I do not any longer think there is that much of a distinction between good science and bad science.
For sure “crank” science is as much the bane of this generation as it has ever been, in terms of giving unsupportable validity to distasteful concepts, however following on my recent blog about the distortions of science in Nazi Germany I really think that what is equally important to good science, is not it’s accuracy but the spirit in which it is carried out.
Where most autism science fails is at the outset, before even the construction of the experimental paradigm, is in the attitude, because before everything comes the formulation of the hypothesis, that imaginative leap from what is currently known or unknown, toward the question one believes one can answer through the scientific method.
Nobody comes to this without bias. My particular bias, which you could argue gets in the way of objectivity, is my inability to read the serried ranks of journals, without an increasing sense of anger, with regard to the contempt that most of this shows to the humanity of my people.
I cannot but see the FMRI scanner in the same intrusive light as the discredited anthropometrists calliper.
So much of the paper chase is driven not by a desire to know anything useful, but by the pressure to publish, and to publish something new and original, even to the neglect of examining the wider context and grounding for that.
It would be disengenous (Godwins law again) to compare most scientists currently climbing the academic ladder with the racist tainted science of pre WWW2 Germany, however I cannot help wondering, if the metaphorical gloves were taken off, what they might do. The prospects for human veniality are bleak, as the experiments of Zimbardo and Milgram (in themselves dubiously ethical) have shown.
It seems to me, in journal after journal all we see is a number of cliques arguing between themselves, that “I think this and my scans prove it,” never mind someone elses set of scans show something else and “prove” something else.
In terms of good science vs bad science this may well be because of poor experimental design, and bias being multiplied through the analytical tools chosen, just as something that is not there can come out of a photoshopped picture simply through chosing one particular filter algorithm over another.
(Does anyone remember the famous Nessie pictures, where reputable experts in there own fields Edgerton, strobe photography, Rines , Sonar produced evidence that Nessie existed, only to be debunked some years later when one of the pictures turned out to be largely an artefact of the enhancement of a rotting tree stump )
One should beware of simply taking anything for granted just because it has a University seal behind it and has passed peer review, because one needs context, context is everything.
The context with autism, is that everything so far has proceeded from it’s cultural construct. The scientists all come in with a bias, that autism exists, and it is this, that or the other. Nobody has ever reframed any of the questions ab initio.
So is my bias against their ethics any worse than there bias against the dignity of the “subjects” they research and there refusal to countenance that they may be mistaken, especially given the mutually insupportable and contradictory nature of so many of their findings.