Scientific rigor and the notion of the preconceived stance

Here's the thing. I am, by training, a scientist. It was my major at Uni, and I try always to approach information logically and with some degree of scientific rigor. My dissertation at the end of my time at the fountain of knowledge (at which students came to drink - but that's another story)  was an investigation e.coli in the bathing waters of the North Sea in the environs of a seaside town we'll call Scarbados, for want of identifying the place explicitly.

My starting point was premised on the fact that there was a sewerage outlet within stone throwing distance of the most popular bathing beaches - actually located equidistant from both - and it seemed to me that, because of the paucity of treatment available at the time, it was conceivable that levels of e.coli in the water on one of the beaches might be at levels that could be a marker for concern and action. 

Logical, yes?  Important? Possibly, depending on the experimental and observational results.

In order to test my hypothesis, I needed to sample the water over an extended period, and cultivate any organisms I captured to determine what, if any, the population of e-coli in the water was. Because people were fond of collecting shore-dwelling mussels and whelks/winkles for human consumption in spots beside the bathing beach (which was sandy between low and high water marks) I had identified that, should there be results from the first investigation be of concern - that is, if the population of e.coli was of a high enough order to be worrying - then I would need to harvest mussels and whelks/winkles, again, over a period of time, and examine than for the presence of e.coli. 

Now, long story short. Over a period of three months I gathered 1 litre samples of sea water from various spots along the bathing beach on a daily basis, filtered them through specifically dedicated filters for capturing micro-organisms and bacteria, cultured the resulting plates, and did exacting counts on the resulting cultures. Was there a cause for concern? Yes. Was it a major cause for concern? No! The resulting counts were within what major health organisations guidelines considered safe levels. Did I need to harvest mussels etc and investigate further? No.

I wasn't looking for publication, I had no need to further my career in that arena (I was aiming for an entirely different career - one in which I'd already made big strides) and didn't need to attract funding either for further study or to pay my mortgage (I didn't have one). My results were shared - for free - with local folks who may have needed to know. I neither know nor care what they did with the information.

What I DO know, though, is that my approach was rigorous and scientific. I began with a hypothesis that there was a possible danger which, were it to be proven, would be of major significance to the public, and could have major implications for Public Health. My investigation, though, showed that my hypothesis was mistaken, and my concern was unfounded.

Today, though, we find ourselves beset by so-called scientists who begin their "investigations" with a much more entrenched view, and even an agenda, who seem to set out to prove hypotheses that end up, they hope, resulting in policy decisions (including bans on sales and use) that their ideology supports.

Where is the scientific rigour? Where is the thirst for knowledge, no matter what that knowledge may point to? Why will they not acknowledge that their initial hypothesis is flawed, mistaken, or ideologically, rather than logically and scientifically, driven?

The upshot is that even putative scientists can drive a coach and horses through the conclusions of some studies that we are alerted to, but, and this is most of the time, too late to prevent the scare headlines that the current crop of credulous "journalists" assign to the over-hyped press releases university press departments produce as a result of humdrum and "me too" studies. 

It's time it was stopped.