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(The New Yorker)   You can love science AND question it. As a matter of fact, you SHOULD love science and question it   (newyorker.com) divider line 26
    More: Obvious, science journalist, Neanderthal DNA, string theory, molecular biology, John Horgan  
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1640 clicks; posted to Geek » on 09 Nov 2013 at 4:37 PM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-11-09 03:51:15 PM  
4 votes:
That's a good idea.  We should come up with some kind of method that formalizes that.
2013-11-09 06:39:13 PM  
3 votes:

SevenizGud: Unless it is about climate change, in which case even sounding something similar to questioning gets you labeled immediately as a denier on par with a flat-earther.


Nah, it's just that the questioning is based upon bullsh*t. That'll happen when you don't understand science.
2013-11-09 07:34:55 PM  
2 votes:

cameroncrazy1984: SevenizGud: Unless it is about climate change, in which case even sounding something similar to questioning gets you labeled immediately as a denier on par with a flat-earther.

Nah, it's just that the questioning is based upon bullsh*t. That'll happen when you don't understand science.


And that's the part that most folks forget.  Sound, intelligent criticism is great, but not all objections qualify as such.  That's why there are climate change deniers who hold up examples of scientists who were laughed at or disregarded as if they too are fighting the good fight and not just propping up their political agenda.  They forget that those scientists in their examples had EVIDENCE and EXPERTISE.
2013-11-09 06:10:13 PM  
2 votes:

DerAppie: Mentat: That's a good idea.  We should come up with some kind of method that formalizes that.

devek: If I conducted an experiment that disproved a major theory, I would be made famous.

I don't see why people think science is conspiracy lol.

The problem isn't a conspiracy or that there is no system for checking work that someone has done. It is that the work isn't being checked enough. Sure, the big once in a life time things will attract replication like a dog attracts fleas. But the small things? A lot gets published without ever being replicated. That way a lot of things that are demonstrably false don't get found out about because there is no one demonstrating anything. This one "scientist" merely made up some numbers and the peer review saw that the maths worked out without and the conclusion wasn't to outlandish and cleared it for publication.

Peer review and articles were once imagined to be a replacement for actual demonstrations. To reach the larger scientific community, as only a few people would fit in a laboratory at a time. The article would be read and people would actually check if things were true and write rebuttals. Over time, however, the system changed subtly. "Peer reviewed" became synonymous with "this is true" instead of "someone checked my maths for major errors and maybe someone else should actually replicate my study." Just keep an eye out and you'll find it everywhere. Even on Fark people will ask for "peer reviewed" articles as the final arbitrator of truth. Not reports of replications. Peer reviewed. As if the two people who were nowhere near the experiment (and often don't even work in the direct field) and only read the information provided could actually make an informed conclusion about the validity of the content.

Things need to change, especially now that we have the internet and electronic communication. Every publisher could add a counter to an article to show how often it has been successfully replicated or refuted. They cou ...



If this sort of thing interests you, you might want to expand your discussion to include the differences between concepts of replicability and  reproducibility versus  corroborationand triangulation. What you're talking about is the former. However, from my experience, what is more common is the latter, in which the findings of a paper are explored from a slightly different angle. Sometimes it's with different methods, a different system or subject, an expanded scope, or other difference. This approach also provides confirmation of a paper's results, as well as providing robustness under different conditions that replication alone cannot provide.

Also note that reproducibility is also made very difficult when working with natural experiments or when working with systems that exhibit variability over time - you can't replicate a particular volcanic eruption, for example. What should also be mentioned is the fact that our current publication and funding paradigm prioritizes  novel results.
2013-11-09 05:07:31 PM  
2 votes:
J. Frank Parnell:
There's no harm in believing creationism, and people have the right to decide what they're injected with. Deal with it.

There is harm believing in creationism because to do so you have to reject science entirely. It isn't a competing theory backed by evidence lol, In fact all of the arguments in favor of creationism are "science is wrong".
2013-11-09 04:04:55 PM  
2 votes:
As opposed to gods, who take it all personal when you do that.
2013-11-10 02:24:46 AM  
1 votes:
As someone who works in science, things my field could address:

1. Statistics are terribly misunderstood in general. No one understands probability theory and rolls their eyes at you when you question analyses.
2. Backcross, people. If you aren't using carefully outbred strains of mice, please please please try to carefully backross your strains that you are comparing.


YOU CAN'T USE A MOUSE FROM A BALB/c AND COMPARE IT TO A B6.

>:|
2013-11-10 12:54:00 AM  
1 votes:

malaktaus: I hate to defend that assclown, but I think you're giving scientists entirely too much credit. Egos are important, and when a faulty theory becomes really entrenched it can be incredibly difficult to dislodge it, because you aren't just arguing against a theory, you're arguing against the life's work of many of your elders. Look at the neutrino problem; I think it was discovered in the 1960s that the Sun was only giving off 1/3 of the expected number of neutrinos, but rather than examine the theory physicists insisted that the detectors were faulty. They weren't, and eventually theory was altered, and the guy who built the detectors eventually shared in a Nobel Prize, after Alzheimer's had set in and he was barely capable of enjoying it, but the point is that there was never a legitimate reason to doubt him in the first place except that his findings didn't fit their preconceived notions. Or look at the Clovis First theory; archaeologists are only now finally coming around to admitting it's bullshiat, after decades of dating tests that strongly suggested that there were sites older than Clovis and despite the fact that the whole theory hinged on the existence of an ice-free corridor for which there is no evidence. It happens over and over again throughout the history of science. Scientists are humans, and they have all the flaws that implies. It's true that the media tends to give the worst kinds of contrarians undue attention, but it's also true that scientists are often biased against novel ideas for totally illegitimate reasons.


You showed two cases where the system I was describing actually worked. In both situations the current theory didn't explain observed reality at some level. The community resisted modifying or tossing the theory altogether until another theory came along and supplanted the first. That's exactly how it's supposed to work. The alternative is that we have no framework to base anything off of and any stupid idea is equivalent to something that has survived the testing of a lot of hypotheses.
2013-11-09 09:57:56 PM  
1 votes:

syrynxx: Surool: Well, duh. Science is all about asking questions and questioning conclusions.

Then how do you explain the pyramids, which were built using technology that didn't exist at that time?


Easy... they were made with technology that did exist at the time.
2013-11-09 09:55:31 PM  
1 votes:

syrynxx: Surool: Well, duh. Science is all about asking questions and questioning conclusions.

Then how do you explain the pyramids, which were built using technology that didn't exist at that time?


Just because people say it on TV, that doesn't make it true.
2013-11-09 07:25:30 PM  
1 votes:

EngineerAU: SevenizGud: Unless it is about climate change, in which case even sounding something similar to questioning gets you labeled immediately as a denier on par with a flat-earther.

Unless it involves Elon Musk, in which case, the founder of PayPal can't be wrong. EVER!

/Yeah, he more engineering than science but the abandonment of skepticism and adoption of heroism in his case a bit disturbing


I don't know, I was plenty of skeptical of Space X & Tesla at first. You know what changed my mind? They started to have results. It is true though, Elon Musk's optimism is infectious but its also that he is pushing the boundaries of what is possible in a way the United States hasn't before. Or in a way that anyone has really.  He may still fail, but I think the United States can still do extraordinary engineering feats and that Elon Musk is the most prominent person in recent history to be pushing us in that direction.

We need more Elon Musk's, we need to be pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
2013-11-09 07:17:26 PM  
1 votes:

SevenizGud: Unless it is about climate change, in which case even sounding something similar to questioning gets you labeled immediately as a denier on par with a flat-earther.

The good news is that the science there is SETTLED. It is so settled, in fact, that Al Gore created a website whose sole purpose is to spam public forums with their canned talking points so that it becomes even settleder.


Scientific consensus? How does it work? Also, the problem with climate deniers is that they have no facts. That's pretty important to science. Oh, and people who aren't climate scientists generally aren't the best people to discredit climate change. Climate change is probably one of the most peer-reviewed scientific studies ever. If not the most.

Mainly because there is so much data, from so many different sources. All of it says yes the climate is changing in a way like never before and that the change started with the industrial revolution. IE: Humans.
2013-11-09 07:14:08 PM  
1 votes:

devek: If I conducted an experiment that disproved a major theory, I would be made famous.


Or maybe you would just be persecuted as a heretic by your colleagues and even your field's most notable Nobel prize winner.

An Israeli scientist who suffered years of ridicule and even lost a research post for claiming to have found an entirely new class of solid material was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry on Wednesday for his discovery of quasicrystals.

Three decades after Daniel Shechtman looked with an electron microscope at a metal alloy and saw a pattern familiar in Islamic art but then unknown at a molecular level, those non-stick, rust-free, heat-resistant quasicrystals are finding their way into tools from LEDs to engines and frying pans.

Shechtman, 70, from Israel's Technion institute in Haifa, was working in the United States in 1982 when he observed atoms in a crystal he had made form a five-sided pattern that did not repeat itself, defying received wisdom that they must create repetitious patterns, like triangles, squares or hexagons.

"People just laughed at me," Shechtman recalled in an interview this year with Israeli newspaper Haaretz, noting how Linus Pauling, a colossus of science and double Nobel laureate, mounted a frightening "crusade" against him, saying: "There is no such thing as quasicrystals, only quasi-scientists."

After telling Shechtman to go back and read the textbook, the head of his research group asked him to leave for "bringing disgrace" on the team. "I felt rejected," Shechtman remembered.

"Daniel Shechtman had to fight a fierce battle against established science ... His battle eventually forced scientists to reconsider their conception of the very nature of matter.


This story is only two years old
2013-11-09 06:39:11 PM  
1 votes:

J. Frank Parnell: DerAppie: Over time, however, the system changed subtly. "Peer reviewed" became synonymous with "this is true" instead of "someone checked my maths for major errors and maybe someone else should actually replicate my study." Just keep an eye out and you'll find it everywhere. Even on Fark people will ask for "peer reviewed" articles as the final arbitrator of truth. Not reports of replications. Peer reviewed. As if the two people who were nowhere near the experiment (and often don't even work in the direct field) and only read the information provided could actually make an informed conclusion about the validity of the content.

It's intellectual laziness. Just tell me what to think, there are TV shows to watch.

With the wealth of information online, even full university courses, anyone can have a decently educated opinion on even the most sciency of topics. We all don't need to look to some 'expert' or some agency to tell us what to think.


How does an average person discriminate between good information and bad information they find on the internet?  Are average people capable of synthesizing information from many different sources and reaching valid conclusions when they lack the education and training often necessary to do so?

And let's not pretend checking a few more sources online other than Nature (or some other reputable science source) means you're not intellectually lazy.  Did you personally run dozens of carefully calibrated experiments or rigorously collect data in some fashion?  No?  Then you're trusting that the source you're gathering this wealth of information did so, right?  But then we're right back to where we started only we're apparently not (only) trusting experts.  What criteria do these "non expert" sources need to meet for you to consider them?  Why is your personal set of criteria an improvement on the process that experts have established?
2013-11-09 06:21:52 PM  
1 votes:
There's a problem with the headline. It makes regular folks think any random half assed criticism is on the same level as peer review.

Yes, science needs criticism to thrive, but it's educated criticism, not your back of napkin debunking of general relativity, that it needs.
2013-11-09 06:15:23 PM  
1 votes:

Damnhippyfreak: Also note that reproducibility is also made very difficult when working with natural experiments or when working with systems that exhibit variability over time - you can't replicate a particular volcanic eruption, for example. What should also be mentioned is the fact that our current publication and funding paradigm prioritizes  novel results.


Not to mention the much more obvious fact that years if not decades go into many publications - reproducing such is often impractical, with little benefit to the those doing the reproducing given the investment in time and effort.
2013-11-09 06:11:55 PM  
1 votes:
Well, pretty much by definition, a 95% confidence interval means that one study in 20 will find a statistically significant result purely by random chance.  That's not even taking errors in methodology into account - perfect methods would still give an incorrect finding in those 5% of cases.  Then there's the whole asymmetry between accepting or rejecting the null hypothesis - a study is more likely to incorrectly accept the null hypothesis than to incorrectly reject it.

That's why important studies tend to be reproduced many times before they are generally accepted.  I don't know anyone outside of the popular press who will believe something just because a single study reported a possible link.  Even the authors don't generally go so far as to draw broad conclusions from a single study.
2013-11-09 06:02:15 PM  
1 votes:
Once a physical process becomes a well established mechanism to explain natural phenomena--the marrying of the understanding of the natural world with physics and/or chemistry--that theory is very difficult to overturn.

Evolution: the discovery that the phenotype of a population of organisms could change via the natural selection of "winning" physical traits from generation to generation was a good start. The discovery of genes, by which these traits could be handed from generation to generation, was even better. Now that we're down to understanding DNA at the molecular level and how things like mutations and interactions with microRNA are expressed at the organism level, evolution is one theory that's never going to get overturned.

Plate tectonics: the hypothesis of continental drift was a good start. The discovery of subduction zones and mid-oceanic ridges gave it some big oomph, though the drivers behind that weren't well known. The advancement of geophysics and how we now understand how mantle flows and  continental crust interacts with it, as driven by densities, has made plate tectonics another theory that'll never get overturned.

The greenhouse effect and anthropogenic global warming: discovering over a century ago that some gases absorb IR light differently than others made for an interesting hypothesis that the earth could warm if CO2 accumulated in the atmosphere. The use of paleoclimatology to help track historical changes in comparison to changes in the atmosphere and solar input has been a big help in understanding what's happening, but, by itself, didn't provide a physical model beyond some real basic stuff that could be inferred from it. However, models built on physics of heat exchange--those physical processes that try to understand the interaction of the atmosphere, ocean, and land, along with solar input--have gone a huge way in helping scientists understand what's happening, especially when tested against paleoclimatological and historical evidence. The current state of climatology is very unlikely to be overturned now that the physical premises behind it are fairly well known.

Like I said, once you nail those underlying physical mechanisms, it gets very difficult to overturn something.

/Kuhn's postmodernistic stuff about the advancement of science, that theories are very tightly held onto by scientists until some sort of revolution where one theory overturns another, is very useful in understanding the initial battles between theories when physical/chemical processes aren't very well know, but definitely has its limits
2013-11-09 05:37:57 PM  
1 votes:

DerAppie: Mentat: That's a good idea.  We should come up with some kind of method that formalizes that.

devek: If I conducted an experiment that disproved a major theory, I would be made famous.

I don't see why people think science is conspiracy lol.

The problem isn't a conspiracy or that there is no system for checking work that someone has done. It is that the work isn't being checked enough. Sure, the big once in a life time things will attract replication like a dog attracts fleas. But the small things? A lot gets published without ever being replicated. That way a lot of things that are demonstrably false don't get found out about because there is no one demonstrating anything. This one "scientist" merely made up some numbers and the peer review saw that the maths worked out without and the conclusion wasn't to outlandish and cleared it for publication.

Peer review and articles were once imagined to be a replacement for actual demonstrations. To reach the larger scientific community, as only a few people would fit in a laboratory at a time. The article would be read and people would actually check if things were true and write rebuttals. Over time, however, the system changed subtly. "Peer reviewed" became synonymous with "this is true" instead of "someone checked my maths for major errors and maybe someone else should actually replicate my study." Just keep an eye out and you'll find it everywhere. Even on Fark people will ask for "peer reviewed" articles as the final arbitrator of truth. Not reports of replications. Peer reviewed. As if the two people who were nowhere near the experiment (and often don't even work in the direct field) and only read the information provided could actually make an informed conclusion about the validity of the content.

Things need to change, especially now that we have the internet and electronic communication. Every publisher could add a counter to an article to show how often it has been successfully replicated or refuted. They could even add references to the articles. That information would be a lot more useful to see how reliable an article is than the vague "peer reviewed" status that has been elevated in importance to a position that is entirely undesirable.


To extrapolate, most scientist use parts of most papers to design their assays. While the experiment may not be reproduced in toto, enough parts are usually reproduced and most scientists will not take a novel approach as fact.
2013-11-09 05:37:39 PM  
1 votes:

J. Frank Parnell: verbal_jizm: Yes, the brainstrust in the Yahoo News comments loudly lambasting scienticians, calling for creationism in schools and mandatory burning of fossil fuels (to show them damn dirty hippies), and refusing to let their snowflake's precious bodily fluids be contaminated with autism juice, all because they heard a fourth hand account of a scientists work reported by a "journalist" with dubious credentials is the same as peer review and scientific consensus.

There's no harm in believing creationism, and people have the right to decide what they're injected with. Deal with it.

Reason will always prevail in the end, and science has always been about arguing with everyone, not agreeing with everyone. If you prefer to ignore or even ban certain opinions instead of arguing them, then you have no place in science. It can be a long hard road sometimes arguing with people constantly about the same topics, but if you are truly right you will be shown as such eventually. Maybe 50 years after you're dead, but still.


Interesting. I wasn't aware a mentioned anything about banning ideas or taking away their right to believe in fantasies (though you and I will disagree with their right to control what they are injected with when they live in a society).

The only point I made was that there is a difference between public opinion popping up in comment sections, forums, and blogs, and the standardized methods we have for explaining reality in incremental steps of precision and accuracy (i.e. science). The general public can question science all they like but usually the only thing it really provides for science in general is a measure of the ability of the public to understand the theories and models that currently form the framework of our understanding. Only when someone goes through the formal methods of putting forward and testing hypotheses (especially at a rigorous level that passes peer review) does the questioning have any bearing on the actual scientific framework.
2013-11-09 05:25:12 PM  
1 votes:
J. Frank Parnell:

There's no harm in believing creationism, and people have the right to decide what they're injected with. Deal with it.

Well, until someone gets a disease and passes it on to you because you had a compromised immune system, so you couldn't get the vaccine, and you end up in the hospital. And nothing wrong with creationism until you run into an antibiotic-resistant bacteria, other than that it's perfectly harmless.
2013-11-09 05:22:38 PM  
1 votes:

Mentat: That's a good idea.  We should come up with some kind of method that formalizes that.


devek: If I conducted an experiment that disproved a major theory, I would be made famous.

I don't see why people think science is conspiracy lol.


The problem isn't a conspiracy or that there is no system for checking work that someone has done. It is that the work isn't being checked enough. Sure, the big once in a life time things will attract replication like a dog attracts fleas. But the small things? A lot gets published without ever being replicated. That way a lot of things that are demonstrably false don't get found out about because there is no one demonstrating anything. This one "scientist" merely made up some numbers and the peer review saw that the maths worked out without and the conclusion wasn't to outlandish and cleared it for publication.

Peer review and articles were once imagined to be a replacement for actual demonstrations. To reach the larger scientific community, as only a few people would fit in a laboratory at a time. The article would be read and people would actually check if things were true and write rebuttals. Over time, however, the system changed subtly. "Peer reviewed" became synonymous with "this is true" instead of "someone checked my maths for major errors and maybe someone else should actually replicate my study." Just keep an eye out and you'll find it everywhere. Even on Fark people will ask for "peer reviewed" articles as the final arbitrator of truth. Not reports of replications. Peer reviewed. As if the two people who were nowhere near the experiment (and often don't even work in the direct field) and only read the information provided could actually make an informed conclusion about the validity of the content.

Things need to change, especially now that we have the internet and electronic communication. Every publisher could add a counter to an article to show how often it has been successfully replicated or refuted. They could even add references to the articles. That information would be a lot more useful to see how reliable an article is than the vague "peer reviewed" status that has been elevated in importance to a position that is entirely undesirable.
2013-11-09 05:20:28 PM  
1 votes:

doglover: devek: There is harm believing in creationism because to do so you have to reject science entirely.

No you don't.

God created evolution. Boom, done, moving on.


When people hear or talk about creationism, they usually mean *young earth* creationism.
2013-11-09 05:09:22 PM  
1 votes:
Because funding for the sciences is so scarce, especially theoretical sciences like subatomic theory or paleontology--fields that can't easily produce a weapon or recreational drug--researchers have had to turn themselves into carnival barkers. They talk up every minor advance in the media, make it sound like they're about to invent light-speed travel tomorrow, and hope to FSM they can scrounge up enough money to keep the heat on.
2013-11-09 05:03:35 PM  
1 votes:

verbal_jizm: Yes, the brainstrust in the Yahoo News comments loudly lambasting scienticians, calling for creationism in schools and mandatory burning of fossil fuels (to show them damn dirty hippies), and refusing to let their snowflake's precious bodily fluids be contaminated with autism juice, all because they heard a fourth hand account of a scientists work reported by a "journalist" with dubious credentials is the same as peer review and scientific consensus.


There's no harm in believing creationism, and people have the right to decide what they're injected with. Deal with it.

Reason will always prevail in the end, and science has always been about arguing with everyone, not agreeing with everyone. If you prefer to ignore or even ban certain opinions instead of arguing them, then you have no place in science. It can be a long hard road sometimes arguing with people constantly about the same topics, but if you are truly right you will be shown as such eventually. Maybe 50 years after you're dead, but still.
2013-11-09 04:34:05 PM  
1 votes:
Yes, the brainstrust in the Yahoo News comments loudly lambasting scienticians, calling for creationism in schools and mandatory burning of fossil fuels (to show them damn dirty hippies), and refusing to let their snowflake's precious bodily fluids be contaminated with autism juice, all because they heard a fourth hand account of a scientists work reported by a "journalist" with dubious credentials is the same as peer review and scientific consensus.
 
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