Name a vice, and Darwinians will be there to rationalize it on evolutionary grounds. They claim proud ownership of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Timothy D. Clark preached a fiery sermon to the readers of Nature last week, warning about the alarming rise of dishonesty among scientists. “Too many researchers make up or massage their data,” he says. It’s not a small problem, either. You can almost hear the pounding on the pulpit:

Scientists like to think that such blatant dishonesty is rare, but I myself have witnessed several serious cases of scientific misconduct, from major data manipulation to outright fabrication. Most have gone unpunished — in fact, it has been disheartening to see the culprits lauded. It makes little sense for fraudsters to fabricate mediocre data. Their falsehoods generate outstanding stories, which result in high-profile publications and a disproportionately large chunk of the funding pie.

I have noticed a lesser-known motive for bad science in my field, experimental biology. As environmental change proceeds, there is great demand from the public and policy ­makers for simple stories that show the damage being done to wildlife. I occasionally meet scientists who argue that the questions we ask and the stories we tell are more important than the probity of our investigations: the end justifies the means, even if the means lead to data fabrication. That view is alarmingly misguided and has no place in science.

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