prestige would have the greatest potential for bias and corruption. The medical field has all three of these to a massive degree, but not all other fields share these qualities and forces. The social sciences also would have the countervailing force of researchers in those fields being more expert in the study of human bias, along with less involvement of wealth, power and prestige (relative to the medical field). Plus, the social sciences is the one field that has been the most careful in dealing with the placebo effect and other problems by using such checks as double-blinds.
The scary part in this is that medical science is the one field that most directly deals with human life. Mistakes made there can have massive consequences, especially when false data is taken as the basis for practices used by doctors. The medical field needs to take more seriously what the social scientists have known for decades. Also, the medical field has got to deal with the corporate funding problem because there will be no push for reform as long as the corporate agenda is what researchers are becoming increasingly dependent upon. I don’t mind someone profiting from creating real solutions to real problems, but in many cases that isn’t what is happening.
This is definitely food for thought.