Tag Archives: smoking

How to Prove Anything

some scientific collaboration going down

As you know, we love science here in Boogieville.  However, as I’m sure you’ve also gathered, we also understand that bullshit is a virus that can infect anything.  Or, to put it another way, or in context (as you prefer), scientists are potentially as full of crap as anybody else and so they don’t get no free pass on the last helicopter leaving the stinking bullshit-crazed hordes for the land of bovine-free pastures.  Or something.  It’s late, OK?  Well, it’s not late but it’s been a vaccination day here in Boogieville, as in a real vaccination day not some faecal metaphor I’ve (badly) made up, and I always get crazy on vaccination day because the idea of deliberately injecting my kids with germy crap just makes me a bit hyper-active.  For want of a better word.  For the very reason that I don’t entirely trust doctors because they are as susceptible to bullshit as…etc etc.

Anyway.

My point* is this:

When you’re tempted to believe something just because it’s ‘science’, remember this:

Cigarettes may be useful for distance runners

Or: You can prove anything.  If you want to.  Or even if you don’t ‘want ‘ to but snakes curling around your subconscious do.

The review paper is a staple of medical literature and, when well executed by an expert in the field, can provide a summary of literature that generates useful recommendations and new conceptualizations of a topic.

‘However, if research results are selectively chosen, a review has the potential to create a convincing argument for a faulty hypothesis. Improper correlation or extrapolation of data can result in dangerously flawed conclusions.’ [emphasis mine]

And it may well be – and most often is – the case that the bias is subconscious and is simply a product of the prevailing cultural mores.

‘…take the phenomenon of “White Hat Bias“, where researchers distort “information in the service of what may be perceived to be righteous ends”. And even the most objective and ethical researcher is still going to be looking at data through their own world-view, which may cause them to miss something that is in the data, or to “see” something that isn’t really there.

This is something that Steven Jay Gould at least had a handle on (yes, I’m finally getting round to reading ‘The Mismeasure of Man’), though he’s not the only one.  And this is basically the whole bloody point of Cordelia Fine, but maybe now a man has said it (again), it’ll be regarded as a real thing rather than some shrieking-feminist-optical-illusion.

Most scientists, however, still don’t really get it.  They still think they can shrug off their prejudices when they shrug on their nice white lab coats, like the coat is some sort of super-hero cape that confers upon the wearer the power of super-objectivity.

As with the racism we’re all guilty of, you have to accept there’s a problem to find your way to a solution.  Scientists, like everybody, have to accept they do have bias; only then can they do their utmost to negate it. Otherwise, you’re just blowing smoke up your arse.

When you’re a raging misogyistic homophobe with a lifetime membership of the KKK who just happens to be a ‘scientist’,  just to say ‘I’m not biased, me’ does not actually remove your bias.  Amazing, I know, but TRUE nonetheless.

So when you’re next pondering an article that tells you you’ll never rule the world because women are more suited to ironing and that’s just the way it is, and you are considering thinking the article may be THE TRUTH, haul your running shoes on, spark up a fag and chainsmoke through a marathon, and see where ‘independently reviewed truth’ can get you.

Note: I really wouldn’t do this.  I suspect you might die.

*There is no real point to this post.  I just thought it was an interesting article.


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