Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

In Defense of Scientists

The Guardian's Philip Strange is taking exception to colleague Nicholas Maxwell's opinion that scientists are "deceiving us and themselves about the nature of science." Maxwell's main criticism is against the use of evidence to support scientific knowledge. "Nothing is accepted permanently as part of scientific knowledge independently of evidence," Maxwell says, citing subjects such as physics, where he says unified theories are accepted independent of evidence.

But in the biomedical sciences, where Strange has spent the past 30 years, things are a bit different. Research starts with a theory and experiments are designed to test it. Results are analyzed to see if the data agrees or disagrees with that theory, he says. And even then, peer review is essential to get consensus. "This sort of science is not big science; it is incremental science," Strange says, with each increment contributing to a body of knowledge. While Maxwell says scientists see themselves as "seekers after truth," Strange says the scientific process provides descriptions of natural phenomena that are consistent based on current evidence.

Strange is also compelled to defend scientists themselves, calling them "honest, sometimes slightly nerdish people who are grateful to be able to work on something about which they have a passionate interest."

The Scan

Genome Sequences Reveal Range Mutations in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Researchers in Nature Genetics detect somatic mutation variation across iPSCs generated from blood or skin fibroblast cell sources, along with selection for BCOR gene mutations.

Researchers Reprogram Plant Roots With Synthetic Genetic Circuit Strategy

Root gene expression was altered with the help of genetic circuits built around a series of synthetic transcriptional regulators in the Nicotiana benthamiana plant in a Science paper.

Infectious Disease Tracking Study Compares Genome Sequencing Approaches

Researchers in BMC Genomics see advantages for capture-based Illumina sequencing and amplicon-based sequencing on the Nanopore instrument, depending on the situation or samples available.

LINE-1 Linked to Premature Aging Conditions

Researchers report in Science Translational Medicine that the accumulation of LINE-1 RNA contributes to premature aging conditions and that symptoms can be improved by targeting them.