When Science Goes Astray

Kermit Cole

The Los Angeles Times business section explores how it is possible that “so many scientists looking for cures to diseases have been building on ideas that aren’t even true.” Noting that only a small fraction of research findings are ever validated, and many if not most are found to be flawed when carefully reviewed, a Berkeley researcher adds “The journals want the papers that make the sexiest claims . . .  And scientists believe that the way you succeed is having splashy papers in Science or Nature — it’s not bad for them if a paper turns out to be wrong, if it’s gotten a lot of attention.”

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Editor’s note: Thank you to MiA reader Donna for bringing this to our attention.f

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected]


  1. I whole-hardheartedly agree with this article. I made the decision in my own science career to forgo attempts at publishing in the journal Science. Why? I ask, does the journal make the paper? Or does the paper, many papers, make the journal? If a paper is very, very good, it will be well read despite being published in a ‘so-called’ mediocre journal. The industrious scientist can always name articles with similar success. However, a horrible article published in Science can get acclaim it does not deserve and can mislead other scientist for decades.

    I want to make an honest contribution to science. So, I choose to publish in the journals that (may or may not) practice more skepticism, but at least do not over venerate the ‘sexy’ science.

    (Disclaimer: I was trained in part by one of the scientist quoted in the article, Michael Eisen, UC Berkeley).

  2. “so many scientists looking for cures for diseases have been building on ideas that aren’t even true.” This article flashes me back 38 years to when I became a student of Joseph Liss N.D.,D.C. We called him “Doc”. He is the one most responsible for me becoming a med free psych survivor and for teaching me fundamentals of health and how to research in the health field successfully enough to make amazing original discoveries.Conveying them to others or finding any financial reward or even publishing them has all remained a mystery to me.But Doc himself was as amazing in the field of Traditional Naturopathy as Albert Einstein was in theoretical physics. Here’s some choice “Doc”. A medical doctor ,Dr.Alonzo Clark of New York says,”All our curative agents are poisons,and as a consequence,every dose diminishes the patient’s vitality.In their zeal to do good, physicians have done much harm.They have hurried to the grave millions who would have recovered if left alone to Nature.”Doc says, When we see disease mounting and medical doctors themselves stricken with heart attacks and other degenerative diseases,it is time to reassess and appraise the critical situation with intellectual application as to the infallibility of medical science.” “Whenever an orthodoxy of any kind,religious,political,social,artistic,scientific,claims of infallibility,attempts to raise itself above criticism,my blood boils .” said Albert Guerard. Doc continues,It is the organic salts or mineral elements that play the most important part in our nutrition.Their study has been woefully neglected by the majority of physiologists,who have treated them as unimportant substances.As long as the importance of the organic or mineral salts in our system is not recognized,and understood,deplorable guesswork will continue to exist in regard to both diagnosis and treatment of disease.To enjoy perfect health and immunity from disease,our blood must contain all the necessary elements in their wonderful organic combinations; for it is the blood which carries them to the different parts of the body,nourishing and cleansing the tissues,creating animal heat,magnetism,and electricity.Unless the blood is chemically balanced,its flow becomes impeded;the resulting stagnation allows destructive bacteria to develop and disease to to set in. Just as scum accumulates wherever water is dammed up, bacteria propagate in a stagnant,dormant bloodstream; the easy flow of blood is hampered,resulting in pathogenic accumulation in tissues and muscles. The advancement of the idea that the purity of the blood is the only factor against disease will undoubtedly be met with as much derision and vile criticism as Dr. W. Harveys discovery of the circulation of the blood in 1619.It is a foregone conclusion that one unfamiliar and vested in unbridled authority in the healing arts blindly will not have the introspection to investigate and thus will condemn that which he inherently cannot understand.We know that condemnation is the path of least resistance,much easier than the difficult application of investigation,particularly if one has been dogmatically indoctrinated in a field accepted as professional and scientific in any orthodox manner.Being subservient to a dogma, devoid of logic or reason renders the individual along a channel of thought free from wisdom and progress.From the “Rubaiyat” of Omar Khayyam: I was young did eagerly frequent Doctor and saint,and heard great argument About it and about;but evermore Came out the same door as in I went. The importance of the purity of the bloodstream is not theoretical, but quintessential in relation to health;it has been proven as concrete fact in many scientific tests by recognized authorities. Pure blood can only be formed from unprocessed and uncontaminated food and water which are supplied by nature in various forms: bush,tree,and vine,with the aid of sun, soil, and water. Professor Jaffa and Dr.R.H. Chittenden have made extended experiments. Professor Jaffa’s report on investigations made among a number of fruitarians contains an interesting account of a dietary study of a family of fruitarians consisting of two woman and three children. They all had been fruitarians for five to seven years; their diet consisted chiefly of fruits and nuts with the addition of celery ,honey,olive oil, and occasionally a small amount of prepared cereal foods. On this frugal diet of chiefly uncooked foods excluding all animal foods and legumes, this family with three growing children had lived in wonderful health all these years.It is the alkaline elements which should be predominantly furnished ,and, if furnished in the right proportion,the cells of the body will not be broken down.A deficiency in these elements will deplete the mineral reserves in our bodies and lower our powers of resistance.Nature’s best elimination of waste poison is made by the alkaline elements,especially organic sodium,calcium,and iron, liberally supplied in the form of fruits and green leafy vegetables.Health and efficiency can be maintained on a diet furnishing no more than two ounces of protein at utmost,even under severe muscular and mental exertion. Many authorities are firm in their conviction that a natural diet predominating in green leafy vegetables,if rationally prepared,furnishes all the necessary sodium and cloride for proper nutrition, especially if foods are grown on properly fertilized soil and kelp and dulse are contributed to the diet in generous quanties. Many stockman, upon experimentation with kelp and dulse, have discovered wonderful results in the quality and breeding of their stock.Agriculturists ,likewise, are becoming aware of the importance of replenishing the depleted soil with seafood. In preparation for soil culture, the salt is washed off the dulse or kelp, and the latter , after having been dried, is pulverized and combined with the soil. The agriculturists note with amazement that after building up the mineral content of the soil, the product contains strong mineral substances and is free from insects; thus insecticides and pesticides are not nessarily warranted. Strengthening the soil is analogous to a human being’s partaking of natural organic fruits and vegetables, thus building resistance against bacteria and resultant diseases. Since the adult has lost all sense of instinct,reason and intellect are essential for the conservation of life.By intellect we mean all the intellectual manifestations: understanding,thinking,judging,reasoning,and wisdom.Intellect is not to be confused with wisdom,for in the words of Tennyson, “Knowledge comes,but wisdom lingers.” Maeterlinck said, “What we call intellect has the same origin and mission as that we choose to term instinct in animals.” Nature furnished man with instinct in the struggle for existence;however,since this instinct was lost as civilization emerged, the dual forces of the mind,reason and intellect, had to supersede it.Subjected by various media which are being peddled to the gullible,the mind is inhibited and free from normal function. Unfortunately, a trend is arising to pervert his intellect in the same way his instinct and conscience have been perverted. Thus we see that man does not often pay attention to reason, but allows himself to be guided by extrinsic forces in his passions and sentimentalities.Education and habits form prejudices which not even constructive knowledge and intellect can destroy. On the subject of religion, for instance, people who are otherwise intelligent quite often show a lack of understanding which could be compared only with that of a simpleton. This lack of understanding is found among men of science,principally among regular physicians. The long years of study in research and universities create so many deep-rooted prejudices in the plastic minds of pupils that they prevent them often from making good use of their reason. Father Kneipp, the famous German authority on naturopathy, tells us that of all the people who came to his sanatorium to learn his system,regular physicians spent more time trying to learn it than ordinary people who came there with the same aim. When attending college ,the student must not be introspective. He is not to question or think, but only to learn. FOR THE BENEFIT OF MANKIND ,THE SCIENTIST MUST LEARN THAT THE MANIFESTATIONS OF EVERY ACUTE DISEASE ARE THE RESULT OF A HEALING EFFORT OF NATURE. Former prejudices make it impossible to convince a regular physician of the superiority of drugless healing as trying to convince a priest of the superiority of any religion other than his own.It is a fact that even intelligent people, as far as their religion,science,or political principals are concerned, generally show logic that can be compared only with that of a very ignorant person. “Prejudice is the child of ignorance,” said William Hazlitt. In the domain of the mind, intelligence accepts contemporary knowledge or facts, but intellect will survey and weigh with infinite analysis; intellect will reject that which can not carry some positive and definite contribution in a constructive manner toward human welfare and cultural enlightenment based upon justice, freedom, and equality.Much knowledge and many facts are of a day only and are superseded and obsolete tomorrow. Intellect defines the difference between abstract temporary facts and basic fundamentals in their application to permanent human welfare. It is not learning which develops the intellect, but thinking. This is proof that intellect, or , rather, intelligence, can be perverted and degraded through bad examples, bad habits, and sophism.Despite many years of medical studies, the same diseases prevail, and the same errors are committed. The power to think is completely inhibited. Ingersoll stated, “Education dims diamonds, but polishes stones.” A celebrated American professor once remarked, ” Had Mr. Michael Faraday attended school, the possibilities are that magnetism would never have been discovered.” Devoid of deductive powers and instinct, and incapable of thinking, the intellect is still used by man as a base for the commitment of blunders and terrible atrocities. There is a French axiom: O liberty, O liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name.” We say, “O science, o science, what crimes are committed in thy name.” Every individual, every human group, believing in the infallibility of an idea, creates dogma,religious,political,medical, and then tries to force it upon other people by sheer strength. Compulsory medicine is no indication of scientific progress, and yet political laws have been enacted to force people into some form of inoculation or medication. Is this form of compulsion and coerciveness an indication of scientific progress? Havelock Ellis once remarked, “What we call progress is the exchange of one nuisance for another nuisance.” The previous words are excerpts from a book by Joseph Liss N.D. D.C. called Victory Over Heart Attacks . When I escaped from a mental hospital to arrive on time for an appointment with Doc I had maybe 30 cents in my pocket. The sign which hung on the door of Doc’s natural foods store said. “Enter not as a customer but as a friend and we will bestow health without end.” And so it was in those many years of friendship with Doc. Ironically no major publisher would publish Doc’s book. He had to pay a company called Dorrance & Company to print 200 copies.When asked how he could persist so tirelessly even into his 80’s teaching the song of health he laughed with tears of joy and said “Just to help another”.