The above, of course, is from xkcd. In contrast, Freakonomics went contrarian cool a bunch of years ago with “A Headline That Will Make Global-Warming Activists Apoplectic,” featuring a claim of “about 30 years of global cooling” and a preemptive … Continue reading
I saw this article in the newspaper today, “2020 Ties 2016 as Hottest Yet, European Analysis Shows,” and accompanied by the above graph, and this reminded me of something. A few years ago there was a cottage industry among some … Continue reading
Stephen Dubner writes: Freakonomics Experiments is a set of simple experiments about complex issues—whether to break up with your significant other, quit your job, or start a diet, just to name a few. . . . a collaboration between researchers … Continue reading
Jonathan Cantor pointed me to a new blog post by Stephen Dubner in which he expresses disagreement with what Kaiser and I wrote in our American Scientist article, “Freakonomics: What Went Wrong?”. In response, I thought it would be interesting … Continue reading
A friend/colleague sent me some comments on my recent article with Kaiser Fung on Freakonomics. My friend gave several reasons why he thought we were unfair to Levitt. I’ll give my reply (my friend preferred that I not quote his … Continue reading
Kaiser and I tell the story. Regular readers will be familiar with much of this material. We kept our article short because of space restrictions at American Scientist magazine. Now I want to do a follow-up with all the good … Continue reading
Palko’s theory is that Levitt and Dubner’s most logical decision, from a cost-benefit perspective, was to avoid peer review (here I’m using the term generally, considering statisticians such as Kaiser Fung as “peers” whether or not the reviewing is done in the context of a formal journal submission) so as to get a marketable product out the door with minimal effort:
I [Palko] am not saying that Levitt and Dubner knew there were mistakes here. Quite the opposite. I’m saying they had a highly saleable manuscript ready to go which contained no errors that they knew of, and that any additional checking of the facts, the analyses or logic in the manuscript could only serve to make the book less saleable, to delay its publication or to put the authors in the ugly position of publishing something they knew to be wrong.
I think this theory has a lot going for it, although maybe it could be framed in a slightly more positive way. Consider my favorite of Kaiser’s comments on Freakonomics 2: Continue reading
In the discussion of the attention-grabbing “global cooling” chapter of the new Freakonomics book,some critics have asked how it is that free-market advocates such as Levitt and Dubner can recommend climate engineering (a “controlled injection of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere”), which seems like the ultimate in big-government solutions? True, the Freakonomics recommendation comes from a private firm, but it’s hard to imagine it would just be implemented in somebody’s backyard–I think you’d have to assume that some major government involvement would be necessary.
So what gives? Continue reading
The sequel is already assured of box-office success, so now’s the time to start thinking about what’s gonna be in volume 3. Here are a few models that Levitt and Dubner could consider, in no particular order: Continue reading
Dubner defends himself here. No word on the drunk driving advice, but he has some backstory on the interviews that he and Levitt did regarding global warming. It seems pretty clear that their approach to writing Freakonomics 2 was much different than the original book: the first Freakonomics was all about Levitt’s work, whereas the most prominent part of the sequel is a discussion of the ideas of others. As I noted yesterday, this creates a huge selection issue–how did they decide whom to interview?–which is much less present in the first book. I’m also still confused that Dubner describes global warming as “a very difficult problem to solve,” given that on his blog the other day he seemed to be endorsing the view that future trends are “virtually assuring us of about 30 years of global cooling.”
My guess is that Levitt/Dubner’s views on the topic are not completely coherent (by which I mean, not that Levitt and Dubner disagree with each other, but that between them they have a bunch of partly conflicting attitudes on the topic). As a political scientist, I’m the last person to criticize attitudes for being incoherent, and given that neither Levitt nor Dubner is an expert on climate change, it’s probably a good thing that their attitudes are fluid and not so easy to pin down. The difficulty comes when they feel the need to defend everything that they’ve written so far. Again, this is tougher to do here than in the Freakonomics 1 examples, partly because Levitt was much more of an expert on his own research than on others’ research, and partly, I suppose, because you’ll get a lot more flak in the major news media if you question global warming than if you write about the beneficial consequences of abortion.
The above title is a joke. I haven’t actually seen the book. As a big-time blogger, I get some books in the mail to review, but maybe this one is sitting in my NYC office. Anyway, the backlash has begun, so maybe this is the right time to buy low and be the first to offer the contrarian claim that, despite what everybody’s saying, the book is awesome.
From a short-term economics standpoint, the controversy has gotta be good for the book. So far, Levitt and Dubner have put the words “GLOBAL COOLING” on the cover of their book, they’ve endorsed a report saying that future trends are “virtually assuring us of about 30 years of global cooling,” and that “even if man is warming the planet, it is a small part compared with nature,” and they’ve written that “we believe that rising global temperatures are a man-made phenomenon and that global warming is an important issue to solve.” That last bit should do the job of ticking off anybody who was with them so far! (I was actually surprised when reading the comments on that last quote–where Levitt assures us that they do believe in global warming–that pretty much all the global-warming-skeptics among the commenters still seem to think that Levitt is on their side. I guess half a loaf is better than none at all, politically speaking, but I’m surprised that more of them didn’t get angry at Levitt for saying that.)
I don’t want to get into the substance of climate models, a subject on which I’ve worked on only a little bit. (The paper we wrote a few years ago never got published–actually, we never finished it enough to submit it anywhere–and our current work on the topic is still in the research-and-writing-up stage.) But I do want to speculate a bit on the political angle. Continue reading
. . . could you please ask them to stop saying, “We know that voting doesn’t make good economic sense.” I recognize that “Freakonomics” is intended to be entertainment, not scholarship, but I don’t think these dudes are doing economics any favors by spreading this kind of misconception. Voting isn’t a good way to make money, but that doesn’t mean it “doesn’t make good economic sense.” The full story is here (based on an article by an economist and two political scientists). I’ll repeat here for convenience, but I recommend going to the original entry to see some of the give-and-take in the comments: Continue reading
Chetan Chawla points us to this disturbing news article from Harriet Alexander: In 2015, molecular oncologist Jennifer Byrne was surprised to discover during a scan of the academic literature that five papers had been written about a gene she had … Continue reading
Gur Huberman points to this document from Stanford math professor Brian Conrad, criticizing a recent report on the California Math Framework, which is a controversial new school curriculum. Conrad’s document includes two public comments. Comment #1 is a recommended set … Continue reading
In comments on our recent post, The so-called “lucky golf ball”: The Association for Psychological Science promotes junk science while ignoring the careful, serious work of replication, Jim asked why so many of these ridiculous and unreplicated results kept coming … Continue reading
Palko passes along this story from Edouard Kolchinsky et al.: One of the most disturbing trends in current Russian science is the so-called ‘re-thinking’ of the historical role of Lysenkoism. There is a growing body of literature reasssessing or even … Continue reading
Nick Brown points us to a new sighting of the horrible himmicanes claim. To be clear, what’s horrible about the himmicanes thing is not the original published article, which was just a bit of run-of-the-mill junk science that was for … Continue reading
Paul Campos has the story (following up on here, following up on here), and it makes wikipedia look pretty bad. It’s a rabbit hole within a rabbit hole within a rabbit hole. Rabbit holes all the way down. On the … Continue reading
Deborah Mayo writes: How should journal editors react to heated disagreements about statistical significance tests in applied fields, such as conservation science, where statistical inferences often are the basis for controversial policy decisions? They should avoid taking sides. They should … Continue reading
Last year my co-bloggers and I posted 565 entries on this blog. Here’s a list of all them, in decreasing order of number of comments. You can draw your own conclusions from all this. A tale of two epidemiologists: It … Continue reading