Skepchick Quickies, 8.15


Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. In an oversimplification, maybe to the point of being wrong, the limits of science are proportional to the amount of work we are willing to put in to it. If the mysterious they aren’t willing to put the work nessecary to make sure the cited research is still valid, the statistical methods are reliable, and the conclusion is strong, then that makes the process that much more unreliable. If the media is going to grab every sound bite from every press release that negates the previous day’s press release, without seeing if this is a trend, or a blip, then that’s going to keep science looking like it can’t make up it’s mind. (Think what’s a miracle cure-all today, is a poison tomorrow.) If we the layperson don’t have a simple way to wade through constant barrage of talking heads saying the other guy is wrong, then its going to make us too confused to make any sense of anything, and listening to big Sci will be like listening to Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Science is a chain, which is only as strong as its weakest link. We, collectively, are the weakest link, and every time confusing, wrong, or fraudulent information gets disseminated, our link gets weaker and weaker.

  2. RE the boingboing article: Seems like that old canard “This is MICRO-evolution! Doesn’t prove MACRO-evolution!” is already starting up. Pretty sad that people can’t, or won’t, wrap their heads around the concept that evolution is a mostly slow process with lots of little, or “micro” steps, that when viewed cumulatively amounts to what those people would consider “macro”-evolution.

  3. I really appreciated the science article. Clearly honest science needs some humility in the face its own historical process and to admit that while they are not a branch of the humanities, they are humans involved in a human process.

    And hell yes! Distracted people are more, more,… ready for a bike ride!

  4. It’s really unfortunate that the science article is written by what appears to be a climate denialist and is riddled with inaccuracies.

    The old chestnut regarding the “flawed hockey stick graph” is taken out again. So much of it is based around more assertions of nebulous groups of scientists doing things no real scientists are doing.

    Hint: the original hockey stick graph was flawed; this flaw was discovered and made public by climate scientists. The corrected graph looks much like the old graph. If you weren’t a climate scientist, you probably wouldn’t notice the difference. If anyone can tell me where the concealment of information is here, I would be all ears.

  5. “The Limits of Science” is just bad. As Whitman said, it was scientists who corrected the flaw in the hockey stick, and it didn’t disprove anything. The physics examples are quotes from a few random scientists, as if an individual can represent an entire field. If physicists thought that physics was done, they wouldn’t continue their research. And the drug examples were terrible. Thalidomide’s failure was political, not scientific. It wasn’t tested to look for birth defects because the gov’t didn’t require it to be done. As for what it was tested for, the science was correct. As for Vioxx, again, not a fault of the science, it was the result of a lack of testing, as in, a lack of science. These examples are not saying we should distrust science, they’re saying we need to do more of it. Every single error listed in the article was corrected with more science. When the solution is the very method you’re trying to denigrate, your criticism is poor and unfounded.

  6. @Chris Whitman: I’m not sure how you come to the conclusion that Gottleib is a climate change denialist based on his discussion in the article. He’s not someone I’m that familiar with so after some limited goggling it appears that he’s a philosopher and firm believer in reason and I find no association with any climate denialism. My take on the article is that the author was making some salient points about being a reasonable consumer of science information and claims. In fact at the end of the article he states, “The contest is not a zero-sum game: the shortcomings of science do not make it rational to believe cranks instead”.

    @Vene: I think you miss Gottleibs’ point as well.

  7. The article on humans and pets has one fatal flaw. Yes, people are the only species that routinely keeps pets but other species have to work much harder to feed themselves and their offspring. Pets are cared for into old age in societies that have excess resources. That seldom happens with other animals. An n of 1 does not make a trend!

    Captive animals often form inter-species friendships and will, if they can, keep pets. I know one tiger who “raises” pet mice. She chews off small pieces of meat for the mice and protects them from other predators (of course, her shear size will keep most predators of mice away from the colony under her den box!).

    Yes, that’s an anecdote but most people who have cared for captive animals have similar stories. If other species had the surplus resources that we have and the option to “adopt” animals of other species I suspect we would see more pet keeping in other species. It would be really interesting to see which species tend to keep “pets” and which don’t.

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