UC Berkeley Reports that Much of the Reported Science is Wrong

In January of this year two political science students, David Broockman and Joshua Kalla, at UC Berkeley discovered something interesting when they attempted to reproduce a study based on the data from a UCLA student which had appeared in Science last December.

The study was preformed by gay students at UCLA, who were sent door-to-door in various California neighborhoods. The study reported that after only a brief conversation about marriage equality where the student relayed their own sexual orientation was able to have a lasting impact on the voter’s attitude on the subject of marriage equality.

An article from Berkeley’s California Magazine explains some of the reasons science reporting is often at odds with actual science. Quoting: “Where journalism favors neat story arcs, science progresses jerkily, with false starts and misdirections in a long, uneven path to the truth—or at least to scientific consensus. The types of stories that reporters choose to pursue can also be a problem, says Peter Aldhous, [lecturer and reporter]. ‘As journalists, we tend to gravitate to the counterintuitive, the surprising, the man-bites-dog story,’ he explains. ‘In science, that can lead us into highlighting stuff that’s less likely to be correct.’ If a finding is surprising or anomalous, in other words, there’s a good chance that it’s wrong. On the flip side, when good findings do get published, they’re often not as earth shattering as a writer might hope. … So journalists and their editors might spice up a study’s findings a bit, stick the caveats at the end, and write an eye-catching, snappy headline—not necessarily with the intent to mislead, but making it that much more likely for readers to misinterpret the results.” The article also makes suggestions for both journalists and the scientific community to keep science reporting interesting while being more accurate.

The UC Berkeley report can be read here.

The article goes on to say:

The problem is, you’ve got to realize the way science works—that the new exciting thing possibly, or even probably, in the fullness of time, isn’t going to be right.

Before you start your business, read this

One of the things that I notice when I am talking to people joining me in the cooperate world is that they all think that they will one day be at the head of a successful startup. And while it is important to dream, to continue to push boundaries and attempt to new and creative endeavors. It is more important to be realistic about it.

Starting a business is a lot of work. It isn’t about long sessions in front of the monitor or on the phone drumming up investors. It is about realistic goals that solve real problems.

For those of you who are thinking about going in this direction I wrote about the subject to help you prepare mentally for the challenges that lay ahead of you. So before you get a head of yourself, learn what a business is, what it takes to succeed and work out the fine points.

You can find it here, From First Thought to the Next Big Business

You’ll be glad that you did.

Disorder in the Courts Review

I had read these exchanges on reddit before and didn’t realize that they were from a book. The book is title, Disorder in the Courts (1999, ISBN-10: 0393319288) from Charles M. Sevilla. The book is an entertaining collection of excerpts from actual courtroom exchanges.

While some of the back and forth highlighted in the book are almost too absurd to be true I accept the author’s sincerity that they accurately cover honest exchanges between people in a courtroom.

The book was first released in 1999 so there is surely plenty of room for a new edition. The cases span every imaginable topic and they offer a look at not only attorney word blunders, but those the witness and judge alike.


Attorney: What is your date of birth?

Witness: July 18th.

Attorney: What year?

Witness: Every year.


Attorney: What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?

Witness: He said, ‘Where am I, Cathy?’

Attorney: And why did that upset you?

Witness: My name is Susan!


Attorney: How old is your son, the one living with you?

Witness: Thirty-eight or thirty-five, I can’t remember which.

Attorney: How long has he lived with you?

Witness: Forty-five years.


Attorney: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?

Witness: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.


Attorney: Are you sexually active?

Witness: No, I just lie there.


Attorney: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?

Witness: Yes.

Attorney: And in what ways does it affect your memory?

Witness: I forget..

Attorney: You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?


Attorney: Now doctor, isn’t it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn’t know about it until the next morning?

Witness: Did you actually pass the bar exam?


Attorney: The youngest son, the 20-year-old, how old is he?

Witness: He’s 20, much like your IQ.


Attorney: Were you present when your picture was taken?

Witness: Are you shitting me?


Attorney: So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?

Witness: Yes.

Attorney: And what were you doing at that time?

Witness: Getting laid


Attorney: She had three children , right?

Witness: Yes.

Attorney: How many were boys?

Witness: None.

Attorney: Were there any girls?

Witness: Your Honor, I think I need a different attorney. Can I get a new attorney?


Attorney: How was your first marriage terminated?

Witness: By death..

Attorney: And by whose death was it terminated?

Witness: Take a guess.


Attorney: Can you describe the individual?

Witness: He was about medium height and had a beard

Attorney: Was this a male or a female?

Witness: Unless the Circus was in town I’m going with male.


Attorney: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?

Witness: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.


Attorney: Doctor , how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?

Witness: All of them. The live ones put up too much of a fight.


Attorney: ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK? What school did you go to?

Witness: Oral…


Attorney: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?

Witness: The autopsy started around 8:30 PM

Attorney: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?

Witness: If not, he was by the time I finished.


Attorney: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?

Witness: Are you qualified to ask that question?


Attorney: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?

Witness: No.

Attorney: Did you check for blood pressure?

Witness: No.

Attorney: Did you check for breathing?

Witness: No..

Attorney: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?

Witness: No.

Attorney: How can you be so sure, Doctor?

Witness: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.

Attorney: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?

Witness: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.

There are a number of moments where I burst into spontaneous laughter, others where I just had to cringe. If you have a few moments to spare, I know your life is busy enough, you may want to check the book out from your local library. It is quick to read that most bookworms should at least crack a smile to while reading.

Welcome

What is in a name?

Dumbing down is the deliberate oversimplification of intellectual content within education, literature, cinema, news, and culture in order to relate to those unable to assimilate more sophisticated information. [1]

By now, you have almost certainly noticed the name of the web site you are now browsing. If not, please give it a quick glance. Now, I am sure there are a number of different interpretations you derive from the domain name.

And I won’t make any suggestions as to which one you should choose.

The idea for this web site came to me during a conversation. And it was that conversation that encouraged me to go further than the idea and actually purchase the name and find a hosting provider that fit within my budget.

If any one of you is familiar with the Internet the chance is good that you will have either heard it likened to a intellectual wasteland. And while for many aspects of the Internet this is certainly true it also offers students many means of study they did no have before.

Before you correct me, I will acknowledged your concerns of inaccuracy in information. But I would counter argue that these same inaccuracies have been present in traditional media as well. And that these same anti-intellectualism tendencies have been present far longer.

I have personally experienced incorrect outdated information in:

  • Encylcopedias
  • Dictionaris
  • News Magazines

Corrections were made, albeit, in various degrees of speed. An encyclopedia or dictionary take much longer to publish a correction that a magazine. And I would hazard to guess many people still own and refer to these works even today.

And while all of these are legitimate sources of information, other forms of media have take a much more relaxed approach to accuracy.

This makes the task of fact checking and cross referencing an important tool in your toolbox. And one you hopefully used prior to research online.

The Internet for many of us is a toy, a place to meet and engage our friends and family. It is a waste of time, and it can lead to a dumbing down or society, an act of intellectual suicide.

If you are familiar with teacher and author John Taylor Gatto you will have read his book, “Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling” (1992,2002 ISBN: 0-86571-448-7).

In Mr. Gatto’s 1991 acceptance speech for the New York Teacher of the Year Award (1990) he speculated, and I quote:

Was it possible, I had been hired, not to enlarge children’s power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy, on the face of it, but slowly, I began to realize that the bells and confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of the national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning how to think, and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior.

When avenues, geared toward learning are speculated at furthering the dumbing of society, it is no wonder that other forms shared knowledge and experience, no matter the media are effected at an equal or greater level.

Welcome to Intellectual Suicide.