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Last post Author Topic: Peer Review and the Scientific Process  (Read 60561 times)

IainB

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Re: Peer Review and the Scientific Process
« Reply #225 on: December 23, 2016, 05:22:50 AM »
@Renegade: Yes, as you say, of course it's garbage science, but some people might quite rightly ask: "What's wrong with publishing it?" The alternative might be, for example, to (say) call it "fake news" or something, and then censor and censure the authors and put them in prison for nothing more than being nutjobs or simply exceedingly barmy.

Fortunately we have stopped the inhumane process of locking all barmy people and nutjobs up. It's not their fault that they seem to occupy a widely different reality to the rest of us.
As a child, I was fascinated by the concept of monasteries and convents. I asked my mother why these men and women would lock themselves up like that with groups of people who all believed the same sorts of things. She said that they had anomalous beliefs and thus had difficulty fitting in with a society that did not share their beliefs, and found that they were happier in the sort of "tribal lockups" (echo chambers) afforded by the convent/monastery. There they were happy and their collective energies could often be directed to doing useful/good things for others - enabling them to live potentially productive/useful lives -  rather than them being inhumanely locked up and whiling their lives away in the quiet Hell of a lunatic asylum.

The problem comes though, when people with strongly-held anomalous beliefs and views take to a public stage and adopt a charismatic messianic stance, and people start to fall under their spell. So an Austrian nutjob like Hitler, for example, could lobotomise a whole nation of apparently intelligent German people, who would then blindly follow him to perdition. He could do no wrong, and therefore, by following him - and by extension - neither could they (QED) - as the Nuremberg trials revealed. (Ring any bells?)

Such leaders do this by creating a hateful false and artificial dichotomy between "people who think correctly and believe correctly as we do" and those who don't - the "Others"). The "Other" will be variously regarded as being stupid, evil, deplorable unbelievers, or similar, and thus they are not real people deserving of a life of freedom and tolerance, and so must be variously converted, rehabilitated, re-educated, imprisoned, beaten up, or (at worst) tortured and beheaded/killed and have their property expropriated. Since the "Other" is not a real person like we are, then there is no ethical wrong in treating them like the scum/deplorables/unbelievers that they are - it is entirely legitimate to do so. This is simple fascism, and it seems to have invaded and permeated religion, Science and politics alike - including (say) from recent scary examples in the US, the EU, and of course the Middle East.

IainB

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Re: Peer Review and the Scientific Process - bias, blindness and fraud
« Reply #226 on: January 15, 2017, 10:34:30 AM »
Fascinating paper here with more on the “replication crisis”. Helps to explain a lot as to how we can erroneously take something as "fact" when it is not proven.
Quote
Research: Publication bias and the canonization of false facts
Silas Boye Nissen Tali Magidson Kevin Gross  Carl T Bergstrom
University of Copenhagen, Denmark; University of Washington, United States; North Carolina State University, United States
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.21451
Published December 20, 2016
Cite as eLife 2016;5:e21451

Abstract
Science is facing a “replication crisis” in which many experimental findings cannot be replicated and are likely to be false. Does this imply that many scientific facts are false as well? To find out, we explore the process by which a claim becomes fact. We model the community’s confidence in a claim as a Markov process with successive published results shifting the degree of belief. Publication bias in favor of positive findings influences the distribution of published results. We find that unless a sufficient fraction of negative results are published, false claims frequently can become canonized as fact. Data-dredging, p-hacking, and similar behaviors exacerbate the problem. Should negative results become easier to publish as a claim approaches acceptance as a fact, however, true and false claims would be more readily distinguished. To the degree that the model reflects the real world, there may be serious concerns about the validity of purported facts in some disciplines.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10...7554/eLife.21451.001
(...read more at the link)

I think this could also be relevant to the condition Scott Adams refers to with a new term -  "cognitive blindness":
Quote
"It probably does have a name. It’s a mix of cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias at the least, but a special case in my opinion."
...
"It isn’t that you disagree with the strong form of the argument on the other side so much as you don’t know it exists no matter how many times it is put right in front of you."

Such blindness may extend to self-serving fraud. In this example report, scientists/management investigated at the US DOE had apparently planned a scheme that deliberately withheld relevant information from Congress, so that members of Congress could not see the strong form of an argument that risked disproving the DOE's management's preferred "truth" and politicised line of research funding: Dept of Energy gov’t scientist fired for answering Congressional questions contrary to DOE management views.