This was Mike’s idea, and our first science topic in a while. It may surprise you to learn (it did me) that some scientists believe that most routine scientific studies are invalid because they simply contain basic errors in statistics. The reasons for this include ignorance of what statistics actually mean, sloppiness, and even unconscious bias.
Mike will open the meeting by explaining the notion of bad statistics. Then, after about 10-15 minutes, I’ll open it up to discussion, making sure that we branch out to cover some broader issues. The broader stuff will include the idea of deliberate as well as unconscious bias among scientists. You don’t have to buy into the “global warming and evolution are left-wing hoaxes” stuff to be concerned about the misuses to which Science can be put – by the scientists themselves as well as the news media and politically unscrupulous nonscientists.
- Mike’s basic idea: Much of science is based on flat-out bad use of statistics. A must read for TH’s mtg.
- Our meeting in April 2011 on, “Is Science Political?” I quoted someone who said science becomes political as soon as the scientists start caring about the outcome! The caring can be about career advancement, funding, status, and other matters besides politics.
- The subtle corruption infesting much of medical research.
- We also could talk about what Michael Pollan has called the “nutrition-industrial complex,” the alliance of food scientists, food processors, and advertisers that he says misuses nutrition science to sell us ever more and lower quality foods. Note: In his books, Pollan bashes the nutrition scientists themselves as much as he does the big, bad corporations.
Regarding climate change denial, I don’t know quite what to say or link to. Calling an entire scientific field a politically-motivated fraud is unprecedented in our history, as far as I know. Why? Unlike, say, creationism, which is motivated by faith, climate skepticism (1) is funded so heavily by gigantic corporate interests that stand to benefit by the status quo, and (2) has become a litmus test for one of our two major political parties. Still, FWIW:
- A site that lays out how to rebut climate change skeptics’ arguments. There are others.
- My favorite climate site: Climate Progress. It tracks the latest scientific findings on climate change and frequently rebuts the other side’s claims.
Let’s remember to have a respectful conversation on this one!