Friday, October 26, 2007

Memory Hole (26 October): What else happened?

Scientific Misconduct Blog: More Events of October the 26th

30 years ago today: Smallpox - lest we forget

On 26 October 1977 the last natural case of smallpox was discovered in Merca district, Somalia.

Smallpox killed an estimated 400 million people in the 20th century. As recently as 40 years ago, there were about 2 million deaths from smallpox each year. Native South Americans were deliberately infected by Spanish colonists, and native North Americans were deliberately given infected blankets by British colonists. The epidemics that followed killed more than half the population.

7 years ago today: Government misled the public over BSE

On 26 October 2000 the long awaited report by Lord Phillips into BSE or (mad cow disease) in the UK was released. The report severely criticized government scientists and government ministers for misleading the public and making dogmatic scientific statements going beyond the bounds of that which they could possibly have known. Furthermore, for six months the government hid scientific information.

Mr Gummer, agriculture minister was censured for his decision to publicly feed his four-year-old daughter a beef burger. Health Secretary Mr Dorrell was censured for providing public assurances in "terms more extreme than he could justify".

The report was welcomed by the families of the victims. BSE caused fewer deaths than some anticipated, but next time I would like to decide for myself thank you. Paternalistic politicians and regulators are clearly better at filtering facts and making decisions than scientists or the public. Is it only scientists who can be guilty of scientific fraud?

Patriot Act

6 years ago today: Unhappy Anniversary

On 26 October 2001 George W. Bush signed the Patriot Act.

Apart from the creeping fascism, the act allows the government to seize patients' medical records without a probable cause or a warrant. It prohibits doctors from telling anyone, including the patient, that their sensitive medical records have been seized. A provision was slipped into the Homeland "Security" bill to shield drug companies from litigation.

How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think.
(Adolf Hitler)

On March 23, 1933, Adolf Hitler forwarded the the "Enabling Act" which provided the newly elected Nazi government with additional powers to act against enemies of the state.

5 years ago today: Michael Bellesiles resigns over gun book

On 26 October 2002 Emory University professor Michael Bellesiles resigned after an academic panel released a report critical of his research.

The report concluded that Bellesiles had omitted data that contradicted his arguments.

Bellesiles had written that he had studied more than 11,000 probate records in 40 counties around the country and that he had found that from 1765 to 1790, only 14 percent of estate inventories listed guns. Those who tried to examine the research found that they could not, because Mr. Bellesiles said his records had been destroyed in a flood. The records they could check showed many errors, almost all supporting his thesis.

It is depressing the way scholars align for or against possible fraudsters based on their subject matter rather than integrity. The problem then becomes a matter of gun-rights instead of academic integrity.

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