Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"The Science Is Settled"

Except when it's not, because it's 100% baloney. 

"On this August morning Science magazine had published a scandalous article. The subject was the practice of behavioral psychology. Behavioral psychology is a wellspring of modern journalism. It is the source for most of those thrilling studies that keep reporters like Vedantam in business."

"Over 270 researchers, working as the Reproducibility Project, had gathered 100 studies from three of the most prestigious journals in the field of social psychology. Then they set about to redo the experiments and see if they could get the same results. Mostly they used the materials and methods the original researchers had used. Direct replications are seldom attempted in the social sciences, even though the ability to repeat an experiment and get the same findings is supposed to be a cornerstone of scientific knowledge. It’s the way to separate real information from flukes and anomalies."

"These 100 studies had cleared the highest hurdles that social science puts up. They had been edited, revised, reviewed by panels of peers, revised again, published, widely read, and taken by other social scientists as the starting point for further experiments. Except . . . "

"The researchers, Vedantam glumly told his NPR audience, “found something very disappointing. Nearly two-thirds of the experiments did not replicate, meaning that scientists repeated these studies but could not obtain the results that were found by the original research team.”

"Everybody was surprised that two out of three experiments in behavioral psychology have a fair chance of being worthless."

(Everybody except me.)

"The most surprising thing about the Reproducibility Project, however​—​the most alarming, shocking, devastating, and depressing thing​—​is that anybody at all was surprised. The warning bells about the feebleness of behavioral science have been clanging for many years."