Scientists are supposed to be upright and honest and largely immune from bias – as least deliberate bias. However, the problem is that scientists are human like the rest of us. That means, of course, that they are not at all immune from the sometimes very strong temptation to bias their experimental results. Sometimes the bias is unconscious and may even be collective – a shared bias among many scientists. However, sometimes it is quite deliberate and outright fraudulent.
A striking example of a sensational fraud in science is the case of Professor Reiner Protsch von Zieten, “a distinguished, cigar-smoking German anthropologist.” (Link) Back in 2005 it was discovered that Professor Protsch was systematically making up data out of thin air regarding the ages of various human fossils and “stone age” artifacts.
“One of the professors sensational finds, the ‘Binshof-Speyer’ woman, lived in 1,300 BC and not 21,300 years ago, as he had claimed, while ‘Paderborn-Sande man’ (dated at 27,400 BC) only died a couple of hundred years ago, in 1750.” [confirmed by radiocarbon dating] (Link)
During the subsequent investigation it was also discovered that professor Protsch was unable to work his own carbon-dating machine. He was truly just making up the numbers as he went along in order to make himself more famous, and of course make more money (for discovering older artifacts than anyone else). Even his aristocratic title, “von Zieten” was found to be bogus. The professor was actually the son of a Nazi MP – Wilhelm Protsch.
Yet, Professor Protsch worked as a distinguished and even famous anthropologist for over 30 years without being discovered. Amazing! It kind of reminds one of the Pildown Man hoax which was perpetrated by amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson and fooled the entire scientific establishment for 40 years before being discovered for what it really was – an orangutan jawbone attached to a modern human skull. Or, what about the Japanese archaeologist Shinichi Fujimura who was so successful at finding ancient artifacts that he was given the nickname, “God’s hands”? – until he was secretly filmed digging holes, burying artifacts, and then “discovering” them later as “major finds”? Or, what about the Archaeoraptor fossil (“Piltdown Turkey”) that was found in 1999 and presented, in the National Geographic magazine no less, as the remains of a feathered bird with the tail of a dinosaur and sold to a private collector in the US for £51,000? – only later to be exposed as a composite of two fossils glued together? (Link)
The point is that these aren’t isolated cases in the history of science. Why then are scientists so easily tricked? Because, like the rest of us, when a “discovery” seems to match the pre-existing belief system scientists are very likely to accept it as “real”. And, they are therefore much less likely to test it in an effort to falsify the claim. Even now, scientists do not wish to subject their theories to all the available test that might be performed. Why not?
For example, back in 1997 the sensational discoveries of Mary Schweitzer of delicately preserved soft tissues and sequencable proteins, even fragments of DNA, within dinosaur bones, was truly remarkable – and completely unpredictable given that scientists had previously argued that all traces of soft tissues, proteins, and DNA would be completely wiped out within less than 100,000 years (Link). This claim was supported by fairly convincing kinetic chemistry experiments that showed that proteins exposed to temperatures not much higher than that within the average refrigerator would result in their complete decay within relatively short periods of time – certainly well before the 60 plus million year ages assigned to dinosaur bones (Christina Marsh, 2002). Yet, there they were – intact soft tissues that were still elastic and included cellular structures like red blood cells and osteocytes as well as sequencable proteins and even fragments of real dinosaur DNA. Of course, Schweitzer went on to show that if soft tissues are soaked in iron-containing media, like blood extracts, that they survive a lot longer (Schweitzer, 2012). These experiments are interesting and may explain how tissues in Egyptian mummies can survive a few thousand years. However, they don’t explain away the kinetic chemistry findings, which means that their survival for tens of millions of years is still quite a mystery from the mainstream perspective. Consider that Schweitzer compared the effect of iron-generated soft tissue preservation to formaldehyde-based tissue preservation. The problem with this comparison is that even formalin-preserved tissue, even in paraffin-embedded blocks, is known to decay over time. As with formaldehyde-based embalming, preservation is not permanent. It is also known that the decay rate for formalin-fixed tissues is primarily influenced by both temperature and humidity, with both acting independent of the other (Xie, 2012; Broek, 2000; and Cronin, 2007).
What is also very interesting in this regard is that Schweitzer and other mainstream anthropologists refuse to subject their dinosaur bones to carbon-14 dating techniques. When Schweitzer was asked in a letter when she would perform carbon dating on the soft tissues she obtained from dinosaur bones she responded curtly, “Not now” (Link). Yet, these experiments have been performed numerous times by others who question the mainstream story that dinosaurs are many tens of millions of years old. The fact is that high levels of radiocarbon have been found, by the accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) technique, in dinosaur bones whenever they have been tested – producing ages ranging from 16,000 to 32,000 years (Link, Link). In fact, this age range is essentially the same as that for mammoths and mastodons. Even so, Schweitzer and her colleagues have consistently refused to subject their own dinosaur tissues to radiocarbon dating by AMS. What are they afraid of? – having to publish results that completely counter the Darwinian notion of the origin of life on this planet? – and call into question the whole mainstream “science” of dating the fossil and geologic records?
So, while we should each consider and evaluate our own biases, it is good to remember that scientists are no more immune from bias than anyone else. For me, this means that I need to do a bit more of my own investigations into the claims of scientists – especially when their claims have a direct impact on the actual truth of those things that are very important to me.