SkepticblogSkepticblog logo banner

top navigation:

“Pure” science and serendipity

by Donald Prothero, Feb 08 2012

Following up on the theme of my last post, there’s an even larger issue about pure vs. applied science: the best research is “pure” research, often with no practical goal in mind. As I pointed out in my book  Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs, it turns out that the most important discoveries in science come from “pure” research with no obvious goal. In fact, a lot of important discoveries are made by accident, or “serendipity”.

Most people think that science is about planning your research carefully to achieve some specific goal. They are often not tolerant about “pure research” that doesn’t have a specific conclusion in mind, but is focused on finding out general facts about nature, whether or not they have practical uses. Even the scientific funding agencies operate this way, where they tend to reward research that is conventional and “more of the same,” and seldom fund research that is a speculative gamble. Again and again, talking heads on TV or Congressmen ridicule “pure research” which doesn’t have a specific practical goal or application. Occasionally, narrow-minded and poorly educated people manage to interfere with the well-established scientific review process and shut down research they don’t like (even though it was approved by established scientists).

The sad irony of this entire argument that “science must be practical and useful” is that most of the greatest discoveries in science happen by accident. More often than not, scientists who find a crucial new piece of evidence were not looking for it, but looking for something else, and make their great discovery without planning to. The term “serendipity” was describes this phenomenon. It comes from an old Persian tale of the “Three Princes of Serendip” who made discoveries unexpectedly. However, in the case of science, serendipity works most often when the researcher is prepared to see the implications of some new, unexpected development. As Louis Pasteur put it, “In the field of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind.”

Examples of accidental discoveries in science are legion, especially in chemistry. Alfred Nobel accidentally mixed nitroglycerin and collodium (“gun cotton”) and discovered gelignite, the key ingredient for his development of TNT. Hans Von Pechmann accidentally discovered polyethylene in 1898. Silly Putty, Teflon, Superglue, Scotchgard, and Rayon were all accidents, as was the discovery of the elements helium and iodine. Among drugs, penicillin, laughing gas, Minoxidil for hair loss, the Pill, and LSD were all discovered by accident. Viagra was originally developed to treat blood pressure, not impotence. Most of the great discoveries in physics and astronomy were unexpected, including the planet Uranus, infrared radiation, superconductivity, electromagnetism, X-rays, and many others. The cosmic background radiation from the Big Bang was discovered by two Bell lab engineers who were trying to eliminate the noise from their newly developed microwave antennas. Among practical inventions, inkjet printers, corn flakes, safety glass, Corningware, and the vulcanization of rubber were all accidents. Percy Spencer accidentally discovered the principle of microwave ovens while testing a magnetron for radar sets, and he found that the candy bar in his lab coat pocket had melted.

Likewise, geologists often find things they are not looking for. In 1855, Pratt and Airy were doing routine surveying for the British government in northern India. They noticed that the plumb line under the surveying tripod was not as gravitationally attracted to the Himalayas as they had expected, and eventually discovered the evidence for the deep crustal roots of mountains like the Himalayas. The marine geologists who mapped the magnetic anomalies on the seafloor were not looking for the crucial evidence that proved plate tectonics, but were simply doing routine data collection of magnetic, bathymetric, and oceanographic data as their ships undertook regularly scheduled voyages of discovery. Maurice Ewing, the founder of Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory (now Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory) of Columbia University, had a standing order that each ship would take a deep-sea core at the end of the day, no matter where they were—and many of those cores turned out to have crucial evidence for the history of oceans and climates and the evolution of life.

And the discovery of the iridium layer that led to the asteroid extinction hypothesis of the terminal Cretaceous extinction was purely accidental. Walter Alvarez was simply trying to figure out how long the mass extinction might have lasted, and he and his physicist father Luis Alvarez thought measuring the iridum from the rain of cosmic dust would tell them if the sedimentation rate was fast or slow. Instead, the iridium levels were so high that they suggested an extraterrestrial source—and a scientific breakthrough occurred that has been reverberating for 30 years now.

Such examples could be cited ad infinitum, but the point is clear: nature is not always predictable, and scientific research cannot be restricted to straightforward results that were expected when the study began. Shortsighted people like the right-wing radio hosts and the Congressmen who ridicule pure research must not be allowed to destroy our scientific curiosity and creativity, or our scientific discoveries would come to an end. Isaac Asimov said, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’, but ‘That’s funny …’“

 

Recommended Reading

52 Responses to ““Pure” science and serendipity”

  1. Other Paul says:

    That’s funny … is also what they say just before the monster leaps out and eat’s ‘em.

    Not that I’m arguing against. A monster’s diet is still interesting to the rest of us.

  2. Max says:

    Many of these examples of serendipity, like Viagra, are from applied research. The one about cosmic background radiation even shows that applied research can lead to basic discoveries.

    Neil deGrasse Tyson pointed out that all the fancy medical imaging devices — MRI, CT, PET — owe their existence to basic research in physics and astronomy.

    Most publications are just noise though.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1182327/
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.2272

  3. Trimegistus says:

    The more science depends on public funds, the more it must sway to the winds of public opinion. You can’t tell the taxpayers “Support me and my work and something useful may or may not come out of it eventually.” But if Howard Hughes or Bill Gates wants to fund you, it’s only his opinion that matters.

    • Donald Prothero says:

      You apparently missed the entire point of the article. Not even scientists know where the next breakthrough will come from, but without a vigorous commitment to fundamental basic research we learn nothing– and no breakthroughs are possible, since just applying what we already know only leads so far.
      Private funding of fundamental science has never worked in this country or any other. Most private and corporate entities are only interested in their bottom line and in the short-term profitability, not in the long-term commitment to basic science which has no clear payoff–yet. Since WWII, the only entity able to do this has been the government. I agree that scientists need to make the best possible case for funding basic research (that’s the entire point of the article), but as I just said, if we REALLY want breakthroughs we need to gamble on the unknown, the pure science with no obvious payoffs–because the truly groundbreaking discoveries always come from there.
      Or if you would rather end science research in the US by cutting off public funds, just watch how China, Japan, Korea and many other countries surpass us in science and technology and make us irrelevant (they’re already surpassing us in basic published research in many areas).

      • Susan says:

        Overall I agree that Federal funding is cleanest for independence of research, although in peer review there are still selection criteria based on significance. The specific examples of Gates Foundation or HHMI are not good examples for private restrictions. Both have scientific review boards made up of peer scientists who review the applicants. Once you are an HHMI the $ is fairly unrestricted, the goal being to nurture innovation in an undirected manner. Gates Fdn has targeted goals but these are big picture problems and innovation occurs in how they could be solved by applicants. Application review is again by scientific peers in a process not so different from NIH.

        These are my first two posts – I am looking forward to being approved by the moderator. Hope this happens sometime today???

      • tmac57 says:

        I liken it to discovering new and unique parts to an Erector Set.You don’t know what you can build with it until you have have it to work with.Then education,imagination and ingenuity take it into the realm of applied science.

    • Alan Shaw says:

      Well, if there is no clear formula for advancing basic research, then it may be reasonable to say something like that. I wonder if there is any empirical data on the probabilities associated with discovery. If there were, then it might be possible to present a cost-benefit analysis along the lines of: if we invest x dollars over t years, then we can expect y with a certain probability. Is not investment always made in the context of uncertainty?

    • Beelzebud says:

      And yet a vast majority of scientific breakthroughs have come from public funded universities and government grants. Seriously, the free market is not the answer to every damned thing on the planet…

  4. Susan says:

    Lovely pair of articles. As a practicing scientist (biomedicine), this is the same message I give my grad students and postdocs. We say “The mouse is always right.” When we look at the experimental results, sometimes we predicted the outcome correctly. But as Asimov famously reminds us, it’s when we get the unexpected result that things get interesting. When that happens, then we listen to the mouse (or the data) and hopefully we are sufficiently clever to understand what the mouse (data) are telling us.

    This is why lab meetings are so much fun. The students throw the data onto the screen and say, “But this is odd…” and off we go.

    I would disagree that most publications are just noise. There are many instances I’ve gone back into the older literature (>20yrs ago) and looked at a paper and said, “Oh, *that’s* what’s going on.” And this is in biomedicine, a fast-changing field were we like to pretend that the old papers are no longer relevant. Quite often new discoveries place prior papers in a different context that permits us to understand the findings in ways different from their original publication date. One of my favorite experiences was the semester where our journal club reread “forgotten” (=uncited) papers in our field published from 1920-1970. That led to remarkable insights and experiments that ultimately appeared in Science, Cell, etc.

    • tmac57 says:

      That is really interesting Susan.It makes me wonder how much valid science never really made the ‘light of day’ when it was first written about,only to be ‘rediscovered’ many years later.

  5. tmac57 says:

    Lasers are a good example of pure research that led to far reaching applications in science , medicine and every day use as well.

  6. Chris Howard says:

    This all goes back to high levels of scientific illiteracy, in the general public. I draw the line when my tax dollars are used for “Faith-Based Missile Defense.” ;-)

    • Max says:

      That goes back to high levels of defense illiteracy in the general public.
      I remember how the comedy Real Genius was careful to get the laser physics right, but its plot was: “Oh no, our laser is developed to vaporize high-value targets without collateral damage, we must sabotage the flight test!”

    • Max says:

      Does scientific literacy include history of science? Because learning F=ma and E=mc^2 doesn’t really tell you about serendipity.

      • Chris Howard says:

        I’ve been kicking around that very same question. What does it mean to be scientifically literate? I think it’s a subtle combination of rote memorization, and grasping complex concepts, and theories.
        I think what most people call scientific literacy is equivalent to freshman science 101, and most people don’t even get that correct.

  7. Steve S. says:

    To quibble a bit – in the examples you give, the scientists weren’t engaging in “pure” research, that is research for its own sake with no pre-determined goal. To the contrary – each had a very specific goal he was working toward. It’s just that when an unrelated / serendipitous thing happened, they were willing and able to drop what they were doing and pursue the new thing.

    In terms of financing / support, then, the logical approach wouldn’t be to say “Hey, here’s $10 million, why not mess around for a while and see if anything interesting turns up?” It would instead be to simply allow for flexibility – “I know we gave you the $10 million to study tree rings, but you’re right, this new thing you found is very interesting and worth pursuing, so go ahead.”

  8. Karl Withakay says:

    “Examples of accidental discoveries in science are legion, especially in chemistry. Alfred Nobel accidentally mixed nitroglycerin and collodium (“gun cotton”) and discovered gelignite, the key ingredient for his development of TNT.”

    Note: Nobel did invent gelignite and dynamite, but he did not develop TNT. TNT was developed by Julius Wilbrand, and TNT is not related to or developed from either gelignite or nitroglycerin . Also, Nobel developed gelignite after he did dynamite, so gelignite wasn’t a key ingredient for the development of dynamite either.

  9. MadScientist says:

    I’m sick of fighting the imbeciles who trumpet the “directed research” nonsense – they are as impervious to sensibility as any creationist. The notion that we can only spend money on research which will have positive results and be worth millions in future revenues is not only incredibly stupid, but has been refuted numerous times in the past few decades. Going back almost 40 years, AT&T and IBM had incredible research budgets and they supported research in fields which they may benefit from, so I guess we could loosely call that “directed research”. However, those organizations understood that not all the results of research may have an immediate use and the fact that perhaps only 1 in 50 research projects became a money maker was simply a natural phenomenon which could not be controlled. Even projects which were not necessarily seen as great (money-making) successes often formed one of the block with which other projects were built (and would not have been possible without). I just imagine Isaac Newton applying for a grant to create a mathematical system to study the attraction of the earth, sun, and planets. Well, maybe Newton would have got some funding since he could have claimed that his work was relevant to the trajectory of projectiles.

  10. John K. says:

    Science history should indeed be part of scientific literacy. I just hope the public can see the problems with directed research before the obvious fact that we are way behind other countries in the world has to slap them in the face.

  11. tps says:

    Dr. Prothero’s repeated use of “right wing” to mean “idiot” is tiresome. News for you, Dr. Prothero: They’re people too, and they have many of the same goals you do, they just disagree (completely) in how to get there. Must everything be political with you? A simplistic right/left politics at that.

    • Donald Prothero says:

      I’m happy to criticize left-wingers for ideas that don’t stand up to scientific scrutiny, or to criticize anti-vaxxers and “alternative medicine”, which has no political leanings. But in the case of global-warming denialism and evolution, it’s a strictly right-wing phenomenon. You should look at Chris Mooney’s new book on the Republican brain and science, or read his earlier book on the Republican war on science. I wish it weren’t so partisan, but that’s the reality.

      • Max says:

        Here’s how it goes at DARPA.
        http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/06/senate-panel-zaps-pentagon-mad-science-agency

        “In its markup of the Defense Department’s budget, the [Senate Armed Services Committee] says it likes the idea of more blue-sky research money. Except that it doesn’t: ‘An increase in basic research is beneficial and reverses a trend that has affected the broader national science and technology enterprise, [but the committee] is concerned that the ability to transition technology will be adversely impacted unless there is a more appropriate balance between basic research and advanced technology development.'”

      • MadScientist says:

        That’s pretty funny considering that advanced technology development does not progress at all without basic research. I wonder what those people imagine research to be.

      • Chris Howard says:

        I agree. The Right and Left, in the U.S., tend to be different sides of the same coin. The two sides are, simply put, uncritical and dogmatic about different, and often times opposing things, but the same underlying thinking errors, biases, and logical fallacies are shared by both.

      • Donald Prothero says:

        It’s not QUITE that symmetrical. Sure, some Lefties follow some kinds of woo, but only in the US right wing do you find militant and hostile science denial in the form of creationism and AGW denial. Not even the British Tories or most European right-wing parties take creationism seriously!

      • Phea says:

        I agree that most people who don’t believe the planet is getting warmer, and/or that it’s because of us to a large degree, are “deniers”. I believe I’ve actually found a voice out there, (Freeman Dyson), who I honestly believe to be a skeptic regarding the problem. He’s certainly raised points I’ve never heard, but then I am fairly ignorant about the subject. All I know is what I’ve read and seen in the media.

        Just interested in any feedback about this guys thoughts.

        http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/dysonf07/dysonf07_index.html

      • gdave says:

        Any discussion of global warming will likely completely de-rail this thread. I am also not an expert in this area. I’m not even going to try to respond to his specific objections in detail, other than to say they appear to be PRATTs. But I found his introductory paragraph…interesting.

        “Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models.”

        Anyone who starts out by describing subject matter experts as a “holy brotherhood” and anyone who accepts their expertise as “deluded” immediately raises red flags for me. It doesn’t prove that Dyson is a crank – but it is typical crank behavior.

        “Of course, they say, I have no degree in meteorology and I am therefore not qualified to speak. But I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do.”

        Freeman Dyson is a brilliant man. He has made a lot of important contributions to science and engineering. But he is not a climate scientist. That doesn’t mean he can’t make meaningful criticisms of climate science – but I would take his thoughts on this subject more seriously if he took his own limitations and lack of knowledge in this area more seriously.

        This is also the classic physicist/engineer’s fallacy – I don’t know anything about your field of study, but I can understand the mathematics you are using, therefore I am just as qualified as you are to figure out what’s going on, and I’m certain no one in your field has previously thought of these problems I’ve just spotted.

        “It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models, than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That is why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.”

        This is just silly. Mr. Dyson apparently isn’t aware, or doesn’t believe, that climate scientists in fact actually go out into the field to collect tree ring data, soil samples, ice cores from glaciers and the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps, and on and on.

        Freeman Dyson appears to have looked at some literature on computer modeling of the climate, and decided that it is the entirety of climate science. He doesn’t appear to have actually done much research, or just talked to a climatologist, about what climate scientists actually do, what the state of the research is, and whether anyone has previously thought of the problems he has and how they’ve dealt with them.

        Again, none of this proves Mr. Dyson is a crank in this area (he is, or at least was, definitely NOT a crank in other areas of physics and engineering). But many of the warning signs are there.

        Fred Hoyle was famous for being usefully wrong in astrophysics and cosmology. He brought up problems that no one had thought of before. He wasn’t right that often, but his objections were usually so original and well-thought out that other scientists gained a lot of useful insights figuring out why he was wrong and proving it. Mr. Dyson, at least on this topic and in the essay linked to, appears to be non-usefully wrong, bringing up “problems” that he seems completely unaware climate scientists have already addressed.

      • Phea says:

        Mr. Prothero brought up AGW denial in the post I was responding to. I also thought the first part of Dyson’s article, “The Need for Heretics”, reinforced a lot of what Don was trying to get across in the blog. Maybe I didn’t read it carefully enough, but I thought the gist of it was that science is less about predicting and more about discovering. Dyson comes right out and says, when he’s making predictions, he’s being more of a story teller than a scientist.

        If what Dyson says is incorrect. If the computer models actually do take into account the earths biomass, then he’s either misinformed, or being deceptive. I do know from my own personal experience is that increased levels of CO2 have one hell of an effect on plant growth, which could add to the total amount of biomass.

        While I am not a AGW denier, I’m also not naive enough to believe we could ever come up with a global solution in a timely manner. It would be easier to achieve complete global nuclear disarmament than to get the fossil fuel monkey off the worlds back. If there’s a chance that Dyson might actually have something, it should be studied. It would really be something if serendipity played a role in helping solve the AGW problem.

  12. Lee Roper says:

    Really good post and I truly believe if people are open minded enough and honest with themselves that true serendipity can occur.

    What has made me smile is the fact that your blog post is excellent, well researched and explains your point very well.

    However even with all that effort and knowledge, you yourself have made an error regarding TNT as pointed out by another reader comment.

    This really does show that even the man in the know needs support and advice from others to tell the story correctly. Let alone if people who know nothing are allowed to make decisions based on a narrow minded view where they are not qualified to judge or understand the impact of what could occur.

    Keep them coming Donald, I’m really enjoying this blog and the comments that come with it too :)

  13. Chris Howard says:

    I have friends and family in the UK, and they loved Bill Clinton, and our Democratic Party. Apparently our “liberal” Democrats share many of the same values as their Conservatives… which kind of scares me.

  14. Loren Petrich says:

    Reminds me of Senator William Proxmire, who between 1975 and 1988 gave Golden Fleece awards to what he considered wasteful government spending, including scientific research that he had thought absurd. About space colonization, he stated “it’s the best argument yet for chopping NASA’s funding to the bone …. I say not a penny for this nutty fantasy” He also ridiculed an experimental walking robot by arguing that it would do wonders for its university’s football team.

  15. Kenn says:

    We walk by sight, not by faith.

    • Chris Howard says:

      Kenn: that is a great quote. Is it yours, and if so, may I use it?

      • bobco85 says:

        It seems to be a switch-up of a verse from the Bible (2 Corinthians 5:7) that reads: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

        Trust me, if you follow Kenn’s version you will end up with fewer stubbed toes :)

  16. Troy says:

    You and religious fundamentalists have a lot in common. You ignore any evidence that casts doubt on your faith. This is right on target: http://www.theatheistconservative.com/2012/02/09/do-you-remember-that-crazy-hoax-manmade-global-warming/

  17. Peter Damian says:

    Somewhere out there may be a sea slug or fruit fly with enzymes that break down cancer cells. Ah but why waste time and money studying frivolous fruit flies.

  18. gdave says:

    I was just listening to NPR’s “Weekend Edition”, and heard an interesting story and a brief note on scientific research.

    The story concerned a researcher who was trying to figure out how to determine the age of a mosquito. Sounds pretty esoteric, but it turns out that mosquitoes only begin to transmit many mosquito-borne illnesses after they reach a certain age. If scientists can measure the average age of mosquito populations in different areas in the wild, it will help them understand and predict disease transmission patterns.

    The brief note was that a team of researchers think they have figured out why zebras have strips. The alternating bands of polarized and unpolarized light don’t look attractive to blood-sucking flies. This has obvious implications for pest control, and anything that helps in warding off biting insects in Africa could have major public health benefits.

    • Max says:

      I thought zebra stripes were dazzle camouflage, which was used on ships during World War I.

      • gdave says:

        I am not an expert in this are, but my understanding is that the camouflage hypothesis doesn’t really seem to have any evidence backing it up. There just isn’t much, if any, evidence that the striping pattern actually confuses predators – indeed, at normal stalking range, the stripes apparently visually merge into a fairly uniform grey.

        In a related area where I do have some training and first-hand knowledge, as a Soldier I was specifically trained not to use “zebra” or “tiger” stripe patterns when applying camouflage paint. It just isn’t very effective – at least for fooling humans.

        Of course, as I stated above, I’m hardly an expert in this area. I don’t known how solid the evidence for the fly-repellent hypothesis is. What does seem clear to me from what I’ve read is that until recently we haven’t really had any evidence for what purpose, if any, zebra stripes serve. Which would make it an area of possible interest for “pure research”, which, if the fly-repellent hypothesis holds up, could have important practical applications.

        Or maybe not. Not every pure research project will eventually yield practical applications. But we can’t know ahead of time which projects will be dead-ends, which will be academically interesting but of no practical consequence, and which will give us technological revolutions.

      • Max says:

        Do tigers have stripes for the same reason?

        I would think that flies can evolve to adapt to mammals much faster than vice-versa.

        But even if the stripes evolved for camouflage, it’s still good to know if they repel flies.

      • gdave says:

        Again, IANAE, but AFAIK, unlike zebra stripes, tiger stripes are thought to be adaptive camouflage. Patterns and colors, environment, behaviors, and animals the camouflage would conceal them from are all quite different. (Re my comment on camouflage paint, the “tiger stripes” I was trained not to use were the simple patterns people tend to make when imitating tiger stripes, rather than the more complex patterns tigers actually have).

        I would think that flies CAN evolve to adapt to mammals much faster than vice-versa, as well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they do in every situation. Evolving a striped hide/coat, for example, might be an enormously less complex adaptation with far more useful “intermediate steps” than would be the case for evolution in visual processing necessary for biting flies to overcome it.

        And, of course, as you point out, zebra stripes may well offer multiple survival advantages.

        Again, IANAE on any of this. But, as you say, it is good to know if zebra stripes repel flies. I just thought it was an interesting (even serendipitous) example of “pure” research leading to unforeseen and potentially quite useful results.

    • tmac57 says:

      I thought that the stripes were a Universal Predator Code that showed: “Best if mauled by (this) date.”

  19. d brown says:

    Star Wars was Right Wing “idiot”scientific illiteracy. Real scientists then and now said things like X-ray lasers were not possible. And they still aren’t. There was a group of well known scientists who were given ideas the DOD wanted. They studied them and said how likely they were to work. They got the Star Wars stuff and said it would never work. Now the military has shut them out for telling the truth. Oh remember how it was said those Patriot anti-missile missiles worked in Bushs Saddam war. Now its known they did not. Mostly they killed other each other if they did anything. But all that is fixed now??? Today’s “liberal” Democrats know they must have money and have sold what made them Democrats. I knew Ronnie was going to beat Jimmy Carter when I read the GOP had the aid agency that sold Coke. And the only one that would take the Democrats small change was the guy that had Genzu knifes.

  20. Canman says:

    I’m a bit late to this thread, but I wanted to make sure a couple of points got made. Conservative republicans aren’t always against scientific research. Here’s what Neil DeGrasse Tyson has to say:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7Q8UvJ1wvk

    And libertarian drifting, conservative columnist George Will:

    http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/will010211.php3

    While I’m in favor of government funded research, I think the actual building of consumer products ought to be left to the private sector. This means letting someone get rich. I wonder if the acomplishments of say Steve Jobs or Dean Kamen would have been possible with much more progressive tax rates.

    • tmac57 says:

      You have made an unstated major premise that progressive tax rates would prevent people from becoming rich. That is a straw man argument that does not follow from the facts.
      Also,do you have any reason to believe that Jobs or Kamen were motivated by money to accomplish what they achieved? Does someone who has 10 million or a billion dollars really feel deep in their gut “I really would like to invent a new (whatever) but damned if I will,if the government wants to tax me at 35%!
      These people are driven by success in their field,and creative drive.Money becomes very much less a driving force once they are relatively comfortable.
      Also,’libertarian drifting George Will’ has been a high profile AGW denier,which in my opinion,puts him squarely into the anti-science camp.

    • Canman says:

      I thought I was just wondering about progressive tax rates rather than unstating any major premise. While money may not have been Steve Job’s main motivation, It eventually allowed him to go from the Apple II all the way to the iphone. And it certainly seems to have affected WHERE he builds the iphone.

      George Will is someone who I have seen change his mind and admit that he was wrong. Science is not his main subject, so he probably looks at current scientific prognostications in light of the accuracy of past prognostications. It would not come as a surprise to me to see him look closer at AGW and conclude that it might be a problem requiring some government action. This is not the same thing as indorsing the policy prescriptions of Al Gore or Bill McKibben (author of”Eaarth”).

  21. Martin J Sallberg says:

    Academic Machiavellism is a serious problem for pure science. I recommend Pure science Wiki, an Internet platform for the pure scientific method without any academic Machiavellism.