Sunday, August 07, 2011

The cultural tyranny of junk-science 'studies' ~ By Phil Elmore

What else do these "studies" prove? Why, they prove that "dieting is a waste of time" – even though anyone who sticks to a consistent diet can, will and does lose weight. They prove that "men need cuddling more than their girlfriends" – even though this idea belies every direct experience of every heterosexual male since the beginning of time and certainly in the context of contemporary culture. They prove that creative people are arrogant jerks – even though a relatively small survey that relies largely on self-reporting cannot possibly be accurate enough for us to draw such conclusions with any confidence. They also prove that Democrats lack patriotism and seeing the American flag motivates people to vote Republican – even though ... well, OK, not all of these "studies" can be wrong.
A speech was given by the late Michael Crichton at a Caltech Michelin Lecture on January 17, 2003, called "Aliens Cause Global Warming." There is a segment of that speech that I was reminded of when reading Phil's column:
I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.
You see, "consensus science" is almost always the result of "studies" that become cultural consensus. This confirms what Phil is writing about in his column. Or, at least it helped me understand what Phil is saying a little better.

I'd like to think that I motivated Phil to write this column to some extent. Perhaps, I may have even beaten him to warning you of the ridiculousness of "studies" when I produced a blog back in July. Perhaps he was aware of that column where I discussed the junk-science of the Harvard (aka "Hawvawd") study.  Phil mentioned that study in his column (as you'll read in that paragraph I quoted above).

What I want you to see here is that "studies" can be biased from their conception.  It's the reality of the 21st Century.  Cultural behavior has become easier yet to modify by using social media to convey various ideologies, supported by those good old "studies," in this century. And, in effect, it seems to always end in "Cultural Tyranny." That is, until a new study comes out; kind of like when the theme, "based on studies," went from global cooling in the '70's to global warming in the '90's.  I'm just sayin'...

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The cultural tyranny of junk-science 'studies'
By Phil Elmore

August 03, 2011 ~ 2:13 pm Eastern

© 2011

Are you stupid? If you're reading this in Internet Explorer, you must be. I know, because somebody I think might have been a scientist, or something, says so.

Wait … what?

Previously in Technocracy, I felt it necessary to point out that, no, liberals aren't smarter than conservatives. I called the attempt to use junk science and intentionally distorted or misinterpreted statistics a cultural libel that propagates myths, lies, and misinformation intended to marginalize those whom liberals hate and fear:
Simple lies, distortions and urban legends propagated about conservatives and libertarians all pale in comparison to what is the most coveted of all libelous popular-culture mechanisms. I refer, of course, to the study. A "study," no matter how it is produced and, more importantly, no matter how ineptly it is analyzed, is repeated without question in the popular media if that study furthers a left-wing political perspective. Such studies are presented with pious credulity as liberal holy writ, from which absurd, illogical and irrational pronouncements are foisted on the public.

… The fundamental lesson here is that correlation is not causation. Further, a failure to consider the demographics of the study will inevitably taint the conclusions drawn from the results.

Now an "IQ test" given to Web surfers purports to show that users of Internet Explorer are all stupider than users of other browsers, many of which are presented as more hip, more modern, or functionally superior:

Researchers gave over 100,000 Web surfers a free online IQ test. Scores were stored in a database along with each person's Web browser data.

The results suggested that Internet Explorer surfers had an average IQ in the low 80s. Chrome, Firefox and Safari rated over 100, while minority browsers Opera and Camino had an "exceptionally higher" score of over 120.

[The consulting firm that conducted the study] stressed that using IE doesn't mean you have low intelligence. "What it really says is that if you have a low IQ then there are high chances that you use Internet Explorer," said AptiQuant CEO Leonard Howard.
The study is, on its face, rife with potential errors, not the least of which is that there is no way to verify the nature of the sample (which I have a hard time believing is random enough). More disturbing is that this "study" claims the Explorer users averaged an IQ in the 80s – a number so low that one wonders how those tested were able to switch on the computer and navigate to such a test without drooling into spit-cups nestled in their open and obsolete CD drives. I mean, honestly: 80? If you have an IQ that low, there's a good chance you live in a group home and aren't allowed to use a computer unsupervised.

There is no indication that any conclusions about the political leanings of the participants has been offered by AptiQuant, the consulting firm posing here as scientific or psychological research firm. It's probably only a matter of time before some lib somewhere tries to draw that conclusion, as the shortest increment of time yet measured by humanity is the interval between some undesirable fact or act and the assertion by leftists that right-wing tea-bagging hobbit terrorist radical extremist ideologues are responsible.

Don't be afraid!
are the MOB
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