20 Rules for Junk Science Detectives

This is an outstanding set of rules for science detection and evaluating scientific assertions.

Put up in Nature Mag. Thank you Joe Bast, for forwarding, tipped off by Bob Ferguson

http://www.nature.com/news/policy-twenty-tips-for-interpreting-scientific-claims-1.14183

I keep telling you about Cargo Cult Science, and it is all around us, charlatans with credentials and an agenda.

The extraordinary physics genius and Nobel Prize winner, Richard Feynman, splains it in his 1974 Commencement Speech at Cal Tech.

Here is a nice intro to the great Feynman if you don’t know of him.

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/06/08/richard-feynman-caltech-cargo-cult-science/

Here is the text of the speech that unfortunately was not recorded or filmed. Feynman was a charismatic speaker.

http://neurotheory.columbia.edu/~ken/cargo_cult.html

ONE MORE THING. Any reader who is of our skeptical group would note that the Nature article show a little bit of pandering to the editors. The authors hint that a better science climate and doing what the scientific elites advise is good, and would put them in control and charge of policy. The implication is that skeptics on warming, for example are detrimental to good policy making. I would beg to differ.

The authors declared, incorrectly, that guns in the house increases risk of gun violence 100 fold, without mentioning that maybe there are some serious socio economic confounders that should temper that assertion and whatever policy making decisions are made in regards to gun ownership, but the journal is British, so they are all mixed up.

There were a few other asides in this otherwise good paper that struck me as showing a tendency to recite the right rules while confirming the editors’ confirmation and consensus biases. You might recall that Nature was irresponsible in its attacks on Bjorn Lomborg, for example. The boys at Nature are academic and scientific thugs at times and they are, in my opinion suffering from some biases born of political mindset. I hope they take this fine article to heart.

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3 responses to “20 Rules for Junk Science Detectives

  1. The Nature article, while good, does not mention pioneers like Carl Sagan, Sherry Seethaler’s “Lies, Damn Lies, and Science,” Steven Milloy’s “Jonkscience Judo,” Robert Zubrin’s “merchants of Despair”, the Center for Industrial progress’ “Power Hour Episodes # 23, 36 and 37.”

  2. Well, these 20 rules pretty much set Al Gore’s agenda aside, yes?

  3. Two points I wish to make here: 1) do a Yahoo video search for Richard Feynman’s Cargo Cult Science – there is a video of slides with voice recording of his Caltech 1974 Commencement Address and 2) if the authors of the Nature article wanted to educate the non-scientists, why publish it in Nature? Aren’t there other periodicals, blog sites or forums more readily available to the non-scientists?

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