JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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RCT study shows parachutes make no difference when jumping from aircraft

Sometimes Randomized Controlled Trials are not the golden trophies of science that some say they are. (Like yesterday’s Ivermectin study). While some say that nothing less than an RCT will do, actually, sometimes it’s just silly to do one. And all RCT’s will wallow on the rocks of confirmation bias if they try to study something people already know the answer to.

For a long time there were no RCT studies showing benefits from parachutes — yet people continued to use them. It wasn’t until 2018 that a paper was finally published, surprisingly showing that there was no statistical difference in jumping with or without one from an average altitude of 4,000m.

This satirical paper makes real points about the flaws of the hallowed RCT’s:

It’s easy to design an RCT to show the opposite of the truth. Reading the abstract of a paper is rarely enough. Reading a news headline, even less so. Details are everything. RCT’s are not random if the test subjects have opinions and can self-select themselves out of the experiment.

These authors are black-belt professionals at medico-lingo. Those that appreciate the wit will want to read the whole thing rather than just the snippets below […]

The Climate Wars are Damaging Science

Matt Ridley has produced the shortest whole, killer summary of the sordid state of climate science, science journalism, and science associations for Quadrant magazine. This is the ideal single-chapter-length-work to bring in anyone who missed the last twenty years of clima-farce, scandal, hubris and hypocrisy.

Matt is not just summing up the way his career as a science writer has transformed, but also writing the best review of the IPA book “Climate Change: The Facts” that I have yet seen. He talks about the way science writers used to ignore the papers that didn’t impress them, and leave it up to the scientists to take them apart, but now the supposedly most esteemed scientists stay silent while abject failures not only get published in the scientific world, but get absurdly lauded in the media, and tweeted by “the President”. Formerly great scientific institutions have turned themselves inside out:

“The Royal Society once used to promise “never to give their opinion, as a body, upon any subject”. Its very motto is “nullius in verba”: take nobody’s word for it. Now it puts out catechisms of what you must believe in. “

Matt’s career, like mine, started with faith that […]

Consensus Police: 101 “motivated” reasons not to be a skeptic

Skeptics are often accused of being ideologically motivated to find reasons to “deny” the threat posed by man-made Global Disruptification (or whatever it is now called). Which begs the question of what ideology motivated Jo-the-former-Green, along with all the other former believers, to convert. It certainly wasn’t the money (we know from first hand experience). Could it be that damn truth-seeking ideology?

Judith Curry points out that “motivated reasoning” also applies to believers (to which I would add, yes, double-yes, and more-so — follow that money). When grants, careers, junkets, book sales, and offers to sit on golden-commissions are on the line, it doesn’t take much motivated reasoning to find excuses to believe your work is “science” even as you ignore opportunities to follow data that doesn’t quite fit, or delay publications of inconvenient graphs, while you double check, triple check, and invite like-minded colleagues to help find reasons the graphs are not important.

Some scientists are so motivated that they call opposing scientists petty names, and toss allusions they must be “funded” by vested interests, even as they ignore the billions of vested interests funding the name-callers. Meanwhile, all the silent so-called scientists in the tea-rooms that let the […]

Peer Review failure: Science and Nature journals reject papers because they “have to be wrong”

The peer review system has decayed to the point where the culture of the two “top” science journals virtually guarantees they will reject the most important research done today. It is the exact opposite of what we need to further human knowledge the fastest. Science and Nature are prestigious journals, yet they are now so conservative about ideas that challenge dominant assumptions, that they reject ground-breaking papers because those papers challenge the dominant meme, not because the evidence or the reasoning is suspect or weak.

Watts Up drew my attention to an extraordinary paper showing that billions of dollars of medical research may have been wasted because researchers assumed mice were the same as men. Dr Ronald W. Davis from Stanford comments: ““They are so ingrained in trying to cure mice that they forget we are trying to cure humans.” He found that 150 drugs were tested that in hindsight, were guaranteed to fail in humans. People didn’t understand that mice have a very different response to sepsis (which is any overwhelming blood-borne bacterial infection). Sepsis kills around 200,000 people in the US each year and costs an estimated $17 billion a year. Mice are already resistant to huge numbers […]

Scientists behaving badly — more retractions are cheats, not mistakes

Who said scientific experts should be trusted?

Is corruption endemic? Fully 43% of retractions in the life science and medical research journals are due to fraud or suspected fraud.

Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications

Ferric C. Fang R. Grant Steen and Arturo Casadevall

PNAS PNAS 2012 109 (42) 16751-16752; doi:10.1073/iti4212109

Abstract

A detailed review of all 2,047 biomedical and life-science research articles indexed by PubMed as retracted on May 3, 2012 revealed that only 21.3% of retractions were attributable to error. In contrast, 67.4% of retractions were attributable to misconduct, including fraud or suspected fraud (43.4%), duplicate publication (14.2%), and plagiarism (9.8%). Incomplete, uninformative or misleading retraction announcements have led to a previous underestimation of the role of fraud in the ongoing retraction epidemic. The percentage of scientific articles retracted because of fraud has increased ∼10-fold since 1975. Retractions exhibit distinctive temporal and geographic patterns that may reveal underlying causes.

Plus this published correction.

RetractionWatch points out that this could be the tip of the iceberg

The question, of course, is, how common is scientific misconduct? The simple but unsatisfying answer is that we don’t know, certainly not based on this study, because it’s […]

The Highest Authority in Science is the Data

Joint Post David Evans and Jo Nova

“97 percent of climate experts say man-made global warming is a major threat”

The correct response: “So? The satellites, ocean buoys, and weather balloons disagree.”

The alarmists may have “experts”, but the skeptics have the data.

How do you find the truth about some disputed point in science? You find the most authoritative source of information. The vital thing that makes science different to a religion is that there are no “Gods” of science. There is no expert who is infallible. The highest authority in science is the measurements and observations. Here is the hierarchy of authority in climate science:

Data (empirical evidence) Climate scientists Other scientists Lay people.

For most of the last few centuries, science has been supreme over politics for settling the truth in matters pertaining to the physical world—empirical evidence beats anyone’s say-so.

But the modern political approach is to ignore that top level. To most warmists and the public who “believe in climate change” (as they so misleading say), the hierarchy is:

Climate scientists Other scientists Lay people.

The way the climate scam works is for the like-minded western bureaucracies to […]

The Truth Wears Off: Is there something wrong with the scientific method?

The New Yorker has such an interesting article it’s already generating discussion here, so it deserves a thread of it’s own. It describes a true modern paradox, namely that so many good studies can show interesting “significant” results, yet very few of these turn out to be genuine repeatable findings, and frustrated researchers struggle to get similar results, and it’s almost as if, the harder they try, the worse it gets. Many researchers across disparate fields are noticing an odd trend that the effect they thought was so solid, appears to mysteriously “wear off” as the years and the repeat trials go on.

It’s a sober warning to all of us to search hard for the truth hidden behind variables we are not even able to name yet, let alone measure, and to be ever vigilant about variables we can name, like “publishing bias” and “selective reporting”.

Annals of Science The Truth Wears Off Is there something wrong with the scientific method? by Jonah Lehrer December 13, 2010

These are quick quotes from a 5 page article. It’s well written, and worth reading in full.

But now all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings have started to look […]

Is science a rigorous skill or just rote specialties?

Prof Garth Paltridge released Climate Caper a year ago. As a working atmospheric physicist, his description of the fall of modern science is as insightful as his descriptions of the physics of the climate.

One of the messages that struck me was his point that it used to be seen as imperative for scientists to not be too specialized; to work in different specialties.

He points out that the mandate to publish or perish has far reaching consequences. To sum up his argument: the survival of a research scientist now depends on their ability to produce multiple papers; this rewards people who dilute their work, focus on trivial non-problems, and in short–tackle anything but difficult issues and deep revolutions.

Because of the need for multiple publications, no institution today would employ a scientist who was trained in another area–the new researcher would require too much uptime before their publications began to roll. So universities aim to find PhD grads who are an exact fit for the program.

(…aiming to find an exact fit, ensures) narrow-mindedness of scientific outlook, mediocrity in research, and a scientific literature that is so vast and overladen with minute of the unimportant, that […]

The truth shall make you free

Art Robinson is a rare man. He’s risen above and laid bare the creeping failure in the infrastructure of modern science over the last 50 years. He describes how the control of the quest for knowledge itself has been usurped from individuals and private industry and taken over by the government.

At the end of the day, what does being a scientist mean if there is nothing other than a certificate? Where is the code of conduct? Where are the professional associations which stand up and decry those who breach the basic requirements? What sense of duty and honor is left in science when high ranking members can make statements that are dishonest and yet keep their jobs and their reputations?

I was struck with Art’s description of a true scientist–where the most important attribute is honesty, where humility is inevitable in anyone who understands how little we comprehend, and where being a scientist is a lifelong search, rather than a 9 – 5 job.

The 10 page paper How Government Corrupts Science is worth reading in full.

Below are some select parts that especially struck a chord with me.

How Government Corrupts Science

Isaac Newton was the greatest […]

Help! How do I know?

How do you tell a scientist from a non-scientist? Where does science end, and propaganda, politics, and opinion begin? You only need to know one thing:

Straight away, this sorts the wheat from the weeds. We don’t learn about the natural world by calling people names or hiding data. We don’t learn by chucking out measurements in favor of opinions. We don’t learn by suppressing discussions, or setting up fake rules about which bits of paper count or which people have a licence to speak.

A transparent, competitive system where all views are welcome is the fastest way to advance humanity. The Royal Society is the oldest scientific association in the world. Its motto is essentially, Take No One’s Word For It. In other words, assume nothing; look at the data. When results come in that don’t fit the theory, a scientist chucks out his theory. A non-scientist has “faith”, he “believes” or assumes his theory is right, and tries to make the measurements fit. When measurements disagree, he ignores the awkward news, and “corrects”, or statistically alters, the data–always in the direction that keeps his theory alive.

March 9th, 2010 | Tags: , , | Category: AGW socio-political, Global Warming, Logic & Reason, The Skeptics Handbook | Print This Post Print This Post | |