Ideas for Second Research Paper

    You may pick any of the topics that you may have considered for the first paper but didn’t follow through on.

    If you heard other students mention something that sounded interesting you may do independent  research on that topic.

    Pick something interesting!

    Here are some new angles to think about.

The Role of Hoaxes in Research

    We have seen that the fabrication of data is one of the biggest ethical breaches in science.

    Yet people sometimes deliberately put out fake data or fake artifacts in order to expose the sloppy standards of other people in the field!

    The way fakes are exposed can tell us a lot about the quality control mechanisms operating within various disciplines.

Locating Hoaxes/Frauds (sometimes the distinction is not clear) 

     Donald Simanek, a retired physicist, has compiled a useful web site:

     Another useful site is:

     Hoaxes pose all sorts of ethical issues:

   Is it ever legitimate to deceive your colleagues even though you will eventually “debrief” them?

   Are hoaxes an efficient way of improving standards in a field?

     Are hoaxes usually perpetrated by central figures in the field or people on the fringe?


Laundry List of Hoaxes/Self-Deceptions

    Alan Sokal (see his web site)

    Kensington runestone and Kari Ellen Gade (Lexis-Nexis)

    Paul Kamerer (A. Koestler, Case of the Midwife Toad)

    Polywater (Wm. McKinney’s Ph.D. thesis)

    Piltdown Man (essay by Stephen Jay Gould)

    Cases in Mismeasure of Man

  Samuel George Morton

  Broca and phrenology

-    Sir Cyril Burt


Frauds in Science

    Sir Cyril Burt represents a typical cause of fraud - the scientist sincerely believes that data will eventually turn out to support their hypothesis. It starts out more like “floating” a check than forging a check, but then gets out of hand.

    Museum displays offer an interesting borderline case:

  Keith Parson’s Drawing Out Leviathan tells about the dinosaur with the wrong head.

Dubious Science Inspired by Religion

    The interpretation of data and the evaluation of theories is sometimes explicitly influenced by religious or political convictions. Examples:

  Islamic Science (critiqued by Pervez Hoodbhoy)

  Hindu/Vedic Science (critiqued by Meera Nanda)

  Creation Science (critiqued by Philip Kitcher and Michael Ruse)

  Afrocentric Science (critiqued by Bernard Ortiz de Montellano)

  Multicultural Mathematics (defended by Jphn Kellermeier) 

How to Focus Discussion of Such a Broad Topic

     Pick a specific bone of contention.

     Try to sort out exactly what values/beliefs are in conflict in this instance.

     Can people with certain sorts of religious beliefs ever be accepted into the scientific community as it is presently constituted?

     Do such people contribute anything to science? Do their alternative suggestions or sceptical disclaimers ever help science or are they almost always a hindrance?

Lots of Topics in Archeology

    Kenniwick man (constraints on scientific research from Native American religious/political beliefs)

    Who do artifacts belong to? Should cultures with good museums, etc. protect them for peoples at war or lacking in good facilities?

    Karen D. Vitelli, ed., Archeological Ethics