Mona Charen

A little humility about our capacity to predict something as complex as climate would be welcome. It isn't a matter of trusting science versus denying the scientific method. It's a matter of distrusting the herd mentality that can affect scientists as well as other mortals. I happen to think global warming may well be a serious problem for coastal regions in the future. This much having been said, there are serious flaws in the way science is conducted.

Consider cancer research. A rule of thumb among biomedical venture capitalists, The Economist reports, is that half of published research cannot be reproduced. A 2013 study by Amgen found that of 53 "landmark" cancer studies, only six could be replicated.

The pressure to publish is intense among academic researchers, yet scientific journals prefer newsworthy findings to refutations of older studies. A reported one-third of scientists confess to knowing of a colleague who cherry picked data or excluded "inconvenient" facts to tart up his or her research. Grants often flow to politically sexy topics like global warming, and scientific dissenters from orthodoxy suffer some of the same social and professional ostracism as heretics of an earlier time. The heart of the scientific method is disproof. Skepticism then, not unflagging belief in any particular theory of climate change, is the mark of the truly enlightened mind.

Speaking of things we know for sure that just ain't so (in the words of Mark Twain), 2013 was a year in which Mexico emerged as a promising startup. Our impoverished and corrupt neighbor, from whom we just knew we could expect an endless parade of illegal migrants year in and year out, is producing jobs at an enviable clip. Per capita gross domestic product, Pierpaola Barbier and Niall Ferguson write in The Wall Street Journal, is outpacing Brazil, and a series of free-market reforms may well revitalize Mexico's energy, telecom and education sectors.

So here's to a more open 2014: A senate more open to amendments, science more open to scientific method and economies more open to free markets.


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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