A recent New York Times article on research into caloric restriction illustrates one of the pitfalls of science reporting - namely, that scientists are just as human as the rest of us.
The article, by Gina Kolata, is about a study in which rhesus monkeys were kept for 25 years on severely restricted diets. The result? The monkeys were so thin they were roughly the equivalent of a a 6-foot-tall man who weighed around 120 pounds.
The purpose of the study was to discover whether monkeys kept on such a diet would live longer. Earlier studies on lab rats, flies and worms had indicated that severely restricted diets might indeed result in longer lives.
And as the Times article makes clear, the earlier caloric restriction studies had led scientists to hope that the study on monkeys, who are much more similar to humans, might yield similar results.
But it didn't. The semi-starved rhesus monkeys lived no longer than monkeys fed a normal diet.
What's interesting is the disappointment of the researchers involved. They wanted their study to show that semi-starvation prolonged life. They wanted it to be true because such a finding might someday lead to ways of extending human life.
Of course, scientists aren't supposed to think that way. They're supposed to be objective, dispassionate seekers of truth. They develop a theory, then subject that theory to rigorous experimentation. If the theory isn't borne out in the lab, then it's discarded.