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Archive of posts filed under the Sociology category.

The “scientist as hero” narrative

We’ve talked about the problems with the scientist-as-hero paradigm; see “Narrative #1” discussed here. And, more recently, we’ve considered how this narrative has been clouding people’s thinking regarding the coronavirus; see here and here. That latter example is particularly bad because it involved a reporter with an undisclosed conflict of interest. But the scientist-as-hero narrative […]

Statistical controversy on estimating racial bias in the criminal justice system

1. Background A bunch of people have asked me to comment on these two research articles: Administrative Records Mask Racially Biased Policing, by Dean Knox, Will Lowe, and Jonathan Mummolo: Researchers often lack the necessary data to credibly estimate racial discrimination in policing. In particular, police administrative records lack information on civilians police observe but […]

New England Journal of Medicine engages in typical academic corporate ass-covering behavior

James Watson (not the racist dude who, in 1998, said that a cancer cure was coming in 2 years) writes: About a month ago, when the infamous Lancet hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine paper was still “real science” (i.e. in the official scientific record), we decided to put extra pressure on the authors by writing an open letter to […]

Who were the business superstars of the 1970s?

Last month, we said: Who are today’s heroes? Not writers or even musicians? No, our pantheon of culture heroes are: rich men, athletes, some movie and TV stars, a few politicians, some offbeat intellectuals like Nate Silver and Nassim Taleb . . . I guess I should also add social media stars like whoever is […]

This one quick trick will allow you to become a star forecaster

Jonathan Falk points us to this wonderful post by Dario Perkins. It’s all worth a read, but, following Falk, I want to emphasize this beautiful piece of advice, which is #5 on their list of 10 items: How to get attention: If you want to get famous for making big non-consensus calls, without the danger […]

“Why do the results of immigrant students depend so much on their country of origin and so little on their country of destination?”

Aleks points us to this article from 2011 by Julio Carabaña. Carabaña’s article has three parts. First is a methodological point that much can be learned from a cross-national study that has data at the level of individual students, as compared to the usual “various origins-one destination” design. Second is the empirical claim, based on […]

Resolving confusions over that study of “Teacher Effects on Student Achievement and Height”

Someone pointed me to this article by Marianne Bitler, Sean Corcoran, Thurston Domina, and Emily Penner, “Teacher Effects on Student Achievement and Height: A Cautionary Tale,” which begins: Estimates of teacher “value-added” suggest teachers vary substantially in their ability to promote student learning. Prompted by this finding, many states and school districts have adopted value-added […]

No, there is no “tension between getting it fast and getting it right”

When reading Retraction Watch, I came across this quote: “There is always a tension between getting it fast and getting it right,” said Dr. Marcia Angell, another former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. “I always favored getting it right. But in the current pandemic, that balance may have shifted too […]

Retraction of racial essentialist article that appeared in Psychological Science

Scene 1: It all started for me on 2 Jan when I received this email from Keith Donohue in Fargo, North Dakota: I am a longtime reader, and I am curious about your reaction to an (in press) journal article that I recently came across. . . . The paper is “Declines in Religiosity Predicted […]

“The Intellectuals and the Masses”

I just read “The Intellectuals and the Masses,” a book from 1992 by the literary critic and English professor John Carey. I really liked the book, and after finishing it I decided to get some further perspective by reading some reviews. I found two excellent reviews online, a negative review in the London Independent by […]

MIT’s science magazine misrepresents critics of Stanford study

I’m disappointed. MIT can and should do better. I know MIT is not perfect—even setting aside Jeffrey Epstein and the Media Lab more generally, it’s just an institution, and all institutions have flaws. But they should be able to run a competent science magazine, for chrissake. Scene 1 Last month, I received the following query […]

Parking lot statistics—a story in three parts

Part 1: Here’s a 1993 article from the American Sociological Review in which church attendance was measured by the number of cars in the parking lot (link from here). Part 2: In 2005 or 2006, an economist who does statistics reportedly tries to run over a sociologist who does statistics in a parking lot (but […]

bla bla bla PEER REVIEW bla bla bla

OK, I’ve been saying this over the phone to a bunch of journalists during the past month so I might as well share it with all of you . . . 1. The peers . . . The problem with peer review is the peers. Who are “the peers” of four M.D.’s writing up an […]

Why X’s think they’re the best

Commenter Alex pointed out this excellent post, Why Doctors Think They’re the Best, by Scott Alexander, who writes: Ninety percent of drivers think they’re above-average drivers, ninety percent of professors think they’re above-average professors etc. The relevant studies are paywalled, so I don’t know if I [Alexander] should trust them. . . . But I […]

The seventy two percent solution (to police violence)

And now it is your turn, We are tired of praying, and marching, and thinking, and learning —  Gil Scott-Heron So. It turns out that Gil Scott-Heron was right and he was wrong. We once again, during a time of serious social inequality and political upheaval, sent whiteys to the moon (ish). On the other hand, the […]

Thank you, James Watson. Thank you, Peter Ellis. (Lancet: You should do the right thing and credit them for your retraction. Actually, do one better and invite them to write a joint editorial in your journal.)

So, Lancet issued a retraction of that controversy hydro-oxy-choloro-supercalifragilisticexpialadocious paper. From three of the four authors of the now-retracted paper: After publication of our Lancet Article, several concerns were raised with respect to the veracity of the data and analyses conducted by Surgisphere Corporation and its founder and our co-author, Sapan Desai, in our publication. […]

Association for Psychological Science claims that they can “add our voice and expertise to bring about positive change and to stand against injustice and racism in all forms” . . . but I’m skeptical.

David Leonhardt writes: Close to 10 percent of black men in their 30s are behind bars on any given day, according to the Sentencing Project. . . . When the government last counted how many black men had ever spent time in state or federal prison — in 2001 — the share was 17 percent. […]

Statistical Workflow and the Fractal Nature of Scientific Revolutions (my talk this Wed at the Santa Fe Institute)

Wed 3 June 2020 at 12:15pm U.S. Mountain time: Statistical Workflow and the Fractal Nature of Scientific Revolutions How would an A.I. do statistics? Fitting a model is the easy part. The other steps of workflow—model building, checking, and revision—are not so clearly algorithmic. It could be fruitful to simultaneously think about automated inference and […]

This one’s for the Lancet editorial board: A trolley problem for our times (involving a plate of delicious cookies and a steaming pile of poop)

A trolley problem for our times OK, I couldn’t quite frame this one as a trolley problem—maybe those of you who are more philosophically adept than I am can do this—so I set it up as a cookie problem? Here it is: Suppose someone was to knock on your office door and use some mix […]

Association for Psychological Science takes a hard stand against criminal justice reform

Here’s the full quote, from an article to be published in one of our favorite academic journals: The prescriptive values of highly educated groups (such as secularism, but also libertarianism, criminal justice reform, and unrestricted sociosexuality, among others) may work for groups that are highly cognitively sophisticated and self-controlled, but they may be injurious to […]