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Peer Review and the Scientific Process

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...I often wonder whether we as a species are hard-wired, as it were, so that we are unable to resist believing in imaginary things - be they fairies, djins, God, the non-existence of God, life after death, non-life after death, Heaven and Hell, or whatever ...
-IainB (June 03, 2016, 11:06 PM)
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Quite coincidentally today, I was looking at the comments to some amusing candid camera type videos, and saw the video below - which is arguably a perfect example/illustration for the above quote.
In the video, the passers-by are clearly guided by their own natural senses and reason and are unable to detect a taut wire between the two traffic cones (and it would be infeasible anyway for a taut wire to be maintained between 2 free-standing traffic cones). Yet their behaviours variously indicate a shifting from curiosity, to disbelief, and then, quite quickly, to an internalised belief in the impossible - i.e., they end up believing that an invisible wire exists and they then seem to go to great lengths to carefully avoid it. They have been fully deceived by the deliberately deceptive experiment.

Video: Invisible Wire -

In much the same way:

* The Piltdown Man became so real for many people - scientists and laymen alike - because they saw it as the postulated "missing link" that conclusively proved the theory of the evolution of Man. It even entered school textbooks as a fact of Natural History. (Ring any bells?)
* Phrenology became a legitimate method for the diagnosis of a person's character and mental abilities - practiced, for example, by psychologists.
* Various forms of electro-shock therapy became a legitimate treatment - practiced, for example, by doctors in lunatic asylums, where the treatment was forced on captive "patients".Not a good look for academics and so-called "scientists", nor for the so-called "medical profession" really.

The video is not only a good example of our innate suggestibility and the power of suggestion, but also it effectively provides a repeatable model of the belief syndrome - you can substitute virtually any daft belief you want for the invisible wire, including, for example, the belief that it is possible to have an invisible wire (QED), the belief that there are fairies, or that there is no God, or that a peer review somehow magically proves the conclusions of a suspect piece of research to be irrefutably true and thus beyond doubt/skepticism or falsifiability.

(Falsifiability or refutability is the property of a statement, hypothesis, or theory whereby it could be shown to be false if some conceivable observation were true. In this sense, falsify is synonymous with nullify, meaning not "to commit fraud" but "show to be false". Science must be falsifiable.)

Very interesting post from - highlighting effectively what Feynman taught: i.e., that if the observational data doesn't support the theory, then it's the theory that's wrong.
(Copied below sans embedded hyperlinks/images.)
In the last few years the virtues of a low-fat diet have gradually come undone, though some “nutritional anthropologists” keep the faith like those Japanese soldiers in the island jungles who refused be believe World War II was over. Yesterday the Washington Post reported on how the full data from a major nutrition study that helped cement the old conventional wisdom was never fully analyzed, but might have saved us from error (and saved some lives) if it had been:

It was one of the largest, most rigorous experiments ever conducted on an important diet question: How do fatty foods affect our health? Yet it took more than 40 years  — that is, until today —  for a clear picture of the results to reach the public. . .

Today, the principles of that special diet — less saturated fat, more vegetable oils — are included in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the government’s official diet advice book. Yet the fuller accounting of the data indicates that the advice is, at best, unsupported by the massive trial. In fact, it appears to show just the opposite:  Patients who lowered their cholesterol, presumably because of the special diet, actually suffered more heart-related deaths than those who did not. . .

The new researchers, led by investigators from the National Institutes of Health and the University of North Carolina, conclude that the absence of the data over the past 40 years or so may have led to a misunderstanding of this key dietary issue.

“Incomplete publication has contributed to the overestimation of benefits and underestimation of potential risks” of the special diet, they wrote.

Good thing this could never happen with climate science. What’s that you say?

But Broste suggested that at least part of the reason for the incomplete publication of the data might have been human nature. The Minnesota investigators had a theory that they believed in — that reducing blood cholesterol would make people healthier. Indeed, the idea was widespread and would soon be adopted by the federal government in the first dietary recommendations. So when the data they collected from the mental patients conflicted with this theory, the scientists may have been reluctant to believe what their experiment had turned up.

“The results flew in the face of what people believed at the time,” said Broste. “Everyone thought cholesterol was the culprit. This theory was so widely held and so firmly believed — and then it wasn’t borne out by the data. The question then became: Was it a bad theory? Or was it bad data? … My perception was they were hung up trying to understand the results.”

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It took additional peer review after peer review and 3 years for this paper to correct a "minor" error that resulted in the exact opposite conclusion.

When your conclusions are the exact opposite of reality, there might just be a tiny wee bit of bias there.

^^ Ouch! That "research" is really priceless Renegade. I hadn't read about that before. What a doozy.   
It's more like something out of The Onion. Thanks for posting it. The comments after the item linked to are pretty good too - worth a read.
Now this thread may have to be Basemented because it is "political".
At least it offers a potential explanation to help me to understand why I never could understand the rationale of American politics - it's apparently because it could well be a product of completely screwed-up thinking. Finally, there might be a palpable explanation of the drivers behind the seeming self-assertive "rightness", narcissistic virtue-signaling and vehemence and violence of so-called "liberal-progressive" groups. I never could figure that out. I thought I must be apathetic by comparison.

By the way, I am going to be the first - or one of the first - of many recommending that you be burnt at the stake for documenting something that is so clearly wrong and heretical. It will absolutely have to be officially refuted by government mandate and anybody who argues otherwise must be slung into prison for offences against the greater good, or something.

Yeah, just a tiny bit political. Meh... Nothing wrong with science done right, even if it is uncomfortable.

And speaking of the Basement, I posted an interview with another heretic: Dr. Judith Curry.

Time for me to get back to my re-education classes. Had too much to think today, so I'll probably get detention.


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