An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study's author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study -- and that there was "no doubt" Wakefield was responsible.What psychological suffering this man caused in so many vulnerable parents of little children! For a scientist to subvert science — why don't we have a much more intense feeling of horror about that? How dare those trained in science to misuse it and undermine the enterprise of science? Our shared interest in science is so strong – our need to rely on experts so great — that we should severely punish those who betray it. But we can't, really, can we? If we tried, we might only exacerbate the pressures on scientists to toe the line and give us the answers we want, lest we target them for destruction.
"It's one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors," Fiona Godlee, BMJ's editor-in-chief, told CNN. "But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data."
Our shared interest in the rule of law is equivalent, yet how could we punish the lawyers and judges who push the law beyond what is truly legal? We'd only end up with worse legal arguments, and our "rule of law" would lose the qualities that made us value it in the first place. Nevertheless, science is different. The scientific method is more agreed-upon. But scientists, like lawyers and judges, go looking for the answers they want. Something non-neutral pulls them along. And yet we expect them — like judges (if not lawyers) — to conduct their search within a professional methodology. We'd like to be able to trust them, and yet we'd be fools to trust them. But we need to trust them, and we trust them all the time....