Category: Education

Is it Anti-Science to say that Science Needs to Clean Up its Act?

By , October 21, 2013 12:15 pm

The Economist says there’s Trouble at the Lab. Nick Brown Smelled Bull. What’s going on here? Where’s the rational, reasoned thinking we are told is the hallmark of science?

According to The Economist,

This [that too many scientists use inappropriate statistically techniques] fits with another line of evidence suggesting that a lot of scientific research is poorly thought through, or executed, or both.

Nick Brown would surely agree. The BS he smelled involved applied positive psychology and

A butterfly graph, the calling card of chaos theory mathematics, purporting to show the tipping point upon which individuals and groups “flourish” or “languish.” Not a metaphor, no poetic allusion, but an exact ratio: 2.9013 positive to 1 negative emotions. Cultivate a “positivity ratio” of greater than 2.9-to-1 and sail smoothly through life; fall below it, and sink like a stone.

The theory was well credentialed. Now cited in academic journals over 350 times, it was first put forth in a 2005 paper by Barbara Fredrickson, a luminary of the positive psychology movement, and Marcial Losada, a Chilean management consultant, and published in the American Psychologist, the flagship peer-reviewed journal of the largest organization of psychologists in the U.S.

Brown, a 52-year old part-time master’s student at an obscure London university with a degree in computer science, would have none of that.

In what world could this be true? he wondered

So off he went. The story of his campaign against this particular piece of bad science is well worth the read.

Like Brown, I am not a scientist. I’m not even particularly well-schooled in the subject. But I follow it. I read my share of articles on the subject. I read a few blogs that deal with it. I even have friends who are scientists. Accomplished ones, in fact. Sadly I’ve also read my share of Facebook posts touting science as the Holy Grail and at the same time disparaging faith and religion. Well, these two articles should give pause to those who place their faith in science. For as The Economist says, quoting Dr. Bruce Alberts, editor of Science,

[S]cientists themselves . . . “need to develop a value system where simply moving on from one’s mistakes without publicly acknowledging them severely damages, rather than protects, a scientific reputation.” This will not be easy. But if science is to stay on its tracks, and be worthy of the trust so widely invested in it, it may be necessary.

Apparently the emperor isn’t the only one in need of some new clothes. Richard Dawkins, call your office.

Sounds Good to Me

By , December 19, 2012 9:15 am

The following is a comment on this post on Ann Althouse’s blog. Though I imagine it could be expensive to implement, the idea could save lives. It sure beats huddling behind some desks in a classroom, listening to gun shots in the distance.

Good Idea_2012-12-19_0904

By the way, the actual post is worth reading. Ann looks at the “common sense” meme that’s thrown about by talking heads and politicians. Short story: when you hear an “expert” say that we should adopt common sense solutions to this or that problem, you can be pretty sure that they are referring to their solutions not yours.

And We Wonder Why . . .

By , December 4, 2012 3:09 pm

To simply call this video by the California Teachers Union offensive is to do offense to the word offensive:

Warning: You should be standing up when the video hits the 2:55 mark; otherwise, you may injure your jaw when it hits the floor.

Growing Old Without Growing Stodgy

By , May 25, 2012 11:15 am

I just finished reading a blog post by Eric Samuelson that may have changed my life for the better. I grew up in the 60s, a particularly great decade for music, what with the Beatles, Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, Stones, and Cream, and that’s just in the world of rock ‘n roll. Sadly, I’ve held my nose high ever since, especially during the Disco beat of the horrible 70s. Though Disco had a great beat and was easy to dance to, I chose instead to follow the careers of Neil Young and Van Morrison. My musical tastes were and have continued to be stuck on repeat. That’s not to say that I don’t listen to other music. My father exposed me to jazz, a music I love. I can probably name as many jazz artists as I can rock or folk. I also love classical music, including opera. I listen to a lot of Brazilian and French music. But even there I tend to stay stuck in the past.

Just yesterday I was thinking how little I knew about the current music scene–and I felt a sense of pride in that, if you can imagine. Samuelson’s post slapped me awake. In fact, I just created a new Pandora station for Arcade Fire, a group he mentioned. So far I’ve listened to Keep the Car Running and Black Mirror from their album Neon Bible. I don’t know that I find them so interesting as Samuelson does, but at least I know who they are, and frankly, they’re not bad–and I’m not so stodgy anymore.

I Know the Feeling

By , February 20, 2012 11:54 am

The Midnight Lynching of Sarah Palin

By , June 4, 2011 12:18 pm

They’re at it again. Palin’s critics. They’re beclowning themselves even as they attempt to turn her into one. It began with this video:

Her garbled comment set the Leftosphere afire. That dumb Palin got her history wrong again! How can conservatives be soooo stupid!

Then Professor Jacobson at Legal Insurrection rode to her defense (many links at this link). Among other things, he posted Paul Revere’s personal account of his adventure. In the relevant part, it reads (spelling in original, bolding mine):

I observed a Wood at a Small distance, & made for that. When I got there, out Started Six officers, on Horse back,and orderd me to dismount;-one of them, who appeared to have the command, examined me, where I came from,& what my Name Was? I told him. it was Revere, he asked if it was Paul? I told him yes He asked me if I was an express? I answered in the afirmative. He demanded what time I left Boston? I told him; and aded, that their troops had catched aground in passing the River, and that There would be five hundred Americans there in a short time, for I had alarmed the Country all the way up. He imediately rode towards those who stoppd us, when all five of them came down upon a full gallop; one of them, whom I afterwards found to be Major Mitchel, of the 5th Regiment, Clapped his pistol to my head, called me by name, & told me he was going to ask me some questions, & if I did not give him true answers, he would blow my brains out. He then asked me similar questions to those above. He then orderd me to mount my Horse, after searching me for arms

Jacobson also links to David Hackett Fischer’s book, Paul Revere’s Ride at Google Books. If you’re interested, read pages 140-143, but here’s a snippet to save you the trouble:

[Revere] rode directly to the house of Captain Isaac Hall, commander of Medford’s minutemen, who instantly triggered the town’s alarm system. A townsman remembered that ‘repeated gunshots, the beating of drums and the ringing of bells filled the air’ . . . Along the North Shore of Massachusetts, church bells began to toll and the heavy beat of drums could be heard for many miles in the night air. Some towns responded to these warnings before a courier reached them. North Reading was awakened by alarm guns before sunrise. The first messenger appeared a little later (140). . . . [Another] express rider delivered the alarm to a Whig leader who went to an outcropping called Bell Rick, and rang the town bell. That prearranged signal summoned the men of Malden with their weapons . . . (141) . . . Along Paul Revere’s northern route, the town leaders and company captains instantly triggered the alarm system . . . (142).

So did Paul Revere ring bells, beat drums, and shoot guns to warn his compatriots? Probably not, but who really knows. What we do know is that he and his fellow express riders were certainly the “triggers” that set off the warning system of bells, drums, and gunshots.

Yes, Palin could have been more clear, but what she said was spot on. Revere did warn the British that they were in for a fight, and he “triggered” a pre-arranged warning system.

Meanwhile, her bitter critics on the left cling to their copies of Longfellow’s poem.

More Walter Russell Mead on Brazil

By , April 22, 2011 9:26 am

As I say below, this time Brazil’s resurgence is for real. So does Walter Russell Mead, with lots of qualifiers. His analysis is obviously much more in depth than mine–I based mine largely on a YouTube video, for heck’s sake. An interesting read.

Barbie Grows Up . . . and Up and Up and . . . Out

By , April 11, 2011 8:28 am

Without any comment by me, though Ann Althouse has an interesting take:

Here’s to Appreciating a Man Who Gracefully Wears His Religion on His Sleeve

By , March 1, 2011 9:23 pm

This story about Professor Clayton Christensen in Forbes magazine is impressive in no small part because the world-renown professor so effortlessly, so guilelessly shares the story of his battles with diabetes, a heart attack, cancer, and a stroke, aided by a great family and the strong conviction that God has and has had a plan for him.

The Kahn Academy

By , February 11, 2011 10:15 pm

If you haven’t heard of the Kahn Academy, this is as good an introduction as you’ll find.

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