Duke Scores Another Own Goal
According to Science, Duke University oncologist Anil Potti quit after being caught cheating:
Anil Potti had published papers in prominent journals identifying gene signatures in tumors that could predict how a patient would respond to treatment. But his work came under scrutiny after two biostatisticians at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, spent years trying and failing to replicate it. The case broke wide open this summer when The Cancer Letter discovered that Potti had falsely claimed to have won a Rhodes scholarship. Duke placed Potti on administrative leave soon after.
I do not want to emphasize the theme of Statisticians To The Rescue—as heartening and as obvious as that would be—but instead want to ask why the Journal of Clinical Oncology had to retract one (so far) of Potti’s papers. (It is impossible to resist saying Potti paper; I have not resisted.)
What’s odd is that this particular Potti paper was peer-reviewed—peer-reviewed Potti paper!—and what follows from that is, of course, the peer reviewers got it wrong. They accepted when they should have rejected. Why?
Part of the reason must be that the peer reviewers reviewing Potti’s paper wanted to believe the results. The Potti paper examined “gene expression signatures” in the hopes that personalized cancer treatments could be designed, a different one for every genetic signature. Not a bad idea, that.
“But the gene signatures used to define tumor types—and there are many candidates out there—have been difficult to replicate. (link)” Until up stepped Anil Potti who flushed the old ideas away and reported that he could do what none before him could. Evidently, this was welcome news to the reviewers of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, and of The New England Journal of Medicine and Nature Medicine where Potti also mouthed off in print (I had to work that in).
Thus, we have yet another incident where results that were devoutly to be wished for were uncritically accepted. What’s unknown is how often this happens elsewhere.
A Sanctimonious Priest
Sanctimonious didn’t used to be a bad word. It originally meant “possessing sanctity”, which is to say one who demonstrate holiness or who is devout. But the dictionary says this meaning is obsolete and that sanctimonious is a mere synonym of “hypocrite.”
The wordsmiths at Merriam Webster cannot imagine somebody actually meaning what he says when he speak about matters spiritual. They figure that the speaker must be lying for effect.
But I mean it in the original and better sense when I say that Father Jack Landry is sanctimonious. He’s the priest on the television show V, mysteriously a product of Hollywood. It’s a mystery how any show which features a sympathetic priest ever made it past the television censors.
According to the New York Post, the actor who portrays Father Landry, Joel Gretsch, was himself raised Catholic.
Priests on TV are, these days, child molesters or behind-the-collar schemers. It’s only natural considering recent headlines.
But “V” having a heroic priest a [sic] as one of its main characters? That makes Father Jack Landry practically one of kind in prime time.
That makes him one-of-a-kind in any time. On film, that is—since roughly 1970. If you don’t know any Catholic priests, I can tell you that the Father Landry character is, strange as it might seem, modeled after real-life priests, the majority of whom are just what they try to be: sanctimonious. To say that not all succeed is merely to say that they are human.
What about the show itself? Let’s not forget that this is a series about evil aliens come to Earth to deliver “free universal health care”, and who announce that all they want to do is take care of us. Their real plan is to at least enslave us, probably to eat us. Everything about this program runs counter to traditional Hollywood ethics, yet it survives. I can find no suitable explanation for why this is so.
About that free health care. It’s not that unusual that those who wish to conquer us would offer it. Every good farmer ensures his livestock are visited by the veterinarian.