The truth is such a relative thing. I saw its relativity in the recent Netflix’ series of ‘Making a murderer’, a documentary about Steven Avery. This poor guy was convicted twice, firstly as an innocent person, and then, secondly, probably as an innocent guy as well. When you watch the process, you cannot really believe that such a course of events, including clear fabrication of evidence and bias of the judges, still happen in twenty first century.
But what was even more striking to me, probably because it concerns me personally, was the debate on Poland in European Parliament, which took place on 18th January. The debate is available here:
What was all this buzz about? We have a new government in Poland since mid November, and these guys only needed two months to dismantle the Polish constitutional Tribunal, and the public media. First, they passed a bill due to which the Tribunal now needs 2/3 of the votes in order to withdraw a proposed bill as inconsistent with constitution. Since the leading party controls half of the judges in the Tribunal, this will never happen - which makes it possible for the leading party to force any new bill inconsistent with the constitution from now on. Second, the leading party exchanged all the supervisory board of the public television, put their own envoy as the chairman, and claims that this move will… 'bring back the impartiality and pluralism to the public television'.
But most strikingly, even clear points from European politicians during the debate, did not encourage our new Prime Minister to change her tone. She was dumbly repeating like a mantra that her government respects the constitution and supports unbiased journalism. Say what?… I could not believe in what I was hearing, and I was ashamed that our politicians, including the Prime Minister herself, display a clear difference in intellectual levels when compared to some of their Western counterparts.
Is it that the truth is so plastic and relative everywhere? I like to think that in the microenvironment called science, it is. I am not so sure about this one though, when I observe double dipping and colouring the results. Did you see this one?
Thrilling and disturbing truth about science these days. This is partially a result of the same phenomenon as in politics or forensic science: peer pressure, pressure of time, pressure for results, pressure for success. Pressure. So, there is no fraud-free environment, the only difference is that in some disciplines, it comes in more of a vanilla-version (let’s colour the results so that the boss is happy), and in some other disciplines, the consequences are more gruesome (let’s finally put this prick in prison and go home). And I cannot really come up with a medicine to this. If you want to prevent playing around with truth, you need to eliminate the pressure that caused it in the first place. So, how to eliminate pressure from academia? …