I’ve had a lot of friends sending me studies on masks and vaccines. I’m generally in favor of medical care and am of the opinion that whatever else may be true, a lack of polio and smallpox is a good thing. But as for whether this type of mask works at this level of effectiveness, I have no idea. As a practical matter, how could I? I have no expertise in any of this. I don’t know how to design a proper study, nor how to evaluate the results. I don’t know why the tests come back with different results.
I do know that a confirmation bias seems to underscore the results which I am shown. Those who think masks are magic send me one set of results. Those who think masks are fairy dust, send me a different set. Thus, the posting tells me something about the person who sent it, but perhaps it tells me nothing about the actual science.
“There’s an unspoken rule in the pharmaceutical industry that half of all academic biomedical research will ultimately prove false, and in 2011 a group of researchers at Bayer decided to test it. Looking at sixty-seven recent drug discovery projects based on preclinical cancer biology research, they found that in more than 75 percent of cases the published data did not match up with their in-house attempts to replicate. These were not studies published in fly-by-night oncology journals, but blockbuster research featured in Science, Nature, Cell, and the like.”
In the terrible movie “Pete’s Dragon” the drunken lighthouse attendant shows up an sings a song, which as I recall contains the lines, “A dragon, a dragon, I swear I saw a dragon.” Of course no one believes him. However, when the dragon can be seen by everyone, we know it is true.
Science works sort of like that: the experimental techniques state that if any two people do the same thing under the same conditions the same result will occur. I one time heard it explained and a device for remembering things. From UC Berkeley’s “Understanding Science“
“Scientists aim for their studies’ findings to be replicable — so that, for example, an experimenttesting ideas about the attraction between electrons and protons should yield the same results when repeated in different labs. Similarly, two different researchers studying the same dinosaur bone in the same way should come to the same conclusions regarding its measurements and composition. This goal of replicability makes sense. After all, science aims to reconstruct the unchanging rules by which the universe operates, and those same rules apply, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from Sweden to Saturn, regardless of who is studying them.”
Science promises a sort of repetition and accuracy. But science is also conducted by human beings who have goals which are not necessarily exactly the same as truth for truth’s sake.
“All the way down, they all have similar reward systems,” Tiger explained. “That is a really bad mechanism to really foster a lot of fraud.”
Elisabeth Bik — the only member of the team willing to give her real name — is a microbiologist from the Netherlands, based in California. She began tracking the phenomenon of paper mills at the beginning of 2020.
Along with Tiger, a senior research scientist who goes by the name of Morty, and a mathematical psychologist called Smut Clyde, Bik has spent many unpaid hours searching for anomalies in Chinese research. Early this year, the group discovered one paper mill, which they believewas responsible for more than 500 fake studies examining human gene function and cancer.
Unfortunately, it seems to be lots of people: “In psychology journals, 39 percent of the 100 analyzed studies had been successfully replicated. In economy journals, it was 61 percent of 18 studies, and in the journals Nature and Science, it was 62 percent of 21 studies.”
This means that a significant portion of the scientific work in the first instance is problematic. I’m not sure exactly how this correlates with the study of papers for replication, but a fair number of scientists admit to engaging in problematic practices, “On average, across the surveys, around 2% of scientists admitted they had ‘fabricated’ (made up), ‘falsified’ or ‘altered’ data to ‘improve the outcome’ at least once, and up to 34% admitted to other questionable research practices including ‘failing to present data that contradict one’s own previous research’ and ‘dropping observations or data points from analyses based on a gut feeling that they were inaccurate.’ In surveys that asked about the behaviour of colleagues, 14% knew someone who had fabricated, falsified or altered data, and up to 72% knew someone who had committed other questionable research practices.” (An unscientific observation is that more people engage in bad acts than actually admit to it: hence 34% say they have been sketchy at some point but they 72% know someone else who has done so. This might indicate that some people are lying about lying.)
And, apparently as a corollary to the adage “A lie travels around the globe while the truth is putting on its shoes” we find out that the questionable papers are by far the papers which get the most press, “The differences in the prominent Nature and Science journals were the most striking: here, non-replicable papers were cited 300 times more than replicable ones on average.”
This could be just a matter of poking at the moral preening of scientists. But these fabrications, repetitions, and unnecessary errors result in missed opportunity. There are cancer treatments which never come about or are delayed because a researcher begins with bad data and it takes years to figure out what went wrong.
Caveat: this is not a fully developed thesis, just some notes for later.
First, there is the problem of the scope of “psychology”. There are things within the scope of that word which are unquestionably “science”, particularly those matters which pertain to physiology. But the word has such a great scope that there are many things which cannot reasonably be called scientific.
Second, there is the question of what can be captured by scientific methodology. Isolating and test for a particularly variable (some agent of action) is difficult enough when we are considering matters involving the functioning of the human body.
The question becomes more complex when we consider various systems of the human body — such as the interactions between various parts of the nervous system.
When it comes to gross-level human experiences the sheer complexity of the nervous system is likely beyond any ability to model.
When it comes to human behaviors, it is unquestioned that environment has effect upon observable human experience covered by “psychology”. The complexity of the environment when coupled with the complexity of physiology makes “scientific” analysis of human psychology extraordinarily complex.
There is then an additional issue: the matters of physiology and environment do not exhaust the human being: there is the entire spiritual, God-ward aspect of human life which is not even considered. However, that spiritual aspect is the most important aspect of human life. Yet, all “scientific” analysis of human psychology purposefully ignores the single greatest element of human psychology: that is like trying to study daytime while excluding all consideration of the sun.
Finally, human psychology has been profoundly affected by sin (our own sin, sins against us, the effects of sin generally). Sin is irrational and thus not capable of scientific methodical analysis: you cannot make reasonable that which is unreasonable by definition.
There are other aspects of this argument (such as pre-commitments)– and it is obviously not a full theory.
By analyzing the orientations of the metals in a set of these jar handles with dates from 750 to 150 BCE, the scientists were able to see traces of the geomagnetic field’s behavior. What they found was startling. Sometime late in the 8th century BCE, there was a rapid fluctuation in the field’s intensity over a period of about 30 years—first the intensity increased to over 20 percent of baseline, then plunged to 27 percent under baseline. Though the overall trend at that time was a gradual decline in the fields’ intensity similar to what we see today, this spike was basically off the charts.
Writing in The New Yorker, Lawrence University geologist Marcia Bjornerud points out that this geomagnetic spike is far bigger than anything geoscientists had believed possible. “Both the height and the sharpness of the spike they recount push up against the limits of what some geophysicists think Earth’s outer core is capable of doing,” she explains. “If the eighth-century-BC geomagnetic jeté is real, models for the generation of the magnetic field need significant revision.”
Iceland seems to be on its way to becoming an even more secular nation, according to a new poll. Less than half of Icelanders claim they are religious and more than 40% of young Icelanders identify as atheist. Remarkably the poll failed to find young Icelanders who accept the creation story of the Bible. 93.9% of Icelanders younger than 25 believed the world was created in the big bang, 6.1% either had no opinion or thought it had come into existence through some other means and 0.0% believed it had been created by God.
Ample evidence that we humans are not superior to all other living beings. Instead we might recognize other creatures are “gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.”
In “Surfing the Universe,” Benjamin Wallace-Wells, of physics as a search for beauty:
Physicists have long looked to higher math for insights into the workings of the universe. “If a figure is so beautiful and intricate and clear, you figure it must not exist for itself alone,” John Baez, a professor of mathematics at the University of California at Riverside, said. “It must correspond to something in the physical world.” This instinct—the assumption that beauty will stand in for truth—has become a habit. Some physicists now worry that string theory’s mathematics have grown permanently unmoored from the real world—an exercise in its own complexity. And so modern theoretical physics has become, in part, an argument about aesthetics.
Interestingly, Poythress explains that seeing such beauty is right, because such beauty is a disclosure of God:
Scientific laws, especially “deep” laws, are beautiful. Scientists have long sifted through possible hypotheses and models partly on the basis of the criteria of beauty and simplicity. For example, Newton’s law of gravitation and Maxwell’s laws of electromagnetism are mathematically simple and beautiful. And scientists clearly expect new laws, as well as the old ones, to show beauty and simplicity. Why?
The beauty of scientific laws shows the beauty of God himself. Though beauty has not been a favorite topic in classical expositions of the doctrine of God, the Bible shows us a God who is profoundly beautiful. He manifests himself in beauty in the design of the tabernacle, the poetry of the Psalms, and the elegance of Christ’s parables, as well as the moral beauty of the life of Christ.
The beauty of God himself is reflected in what he has made. We are more accustomed to seeing beauty in particular objects within creation, such as a butterfly, or a lofty mountain, or a flower-covered meadow. But beauty is also displayed in the simple, elegant form of some of the most basic physical laws, like Newton’s law for force, F = ma, or Einstein’s formula relating mass and energy, E = mc2. Why should such elegant laws even exist? Beauty is also displayed in the harmony among different areas of science, and the harmony between mathematics and science that scientists rely on whenever they use a mathematical formula to describe a physical process.
Poythress, Vern S. (2006-10-13). Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach (Kindle Locations 369-377). Crossway. Kindle Edition.