Thursday, November 24, 2016

Fake It til You Make It

Bordo - Chinese Graffiti

It sounds like what they're saying here is that people don't want science, they want bad science. I should rephrase - money doesn't want good science, but people do. Social science in particular, is in a bit of a pickle these days (see the replication crisis).

This also sounds a lot like the word of the year for 2016, post-truth, related to 'truthiness' and referencing a world where emotional reaction has more traction that cold hard facts. This is something we've always known, albeit at times in our cultural unconscious. We make things that fight this, I'm sure people like Bejamin Franklin, newspaper editor, had something to say about it. But our defenses have been lacking, and could use a rethink.

Here from The Guardian:

Smaldino cites an experiment by the American psychologist Daryl Bem, who purported to show that undergraduates could predict the future and published the result in a prestigious journal.

"What he found was the equivalent of flipping a bunch of pennies, nickels, and quarters, asking students to guess heads or tails each time, and then reporting that psychic abilities exist for pennies, but not nickels and quarters, because the students were right 53% of the time for the pennies, rather than the expected 50%. It’s insane,” said Smaldino. “Bem used exactly the same standards of evidence that all social psychologists were using to evaluate their findings. And if those standards allowed this ridiculous a hypothesis to make the cut, imagine what else was getting through.”

Cut-throat academia leads to 'natural selection of bad science', claims study
The Guardian, Sep 2016

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