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Medical News & Perspectives
April 1, 1998

Is It Ig Nobler for Science to Suffer the Slings & Arrows of Outrageous Foolery?

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JAMA. 1998;279(13):979-981. doi:10.1001/jama.279.13.979

Twas the saying of an ancient sage, . . . that humor was the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor. For a subject which would not bear raillery was suspicious; and a jest which would not bear a serious examination was certainly false wit.—Anthony Cooper, Earle of Shaftesbury (1671-1713)

SHOULD SCIENCE always be taken seriously? That question is at the heart of a debate that has been smoldering ever since the United Kingdom's top science adviser, Sir Robert May, warned of the risk of poking fun at scientists without their consent (Nature. 1996;383:291). What provoked his outcry may have been the propensity of scientists in the United Kingdom to win more than their share of Ig Nobel Prizes.

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