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“Superior: The Return of Race Science,” by Angela Saini

“People so much wanted the story to be true . . . that they couldn’t look past it to more mundane explanations.” – Angela Saini, Superior. I happened to be reading this book around the same time as I attended the Metascience conference, which was motivated by the realization during the past decade or so […]

Gigerenzer: “The Bias Bias in Behavioral Economics,” including discussion of political implications

Gerd Gigerenzer writes: Behavioral economics began with the intention of eliminating the psychological blind spot in rational choice theory and ended up portraying psychology as the study of irrationality. In its portrayal, people have systematic cognitive biases that are not only as persistent as visual illusions but also costly in real life—meaning that governmental paternalism […]

We should be open-minded, but not selectively open-minded.

I wrote this post awhile ago but it just appeared . . . I liked this line so much I’m posting it on its own: We should be open-minded, but not selectively open-minded. This is related to the research incumbency effect and all sorts of other things we’ve talked about over the years. There’s a […]

And, if we really want to get real, let’s be open to the possibility that the effect is positive for some people in some scenarios, and negative for other people in other scenarios, and that in the existing state of our knowledge, we can’t say much about where the effect is positive and where it is negative.

Javier Benitez points us to this op-ed, “Massaging data to fit a theory is not the worst research sin,” where philosopher Martin Cohen writes: The recent fall from grace of the Cornell University food marketing researcher Brian Wansink is very revealing of the state of play in modern research. Wansink had for years embodied the […]

How statistics is used to crush (scientific) dissent.

Lakeland writes: When we interpret powerful as political power, I think it’s clear that Classical Statistics has the most political power, that is, the power to get people to believe things and change policy or alter funding decisions etc… Today Bayes is questioned at every turn, and ridiculed for being “subjective” with a focus on […]

Michael Crichton on science and storytelling

Javier Benitez points us to this 1999 interview with techno-thriller writer Michael Crichton, who says: I come before you today as someone who started life with degrees in physical anthropology and medicine; who then published research on endocrinology, and papers in the New England Journal of Medicine, and even in the Proceedings of the Peabody […]

Science as an intellectual “safe space”? How to do it right.

I don’t recall hearing the term “safe space” until recently, but now it seems to be used all the time, by both the left and the right, to describe an environment where people can feel free to express opinions that might be unpopular in a larger community, without fear of criticism or contradiction. Sometimes a […]

“Recapping the recent plagiarism scandal”

Benjamin Carlisle writes: A year ago, I received a message from Anna Powell-Smith about a research paper written by two doctors from Cambridge University that was a mirror image of a post I wrote on my personal blog roughly two years prior. The structure of the document was the same, as was the rationale, the […]

Some clues that this study has big big problems

Paul Alper writes: This article from the New York Daily News, reproduced in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, is so terrible in so many ways. Very sad commentary regarding all aspects of statistics education and journalism. The news article, by Joe Dziemianowicz, is called “Study says drinking alcohol is key to living past 90,” with subheading, […]

The competing narratives of scientific revolution

Back when we were reading Karl Popper’s Logic of Scientific Discovery and Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions, who would’ve thought that we’d be living through a scientific revolution ourselves? Scientific revolutions occur on all scales, but here let’s talk about some of the biggies: 1850-1950: Darwinian revolution in biology, changed how we think about […]

Revisiting “Is the scientific paper a fraud?”

Javier Benitez points us to this article from 2014 by Susan Howitt and Anna Wilson, which has subtitle, “The way textbooks and scientific research articles are being used to teach undergraduate students could convey a misleading image of scientific research,” and begins: In 1963, Peter Medawar gave a talk, Is the scientific paper a fraud?, […]

“A Headline That Will Make Global-Warming Activists Apoplectic”

I saw this article in the newspaper today, “2017 Was One of the Hottest Years on Record. And That Was Without El Niño,” subtitled, “The world in 2017 saw some of the highest average surface temperatures ever recorded, surprising scientists who had expected sharper retreat from recent record years,” and accompanied by the above graph, […]

The retraction paradox: Once you retract, you implicitly have to defend all the many things you haven’t yet retracted

Mark Palko points to this news article by Beth Skwarecki on Goop, “the Gwyneth Paltrow pseudoscience empire.” Here’s Skwarecki: When Goop publishes something weird or, worse, harmful, I often find myself wondering what are they thinking? Recently, on Jimmy Kimmel, Gwyneth laughed at some of the newsletter’s weirder recommendations and said “I don’t know what […]

Incentive to cheat

Joseph Delaney quotes Matthew Yglesias writing this: But it is entirely emblematic of America’s post-Reagan treatment of business regulation. What a wealthy and powerful person faced with a legal impediment to moneymaking is supposed to do is work with a lawyer to devise clever means of subverting the purpose of the law. If you end […]

Stranger than fiction

Someone pointed me to a long discussion, which he preferred not to share publicly, of his perspective on a scientific controversy in his field of research. He characterized a particular claim as “impossible to be true, i.e., false, and therefore, by definition, fiction.” But my impression of a lot of research misconduct is that the […]

“How to Assess Internet Cures Without Falling for Dangerous Pseudoscience”

Science writer Julie Rehmeyer discusses her own story: Five years ago, against practically anyone’s better judgment, I knowingly abandoned any semblance of medical evidence to follow the bizarre-sounding health advice of strangers on the internet. The treatment was extreme, expensive, and potentially dangerous. If that sounds like a terrible idea to you, imagine how it […]

All the things we have to do that we don’t really need to do: The social cost of junk science

I’ve been thinking a lot about junk science lately. Some people have said it’s counterproductive or rude of me to keep talking about the same few examples (actually I think we have about 15 or so examples that come up again and again), so let me just speak generically about the sort of scientific claim […]

“Everybody Lies” by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz sent me his new book on learning from data. As is just about always the case for this sort of book, I’m a natural reviewer but I’m not really the intended audience. That’s why I gave Dan Ariely’s book to Juli Simon Thomas to review; I thought her perspective would be more relevant […]

Discussion with Lee Jussim and Simine Vazire on eminence, junk science, and blind reviewing

Lee Jussim pointed me to the recent article in Psychological Science by Joseph Simmons and Uri Simonsohn, expanding on their blog post on flaws in the notorious power pose article. Jussim then commented: I [Jussim] think that Cuddy/Fiske world is slowly shrinking. I think your “What Has Happened Here…” post was: 1. A bit premature […]

Reputational incentives and post-publication review: two (partial) solutions to the misinformation problem

So. There are erroneous analyses published in scientific journals and in the news. Here I’m not talking not about outright propaganda, but about mistakes that happen to coincide with the preconceptions of their authors. We’ve seen lots of examples. Here are just a few: – Political scientist Larry Bartels is committed to a model of […]