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40% of science writing is junk: the replication crisis

An article by Peter Shawn Taylor in the C2C Journal covers the replication crisis in science. The result is in the title above: 39, not forty, percent of what is touted to be science is not reproducible. “Study shows”. That means that important assertions of science in every field, particularly politically important fields, such as climate change, or classes of inquiry, such as systemic racism, are false.

As regards social psychology (viz the Staley Milgram experiments in inducing people to administer shocks to others), the man who studied the field, Augustine Brannigan wrote:

 

“They are all very entertaining studies, and they ask some really interesting questions,” admits Brannigan. These dramatic “high-impact” experiments are also hugely influential, occupying large sections of undergraduate textbooks and representing the very foundations of the field. “But as science, they’re terrible,” Brannigan says. “Much of what passes for science in social psychology is just morality in an experimental idiom.” Asked what such a revelation might mean for the future of the discipline, he retorts, “If the entire field were to disappear overnight, I don’t think the world would be any worse for it.”

Taylor concludes:

If there’s an overarching message arising from the replication crisis beyond the fate of social psychology, it’s that relentlessly questioning all scientific work is the most effective cure for bad science. This includes scrutinizing new and flashy claims as soon as they are unveiled as well as re-evaluating long-accepted ideas that have already gained status as scientific certainty. Along with renewed emphasis on tough and unsentimental scientific replication must also come more rigorous fact-checking by scientific journals and a less chummy attitude towards the peer review process, with more emphasis on “review” and less on “peer.”

Monday 18 November 2019

Today’s readings:

Climate Science Proves Scams don’t Die of exposure

Eleven years after the exposure of fraud and error at the core of temperature measurements, the global warming thing goes from strength to strength. Why? The science behind it is rotten.

US Attorney General Barr gives a lucid speech on the role of the courts and the Congress . A snippet:

“In recent years, we have lost sight of the fact that many critical decisions in life are not amenable to the model of judicial decision-making. They cannot be reduced to tidy evidentiary standards and specific quantums of proof in an adversarial process. They require what we used to call prudential judgment. They are decisions that frequently have to be made promptly, on incomplete and uncertain information and necessarily involve weighing a wide range of competing risks and making predictions about the future. Such decisions frequently call into play the “precautionary principle.” This is the principle that when a decision maker is accountable for discharging a certain obligation – such as protecting the public’s safety – it is better, when assessing imperfect information, to be wrong and safe, than wrong and sorry. “

Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class updated. Status goods are being replaced by status beliefs, The harm is greater.

“In the past, people displayed their membership of the upper class with their material accoutrements. But today, luxury goods are more affordable than before. And people are less likely to receive validation for the material items they display. This is a problem for the affluent, who still want to broadcast their high social position. But they have come up with a clever solution. The affluent have decoupled social status from goods, and re-attached it to beliefs.

“The chief purpose of luxury beliefs is to indicate evidence of the believer’s social class and education. Only academics educated at elite institutions could have conjured up a coherent and reasonable-sounding argument for why parents should not be allowed to raise their kids, and should hold baby lotteries instead. When an affluent person advocates for drug legalization, or anti-vaccination policies, or open borders, or loose sexual norms, or uses the term “white privilege,” they are engaging in a status display. They are trying to tell you, “I am a member of the upper class.””

“Affluent people promote open borders or the decriminalization of drugs because it advances their social standing, not least because they know that the adoption of those policies will cost them less than others. The logic is akin to conspicuous consumption—if you’re a student who has a large subsidy from your parents and I do not, you can afford to waste $900 and I can’t, so wearing a Canada Goose jacket is a good way of advertising your superior wealth and status. Proposing policies that will cost you as a member of the upper class less than they would cost me serve the same function. Advocating for open borders and drug experimentation are good ways of advertising your membership of the elite because, thanks to your wealth and social connections, they will cost you less than me.”