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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Don Polderman

One of the things I do from time to time is check the stats on my blog. Most recently I've been getting a lot of hits from people typing Don Polderman into their search engine. There are people who want information. What has Don been up to lately? Has he found a new job, issued some statement regarding his dismissal, published a new paper, invented a new drug, started a biotech company... But a curious thing is happening. If you type Don Polderman into Google, the Cargo Cult Scientist is third on the list!

Are people concerned about the impact of a scientist who published over 500 articles and was fired for scientific misconduct? Are they willing to talk about it? Why hasn't this incident generated a public discussion?

My answer to that question would be cynical. I would cast dispersions on the world of science. I will join the rest of the scientific community who type his name into Google and stumble across this crazy blog. I will skip a detailed research project into the impact of Dons Sins Against Science.

This blog is really about the scientific method. The method can be applied to finding out whether or not your kid is lying to you about brushing their teeth. It can be used to find out if a drug can be manufactured at a 50,000 liter scale or if that drug is useful in treating human disease. The method can be used to find out how much BS Don Polderman has put into the scientific discourse. But professional scientists talk like Don. Judging by the amount of publications, Don was very good at talking. Now we have more information on Don however. Somewhere between the proper application of the scientific method and the kind of scientific misconduct Don Polderman is accused of lies the truth. Was he an outright fraud? Did he really make unintentional mistakes? Is it worth finding out? What about those 500 papers. If they were worth publishing in the first place, is it worth revisiting them? Why, at this point in Dons career, are we abandoning the scientific method? In our opinion now is the most important part of a scientists career to be analyzed using the scientific method. Instead we will brush this one under the rug.

Don Polderman will fade away. But here at the Cargo Cult Scientist, we will hold him in high regard as one of our leaders. Our airports do not bring in cargo. Our airport is a place where people who have no idea how airplanes operate (or even where airplanes come from) become experts in airports and airplanes. The tribesmen are suppose to be obedient and not talk about embarrassing moments experienced by our leaeders, best described in The Emperors New Clothes. We don't know where airplanes come from. But some of us know that our leaders don't either.

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