Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Zombie science: A sinister consequence of evaluating scientific theories purely on the basis of enlightened self-interest

By Bruce G. Charlton, MD


Although the classical ideal is that scientific theories are evaluated by a careful teasing-out of their internal logic and external implications, and checking whether these deductions and predictions are in-line-with old and new observations; the fact that so many vague, dumb or incoherent scientific theories are apparently believed by so many scientists for so many years is suggestive that this ideal does not necessarily reflect real world practice. In the real world it looks more like most scientists are quite willing to pursue wrong ideas for so long as they are rewarded with a better chance of achieving more grants, publications and status.

The classic account has it that bogus theories should readily be demolished by sceptical (or jealous) competitor scientists. However, in practice even the most conclusive 'hatchet jobs' may fail to kill, or even weaken, phony hypotheses when they are backed-up with sufficient economic muscle in the form of lavish and sustained funding. And when a branch of science based on phony theories serves a useful but non-scientific purpose, it may be kept-going indefinitely by continuous transfusions of cash from those whose interests it serves.

If this happens, real science expires and a 'zombie science' evolves. Zombie science is science that is dead but will not lie down. It keeps twitching and lumbering around so that (from a distance, and with your eyes half-closed) zombie science looks much like the real thing. But in fact the zombie has no life of its own; it is animated and moved only by the incessant pumping of funds. If zombie science is not scientifically-useable - what is its function?

In a nutshell, zombie science is supported because it is useful propaganda to be deployed in arenas such as political rhetoric, public administration, management, public relations, marketing and the mass media generally. It persuades, it constructs taboos, it buttresses some kind of rhetorical attempt to shape mass opinion. Indeed, zombie science often comes across in the mass media as being more plausible than real science; and it is precisely the superficial face-plausibility which is the sole and sufficient purpose of zombie science.

Medical Hypotheses, Volume 71, Issue 3, Pages 327-329 (September 2008)

Sandwich box Stasi: British parents' fury over school which inspects lunches and confiscates junk food

A primary school has been accused of running a 'mealtime Gestapo' after insisting on inspecting children's lunchboxes for unhealthy food. If pupils are found to have sweets, chocolate, fizzy drinks or full-fat crisps, teachers confiscate them and hold them in the staffroom. The snacks are returned at the end of the day but only if parents ask.

One parent, Magdi Cullen, said she was shocked when her nine-year-old daughter Maria told her about the policy at Danegrove Primary School in Barnet, North London. Mrs Cullen, 34, of Cockfosters, said: 'When I found out about what they were doing, I thought, "This is a primary school, not Guantanamo Bay". 'I can't believe that teachers go through their lunchboxes because there might be something like a small chocolate bar. 'My daughter has a sandwich and an apple as well, but now she has to hide a small box of Smarties I give her. It's just not right. 'The school is very good apart from this and we can't fault it in any way academically.'

Her husband, wine vendor Jerry Cullen, 51, said: 'The whole situation is ridiculous and the teachers are acting like the mealtime Gestapo by going through their lunchboxes. The crisps have to be approved healthy ones and they can cost a small fortune.'

Parents were sent a letter informing them of the strict meal searches. The letter warned: 'Lots of unsuitable items have been sneaking in lately. Therefore, we will have to look after such items until the end of the day in order to be fair to everybody. 'So chocolate and other unhealthy foods found in packed lunch boxes will be taken to the office for collection by parents at the end of the day.' The school said in a statement-At Danegrove School: We are following the Government's healthy lunches guidelines for school meals and packed lunches. 'We advise that that all pupils consume a well balanced meal at midday in order to promote healthy eating and maximise the children's potential learning in the afternoon sessions.'

Headmistress Deborah Metcalf said: 'We were finding that some children could be bringing in crisps, a Mars bar and can of Coke with their lunches. This stance is trying to work with parents to provide a healthy meal for their children.' Danegrove is not the first school to cause controversy with its healthy eating policies.

In 2007, Standish High School in Wigan banned pupils from leaving the school grounds at lunchtime, stopping them from going to fast food outlets. Some children phoned a local sandwich delivery man who came to the school and passed his wares through the gates. However, teachers complained and the sandwich seller was asked to move on by police.


1 comment:

John A said...

Stasi liberate food "... in order to be fair to everybody."

So it is not that Arthur is eating "bad*" food but that Gwendolyn does not get a bite of it?
- - -
* bad food is any that you or your children do not pull directly from the unfertilised and pest-ridden natural dirt.