[FOUNTAIN]Let experiments repeat“This is truth. There is life on Mars,” CNN reported a statement by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on August 6, 1996. It was the biggest discovery in the history of science that resulted from analyses of meteorites from Mars. Then-President Bill Clinton pledged, “We will concentrate all our ability and technology to exploring outer space.” For nine years after that, NASA continued to send probes to Mars but failed to find evidence of any life. It turned out to have been a conspiracy by NASA aiming for trillions of dollars of the government budget and Bill Clinton aiming for re-election.
Professor Hwang Woo-suk’s intentional falsification of his research paper is embarrassing but less so than the actions of NASA.
Professor David Baltimore of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was a science hero who won a Nobel Prize in 1975 at the age of 37. He later went through hardship after co-authoring a paper on human immunology. A colleague claimed it was a “falsified paper.” The professor suffered a press witch-hunt and appeared before the National Assembly Standing Committee. He was discharged as president of Rockefeller University and was regarded as ‘walking dead’ in the academic field. He was able to regain acceptance after a research team at Stanford University proved the logic of his theory ten years later.
When madness is everywhere, science is doomed to die. During the French Revolution, Antoine Lavoisier ― the father of chemistry ― was beheaded on the guillotine. Lavoisier’s lab assistant, DuPont, immigrated to America disillusioned. Mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange lamented, “It only took one minute to cut off his head, but it takes more than 100 years to make a brain like that.” This is why the world’s largest science company, DuPont, is American, not French.
The University of Tokyo did not immediately fire Kazunari Taira, who published more than ten fraudulent theses. Instead, the school ordered that his experiment be repeated. It was a measure to prevent any other tragic incidents, such as in the cases of Mr. Baltimore or Mr. Lavoisier, from happening.
Dr. Hwang’s lies and intentional falsifications of his research thesis are disappointing, but it is proper to decide whether he is right or wrong after we see the results of repeated experiments. It won’t be too late to criticize him after everything proves to be nothing more than groundless fabrication. Seeking excessive purity and cleaniness tends to lead to extremism. We must remain calm so the historians of the future do not define our times as a time of madness.
by Lee Chul-ho
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.