Biggest Science Scandal Ever?

Forget Piltdown Man! Human embryonic stem cell researcher Woo Suk Hwang faked his data in his May 2005 Science article in which he claimed to have derived eleven patient specific stem cell lines from cloned human embryos. This is the conclusion reached by a committee of Seoul National University scientists. This fakery casts doubt on Hwang's other published research, including his claim to have produced the first cloned dog, Snuppy, and on his claim to have produced cloned human embryos in the first place.

This scandal is extremely demoralizing. First, because Hwang's research raised the hopes of thousands of patients who looked to his research for eventual cures of their disabilities and diseases. Second, because opponents of stem cell research will point to Hwang's fraud arguing that stem cell researchers are so unethical that they cannot be trusted to develop this technology. Third, because this deception undermines the public's trust in the scientific enterprise which has consequences for future support and regulation.

How did Hwang think that he could get away with this fraud? It's not like he was reporting results from some backwater of biochemistry.

Finally, Hwang's fakery raises the question whether or not human cloning has in fact ever been achieved? The good news is that British researchers announced earlier this year that they had cloned a human embryo, although they did not create an embryonic stem cell line from that cloned embryo.

This is a very sad day for science. Shame on you Professor Hwang!

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  • ||

    Now the IDers will point to "evolutionists" and wonder loudly if they've been faking it.

  • ||

    Thanks Doc! Thanks for setting genetic science back...what.. 20 years?

  • ||

    Hanging is too good for him.

  • ||

    scape: They already do.

  • Timothy||

    May the fleas of a thousand camels infest is groin, and may his arms be too short to scratch.

  • Timothy||

    May the fleas of a thousand camels infest his groin, and may his arms be too short to scratch.

  • ||

    What was this man thinking? Did he believe that, after announcing this incredible breakthrough, the world scientific community would simply takwe him at his word, rather than look for verification? If you're going to lie, then dammit, at least have the sense to tell a lie that can stand up to scrutiny!

  • ||

    If you're going to lie, then dammit, at least have the sense to tell a lie that can stand up to scrutiny!

    may I suggest the social sciences..

  • ||

    This is exactly why it is dangerous to get into the "bias game" when discussing ID. Stick to the facts, and the scientific method, and this mess isn't relevant.

    Dismiss ID because its backers are religiously motivated, and prepare to have Dr. Hwang thrown in your face.

  • Dave W.||

    Quasibill: I hope you are not imaginary, too, cause it looks to me like yer nailin' it bigtime here.

  • Rob||

    Hwang's fraud is a shame, likely borne of a desire for fame or a desire to push an agenda, combined with a supreme confidence in his own theories. Science needs to stop pretending they are above such shameful acts, or that anyone who questions these findings are wacked out religious nuts.

    Or that they abhor faith. There is little out there that requires more faith than evolution, a theory that by it's own nature is practically impossible to observe, and whose proponents can't even figure out if it happens all at once (pe) or bit by bit (gradualism). But god forbid you question their cherished theory.

  • Warren||

    Ron,
    You are so right. I weep for the children.

    What I find most tragic, is how perverse the perception is. It's like how Eron is this great example of the failure of capitalism. On the contrary, it's the poster child of its success.

    One can gain fame and short term success via corruption. But the beauty of the market/scientific-method, is that your corruption will quickly be uncovered. And when it is, that will be the end of it.

    It's so sad that Hwang turned out to be a fraud. But Ron is right science will suffer more from the fall out than from the fraud itself.

  • ||

    Does this mean we're going to need to roll up our sleeves and kill a lot more babies if we expect to get some good stem cells?

  • Timothy||

    Ruthless: One can only hope.

  • Rich Ard||

    may I suggest the social sciences..

    See: Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

  • ||

    They already do.

    Yeah, but now with fresh ammo from the stem cell controversy. I was picturing Pat Robertson and dejected IDers grumbling and trying to save face. Now they can pick up their banners and run through town yelling "Fake! Scientism is FAKE!"

  • ||

    Dismiss ID because its backers are religiously motivated, and prepare to have Dr. Hwang thrown in your face.

    The difference is, scientists are more than happy to discredit each other's work if they find flaws in it. ID proponents prefer to circle the wagons.

  • ||

    One detail easily forgotten is that it was scientists who caught the fraud. This illustrates the point of "falsifiability."

    This is how the system works. Someone publishes a claim; it is then replicated, or not, by other scientists. Nothing counts until it's proven.

    Fraud is not unusual. Scientists are convinced they are right, but can't quite get the demonstration to work. So, they fake it, assuming that other, more skilled scientists will reproduce it and all will be well. Maybe someone else improves the technique and actually makes it work. Then the fraudulent scientist can claim he did it first.

    The beauty of science is that it is largely immune to this. This fraud was exposed. So what? There are no laws of biology that are based on this work.

    No doubt significant money exchanged hands as a result of his fraud. Send the guy to jail, and be done with it.

    Bubba, Ph.D.

  • Dave W.||

    The difference is, scientists are more than happy to discredit each other's work if they find flaws in it. ID proponents prefer to circle the wagons.

    How would you know? How many ID books and papers have you read?

    I am not saying you are incorrect, but this is a pretty bold statement to make if you are (like I am) merely a casual observer of ID "science."

  • ||

    Dave W.-

    Do you know of a single ID proponent who publicly announced that he found errors or lies in the work of another ID proponent?

  • Timothy||

    See: Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

    You're just jealous because you're not self-actualized like me, Maslow, and Jesus.

    Jennifer: That would require Dembski and Behe to aknowledge that they're both abusing Bayesianism quite badly. Steve Verdon has been on this for quite a while.

  • ||

    Dave W.: I have read a bunch of ID stuff (books & articles and attended their conferences) and they don't criticize each others work. In my observation they pretty much accept whatever their confreres say that demonized the evils of Darwinism. Besides they don't have a research program--their usual strategy is to say to evolutionary biologists something like: Unless you can show me every step in the creation of the immune system, eyes, wings, blood clotting, the bacterial flagellum, then it must have been designed. Ignorance is not evidence of design. And besides, evolutionary biologists have research programs aimed at reducing their ignorance of the details of evolution over time. IDers so far don't have research programs.

    Dave W., please read the "wedge document" and Judge Jones' decision for more insight into what the ID movement is really all about.

  • ||

    Woo Suk Hwang? He may or may not have been faking his data, but he's certainly faking his name.

  • Skeptico||

    In one way it's a sad day for science. In another way it shows the strength of the scientific method - the fakery was exposed by other scientists.

  • ||

    Forget it Ron, we've been working on Dave W on other threads and so far he clings to his line of bullshit.

    You can't reason with an IDiot.

  • ||

    If something becomes hard to get because of governmental regulations, then unethical individuals will arise to fulfill that demand. And sometimes you'll get burned instead of getting the good shit.
    If the largest scientific community can't get you stem cells, etc.

  • Ghost Of Consumer Choice Past||

    Dave W., please read the "wedge document" and Judge Jones' decision for more insight into what the ID movement is really all about.

    I have already said a couple times that I wanted Dover to lose. My first reaction on hearing the verdict was that I am glad they lost. I still think they should have lost.

    However, only an activist court would ever look to "what ID is all about." Jones' court was an activist court and that is what Jones did. It is pretty clear to me that he did his activism because he knew that the decision would not be appealed (due to turnover on the Dover board).

    What the Jones court should have done is limited his reasoning to much narrower considerations: what sources did Dover use to support its curriculum, what reception had those relied-upon sources received in the larger scientific community, what were the motivations of the Dover school board, would Dover children be converted by the lessons at issue, etc. The opinion should have stuck to these relevant things instead of trying to be some kind of judicial referendum on ID, as a whole, past, present and future.

  • Dave W.||

    Do you know of a single ID proponent who publicly announced that he found errors or lies in the work of another ID proponent?

    I don't know either way. I guess I trust Ron on this because he says he has read the literature. That is my point to you, tho, J. We should be less prejudicial on this stuf, more agnostic, more skeptical. One way of doing this is to hold one's tongue about what ID literature says or does not say, at least until a few thousand pages worth of reading has been done.

  • ||

    quasibill, point taken on refuting ID with facts and science, rather than the motivations of its proponents.

    But I've got a couple of caveats: first, its proponents are perfectly comfortable being flagrantly dishonest about the science in public, because they're not actually trying to win a scientific dispute, but a political/PR dispute. It's sad that they've chosen this battleground and these weapons, but there it is.

    Second, in the legal arena (the Dover case in particular), the issue of intent and purpose is relevant to cases dealing with the Establishment Clause.

  • ||

    A long time ago I read Behe's book. I vaguely recall him pointing out the errors in an earlier generation of creationist arguments, so that he could claim that he's above all that and not making the same mistakes.

    Disclaimer: I'm not saying that Behe is a good scientist, I'm not defending his ideas, yadda yadda. But somebody asked if ID proponents criticize each other, and there's an example. Please don't associate me with Behe, or think that I now agree with Dave W.

  • ||

    Oh, somebody will probably say that Behe wasn't really attacking ID proponents, he was attacking creationists.

    Thing is, it's exceedingly difficult to tell the difference. In theory there could be a difference, but in practice there almost never is.

  • ||

    That is my point to you, tho, J. We should be less prejudicial on this stuf, more agnostic, more skeptical.

    Dave, prejudice refers to prejudging something, before the facts are in. My disdain for ID proponents is not prejudice. But rest assured--I am quite agnostic and skeptical of any so-called science that tries to explain the mysteries of the universe by saying "a supernatural being did it."

  • ||

    has to be said:
    You suck wang, Woo Suk Hwang

    all requisite disclaimers of tolerance included

  • ||

    Maybe Hwang could work with the ID folks. I hear they need some serious research to support their claims. It ought to be fairly straight forward as the good book clearly lays out the answer to be found.

  • Ed||

    Um...so who designed the Designer?

  • Dave W.||

    Okay, Jennifer:

    How about: "a natural being did it?"

    If God is natural and not supernatural, can She co-exist with humankind's scientific inquiries into herself then?

  • ||

    "How about: "a natural being did it?""

    A space alien? Where did this "natural being" come from on a (by definition) lifeless Earth? Where is there a shred of evidence to support the notion that a being, natural or otherwise, had a hand in this? And since the ID WAG is an "alternative" to the Theory of Evolution, where is the evidence that a "designer" is busy with the day-to-day work of natural selection?

  • ||

    Okay, Jennifer: How about: "a natural being did it?"

    Where did this natural being come from? What processes did this natural being use? Is this natural being bound by the laws of nature?

    This doesn't answer any questions; it just moves them back a step. It's like saying the earth rests on the back of a giant turtle--okay, so what is the turtle standing on?

  • Lazlo||

    You can't fool me, young lady. It's turtles all the way down.

  • Larry A||

    Oh, somebody will probably say that Behe wasn't really attacking ID proponents, he was attacking creationists.

    IMO this was a "we aren't (religious) creationists, we're (secular) ID believers. So you have to listen to us again."

    They are, after all, reading from the same text.

    OTOH if ID ever becomes the theory du jour, I expect the harmony will vanish. These folks are "Christian" while being persecuted, but once they have the upper hand they'll be Presbyterian, Jehovahs Witness, Lutheran, Methodist, Church of Christ, several varieties of Baptist, etc. Then the inquisition will begin.

  • Timothy||

    Where did this natural being come from? What processes did this natural being use? Is this natural being bound by the laws of nature?

    Well, 75 million years ago, the evil galactic ruler Xenu....

  • ||

    You can't reason with an IDiot.

    Kin I git that on a tee-shirt?

  • Rob||

    This doesn't answer any questions; it just moves them back a step.

    True, but the question is still there in either paradigm. It does take an awful lot of faith to believe all of life began with some astronomically unlikely event, an event we don't understand, can't reproduce, and obviously can never observe. And then believing life further evolved through some as yet unkown mechanism for which the only two possibilities have major unresolved logical flaws. Non-life to life, single celled to million-celled, water breathers to air breathers, sea-bound to land-bound, non-sentient to sentient, there are a lot of faith based leaps required. Many of these leaps, due to the passage of time, cannot be examined any more than a belief in a divine hand of a creator.

    If evolutionists were truly confident in their own position, they would welcome the 'competition' of alternate theories and a free market of ideas, and would welcome the same scrutiny used to expose Hwang's fraud. The fact that they don't welcome it and fight so hard to keep these competing ideas 'under wraps', preferring instead to indoctrinate the children in our schools, instead of teaching them to make up their own minds by giving them all views, seems rather suspicious, considering their professed confidence in this theory.

  • ||

    single celled to million-celled

    There's a species called Volvox that can exist in either single-celled or multi-celled forms. When colonies form, the cells differentiate and specialize. It's a clear example of an intermediate form.

    water breathers to air breathers

    Lung fish?

    sea-bound to land-bound

    What about amphibians?

    non-sentient to sentient

    Jerry Falwell. He shows some of the signs of a sentient being, yet he is incapable of assimilating information from his surroundings and drawing obvious conclusions.

    See, there are intermediate forms all around us!

  • ||

    "If evolutionists were truly confident in their own position, they would welcome the 'competition' of alternate theories and a free market of ideas, and would welcome the same scrutiny used to expose Hwang's fraud. The fact that they don't welcome it and fight so hard to keep these competing ideas 'under wraps', preferring instead to indoctrinate the children in our schools, instead of teaching them to make up their own minds by giving them all views, seems rather suspicious, considering their professed confidence in this theory."

    Hogwash. Nobody has presented an ID theory, just an unsupportable guess. Nobody is trying to keep anything under wraps, but the US constitution proscribes the government from taking a position on religion. Schools don't teach kids to "make up their own minds" about science. Kids aren't taught F = MA, and then given an "alternate" explanation for gravitation. There is not enough time in the universe to give anybody "all views" about anything, because almost all views are total bullshit, only a very few "views" have been properly vetted, and ID ain't in the list. And finally, Darwin's Theory of Evolution is silent on the question of how life sprang into existence, it only speaks to the question of speciation.

  • ||

    "non-sentient to sentient

    Jerry Falwell. He shows some of the signs of a sentient being, yet he is incapable of assimilating information from his surroundings and drawing obvious conclusions."

    OK, OK... Very good. That was funny.

  • ||

    Re: Dr Hwang, few recall when he reported joining stem cells using . . ., you guessed it, cold fusion. :-) http://www.padrak.com/ine/CFLIBEL.html

  • ||

    The Korean "Rock Star" of scientists has been caught lip syncing?! What a fall from grace. From Mick Jagger to Milli Vanilli.

  • ||

    "Um...so who designed the Designer?"

    forget it ed...its designers all the way down.

  • ||

    "Where did this natural being come from? What processes did this natural being use? Is this natural being bound by the laws of nature?

    This doesn't answer any questions; it just moves them back a step. It's like saying the earth rests on the back of a giant turtle--okay, so what is the turtle standing on?"

    needless to say that material science suffers from the same problem... what was before the big bang? how did everything suddenly appear from nothing? was this nothing bound by natural laws?

  • ||

    Rob,

    For Christ's sake, consider your words more, or learn what science is, or stop kidding yourself, or be honest with the rest of us. You're going to have to do at least one of the four, I'm not sure which.

    Because ID isn't in the same league as evolution. There's nothing that says it can't be true, but that it is to say that it is unfalsifiable, and there is no physical evidence for it (except for various books of unknown provenance) but rather a set of lacunae which it merely argues are just SO FUCKING AMAZING DUDE that there has to be a god, it is hardly worth putting forth as an "alternate theory".

  • ||

    And I'm sorry, Rob, I don't think you could really take my comment there for a rational attempt at persuasion, but merely as playing to a friendly crowd. It's because I have lost respect for ID proponents, all of those whom I've read, heard, and met and argued with having been guilty of intellectual dishonesty in the service of their goddamn religion.

  • ||

    "You can't reason with an IDiot."

    that is good. Bumper sticker material.

  • ||

    needless to say that material science suffers from the same problem... what was before the big bang? how did everything suddenly appear from nothing? was this nothing bound by natural laws?

    These are not at all the same problem as the IDers suffer. When a scientist encounters a gap in our knowledge he/she says "I don't know this. More research is needed in this area". When an IDer encounters the same gap he/she says "The designer (invariably God if you look at their off the record comments) did this for whatever his reasons. Case closed"

    One approach admits that there are things we simply don't know. The other insists on filling gaps with an equally unexplained designer and then insisting that we know it all. In this way material science allows us to gain more knowledge over time, while ID would have us put our collective heads in the sand. That is why gaps in our knowledge are not a problem for science. ID, on the other hand, posits an immensely (all?) powerful designer with zero evidence to support it other than the occaisonal, and often temporary, gap in our present understanding.

    So while we may not know what came before the big bang, our physists accept that and keep working at it. IDers, on the other hand, would be content to say "God did it" and send the physicists all home.

  • Yogi||

    Actually, thoreau was correct in his understanding. The Big Bang is a singularity where everything in the universe was at the same point at the same time. The universe had zero size and was infinitely hot. Because of this infinite temprature, the physical laws that govern our universe break down. Anything happening before the Big Bang is irrelevant to our current universe because it could not affect us. Stephan Hawking gives a much more elegant (and probably more correct) argument of this in his book, "A Brief History of Time" This isn't faith, its science. Could it be wrong? Sure. But the current Big Bang model has made some major predictions that years later we have discovered to be true. Any new model would have to incorporate the same data.

  • ||

    I don't think even Americans are stupid enough to react as Ronald Bailey suggests.

    Most people can see the need for developing stem cell technology here in the USA -- most people have a relative with Alzheimer's.

  • ||

    i do understand the difference between science as a methed and science as faith and if one were to examine ID with science as method one would find some diamonds in that ruff.

    What rough diamonds would these be? What contributions have ID made to the sum total of human knowledge?

  • ||

    Repeat after me, Brave New World was a warning not a handbook.

  • ||

    "Repeat after me, Brave New World was a warning not a handbook."

    actually i think you are thinking of 1984...brave new world to me sort of seemed like a utopia.

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