Abstract

Like most scientists, I have always believed that science, in its own strange way amidst the vagaries and foibles of the people involved in its endeavour, has tended towards some sort of truth. Whether or not this truth is absolute (and this note examines the question no further), science has improved our knowledge of the universe. I was reminded recently how precarious this edifice can be; when browsing a compilation of essays by Peter Medawar (Nobel prize in immunology, 1960), I chanced upon his review of the book Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science by William Broad and Nicholas Wade. Broad and Wade's book (now 15 years old) essentially does two things: it attempts to develop the philosophical position that science and the conduct of science by practitioners is not the completely objective, squeaky-clean discipline it is commonly made out to be (by scientists themselves and the general community), and it develops this position using some spectacular examples of fraudulent behaviour.

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