You Should Worry About Scientists-Frauds, Hoaxes, Nonsense, and Bias in Scientific Papers

This essay takes a few words to discuss the problem of false reports in peer-reviewed academic journals. Evidently, there are a number of problems with publishing scientific “facts” these days. There is the garden variety error. Then there is the fraud. After this is the Hoax, in which clever pranksters make fools of the system.  Evidently there are more than a few PhDs that are eager to confirm their bias about the emperor’s clothes. Last is the nonsense paper. Keep reading.

Remember, science is NOT what scientists say. And because of this you should always be skeptical. And we are learning that we have to be skeptical even when groups of scientists insist on things. And sadly, the scientific community has no one to blame for themselves for this mess. Thankfully there are some whistle-blowers in the ranks.

This article is entertaining and frightening at the same time. Someone actually published an article on the feminizing of melting glaciers…

The authors mention how the progressive-left bias of scientific community, especially social scientists, makes them easy prey for claims that fit their pre-conceived view of the world. Of course that danger doesn’t only affect the left, it just so happens that they have a majority, and they are the ones insisting that their beliefs are facts.

Note well how he ends the article:

“Social science is especially hard-hit these days; one psychologist described it as “riddled with flaky research and questionable theories.” There is a surprisingly broad consensus about the cause—that is, everyone from Michael Shermer to Uncommon Descent agrees on it—namely, that the field’s overwhelmingly progressive-left bias makes it an easy mark for both hoaxes and frauds.

“It also makes it an easy target for a third category of problem paper that is neither a hoax nor a fraud exactly: the nonsense paper that may well be believed by its authors. Examples of these include the widely cited “positivity ratio” in psychology, which was assessed as “entirely unfounded” in 2013, and the recent, apparently serious attempt to “feminize” melting glaciers.

“This sort of thing should come as no surprise. Monochromatic bias exposes a community to greater risk because few of its members even notice a hoax, fraud, or nonsense thesis that passes their bias filter. Usually, the person to whom it doesn’t sound right has different commitments and life experiences, and he or she is the one motivated to investigate.

“Ironically, many defenders of the status quo in recent years have claimed to be “scared to death of the anti-science lobby.” Their worries are misplaced. It’s actually science that is coming to get them. Soon.” (emphasis added)

Source: The Hoax on Us by Denyse O’Leary

How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health on Campus – The Atlantic

This is an important article from the Atlantic on how our attempts at censorship in the name of protecting students from hurt feelings is bad for them in just about every way. It is a longer piece, but worth the time if you can make it all the way through without gouging out your own eyes in disbelief and frustration. The article is full of examples about the insanity of the reigning version of political correctness.

I think it is a significant article because it is polite, but also coming from the more liberal side of the field. The author approaches the topic from the standpoint of counseling (specifically cognitive psychology) and so is in a good position to address the concerns behind all the trigger warnings (e.g. “you are going to make people relive trauma”).

As I waded through the examples in the article,  I kept mumbling to myself in shock.  Are we trapped in a Monty Python sketch?  Yet, the big ideas resonate with me because I have seen some of this personally.  I just didn’t realize this monster was growing so quickly.

“Attempts to shield students from words, ideas, and people that might cause them emotional discomfort are bad for the students. They are bad for the workplace, which will be mired in unending litigation if student expectations of safety are carried forward. And they are bad for American democracy, which is already paralyzed by worsening partisanship. When the ideas, values, and speech of the other side are seen not just as wrong but as willfully aggressive toward innocent victims, it is hard to imagine the kind of mutual respect, negotiation, and compromise that are needed to make politics a positive-sum game.

“Rather than trying to protect students from words and ideas that they will inevitably encounter, colleges should do all they can to equip students to thrive in a world full of words and ideas that they cannot control. One of the great truths taught by Buddhism (and Stoicism, Hinduism, and many other traditions) is that you can never achieve happiness by making the world conform to your desires. But you can master your desires and habits of thought.”

Here is an editorial from the LA Times expressing the opposite perspective. After reading the Atlantic piece, it seems pretty weak.

Source: How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health on Campus – The Atlantic

“Want the best for your child, not for your child to be the best”

%22Want the Best for your child, Don't want

Our children and young adults are facing a lot of pressure to succeed. GPA. AP courses. College admissions. This observation is coming from those that watch our kids, and it is coming more frequently.  We all want our children to succeed and have bought into the American narrative that the only way for this to happen is for them to earn degrees from prestigious schools. This has a number of untoward effects.  One is huge student debt. Another is a disdain for the trades. We just don’t look at plumbers and welders and think “success.”

Perhaps the most troubling of these effects is the mental and emotional pressure it places on our young adult children. We impose our own aspirations on them, at times even denying them of normal elements of childhood play.  The pressures can be too much for many to carry, and the overall effects are not good.  At the extreme end of the spectrum It seems that more teenagers are deciding to jump in front of trains.

Frank Bruni writes about the suicide rates among teenagers in places like Palo Alto and the Washington DC suburbs.  They are higher there than other places.  And as researchers look for causes they find that the high pressure world of adult competition is trickling onto our children and contributing to a life of anxiety and despair.

Some of this reveals the irony of wealth and success.  Having all that one could want in this world may be one of the worst things that could happen.

Bruni writes,

“Adam Strassberg, a psychiatrist and the father of two Palo Alto teenagers, wrote that while many Palo Alto parents are “wealthy and secure beyond imagining,” they’re consumed by fear of losing that perch or failing to bequeath it to their kids. “Maintaining and advancing insidiously high educational standards in our children is a way to soothe this anxiety,” he said.”

Strasbourg offers some wise advice,

“Want the best for your child, not for your child to be the best.”

Best, Brightest — and Saddest? – The New York Times.