Science has achieved quite a lot for humanity at large. The fact that PolicyMic exists is a prime testament to how science continues to change our lives. However, like with any great development for society, there will always be liars who seek to use it in order to make a buck off of the public's ignorance. This is nothing new, but in an age where disinformation can spread online faster then any virus, it pays to be a skeptic. Here are three examples of scientific hoaxes.
The homeopathic remedy to illness involves the repeated dilution of medicine, typically in water. After multiple dilutions, to the point where the actual medicine is lost in the fluid, the theory claims that the water "retains memory" of the substance, becoming an highly concentrated elixir of sorts. Effectively, the less medicine you receive, the better it is for you.
Homeopathy is considered by every legitimate scientific study as a form of medical quackery. Not only has homeopathy been proved not to work multiple times, but it's considered at best ineffectual and at worst harmful to those with serious medical conditions.
Thankfully, there also seems to be no end to those who show homeopathy for the bunk science it is, such as professional speaker and debunking specialist James Randi who routinely downs "lethal" amounts of diluted fluid as part of his presentation and even protesters staging "mass homeopathic suicides."
Still, water is good for you. So homeopathy has that going.
Easily one of the most damaging medical scams in recent memory. This false study caught the imagination of celebrities, politicians, and the media. And like a debilitating disease, we're still feeling the effects today.
Andrew Wakefield, a medical researcher from the United Kingdom, published a fraudulent paper in 1998 linking MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccines with autism-spectrum disorder. As the validity of his research was questioned by peer review boards, the major news media caught wind of Wakefield's research. The result was bedlam.
In the UK alone, vaccinations dropped sharply from parents terrified by the perceived threat. In the U.S, actors Jenny MaCarthy, Jim Carrey, and even Senator and presidential nominee John McCain threw in their support of Wakefield's research.
After 10 years of investigation, the truth finally came out. Not only did Wakefield grossly falsify his findings, but it was all part of his plan to bring a huge lawsuit against several pharmaceutical companies.
A hoax might be a childish way to get attention, but a scientific hoax casts doubt onto reputed fields of study and gives ammunition to detractors also looking for attention and power.
The 1999 "Archaeoraptor" hoax from China claimed to prove the evolutionary link between dinosaurs and modern birds (think Jurassic Park). Even National Geographic ran an article on the possible implications of the archeological find.
But even before the article hit the shelves, archaeoraptor was looked at with heavy skepticism. After rigorous scientific study, the find was found out to be a carefully constructed fake.
Not only was the forgery a severe blow to the credibility of archeological science, it also added fuel to the fire of anti-evolutionary detractors.