Predatory journals

I had my first Twitter controversy. So:

I pointed out in the reply to this, that they don’t actually charge that much normally. The comparison is here. The prices are around 500-3000 USD, with an average (eyeballed) around 2500 USD.

Now, this is just a factual error, so not so bad. However…

If anyone is wondering why he is so emotional, he gave the answer himself:

A very brief history of journals and science

  • Science starts out involving few individuals.
  • They need a way to communicate ideas.
  • They set up journals to distribute the ideas on paper.
  • Printing costs money, so they cost money to buy.
  • Due to limitations of paper space, there needs to be some selection in what gets printed, which falls on the editor. Fast forward to perhaps 1950’s, now there are too many papers for the editors to handle, and so they delegate the job of deciding what to accept to other academics (reviewers). In the system, academics write papers, they edit them, and review them. All for free.
  • Fast forward to perhaps 1990 and what happens is that big business takes over the running of the journals so academics can focus on science. As it does, the prices rise becus of monetary interests.
  • Academics are reluctant to give up publishing in and buying journals becus their reputation system is built on publishing in said journals. I.e. the system is inherently conservatively biased (Status quo bias). It is perfect for business to make money from.
  • Now along comes the internet which means that publishing does not need to rely on paper. This means that marginal printing cost is very close to 0. Yet the journals keep demanding high prices becus academia is reliant on them becus they are the source of the reputation system.
  • There is a growing movement in academia that this is a bad situation for science, and that publications shud be openly available (open access movement). New OA journals are set up. However, since they are also either for-profit or crypto for-profit, in order to make money they charge outrageous amounts of money (say, anything above 100 USD) to publish some text+figures on a website. Academics still provide nearly all the work for free, yet they have to pay enormous amounts of money to publish, while the publisher provides a mere website (and perhaps some copyediting etc.).

Who thinks that is a good solution? It is clearly a smart business move. For instance, popular OA metajournal Frontiers are owned by Nature Publishing Group. This company thus very neatly both makes money off their legacy journals and the new challenger journals.

The solution is to set up journals run by academics again now that the internet makes this rather easy and cheap. The profit motive is bad for science and just results in even worse journals.

As for my claim, I stand by it. Altho in retrospect, the more correct term is parasitic. Publishers are a middleman exploiting the the fact that academia relies on established journals for reputation.

Review: Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction

I had low expectations for this book. It was assigned for some humanities class im taking (Studium generale). However, the book is a quite decent introduction to the field. Happily surprised.



The first two statements are called the premisses of the inference,

while the third statement is called the conclusion. This is a

deductive inference because it has the following property: if the

premisses are true, then the conclusion must be true too. In other

words, if it’s true th at all Frenchman like red wine, and if it’s true

th at Pierre is a Frenchman, it follows th at Pierre does indeed like

red wine. This is sometimes expressed by saying th at the

premisses of the inference entail the conclusion. Of course, the

premisses of this inference are almost certainly not true – there

are bound to be Frenchmen who do not like red wine. But that is

not the point. What makes the inference deductive is the

existence of an appropriate relation between premisses and

conclusion, namely th at if the premisses are true, the conclusion

must be true too. Whether the premisses are actually true is a

different matter, which doesn’t affect the status of the inference as



This distinction is not a good idea. In that case, the existence of a deductive and invalid argument is impossible. I wrote about this area years ago, but apparently never finished my essay, or published it. It is still on my desktop.



Philosophers of science are interested in probability for two main

reasons. The first is th at in many branches of science, especially

physics and biology, we find laws and theories th at are formulated

using the notion of probability. Consider, for example, the theory

known as Mendelian genetics, which deals with the transmission

of genes from one generation to another in sexually reproducing

populations. One of the most important principles of Mendelian

genetics is that every gene in an organism has a 50% chance of

making it into any one of the organism’s gametes (sperm or egg

cells). Hence there is a 50% chance th at any gene found in your

mother will also be in you, and likewise for the genes in your

father. Using this principle and others, geneticists can provide

detailed explanations for why particular characteristics (e.g. eye

colour) are distributed across the generations of a family in the

way that they are. Now ‘chance’ is ju st another word for

probability, so it is obvious th at our Mendelian principle makes

essential use of the concept of probability. Many other examples

could be given of scientific laws and principles th at are expressed

in terms of probability. The need to understand these laws and

principles is an important motivation for the philosophical study of



Author forgot about sex-linked genes, which complicate matters.



Modern science can explain a great deal about the world we live in.

But there are also numerous facts th at have not been explained by

science, or at least not explained fully. The origin of life is one such

example. We know that about 4 billion years ago, molecules with

the ability to make copies of themselves appeared in the primeval

soup, and life evolved from there. But we do not understand how

these self-replicating molecules got there in the first place. Another

example is the fact th at autistic children tend to have very good

memories. Numerous studies of autistic children have confirmed

this fact, but as yet nobody has succeeded in explaining it.


Wiki seems to be of the exact opposite opinion.



Since the realism/anti-realism debate concerns the aim of science,

one might think it could be resolved by simply asking the scientists

themselves. Why not do a straw poll of scientists asking them about

their aims? But this suggestion misses the point – it takes the

expression ‘the aim of science’ too literally. When we ask what the

aim of science is, we are not asking about the aims of individual

scientists. Rather, we are asking how best to make sense of what

scientists say and do – how to interpret the scientific enterprise.

Realists think we should interpret all scientific theories as

attempted descriptions of reality; anti-realists think this

interpretation is inappropriate for theories th at talk about

unobservable entities and processes. While it would certainly be

interesting to discover scientists’ own views on the realism/anti-

realism debate, the issue is ultimately a philosophical one.


Good idea. Is that a case for expertimental filosofy?


Cudnt find any data from a quick google.



Cladists argue th at their way of classifying is ‘objective’ while th at of

the pheneticists is not. There is certainly some tru th in this charge.

For pheneticists base their classifications on the similarities

between species, and judgements of similarity are invariably partly

subjective. Any two species are going to be similar to each other in

some respects, but not in others. For example, two species of insect

might be anatomically quite similar, but very diverse in their

feeding habits. So which ‘respects’ do we single out, in order to

make judgements of similarity? Pheneticists hoped to avoid this

problem by defining a measure o f ‘overall similarity’, which would

take into account all of a species’ characteristics, thus permitting

fully objective classifications to be constructed. But though this idea

sounds nice, it did not work, not least because there is no obvious

way to count characteristics. Most people today believe that the very

idea o f ‘overall similarity’ is philosophically suspect. Phenetic

classifications do exist, and are used in practice, but they are not

fully objective. Different similarity judgements lead to different

phenetic classifications, and there is no obvious way to choose

between them.


Surely someone has tried factor analysis to find this overall similarity factor, if there is one? It’s not that hard to find out. Make a huge list of things to measure to species. Measure it all in say, 1000 species, and then factor analyze it. Is there an overall factor similar to g? If not, then the hypothesis is disconfirmed.


I checked. Yes, someone did this.


Seems to be common practice. So this can avoid the charge of arbitrary classifications.



A similar issue arises regarding the relation between the natural

sciences and the social sciences. Ju st as philosophers sometimes

complain o f ‘science worship’ in their discipline, so social scientists

sometimes complain o f ‘natural science worship’ in theirs. There is

no denying that the natural sciences – physics, chemistry, biology,

etc. – are in a more advanced state than the social sciences –

economics, sociology, anthropology, etc. A number of people have

wondered why this is so. It can hardly be because natural scientists

are smarter than social scientists. One possible answer is that the

methodsof the natural sciences are superior to those of the social

sciences. If this is correct, then what the social sciences need to do

to catch up is to ape the methods of the natural sciences. And to

some extent, this has actually happened. The increasing use of

mathematics in the social sciences may be partly a result of this

attitude. Physics made a great leap forward when Galileo took the

step of applying mathematical language to the description of

motion; so it is tempting to think that a comparable leap forward

might be achievable in the social sciences, if a comparable way of

‘mathematicizing’ their subject matter can be found.


Ofc it can! All data confirm this, ex.


Social science has the triple disadvantage of having 1) less smart researchers, 2) a more complex field, 3) fewer experimental options (due to ethical and monetary problems).



To be fair to the creation scientists, they do olfer arguments th at are

specific to the theory of evolution. One of their favourite arguments

is that the fossil record is extremely patchy, particularly when it

comes to the supposed ancestors of Homo sapiens.There is some

truth in this charge. Evolutionists have long puzzled over the gaps

in the fossil record. One persistent puzzle is why there are so few

‘transition fossils’ – fossils of creatures intermediate between two

species. If later species evolved from earlier ones as Darwin’s theory

asserts, surely we would expect transition fossils to be very \

common? Creationists take puzzles of this sort to show that

Darwin’s theory is ju st wrong. But the creationist arguments are

uncompelling, notwithstanding the real difficulties in

understanding the fossil record. For fossils are not the only or even

the main source of evidence for the theory of evolution, as

creationists would know if they had read The Origin o f Species.

Comparative anatomy is another important source of evidence, as

are embryology biogeography, and genetics. Consider, for example,

the fact that humans and chimpanzees share 98% of their DNA.

This and thousands of similar facts make perfect sense if the theory

of evolution is true, and thus constitute excellent evidence for the

theory. Of course, creation scientists can explain such facts too.

They can claim th at God decided to make humans and chimpanzees

genetically similar, for reasons of His own. But the possibility of

giving ‘explanations’ o f this sort really ju st points to the fact that

Darwin’s theory is not logically entailed by the data. As we have

seen, the same is true o f every scientific theory. The creationists

have merely highlighted the general methodological point th at data

can always be explained in a multitude of ways. This point is true,

but shows nothing special about Darwinism.


The author is confused about transitional fossils. All fossils are transitionary. There is no point at which



Human sociobiologists (henceforth simply ‘sociobiologists’) believe

th at many behavioural traits in humans can be given adaptationist

explanations. One of their favourite examples is incest-avoidance.

Incest – or sexual relations between members of the same family –

is regarded as taboo in virtually every human society, and subject to

legal and moral sanctions in most. This fact is quite striking, given

th at sexual mores are otherwise quite diverse across human

societies. Why the prohibition on incest? Sociobiologists offer the

following explanation. Children born of incestuous relationships

often have serious genetic defects. So in the past, those who

practised incest would have tended to leave fewer viable offspring

than those who didn’t. Assuming th at the incest-avoiding behaviour

was genetically based, and thus transmitted from parents to their

offspring, over a number of generations it would have spread

through the population. This explains why incest is so rarely found

in human societies today.





If this response is correct, it means we should sharply distinguish

the ‘scientific’ objections to sociobiology from the ‘ideological’

objections. Reasonable though this sounds, there is one point it

doesn’t address: advocates of sociobiology have tended to be

politically right-wing, while its critics have tended to come from the

political left. There are many exceptions to this generalization,

especially to the first half of it, b ut few would deny the trend

altogether. I f sociobiology is simply an impartial enquiry into the

facts, what explains the trend? Why should there be any correlation

at all between political opinions and attitudes towards

sociobiology? This is a tricky question to answer. For though some

sociobiologists may have had hidden political agendas, and though

some of sociobiology’s critics have had opposing agendas of their

own, the correlation extends even to those who debate the issue in

apparently scientific terms. This suggests, though does not prove,

th at the ‘ideological’ and ‘scientific’ issues may not be quite so easy

to separate after all. So the question of whether sociobiology is a

value-free science is less easy to answer than might have been



This typical claim has been found to be wrong. And it also doesnt fit with other facts, like that Wilson is a socialist. The father of sociobiology! Dawkins has also expressed leftist beliefs.


Critics of evolutionary psychology and sociobiology have advanced an adaptationists-as-right-wing-conspirators (ARC) hypothesis, suggesting that adaptationists use their research to support a right-wing political agenda. We report the first quantitative test of the ARC hypothesis based on an online survey of political and scientific attitudes among 168 US psychology Ph.D. students, 31 of whom self-identified as adaptationists and 137 others who identified with another non-adaptationist meta-theory. Results indicate that adaptationists are much less politically conservative than typical US citizens and no more politically conservative than non-adaptationist graduate students. Also, contrary to the “adaptationists-as-pseudo-scientists” stereotype, adaptationists endorse more rigorous, progressive, quantitative scientific methods in the study of human behavior than non-adaptationists.

Review: Bad Pharma


Having already read Peter Gøtzsche’s Dødelig medicin og organiseret kriminalitet: Hvordan medicinalindustrien har korrumperet sundhedsvæsenet. Art People, 2013, this book did not bring so much new. However, it did present things better than Gøtzsche did. To be fair, he focused mostly on proving that the farma industry are organized criminals. I agree, but the science is more interesting than reading about 100 different cases of farma companies cheating and getting fines.




If you’re a nerd, you might think: these files are electronic;

they’re PDFs, a type o f file specifically designed to make sharing

electronic documents convenient. Any nerd will know that if

you want to find something in an electronic document, it’s easy:

you just use the ‘find’ command: type in, say, ‘peripheral

neuropathy’, and your computer will find the phrase straight

off. But no: unlike almost any other serious government docu­

ment in the world, the PDFs from the FDA are a series of photo­

graphs of pages of text, rather than the text itself. This means

you cannot search for a phrase. Instead, you have to go through

it, searching for that phrase, laboriously, by eye.


Easily solved by OCR software.



Sharing data of individual patients’ outcomes in clinical

trials, rather than just the final summary result, has several

significant advantages. First, it’s a safeguard against dubious

analytic practices. In the VIGOR trial on the painkiller Vioxx,

for example, a bizarre reporting decision was made.83 The aim

of the study was to compare Vioxx against an older, cheaper

painkiller, to see if it was any less likely to cause stomach prob­

lems (this was the hope for Vioxx), and also if it caused more

heart attacks (this was the fear). But the date cut-off for mea­

suring heart attacks was much earlier than that for measuring

stomach problems. This had the result of making the risks look

less significant, relative to the benefits, but it was not declared

clearly in the paper, resulting in a giant scandal when it was

eventually noticed. If the raw data on patients was shared,

games like these would be far easier to spot, and people might

be less likely to play them in the first place.


Occasionally – with vanishing rarity – researchers are able to

obtain raw data, and re-analyse studies that have already been

conducted and published. Daniel Coyne, Professor of Medicine

at Washington University, was lucky enough to get the data on a

key trial for epoetin, a drug given to patients on kidney dialysis,

after a four-year-long fight.84 The original academic publication

on this study, ten years earlier, had switched the primary

outcomes described in the protocol (we will see later how this

exaggerates the benefits of treatments), and changed the main

statistical analysis strategy (again, a huge source of bias). Coyne

was able to analyse the study as the researchers had initially

stated they were planning to in their protocol; and when he did,

he found that they had dramatically overstated the benefits of

the drug. It was a peculiar outcome, as he himself acknowl­

edges: ‘As strange as it seems, I am now the sole author of the

publication on the predefined primary and secondary results of

the largest outcomes trial of epoetin in dialysis patients, and I

didn’t even participate in the trial.’ There is room, in my view,

for a small army o f people doing the very same thing, re-

analysing all the trials that were incorrectly analysed, in ways

that deviated misleadingly from their original protocols.


This is the kind of second-order scientist that was described in the paper:

Nosek, Brian A., and Yoav Bar-Anan. “Scientific utopia: I. Opening scientific communication.” Psychological Inquiry 23.3 (2012): 217-243.


This paper is extremely interesting by the way. Read it. Yes, seriously!

Review: Making sense of heritability



This is a GREAT book, which goes down to the basics about heritability and the various claims people have made against it. Highly recommended. Best book of the 29 i have read this year.


The denial of genetically based psychological differences is the kind of sophisti-

cated error normally accessible only to persons having Ph.D. degrees.

David Lykken


Quote checks out.



I was introduced to the nature–nurture debate by reading Ned Block

and Gerald Dworkin’s well-known and widely cited anthology about

the IQ controversy (Block & Dworkin 1976a). This collection of arti-

cles has long been the main source of information about the heredity–

environment problem for a great number of scientists, philosophers, and

other academics. It is not an exaggeration to say that the book has been

the major influence on thinking about this question for many years. Like

most readers, I also left the book with a feeling that hereditarianism (the

view that IQ differences among individuals or groups are in substantial

part due to genetic differences) is facing insuperable objections that strike

at its very core.


There was something very satisfying, especially to philosophers, about

the way hereditarianism was criticized there. A strong emphasis was on

conceptual and methodological difficulties, and the central arguments

against hereditarianism appeared to have full destructive force indepen-

dently of empirical data, which are, as we know, both difficult to evaluate

and inherently unpredictable.


So this looked like a philosopher’s dream come true: a scientific issue

with potentially dangerous political implications was defused not through

an arduous exploration of themessy empiricalmaterial but by using a dis-

tinctly philosophical method of conceptual analysis and methodological

criticism. It was especially gratifying that the undermined position was

often associated with politically unacceptable views like racism, toler-

ation of social injustice, etc. Besides, the defeat of that doctrine had a

certain air of finality. It seemed to be the result of very general, a priori

considerations, which, if correct, could not be reversed by “unpleasant”

discoveries in the future.


But very soon I started having second thoughts about Block and

Dworkin’s collection. The reasons are worth explaining in some detail

I think, because the book is still having a considerable impact, especially

on discussions in philosophy of science.


First, some of the arguments against hereditarianism presented there

were just too successful. The refutations looked so utterly simple, elegant,

and conclusive that it made me wonder whether competent scientists

could have really defended a position that was somanifestly indefensible.

Something was very odd about the whole situation.



There is indeed something about this. This book is a premier case of what Weinberg called mentioned with his comment “…a knowledge of philosophy does not seem to be of use to physicists – always with the exception that the work of some philosophers helps us to avoid the errors of other philosophers.”





Of course,Bouchardwould be justified in notworrying toomuch about

these global methodological criticisms if the only people who made a

fuss over them were philosophers of science. Even with this unfriendly

stance becoming a consensus in philosophy of science, scientists might

still remain unimpressed because many of them would probably be sym-

pathetic to JamesWatson’s claim: “I do not like to suffer at all from what

I call the German disease, an interest in philosophy” (Watson 1986: 19).


Source is: Watson, J. D. 1986, “Biology: A Necessarily Limitless Vista,” in S. Rose and L.

Appignanesi (eds.), Science and Beyond, Oxford, Blackwell.



At this point I am afraid I may lose some of my scientific readers.

Remembering Steven Weinberg’s statement that the insights of philoso-

phers have occasionally benefited scientists, “but generally in a negative

fashion – by protecting them from the preconceptions of other philoso-

phers” (Weinberg 1993: 107), they might conclude that it is best just to

avoid reading any philosophy (including this book), and that in this way

they will neither contract preconceptions nor need protection fromthem.

But the problemis that the preconceptions discussed here do not originate

from a philosophical armchair. Scientists should be aware that to a great

extent these preconceptions come from some of their own. Philosophers

of science uncritically accepted these seductive but ultimately fallacious

arguments from scientists, repackaged them a little, and then fed them

back to the scientific community, which often took them very seriously.

Bad science was mistaken for good philosophy.


Sesardic clearly saw the same connection to Weinberg’s comments as i did. :)



It may seem surprising that Jones dismissed the views of the founder

of his own laboratory (Galton Laboratory, University College London)

in such amanner. But then again this should perhaps not be so surprising.

One can hardly be expected to study seriously the work of a man whom

one happens to call publicly “Victorian racist swine” – the way Jones

referred to Galton in an interview (Grove 1991). Also, in Jones’s book

Genetics for Beginners (Jones & Van Loon 1993: 169), Galton is pictured

in a Nazi uniform, with a swastika on his sleeve.


The virulent antinazism among these lefties is extraordinary. It targets everybody having the least to do with ideas the nazis also liked. It is a wonder no one attacks vegetarians or people who campaign against smoking for being nazis…



Arthur Jensen once said that “a heritability study may be regarded

as a Geiger counter with which one scans the territory in order to find

the spot one can most profitably begin to dig for ore” (Jensen 1972b:

243). That Jensen’s advice as to how to look upon heritability is merely

an application of a standard general procedure in causal reasoning is

confirmed by the following observation from an introduction to causal

analysis: “the decomposition of statistical associations represents a first

step. The results indicate which effects are important and which may be

safely ignored, that is, where we ought to start digging in order to uncover

the nature of the causal mechanisms producing association between our

variables” (Hellevik 1984: 149). High heritability of a trait (in a given

population) often signals that it may be worthwhile to dig further, in the

sense that an important geneticmechanismcontrolling differences in this

trait may thus be uncovered.8


Another great Jensen insight.


Citation is to: 1972b, “Discussion,” in L. Ehrman, G. S. Omenn, E. Caspari (eds.), Genetics,

Environment and Behavior, New York, Academic Press.



Second, even if a trait is shared by all organisms in a given population

it can still be heritable – if we take a broader perspective, and compare

that populationwith other populations. The critics of heritability are often

confused, and switch from one perspective to another without noticing it.

Consider the following “problem” for heritability:


the heritability of “walking on two legs” is zero.And yetwalking on two legs

is clearly a fundamental property of being human, and is one of the more

obvious biological differences between humans and other great apes such

as chimpanzees or gorillas. It obviously depends heavily on genes, despite

having a heritability of zero. (Bateson 2001b: 565; cf. Bateson 2001a: 150–

151; 2002: 2212)


When Bateson speaks about the differences between humans and other

great apes, the heritability of walking on two legs in that population

(consisting of humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas) is certainly not zero.

On the other hand, within the human species itself the heritability may

well be zero. So, if it is just made entirely clear which population is

being discussed, no puzzling element remains. In the narrower popula-

tion (humans), the question “Do genetic differences explain why some

people walk on two legs and some don’t?” has a negative answer because

there are no such genetic differences. In the broader population (humans,

chimpanzees, and gorillas) the question “Do genetic differences explain

why some organisms walk on two legs and some don’t?” has an affirma-

tive answer. All this neatly accords with the logic of heritability, and cre-

ates no problem whatsoever. The critics of hereditarianism like to repeat

that heritability is a population-relative statistic, but when they raise this

kind of objection it seems that they themselves forget this important



Things like the number of finger is also heritable within populations. There are rare genetic mutations that cause supernumerary body parts:


However, these are very rare, so to spot them, one needs a huge sample size. Surely the heritability of having 6 fingers is high, while the heritability of having 4 fingers is low, but not zero. Of the people who have 4 fingers, most of the casesare probably caused by unique environment (i.e. accidents), but some are caused by genetics.



(4) It is often said that in individual cases it is meaningless to compare

the importance of interacting causes: “If an event is the result of the joint

operation of a number of causative chains and if these causes ‘interact’

in any generally accepted meaning of the word, it becomes conceptually

impossible to assign quantitative values to the causes of that individual

event” (Lewontin 1976a: 181).But this is in fact not true.Take, for example,

the rectangle with width 2 and length 1 (from Figure 2.3). Its area is 2,

which is considerably below the average area for all rectangles (around

100). Why is that particular rectangle smaller than most others? Is its

width or its length more responsible for that? Actually, this question is

not absurd at all. It has a straightforward and perfectlymeaningful answer.

The rectangleswith thatwidth (2) have on average the area that is identical

to the mean area for all rectangles (100.66), so the explanation why the

area of that particular rectangle deviates so much from the mean value

cannot be in its width. It is its below-average length that is responsible.


Even the usually cautious David Lykken slips here by condemning

the measurement of causal influences in the individual case as inherently

absurd: “It is meaningless to ask whether Isaac Newton’s genius was due

more to his genes or his environment, as meaningless as asking whether

the area of a rectangle is due more to its length or its width” (Lykken

1998a: 24). Contrary to what he says, however, it makes perfect sense to

inquire whether Newton’s extraordinary contributions were more due to

his above-average inherited intellectual ability or to his being exposed

to an above-average stimulating intellectual environment (or to some

particular combination of the two). The Nuffield Council on Bioethics

makes a similar mistake in its report on genetics and human behavior:

“It is vital to understand that neither concept of heritability [broad or

narrow] allows us to conclude anything about the role of heredity in the

development of a characteristic in an individual” (Nuffield 2002: 40). On

the contrary, if the broad heritability of a trait is high, this does tell us

that any individual’s phenotypic divergence from the mean is probably

more caused by a non-standard genetic influence than by a non-typical

environment. For a characteristically clear explanation of why gauging

the contributions of heredity and environment is not meaningless even in

an individual case, see Sober 1994: 190–192.


This is a good point. The reason not to talk about the causes of a particular level of g in some person is not that it is a meaningless question, it is that it is difficult to know the answer. But in some cases, it is clearly possible, cf. my number of fingers scenario above.



Nesardic mentions two studies that fysical attractiveness is not correlated with intelligence. That goes against what i believe(d?). He cites:


Feingold, A. 1992, “Good-looking People Are NotWhatWe Think,” Psycholog-

ical Bulletin 111: 304–341.


Langlois, J. H., Kalakanis, L., Rubenstein, A. J., Larson, A., Hallam, M., and

Smoot, M. 2000, “Maxims or Myths of Beauty? A Meta-Analytic and Theo-

retical Review,” Psychological Bulletin 126: 390–423.


But i apparently dont have access to the first one. But the second one i do have. In it one can read:


According to this maxim, there is no necessary correspondence

between external appearance and the behavior or personality of an

individual (Ammer, 1992). Two meta-analyses have examined the

relation between attractiveness and some behaviors and traits

(Feingold, 1992b2; L. A. Jackson, Hunter, & Hodge, 1995). Fein-

gold (1992b) reported significant relations between attractiveness

and measures of mental health, social anxiety, popularity, and

sexual activity but nonsignificant relations between attractiveness

and sociability, internal locus of control, freedom from self-

absorption and manipulativeness, and sexual permissiveness in

adults. Feingold also found a nonsignificant relation between at-

tractiveness and intelligence (r = .04) for adults, whereas L. A.

Jackson et al. found a significant relation for both adults (d = .24

overall, d = .02 once selected studies were removed) and for

children (d = .41).


These meta-analyses suggest that there may be a relation be-

twe^n behavior and attractiveness, but the inconsistencies in re-

sults call for additional attention. Moreover, the vast majority of

dependent variables analyzed by Feingold (1992b) and L. A.

Jackson et al. (1995) assessed traits as defined by psychometric

tests (e.g., IQ) rather than behavior as defined by observations of

behaviors in actual interactions. Thus, to fully understand the

relations among appearance, behaviors, and traits, it is important to

broaden the conception of behavior beyond that used by Feingold

and L. A. Jackson et al. If beauty is only skin-deep, then a

comprehensive meta-analysis of the literature should find no sig-

nificant differences between attractive and unattractive people in

their behaviors, traits, or self-views.


So, maybe. It seems difficult that g and pa (phy. attract.) is NOT associated purely by effect of mating choices, since females prefer males with high SES and males prefer females with have pa. Then comes the mutational load hypothesis, and the fact that smarter people presumably are better at taking care of their bodies, which increases pa. I find it very difficult indeed to believe that they arent correlated.



In my opinion, this kind of deliberate misrepresentation in attacks on

hereditarianism is less frequent than sheer ignorance. But why is it that a

number of peoplewho publicly attack “Jensenism” are so poorly informed

about Jensen’s real views? Given the magnitude of their distortions and

the ease with which these misinterpretations spread, one is alerted to

the possibility that at least some of these anti-hereditarians did not get

their information about hereditarianismfirst hand, fromprimary sources,

but only indirectly, from the texts of unsympathetic and sometimes quite

biased critics.8In this connection, it is interesting to note that several

authors who strongly disagree with Jensen (Longino 1990; Bowler 1989;

Allen 1990; Billings et al. 1992; McInerney 1996; Beckwith 1993; Kassim

2002) refer to his classic paper from 1969 by citing the volume of the

Harvard Educational Review incorrectly as “33” (instead of “39”). What

makes this mis-citation noteworthy is that the very same mistake is to

be found in Gould’s Mismeasure of Man (in both editions). Now the

fact that Gould’s idiosyncratic lapsus calami gets repeated in the later

sources is either an extremely unlikely coincidence or else it reveals that

these authors’ references to Jensen’s paper actually originate from their

contact with Gould’s text, not Jensen’s.


Gotcha. A nice illustrating case of the thing map makers used to use to prove plagiarism.


Incidentally, in this case it ended up having another use! :)



Nesardic quotes:


In December 1986 our newly-born daughter was diagnosed to be suffering

from a genetically caused disease called Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa

(EB). This is a disease in which the skin of the sufferer is lacking in certain

essential fibers. As a result, any contact with her skin caused large blisters

to form, which subsequently burst leaving raw open skin that healed only

slowly and left terrible scarring. As EB is a genetically caused disease it

is incurable and the form that our daughter suffered from usually causes

death within the first sixmonths of life . . .Our daughter died after a painful

and short life at the age of only 12 weeks. (quoted in Glover 2001: 431 –

italics added)


from: Glover, J. 2001, “Future People, Disability, and Screening,” in J. Harris (ed.),

Bioethics, Oxford, Oxford University Press.


Nasty disease indeed. Only eugenics can avoid such atrocities.



On the contrary, empirical evidence suggests that for many important

psychological traits (particularly IQ), the environmental influences that

account for phenotypic variation among adults largely belong to the non-

shared variety. In particular, adoption studies of genetically unrelated

children raised in the same family show that for many traits the adult

phenotypic correlation among these children is very close to zero (Plomin

et al. 2001: 299–300). This very surprising but consistent result points

to the conclusion that we may have greatly overestimated the impact

of variation in shared environmental influences.6The fact that variation

within a normal range does not have much effect was dramatized in the

following way by neuroscientist Steve Petersen:


At a minimum, development really wants to happen. It takes very impov-

erished environments to interfere with development because the biological

system has evolved so that the environment alone stimulates development.

What does this mean? Don’t raise your children in a closet, starve them, or

hit them in the head with a frying pan. (Quoted in Bruer 1999: 188)


But if social reforms are mainly directed at eliminating precisely these

between-family inequalities (economic, social, and educational), and if

these differences are not so consequential as we thought, then egalitar-

ianism will find a point of resistance not just in genes but also in the

non-heritable domain, i.e., in those uncontrollable and chaotically emerg-

ing environmental differences that by their very nature cannot be an easy

object for social manipulation.


All this shows that it is irresponsible to disregard constraints on mal-

leability and fan false hopes about what social or educational reforms can

do. As David Rowe said:


As social scientists, we should be wary of promisingmore than we are likely

to deliver. Physicists do not greet every new perpetual motion machine,

created by a basement inventor, with shouts of joy and claims of an endless

source of electrical or mechanical power; no, they know the laws of physics

would prevent it. (Rowe 1997: 154)


I will end this chapter with another qualification.Although heritability

puts constraints on malleability it is, strictly speaking, incorrect to say

that the heritable part of phenotypic variance cannot be decreased by

environmentalmanipulation. It is true that if heritability is, say, 80 percent

then at most 20 percent of the variation can be eliminated by equalizing

environments. But if we consider redistributing environments, without

necessarily equalizing them, a larger portion of variance than 20 percent

can be removed.


Table 5.5 gives an illustration how this might work.

In this examplewith just two genotypes and two environments (equally

distributed in the population), themain effect of the genotype on the vari-

ation in the trait (say, IQ) is obviously stronger than the environmental

effect. Going from G2 to G1 increases IQ 20 points, while going from the

less favorable environment (E2) to the more favorable one (E1) leads

to an increase of only 10 points. Heritability is 80 percent, the genetic

variance being 100 and the environmental variance being 25. Now if we

expose everyone to the more favorable environment (E1) we will com-

pletely remove the environmental variance (25), and the variance in the

new population will be 100. The genetic variance survives environmental

manipulation unscathed.




But there is a way to make an incursion into the “genetic territory.”

Suppose we expose all those endowed with G1 to the less favorable

environment (E2) and those with G2 to the more favorable environment

(E1). In this way we would get rid of the highest and lowest score, and

we would be left only with scores of 95 and 105. In terms of variance, we

would have succeeded in eliminating 80 percent of variance by manipu-

lating environment, despite heritability being 80 percent.


How is this possible? The answer is in the formula for calculating vari-

ance in chapter 1 (see p. 21). One component of variance is genotype–

environment correlation, which can have a negative numerical value.

This is what has happened in our example. The phenotype-increasing

genotype was paired with the phenotype-decreasing environment, and

the phenotype-decreasing genotype was paired with the phenotype-

increasing environment. This move introduced the negative G–E corre-

lation and neutralized the main effects, bringing about a drastic drop in



The strategy calls to mind the famous Kurt Vonnegut story “Harrison

Bergeron,” where the society intervenes very early and suppresses the

mere expression of superior innate abilities by imposing artificial obsta-

cles on gifted individuals. Here is just one short passage from Vonnegut:


And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little

mental-handicap radio in his ear – he was required by law to wear it at all

times. It was tuned to a government transmitter and, every twenty seconds

or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like

George from taking unfair advantage of their brains. (Vonnegut 1970: 7)


We all get a chill from the nightmare world of “Harrison Bergeron.” But

in its milder forms the idea that if the less talented cannot be brought

up to the level of those better endowed, the latter should then be held

back in their development for the sake of equality, is not entirely with-

out adherents. In one of the most carefully argued sociological studies

on inequality there is an interesting proposal in that direction, about

how to reduce differences in cognitive abilities that are caused by genetic



Asociety committed to achieving full cognitive equality would, for example,

probably have to exclude genetically advantaged children from school. It

might also have to impose other handicaps on them, like denying them

access to books and television. Virtually no one thinks cognitive equality

worth such a price.Certainlywe do not.But if our goalwere simply to reduce

cognitive inequality to, say, half its present level, instead of eliminating it

entirely, the pricemight bemuch lower. (Jencks et al. 1972: 75–76 – emphasis



So although Jencks and his associates concede that excluding geneti-

cally advantaged children from school and denying them access to books

may be too drastic, they appear to think that the price of equality could

become acceptable if the goalwas lowered andmeasuresmademoremod-

erate. Are they suggesting that George keeps the little mental-handicap

radio in his ear but that the noise volume should be set only at half



I wonder if someone cud make a good video based on this… Oh that’s right…



David Lykken had a good comment on this tendency of some

Darwinians (he had John Tooby and Leda Cosmides in mind) to pub-

licly dissociate themselves from behavior genetics, in the hope that this

move would make their own research less vulnerable to political criti-

cisms: “Are these folks just being politic, just claiming only the minimum

they need to pursue their own agenda while leaving the behavior geneti-

cists to contend with the main armies of political correctness?” (Lykken



There are some obvious, and other less obvious, consequences of polit-

ically inspired, vituperative attacks on a given hypothesisH.On the obvi-

ous side, many scientists who believe that H is true will be reluctant to

say so, many will publicly condemn it in order to eliminate suspicion that

they might support it, anonymous polls of scientists’ opinions will give

a different picture from the most vocal and most frequent public pro-

nouncements (Snyderman & Rothman 1988), it will be difficult to get

funding for research on “sensitive” topics,19the whole research area will

be avoided by many because one could not be sure to end up with the

“right” conclusion,20texts insufficiently critical of “condemned” views

will not be accepted for publication,21etc.


On the less obvious side, a nasty campaign against H could have the

unintended effect of strengthening H epistemically, and making the criti-

cism of H look less convincing. Simply, if you happen to believe that H is

true and if you also know that opponents of H will be strongly tempted

to “play dirty,” that they will be eager to seize upon your smallest mis-

take, blow it out of all proportion, and label you with Dennett’s “good

epithets,” with a number of personal attacks thrown in for good measure,

then if you still want to advocate H, you will surely take extreme care to

present your argument in the strongest possible form. In the inhospitable

environment for your views, you will be aware that any major error is a

liability that you can hardly afford, because it willmore likely be regarded

as a reflection of your sinister political intentions than as a sign of your

fallibility. The last thing onewants in this situation is the disastrous combi-

nation of being politically denounced (say, as a “racist”) and being proved

to be seriously wrong about science. Therefore, in the attempt to make

themselves as little vulnerable as possible to attacks they can expect from

their uncharitable and strident critics, those who defendHwill tread very

cautiously and try to build a very solid case before committing themselves

publicly. As a result, the quality of their argument will tend to rise, if the

subject matter allows it.22


Interesting effects of the unpopularity of the views.



First of all, the issue about heritability is obviously a purely empirical

and factual one. So there is a strong case for denying that it can affect

our normative beliefs. But it is worth noting that the idea that a certain

heritability value could have political implications was not only criticized

for violatingHume’s law, but also for being politically dangerous. Bluntly,

if the high heritability of IQ differences between races really has racist

implications then it would seem that, after all, science could actually dis-

cover that racism is true.


The dangerwas clearly recognized byDavidHorowitz in his comments

on a statement on race that the Genetics Society of America (GSA)

wanted to issue in 1975. A committee preparing the statement took the

line that racism is best fought by demonstrating that racists’ belief in the

heritability of the black–white difference in IQ is disproved by science.

Horowitz objected:


The proposed statement is weak morally, for the following reason: Racists

assert that blacks are genetically inferior in I.Q. and therefore need not

be treated as equals. The proposed statement disputes the premise of the

assertion, but not the logic of the conclusion. It does not perceive that the

premise, while it may be mistaken, is not by itself racist: it is the conclusion

drawn (wrongly) from it that is racist. Even if the premise were correct, the

conclusion would not be justified …Yetthe proposed statement directs its

main fire at the premise, and by so doing seems to accept the racist logic.

It places itself in a morally vulnerable position, for if, at some future time,

that the premise is correct, then the whole GSA case collapses, together

with its case for equal opportunity. (Quoted in Provine 1986: 880)


The same argument was made by others:


To rest the case for equal treatment of national or racial minorities on

the assertion that they do not differ from other men is implicitly to admit

that factual inequality would justify unequal treatment. (Hayek 1960:


But to fear research on genetic racial differences, or the possible existence

of a biological basis for differences in abilities, is, in a sense, to grant the

racist’s assumption: that if it should be established beyond reasonable doubt

that there are biological or genetically conditioned differences in mental

abilities among individuals or groups, then we are justified in oppressing

or exploiting those who are most limited in genetic endowment. This is, of

course, a complete non sequitur. (Jensen 1972a: 329)

If someone defends racial discrimination on the grounds of genetic differ-

ences between races, it is more prudent to attack the logic of his argument

than to accept the argument and deny any differences. The latter stance can

leave one in an extremely awkward position if such a difference is subse-

quently shown to exist. (Loehlin et al. 1975: 240)

But it is a dangerousmistake to premise themoral equality of human beings

on biological similarity because dissimilarity, once revealed, then becomes

an argument for moral inequality. (Edwards 2003: 801)


Good point indeed.

Review: Beyond the Hoax: Science and Culture (Alan Sokal)

beyond the hoax – alan sokal

Much of the material is the same as in Sokal and Bricmont’s earlier book. But there is some new material as well. I especially found the stuff on hindu nationalism and pseudoscience interesting, and the stuff on pseudoscience in nursing. Never heard of that before, but it wasnt totally unexpected. All health related fields hav large amounts of pseudoscience. It is unfortunate that the most important fields are those most full of pseudoscience!


Part III goes on to treat weightier social and political topics using the

same lens. Chapter 8 analyzes the paradoxical relation between pseudo­

science and postmodernism, and investigates how extreme skepticism can

abet extreme credulity, using a series of detailed case studies: pseudosci­

entific therapies in nursing and “alternative medicine”; Hindu nationalist

pseudoscience in India21; and radical environmentalism. This investigation

is motivated by my suspicion that credulity in minor matters prepares the

mind for credulity in matters of greater import — and, conversely, that the

kind of critical thinking useful for distinguishing science from pseudoscience

might also be of some use in distinguishing truths in affairs of state from

lies. Chapter 9 takes on the largest and most powerful pseudoscience of all:

organized religion. This chapter focusses on the central philosophical and

political issues raised by religion in the contemporary world: it deplores the

damage that is done by our culture’s deference toward “faith”, and it asks

how nonbelievers and believers can find political common ground based

on shared moral ideas. Finally, Chapter 10 draws some of these concerns

together, and discusses the relationship between epistemology and ethics as

they interact in the public sphere.


surely this is true.



#115 The idea that theories should refer only to observable quantities is called operationalism.-, far

from being postmodernist, it was popular among physicists and philosophers of physics in the first

half of the twentieth century. But it has severe flaws: see Chapter 7 below (pp. 240-245) as well as

Weinberg (1992, pp. 174-184).


i thought this was a part of logiclal positivism, and it seems that it was. i knew about operational definitions.



When all is said and done, the fundamental flaw in Merchant and Hard­

ing’s metaphor-hermeneutics is not exegetical but logical. Let us grant for the

sake of argument that some of the founders of modem science consciously

used sexist metaphors to promote their epistemological and methodological

views (this much is probably true, even if Merchant and Harding have exag­

gerated the case). But what would that entail for the philosophy (as opposed

to the history) of science? Apparently the critics wish to claim that sexism

could have passed from metaphor into the substantive content of scientific

methods and/or theories. But if modem science does in fact contain sexist

assumptions, then surely the feminist theorists ought to be able to locate and

criticize those biased assumptions, independently of any argument from his­

tory. Indeed, to do otherwise is to commit the “genetic fallacy”: evaluating an

idea on the basis of its origin rather than its content.


Putting aside the florid accusations of rape and torture, the argument of

Merchant and Harding boils down to the assertion that the scientific rev­

olution of the seventeenth century displaced a female-centered (spiritual,

hermetic, organic, geocentric) universe in favor of a male-centered (ratio­

nalist, scientific, mechanical, heliocentric) one.21 How should we evaluate

this argument?


To begin with, one might wonder whether the gender associations claimed

for these two cosmologies are really as univocal as the feminist critics

claim.22 (After all, the main defender of the geocentric worldview — the

Catholic Church — was not exactly a female-centered enterprise, its adora­

tion of the Virgin Mary notwithstanding.) But let us put aside this objection

and grant these gender associations for the sake of argument; for the princi­

pal flaw in the Merchant-Harding thesis is, once again, not historical but log­

ical. Margarita Levin puts it bluntly: Do Merchant and Harding really “think

we have a choice about which theory is correct? Masculine or feminine, the

solar system is the way it is.”23


The same point applies not only to astronomy but to scientific theories

quite generally; and the bottom line is that there is ample evidence, indepen­

dent of any allegedly sexist imagery, for the epistemic value of modem sci­

ence. Therefore, as Koertge remarks, “if it really could be shown that patri­

archal thinking not only played a crucial role in the Scientific Revolution but

is also necessary for carrying out scientific inquiry as we know it, that would

constitute the strongest argument for patriarchy that I can think of!”24


true story :D



Of course, the feminist science-critics are not only archaeologists of

300-year-old science; some of their critique is resolutely modem, even post­

modern. Here, for instance, is what Donna Haraway, professor of the history

of consciousness (!) at the University of Califomia-Santa Cruz and one of

the most acclaimed feminist theorists of science, says about her research:


For the complex or boundary objects in which I am interested, the

mythic, textual, technical, political, organic, and economic dimensions

implode. That is, they collapse into each other in a knot of extraordinary

density that constitutes the objects themselves. In my sense, story telling

is in no way an ‘art practice’ — it is, rather, a fraught practice for narrat­

ing complexity in such a field of knots or black holes. In no way is story

telling opposed to materiality. But materiality itself is tropic; it makes us

swerve, it trips us; it is a knot of the textual, technical, mythic/oneiric,

organic, political, and economic.2


As right-wing critic Roger Kimball acidly comments: “Remember that this

woman is not some crank but a professor at a prestigious university and

one of the leading lights of contemporary ‘women’s studies.’ ”26 The saddest

thing, for us pinkos and feminists, is that Kimball is dead on target.


women’s studies is nearly completely trash. reminds me of the article about black studies in the US:



This theory is startling, to say the least: Does the author really believe

that menstruation makes it more difficult for young women to understand

elementary notions of geometry? Evidently we are not far from the Victorian

gentlemen who held that women, with their delicate reproductive organs,

are unsuited to rational thought and to science. With friends like this, the

feminist cause has no need of enemies.


the worst enemy of women: women.



[after quoting Lacan]

Mathematicians and physicists are used to receiving this sort of stuff in

typewritten envelopes from unknown correspondents. Lacan’s grammar and

spelling are better than in most of these treatises, but his logic isn’t. To put it

bluntly, Lacan is a crank — an unusually erudite one, to be sure, but a crank



interesting. i will ask Sokal to expand on that theme.



So, if we look critically at realism, we may be tempted to turn toward

instrumentalism. But if we look critically at instrumentalism, we feel forced

to return to a modest form of realism. What, then, should one do? Before

coming to a possible solution, let us first consider radical alternatives.


surprisingly true.



[after quoting Plantinga]

Let us stress that we disagree with 90% of Plantinga’s philosophy; but if he is so eloquently on

target on this particular point, why not give him credit for it?


i was surprised they quoted him, but then, they make that comment. perfect play!



Let me stress in advance that I will not be concerned here with explaining

in detail why astrology, homeopathy and the rest are in fact pseudoscience;

that would take me too far afield. Nor will I address, except in passing, the

important but difficult problems of understanding the psychological attrac­

tions of pseudoscience and the social factors affecting its spread.28 Rather,

my principal aim is to investigate the logical and sociological nexus between

pseudoscience and postmodernism.


footnote 28:

For a shrewd meditation on the former question, see Levitt (1999, especially pp. 12-22

and chapter 4). The latter question is indirectly addressed by Burnham (1987), in the context

of a fascinating history of the popularization of science in the United States in the nineteenth

and twentieth centuries.


For my own part, I have been struck by the fact that nearly all the pseudoscientific systems

to be examined in this essay are based philosophically on vitalism: that is, the idea that living

beings, and especially human beings, are endowed with some special quality ( “life energy”,

elan vital, prana, q i ) that transcends the ordinary laws of physics. Mainstream science has

rejected vitalism since at least the 1930s, for a plethora of good reasons that have only become

stronger with time (see e.g. Mayr 1982). But these good reasons are understood by only a tiny

fraction of the populace, even in the industrialized countries where science is supposedly held

in high esteem. Moreover — and perhaps much more importantly — the anti-vitalism charac­

teristic of modem science is deeply unsettling emotionally to most (perhaps all) people, even

to those who are not conventionally religious. See again Levitt (1999). Of course, none of these

speculations pretend to any scientific rigor; careful empirical investigation by psychologists

and sociologists is required.


vitalism -.-



Sokal mentions the experiment.


the proponents must really feel bad… even a child can disprove their beliefs. how study are they??? hopefully, it was only a fringe idea, right, right?


When I first heard about Emily’s experiment, I admired her ingenuity but

wondered whether anyone really took Therapeutic Touch seriously. How

wrong I was! Therapeutic Touch is taught in more than 80 college and uni­

versity schools of nursing in at least 70 countries, is practiced in at least

80 hospitals across North America, and is promoted by leading American

nursing associations.32 Its inventor claims to have trained more than 47,000

practitioners over a 26-year period, who have gone on to train many more.33

At least 245 books or dissertations have been published that include “Thera­

peutic Touch” in the title, subject headings or table of contents.34 All in all,

Therapeutic Touch appears to have become one of the most widely practiced

“holistic” nursing techniques.





cited from pseudoscience source:

[0]ur intuitive faculty is nothing other than a source of sound premises about the

nature of reality…. [T]here exists within us a source of direct information about

reality that can teach us all we need to know.


top #1 reason not to teach Plato’s nonsense.



But of course, those who believe in Genesis or transubstantiation do not

consider these ideas to be crazy; quite the contrary, they think that they have

good reasons to hold their beliefs. Indeed, Harris argues convincingly that

whenever any person P believes any proposition X — at least in the ordi­

nary sense of the English word “believe” — this requires, first of all, that P

must believe X to be true, i.e. to be a factually accurate representation of

the world; and secondly, that P must think he has good reasons to believe

X, in the sense that he envisions his belief as caused, at least in part, by

the fact that X is true. As Harris puts it (p. 63), “there must be some causal

connection, or an appearance thereof, between the fact in question and my

acceptance of it.”


this kind of causal reliabilism will not work. cf.




Why Open Access is a moral imperative

i hav riten about it befor, but here is som mor i came acros.
Found via:

For general public:

Background material for the curious:
Blog series:


Review: Science and pseudoscience in clinical psychology (Lilienfeld et al)

Science and pseudoscience in clinical psychology – edited by Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, Jeffrey M. Lohr.


Has a good discussion of the nature of science. som interesting discussions of varius dodgy and otherwise untested ideas in clinical psychology.



about the book:


As Bob Dylan wrote, “The times they are a-changin’ .” Over the past sev­

eral decades, clinical psychology and allied disciplines (e.g., psychiatry,

social work, counseling) have borne witness to a virtual sea-change in the

relation between science and practice. A growing minority of clinicians

appear to be basing their therapeutic and assessment practices primarily on

clinical experience and intuition rather than on research evidence. As a

consequence, the term “ scientist-practitioner gap” is being invoked with

heightened frequency (see foreword to this volume by Carol Tavris; Fox,

1996), and concerns that the scientific foundations of clinical psychology

are steadily eroding are being voiced increasingly in many quarters

(Dawes, 1994; Kalal, 1999; McFall, 1991). It is largely these concerns that

have prompted us to compile this edited volume, which features chapters

by distinguished experts across a broad spectrum of areas within clinical

psychology. Given the markedly changing landscape of clinical psychology,

we believe this book to be both timely and important.



Similarly questionable practices can be found in the domains of psy­

chological assessment and diagnosis. Despite well-replicated evidence that

statistical (actuarial) formulas are superior to clinical judgment for a broad

range of judgmental and predictive tasks (Grove, Zald, Lebow, Snitz, &

Nelson, 2000), most clinicians continue to rely on clinical judgment even

in cases in which it has been shown to be ill advised. There is also evidence

that many practitioners tend to be overconfident in their judgments and

predictions, and to fall prey to basic errors in reasoning (e.g., confirmatory

bias, illusory correlation) in the process of case formulation (Chapter 2).

Moreover, many practitioners base their interpretations on assessment in­

struments (e.g., human figure drawing tests, Rorschach Inkblot Test,

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, anatomically detailed dolls) that are either

highly controversial or questionable from a scientific standpoint (see Chap­

ter 3).


the cite is: Grove, W. M., Zald, D. H., Lebow, B. S., Snitz, B. E., &c Nelson, C. (2000). Clinical

versus mechanical prediction: A meta-analysis. Psychological Assessment, 12,




The process of making judgments and decisions requires a method for combining data. To compare the accuracy of clinical and mechanical (formal, statistical) data-combination techniques, we performed a meta-analysis on studies of human health and behavior. On average, mechanical-prediction techniques were about 10% more accurate than clinical predictions. Depending on the specific analysis, mechanical prediction substantially outperformed clinical prediction in 33%-47% of studies examined. Although clinical predictions were often as accurate as mechanical predictions, in only a few studies (6%-16%) were they substantially more accurate. Superiority for mechanical-prediction techniques was consistent, regardless of the judgment task, type of judges, judges’ amounts of experience, or the types of data being combined. Clinical predictions performed relatively less well when predictors included clinical interview data. These data indicate that mechanical predictions of human behaviors are equal or superior to clinical prediction methods for a wide range of circumstances.


seems interesting.





What are the primary sources of the growing scientist-practitioner gap? As

many authors have noted (see Lilienfeld, 1998, 2001, for a discussion),

some practitioners in clinical psychology and related mental health disci­

plines appear to making increased use of unsubstantiated, untested, and

otherwise questionable treatment and assessment methods. Moreover, psy­

chotherapeutic methods of unknown or doubtful validity are proliferating

on an almost weekly basis. For example, a recent and highly selective sam­

pling of fringe psychotherapeutic practices (Eisner, 2000; see also Singer &

Lalich, 1996) included neurolinguistic programming, eye movement desen­

sitization and reprocessing, Thought Field Therapy, Emotional Freedom

Technique, rage reduction therapy, primal scream therapy, feeling therapy,

Buddha psychotherapy, past lives therapy, future lives therapy, alien abduc­

tion therapy, angel therapy, rebirthing, Sedona method, Silva method, en­

tity depossession therapy, vegetotherapy, palm therapy, and a plethora of

other methods (see also Chapter 7).





The major criticism of the Smith and colleagues (1980) meta-analytic

study is that it is too inclusive; using all studies necessarily requires that

good and bad pieces of research are taken into account (e.g., Howard,

Krause, Sanders, & Kopta, 1997). Nevertheless, Smith et al. compared ef­

fect sizes on the basis of research quality. The rigor of the research had lit­

tle or no impact on effect size (Smith &c Glass, 1977; Smith et al., 1980).

The results, thus, were not artifacts of including methodologically weak in­

vestigations in the meta-analysis.


As efficacy research has burgeoned, so have the number of meta­

analyses. The primary findings of Smith and colleagues (1980) have been

repeatedly affirmed (Wampold, 2001). Not only does psychotherapy

appear to be effective, but there is little evidence that one therapy is signifi­

cantly better than another. The most comprehensive meta-analysis (Wam­

pold et al., 1997) and a meta-analysis of 32 meta-analyses (Grissom, 1996)

have corroborated the conclusion reached 65 years ago by Rosenzweig

(1936). He characterized the apparent uniform efficacy of psychotherapies

at the time as the Dodo bird verdict, after the Dodo’s observation at the

end of a race in Alice in Wonderland that “Everybody has won and all

must have prizes” (p. 412). This conclusion bears profound implications

for the field of psychotherapy, which for the past five decades has been pre­

occupied with unearthing the essential, specific findings of behavior

change in the form of the best therapy. The verdict so far is that psycho­

therapies appear to share common, not specific, therapeutic features.



Recovered memory therapy (RMT): Therapists operate on the as­

sumption that their client’s psychological distress, lack of success, failed re­

lationships, and so forth are due to traumatic experiences, typically under

the control of their parents. RMT often involves the belief that the inten­

sity of the childhood trauma was so great as to cause dissociative “ split­

ting” into multiple personalities, now known as dissociative identity disor­

der (see Chapter 5). In RMT, the process of therapy often consists of

diverse methods of recovering the “ lost memories,” including hypnotic in­

duction, administration of “ truth serum” (sodium pentathol), group ther­

apy, guided fantasies, religious-based prayer, and assertions by therapists

that the client’s symptoms could only have been caused by a traumatic

event (see Chapter 8, for a critique of these and related methods). Given a

New Age therapist’s belief in RMT, therapy becomes unending as the client

is taken back into earlier past lives, additional alien abductions, and addi­

tional split-off personalities (known as “ alters” ; see Chapter 5). Alien ab­

duction therapy, one variation of RMT, holds that extraterrestrials landed

on earth and abducted and then molested the individual, thereby causing

the past trauma. Past lives therapy, another variation of RMT, holds that

all of life’s travails are due having lived a series of past lives and having

“ unfinished business” from past lives invading one’s current life.


such ideas seem to dovetail beautifully with blank slate ideas. if it isnt genes or the persons own fault, it has to be somthing els. past traume fits the role nicely, yes?



Satanic Ritual Abuse: The Case of Patricia Burgus, the

Satanic Princess”

The most widely publicized case of SRA is that of Patricia Burgus, who

won a $10.6 million settlement (Acocella, 1999; Ofshe & Waters, 1993b;

Pendergrast, 1996). In 1995, Frontline, a national TV documentary, aired

a program titled “The Search for Satan.” The program chronicled Ms.

Burgus’s treatment with Dr. Bennett Braun. She originally sought treatment

for postpartum depression, but was hospitalized for 3 years by Dr. Braun

in the Dissociative Disorders unit of Rush-Presbyterian Hospital in Chi­

cago. Ms. Burgus was labeled as a “ satanic princess.” At Braun’s sugges­

tion, her two sons, ages 4 and 5, were also hospitalized for over 3 years.

Each son was told that he was a multiple personality (see Chapter 5), that

he had been in his mother’s satanic cult, that he had eaten babies, and that

he had felt what it was like to bite into a baby while it was still alive. As

part of therapy, both sons “ learned” that they were practiced killers. Ms.

Burgus was led to believe that she had molested them. While in treatment

with Dr. Braun, she was led to believe that she (1) had 300 personalities,

(2) had been raised in a satanic cult, and (3) was a “ satanic princess” in

charge of a nine-state region, and (4) had eaten more than 2,000 dead bod­

ies per year in whole or part. Dr. Braun instructed her to have her husband

bring a hamburger from a family picnic to the hospital so that it could be

tested for human tissue. After 3 years, when her insurance was almost ex­

hausted, she was released from the hospital. The insurance carrier paid

over $3 million in hospitalization costs for Ms. Burgus and her two sons.

Acocella (1999) indicates that other patients of Dr. Braun initiated similar

lawsuits based on similar grounds.





Space Aliens: Myra

Myra was referred to a psychologist for relaxation training by her treat­

ing physician. The referral was to a psychologist who specialized in pain

relief. During Myra’s initial visits, the psychologist took virtually no his­

tory. Nevertheless, after hypnosis, the psychologist informed Myra that

her back problems were a result of her having been molested by her fa­

ther. The psychologist further informed Myra that she mentioned visiting

her favorite uncle while she was hypnotized. The psychologist shifted to

saying that her uncle had molested her. While in a normal waking state,

Myra had no memories of abuse, either by her father or her uncle and

took issue with the therapist’s claims of such abuse. At her next session,

the therapist indicated that, during another hypnotically induced state,

Myra had remembered being abducted by a UFO while at her uncle’s

home. The UFO descended into her uncle’s backyard and had taken her

onboard a spacecraft that looked like the white “ inside of an eggshell.”

There, she was reported to have been sexually examined by aliens. This

examination and subsequent examinations, performed while she was ly­

ing on an table, were the cause of her back problems. The psychologist

hypnotized Myra in each of her sessions, maintaining that hypnosis was

necessary with clients abducted by space aliens because the aliens hypno­

tized humans to force them to forget their alien encounters. Over the

next 3 years, the psychotherapist focused on uncovering all of Myra’s al­

leged encounters with aliens. Myra felt that the therapist only seemed in­

terested when she cooperated by producing information concerning these

purported encounters. She reported that she began “ to feel foggy, tired

all the time, and out of touch with my feelings about anything.” The

psychologist significantly enlarged the boundaries of the therapy, eventu­

ally seeing her in 3-4 hour sessions held 3 days a week. The psychologist

also forbade her from taking medications prescribed by her physician be­

cause the medications would interfere with her “ recalling all the experi­

ences on the UFOs which were central to the therapy.” When Myra’s

savings were depleted, she was forced to terminate therapy. After she re­

flected on what had occurred in her therapy, she sought out legal coun­

sel. After a lawsuit was filed, the therapist settled out of court.



ther ar mor cases than the abov, equally disturbing and insane.




Like many guided imagery procedures used in clinical situations, hypnosis

often involves eye closure and relaxation and, when used to recover memo­

ries, guided imagery or mental review of past events. Accordingly, many of

the concerns that have been raised with respect to guided imagery apply to

hypnosis. However, an added problem associated with hypnosis is the pop­

ular (Loftus & Loftus, 1980; Whitehouse, Dinges, Orne, & Orne, 1988)

yet mistaken belief that hypnosis can improve recall. This belief can result

in the tendency to overvalue the use of hypnosis for purposes of memory

recovery. Survey research (Poole et al., 1995) reveals that approximately

one third (29% and 34%) of psychologists in the United States who were

sampled reported that they used hypnosis to help clients recall memories of

sexual abuse. In contrast, this figure was only 5% among British thera­



USA -.- even their sycologists ar wors



Although the popularity of dream interpretation has, along with psy­

choanalysis, waned in recent years, survey research indicates that upwards

of a third of psychotherapists (37-44%) in the United States still use this

technique (see also Brenneis, 1997; Polusny & Follette, 1996). These statis­

tics are of particular interest given Lindsay and Read’s (1994) observation

that no data exist to support the idea that dreams accurately reveal auto­

biographical memories that fall outside the purview of consciousness.

When dreams are interpreted as indicative of a history of child sexual

abuse (Bass & Davis, 1988; Fredrickson, 1992), the fact that the informa­

tion is provided by an authority figure can constitute a strong suggestion

that abuse, in fact, occurred in “ real life.”


-.- dream interpretation.


The “ thought field” is posited to be both the locus of psychopatholo­

gy and the vehicle for therapeutic change. It has been described thus (I.

Callahan, 1998):

A “ field,” in scientific terms, is defined as “ an invisible sphere of influ­

ence” ; magnetic fields and gravitational fields being familiar examples. In

this case, when we think about a situation a Thought Field (a manifestation

of the body’s energy system) becomes active. Effectively, the Thought Field

has been “ tuned in” to that specific thought. The body responds to its in­

fluence by reproducing, to a greater or lesser extent, the nervous, hor­

monal, and cognitive activity that occurs when we are in the real situation.

If that Thought Field contains perturbations then the body response is in­

appropriate.” (p. 2)

derp, fucking technobabble.


The discrepancy between the meager research support and the exten­

sive promotion of EMDR, TFT, and CISD may be due in part to improper

allocation of the burden of proof. McFall (1991) argued that the burden of

proof of positive effects should rest squarely on those who implement and

promote novel therapies (see also Chapter 1). Thus, it is reasonable to ex­

pect proponents of new treatments to answer clearly and convincingly such

questions as:

• “Does your treatment work better than no treatment?”

• “Does your treatment work better than a placebo?”

• “Does your treatment work better than standard treatments?”

• “Does your treatment work through the processes you claim it


decent overview of the perhaps four most important questions to ask and answer about any proposed treatment.


For both antidepressants and herbal remedies, the relatively small dif­

ferences between placebo and active substances do not necessarily mean

that these treatments are of little value. If we define the usefulness of a

treatment only in terms of (1) the difference between this treatment and

placebo and (2) the direct and indirect costs of the treatment versus the

costs of the untreated disease, as is implied by the conventional definitions

of efficacy and utility, then some could conclude that both antidepressants

and phytotherapeutic substances are only of relatively modest value. How­

ever, what matters is not only the relative size of the effect, but also the ab­

solute size compared with baseline, or, in other words, the magnitude of

specific and nonspecific effects combined. The provision of a good explan­

atory myth and a convincing therapeutic ritual are among the common fac­

tors of all efficacious therapies (Frank, 1987). Hence we can hypothesize

that for certain people, the potential for nonspecific effects is greater in

herbal treatments than in standard treatments. This is particularly true of

people who have a worldview compatible with the application of “ natu­

ral” products and who have a belief system favoring complementary and

alternative treatments. For others, who subscribe to a more rational and

mechanistic approach to diseases, conventional medical treatments are

likely to be more effective. For still others, psychotherapy might elicit the

greatest expectancy effects, and thereby the greatest therapeutic benefit.

It would be intriguing to determine whether patients requesting an

herbal treatment experience greater benefits than do those who are either

opposed or indifferent to this treatment. Our prediction is that the differ­

ence would be statistically and clinically significant, precisely because the

nonspecific effects can be better harnessed in believers. Indeed, this effect

has been demonstrated in a comparison of the use of hypnosis versus

nonhypnotic treatment with clients who either did or did not request hyp­

notic treatment (Lazarus, 1973).

this is an interesting idea. surely one shud check for correlations between g, five factor factors, and varius stated beliefs, and these outcomes. perhaps beliefs do play a mor activ role in placebo effects. perhaps it is just personality. who knows. lets find out! :)


Whereas the Feingold Diet implicates an entire class of food sub­

stances in the occurrence of ADHD, refined sugar is a specific substance

presumed to cause hyperactivity and other child behavior problems (Smith,

1975). Despite the popular support for this proposition among parents,

teachers, and some mental health professionals, well-controlled studies

have not demonstrated an effect of sugar on children’s behavior.

Milich, Wolraich, and Lindgren (1986) reviewed studies and found no

consistent, significant effects of sugar on a variety of behavioral measures

across studies, even among subjects who were thought to be “ sugar sensi­

tive.” Similar conclusions have been reported in controlled studies of

aspartame on behavior. As one example, Wolraich and colleagues (Wol­

raich, 1988; Wolraich et al., 1994) compared three controlled diets (high

sucrose-low sweetener, low sucrose-high sweetener, and placebo) in two

groups of children presumed to be especially vulnerable to the effects of

sugar ingestion (i.e., preschool and school-age children nominated by par­

ents as highly adverse to sugar). The diets were presented in 3-week blocks

using a counterbalanced, double-blind, crossover design. Results showed

no differences among the three diets on any of almost 40 behavioral and

cognitive measures. Shaywitz and colleagues (1994) also found no effect

on cognitive or behavioral measures with children with ADHD who con­

sumed unusually high amounts of aspartame over a 4-week period. There

is little evidence, then, that either sugar or aspartame ingestion have appre­

ciable effects on children’s behavior.

see also:


Proponents of FC claim that the experimental studies conducted are

inappropriately designed and do not accurately measure performance.

Silliman (1995) asserted that the studies were conducted out of the sub­

jects’ normal social context, creating an unfamiliar environment that hin­

ders performance. Duchan (1995) states that, “The context of interaction

is not a naturally occurring one, but one that is tampered with in a variety

of ways” (p. 208).

yes… thats what an experiment IS.


Dolphin-Assisted Therapy

Dolphin-assisted therapy (DAT) has attracted many parents of children

with autism. DAT received significant attention after it was presented on

Cable News Network (CNN, March 28, 1998;

HEALTH/9803/28/dolphin.therapy/index.html#op). The basic procedure

of DAT was depicted, with the child completing a one-to-one teaching ses­

sion with a therapist and then being given the opportunity to swim with a

dolphin. The child’s interaction with the dolphins was described as moti

vating the child to participate in therapy sessions (

Dolphins are currently the only nondomesticated animals used regularly as

treatment partners with children with autism.

The website of the Human Dolphin Therapy Center in Miami reports

a success rate of 97%, which is not defined with respect to the assessment

instruments and measurements utilized (

9803/28/dolphin.therapy/index.html#op). The average cost for dolphin

therapy is $2,600 per week (

109/dolphin_therapy.btml). Families have reported raising over $10,000

for the small number of sessions. This cost excludes airfare and lodging


The time and cost of this treatment may foster an expectation of positive


According to Christopher Peknic, founder and executive director of

the Dolphin Institute, the use of dolphins as treatment partners for autism

and other childhood disorders is a natural and positive therapeutic tech­

nique ( He believes that “ dol­

phins have a very special bond,” and are “ attracted to young children”

(. In addition, supporters of

DAT suggest that dolphins possess an uncanny ability to “ understand and

respond to the needs of special people” (


what the fuck


If the 1970s represented a decade during which psychologists tried to “ give

psychology away,” unencumbered by concerns over the therapeutic value

of their gifts, then the following two decades represented a time when mar­

keting strategies were refined, programs proliferated, and data remained

sparse (Rosen, 1987, 1993). We found support for this appraisal by log­

ging on to the Web, at, where 137 self-help books were

listed for just the letter “A.” Among the titles listed by

were A.D.D. and Success, Access Your Brain’s Joy Center: The Free Soul

Method, Amazing Results o f Positive Thinking, and The Anxiety Cure: An

Eight-Step Program for Getting Well. There also were many titles with the

word “Art,” as in The Art o f Letting Go, The Art o f Making Sex Sacred,

and The Art o f Midlife. Findings were similar for the letters B through Z.

i really hate this use of punctuation INSIDE quotes! it makes no sense.

There also were many titles with the word “Art,”

shud be:


There also were many titles with the word “Art”,


Unlike the self-help advisors who came on the market in the early and

mid-1990s, Gray is less scolding, more “ supportive,” and he found his

niche by smoothing out gender conflicts. His bromide is that conflicts be­

tween men and women arise from their inherent differences, which should

be honored. This more acceptance-based doctrine links him to earlier,

more “ therapeutic” incarnations of the self-help movement. This therapeu­

tic slant (along with its remarkable simplicity and spiffed-up sexism) is the

source of much of the controversy surrounding his popularity. In Mars and

Venus in the Bedroom (1995), for example, Gray gave advice about what

he believes to be effective communication skills: To “ give feedback in sex,

it is best for women to make little noises and not use complete sentences”

because “when a woman uses complete sentences, it can be a turn off” (p.

57). Additionally, he instructed readers about the meaning of women’s un­

derwear. He explained that when “ she wears silky pink or lace, she is ready

to surrender to sex as a romantic expression of loving vulnerability” (p.

106) and that a “ cotton T-shirt with matching panties . . . may mean she

doesn’t need a lot of foreplay” (p. 107). Moreover, according to Gray such

clothing indicates that the woman wearing it “may not be in the mood for

an orgasm” but rather might be “happy and satisfied” by feeling her part­

ner’s “ orgasm inside her” (p. 107). Offering such opinions is part of what

Gray states he does “ best,” which he believes is to “ save marriages, create

romance and passions and relationships” (Adler, 1995, p. 96).


seems legit lol




Review: Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science (Alan Sokal, Jean Bricmont)

Fashionable Nonsense, Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science – Alan Sokal, Jean Bricmont ebook download pdf free


The book contains the best single chapter on filosofy of science that iv com across. very much recommended, especially for those that dont like filosofers’ accounts of things. alot of the rest of the book is devoted to long quotes full of nonsens, and som explanations of why it is nonsens (if possible), or just som explanatory remarks about the fields invoked (say, relativity).


as such, this book is a must read for ppl who ar interested in the study of seudoscience, and those interested in meaningless language use. basically, it is a collection of case studies of that.






[footnote] Bertrand Russell (1948, p. 196) tells the following amusing story: “I once received a

letter from an eminent logician, Mrs Christine Ladd Franklin, saying that she was a

solipsist, and was surprised that there were not others”. We learned this reference

from Devitt (1997, p. 64).





The answer, of course, is that we have no proof; it is simply

a perfectly reasonable hypothesis. The most natural way to ex­

plain the persistence of our sensations (in particular, the un­

pleasant ones) is to suppose that they are caused by agents

outside our consciousness. We can almost always change at will

the sensations that are pure products of our imagination, but we

cannot stop a war, stave off a lion, or start a broken-down car

by pure thought alone. Nevertheless— and it is important to em­

phasize this—this argument does not refute solipsism. If anyone

insists that he is a “harpsichord playing solo” (Diderot), there is

no way to convince him of his error. However, we have never

met a sincere solipsist and we doubt that any exist.52 This illus­

trates an important principle that we shall use several times in

this chapter: the mere fact that an idea is irrefutable does not

imply that there is any reason to believe it is true.


i wonder how that epistemological point (that arguments from ignorance ar no good) works with intuitionism in math/logic?



The universality of Humean skepticism is also its weakness.

Of course, it is irrefutable. But since no one is systematically

skeptical (when he or she is sincere) with respect to ordinary

knowledge, one ought to ask why skepticism is rejected in that

domain and why it would nevertheless be valid when applied

elsewhere, for instance, to scientific knowledge. Now, the rea­

son why we reject systematic skepticism in everyday life is

more or less obvious and is similar to the reason we reject solip­

sism. The best way to account for the coherence of our experi­

ence is to suppose that the outside world corresponds, at least

approximately, to the image of it provided by our senses.54


54 4This hypothesis receives a deeper explanation with the subsequent development of

science, in particular of the biological theory of evolution. Clearly, the possession of

sensory organs that reflect more or less faithfully the outside world (or, at least,

some important aspects of it) confers an evolutionary advantage. Let us stress that

this argument does not refute radical skepticism, but it does increase the coherence

of the anti-skeptical worldview.


the authors ar surprisingly sofisticated filosofically, and i agree very much with their reasoning.



For my part, I have no doubt that, although progressive changes

are to be expected in physics, the present doctrines are likely to be

nearer to the truth than any rival doctrines now before the world.

Science is at no moment quite right, but it is seldom quite wrong,

and has, as a rule, a better chance of being right than the theories

of the unscientific. It is, therefore, rational to accept it


—Bertrand Russell, My Philosophical Development

(1995 [1959], p. 13)


yes, the analogy is that: science is LIKE a limit function that goes towards 1 [approximates closer to truth] over time. at any given x, it is not quite at y=1 yet, but it gets closer. it might not be completely monotonic either (and i dont know if that completely breaks the limit function, probably doesnt).


for a quick grafical illustration, try the function f(x)=1-(-1/x) on the interval [1;∞]. The truth line is f(x)=1 on the interval [0;∞]. in reality, the graf wud be mor unsteady and not completely monotonic corresponding to the varius theories as they com and go in science. it is not only a matter of evidence (which is not an infallible indicator of truth either), but it is primarily a function of that.



Once the general problems of solipsism and radical skepti­

cism have been set aside, we can get down to work. Let us sup­

pose that we are able to obtain some more-or-less reliable

knowledge of the world, at least in everyday life. We can then

ask: To what extent are our senses reliable or not? To answer

this question, we can compare sense impressions among them­

selves and vary certain parameters of our everyday experience.

We can map out in this way, step by step, a practiced rationality.

When this is done systematically and with sufficient precision,

science can begin.


For us, the scientific method is not radically different from

the rational attitude in everyday life or in other domains of hu­

man knowledge. Historians, detectives, and plumbers—indeed,

all human beings—use the same basic methods of induction,

deduction, and assessment of evidence as do physicists or bio­

chemists. Modem science tries to carry out these operations in

a more careful and systematic way, by using controls and sta­

tistical tests, insisting on replication, and so forth. Moreover,

scientific measurements are often much more precise than

everyday observations; they allow us to discover hitherto un­

known phenomena; and they often conflict with “common

sense”. But the conflict is at the level of conclusions, not the

basic approach.55 56


55For example: Water appears to us as a continuous fluid, but chemical and physical

experiments teach us that it is made of atoms.


56Throughout this chapter, we stress the methodological continuity between scientific

knowledge and everyday knowledge. This is, in our view, the proper way to respond

to various skeptical challenges and to dispel the confusions generated by radical

interpretations of correct philosophical ideas such as the underdetermination of

theories by data. But it would be naive to push this connection too far. Science—

particularly fundamental physics— introduces concepts that are hard to grasp

intuitively or to connect directly to common-sense notions. (For example: forces

acting instantaneously throughout the universe in Newtonian mechanics,

electromagnetic fields “vibrating” in vacuum in Maxwell’s theory, curved space-time

in Einstein’s general relativity.) And it is in discussions about the meaning o f these

theoretical concepts that various brands of realists and anti-realists (e.g.,

intrumentalists, pragmatists) tend to part company. Relativists sometimes tend to fall

back on instrumentalist positions when challenged, but there is a profound difference

between the two attitudes. Instrumentalists may want to claim either that we have no

way of knowing whether “unobservable” theoretical entities really exist, or that their

meaning is defined solely through measurable quantities; but this does not imply that

they regard such entities as “subjective” in the sense that their meaning would be

significantly influenced by extra-scientific factors (such as the personality of the

individual scientist or the social characteristics o f the group to which she belongs).

Indeed, instrumentalists may regard our scientific theories as, quite simply, the most

satisfactory way that the human mind, with its inherent biological limitations, is

capable of understanding the world.


right they ar



Having reached this point in the discussion, the radical skep­

tic or relativist will ask what distinguishes science from other

types of discourse about reality—religions or myths, for exam­

ple, or pseudo-sciences such as astrology—and, above all, what

criteria are used to make such a distinction. Our answer is nu-

anced. First of all, there are some general (but basically nega­

tive) epistemological principles, which go back at least to the

seventeenth century: to be skeptical of a priori arguments, rev­

elation, sacred texts, and arguments from authority. Moreover,

the experience accumulated during three centuries of scientific

practice has given us a series of more-or-less general method­

ological principles—for example, to replicate experiments, to

use controls, to test medicines in double-blind protocols—that

can be justified by rational arguments. However, we do not

claim that these principles can be codified in a definitive way,

nor that the list is exhaustive. In other words, there does not

exist (at least at present) a complete codification of scientific ra­

tionality, and we seriously doubt that one could ever exist. After

all, the future is inherently unpredictable; rationality is always

an adaptation to a new situation. Nevertheless—and this is the

main difference between us and the radical skeptics—we think

that well-developed scientific theories are in general supported

by good arguments, but the rationality of those arguments must

be analyzed case-by-case.60


60 It is also by proceeding on a case-by-case basis that one can appreciate the

immensity of the gulf separating the sciences from the pseudo-sciences.


Sokal and Bricmont might soon becom my new favorit filosofers of science.



Obviously, every induction is an inference from the observed to

the unobserved, and no such inference can be justified using

solely deductive logic. But, as we have seen, if this argument

were to be taken seriously—if rationality were to consist only

of deductive logic— it would imply also that there is no good

reason to believe that the Sun will rise tomorrow, and yet no one

really expects the Sun not to rise.


id like to add, like i hav don many times befor, that ther is no reason to think that induction shud be proveable with deduction. why require that? but now coms the interesting part. if one takes induction as the basis instead of deduction, one can inductivly prove deduction. <prove> in the ordinary, non-mathetical/logical sens. the method is enumerativ induction, which i hav discussed befor.



But one may go further. It is natural to introduce a hierarchy

in the degree of credence accorded to different theories, de­

pending on the quantity and quality of the evidence supporting

them.95 Every scientist—indeed, every human being—proceeds

in this way and grants a higher subjective probability to the

best-established theories (for instance, the evolution of species

or the existence of atoms) and a lower subjective probability to

more speculative theories (such as detailed theories of quantum

gravity). The same reasoning applies when comparing theories

in natural science with those in history or sociology. For exam­

ple, the evidence of the Earth’s rotation is vastly stronger than

anything Kuhn could put forward in support of his historical

theories. This does not mean, of course, that physicists are more

clever than historians or that they use better methods, but sim­

ply that they deal with less complex problems, involving a

smaller number of variables which, moreover, are easier to mea­

sure and to control. It is impossible to avoid introducing such a

hierarchy in our beliefs, and this hierarchy implies that there is

no conceivable argument based on the Kuhnian view of history

that could give succor to those sociologists or philosophers who

wish to challenge, in a blanket way, the reliability of scientific



Sokal and Bricmont even get the epistemological point about the different fields right. color me very positivly surprised.



Bruno Latour and His Rules of Method

The strong programme in the sociology of science has found

an echo in France, particularly around Bruno Latour. His works

contain a great number of propositions formulated so ambigu­

ously that they can hardly be taken literally. And when one re­

moves the ambiguity— as we shall do here in a few

examples— one reaches the conclusion that the assertion is ei­

ther true but banal, or else surprising but manifestly false.


sound familiar? its the good old two-faced sentences again, those that Swartz and Bradley called Janus-sentences. they yield two different interpretations, one trivial and true, one nontrivial and false. their apparent plausibility is becus of this fact.


quoting from Possible Worlds:


Janus-faced sentences

The method of possible-worlds testing is not only an invaluable aid towards resolving ambiguity; it is also an effective weapon against a particular form of-linguistic sophistry.

Thinkers often deceive themselves and others into supposing that they have discovered a profound

truth about the universe when all they have done is utter what we shall call a “Janus-faced

sentence”. Janus, according to Roman mythology, was a god with two faces who was therefore able

to ‘face’ in two directions at once. Thus, by a “Janus-faced sentence” we mean a sentence which, like “In the evolutionary struggle for existence just the fittest species survive”, faces in two directions. It is ambiguous insofar as it may be used to express a noncontingent proposition, e.g., that in the struggle for existence just the surviving species survive, and may also be used to express a contingent proposition, e.g., the generalization that just the physically strongest species survive.


If a token of such a sentence-type is used to express a noncontingently true proposition then, of

course, the truth of that proposition is indisputable; but since, in that case, it is true in all possible

worlds, it does not tell us anything distinctive about the actual world. If, on the other hand, a token

of such a sentence-type is used to express a contingent proposition, then of course that proposition

does tell us something quite distinctive about the actual world; but in that case its truth is far from

indisputable. The sophistry lies in supposing that the indisputable credentials of the one proposition

can be transferred to the other just by virtue of the fact that one sentence-token might be used to

express one of these propositions and a different sentence-token of one and the same sentence-type

might be used to express the other of these propositions. For by virtue of the necessary truth of one

of these propositions, the truth of the other — the contingent one — can be made to seem

indisputable, can be made to seem, that is, as if it “stands to reason” that it should be true.



We could be accused here of focusing our attention on an

ambiguity of formulation and of not trying to understand what

Latour really means. In order to counter this objection, let us go

back to the section “Appealing (to) Nature” (pp. 94-100) where

the Third Rule is introduced and developed. Latour begins by

ridiculing the appeal to Nature as a way of resolving scientific

controversies, such as the one concerning solar neutrinos[121]:

A fierce controversy divides the astrophysicists who calcu­

late the number o f neutrinos coming out o f the sun and Davis,

the experimentalist who obtains a much smaller figure. It is

easy to distinguish them and put the controversy to rest. Just

let us see for ourselves in which camp the sun is really to be

found. Somewhere the natural sun with its true number o f

neutrinos will close the mouths o f dissenters and force them

to accept the facts no matter how well written these papers

were. (Latour 1987, p. 95)



Why does Latour choose to be ironic? The problem is to know

how many neutrinos are emitted by the Sun, and this question

is indeed difficult. We can hope that it will be resolved some day,

not because “the natural sun will close the mouths of dis­

senters”, but because sufficiently powerful empirical data will

become available. Indeed, in order to fill in the gaps in the cur­

rently available data and to discriminate between the currently

existing theories, several groups of physicists have recently

built detectors of different types, and they are now performing

the (difficult) measurements.122 It is thus reasonable to expect

that the controversy will be settled sometime in the next few

years, thanks to an accumulation of evidence that, taken to­

gether, will indicate clearly the correct solution. However, other

scenarios are in principle possible: the controversy could die

out because people stop being interested in the issue, or be­

cause the problem turns out to be too difficult to solve; and, at

this level, sociological factors undoubtedly play a role (if only

because of the budgetary constraints on research). Obviously,

scientists think, or at least hope, that if the controversy is re­

solved it will be because of observations and not because of

the literary qualities of the scientific papers. Otherwise, they

will simply have ceased to do science.


the footnode 121 is:

The nuclear reactions that power the Sun are expected to emit copious quantities

of the subatomic particle called the neutrino. By combining current theories of solar

structure, nuclear physics, and elementary-particle physics, it is possible to obtain

quantitative predictions for the flux and energy distribution of the solar neutrinos.

Since the late 1960s, experimental physicists, beginning with the pioneering work of

Raymond Davis, have been attempting to detect the solar neutrinos and measure their

flux. The solar neutrinos have in fact been detected; but their flux appears to be less

than one-third o f the theoretical prediction. Astrophysicists and elementary-particle

physicists are actively trying to determine whether the discrepancy arises from

experimental error or theoretical error, and if the latter, whether the failure is in the

solar models or in the elementary-particle models. For an introductory overview, see

Bahcall (1990).


this problem sounded familiar to me.

The solar neutrino problem was a major discrepancy between measurements of the numbers of neutrinos flowing through the Earth and theoretical models of the solar interior, lasting from the mid-1960s to about 2002. The discrepancy has since been resolved by new understanding of neutrino physics, requiring a modification of the Standard Model of particle physics – specifically, neutrino oscillation. Essentially, as neutrinos have mass, they can change from the type that had been expected to be produced in the Sun’s interior into two types that would not be caught by the detectors in use at the time.


science seems to be working. Sokal and Bricmont predicted that it wud be resolved ”in the next few years”. this was written in 1997, about 5 years befor the data Wikipedia givs for the resolution. i advice one to read the Wiki article, as it is quite good.



In this quote and the previous one, Latour is playing con­

stantly on the confusion between facts and our knowledge of

them.123 The correct answer to any scientific question, solved or

not, depends on the state of Nature (for example, on the num­

ber of neutrinos that the Sun really emits). Now, it happens that,

for the unsolved problems, nobody knows the right answer,

while for the solved ones, we do know it (at least if the accepted

solution is correct, which can always be challenged). But there

is no reason to adopt a “relativist” attitude in one case and a “re­

alist” one in the other. The difference between these attitudes is

a philosophical matter, and is independent of whether the prob­

lem is solved or not. For the relativist, there is simply no unique

correct answer, independent of all social and cultural circum­

stances; this holds for the closed questions as well as for the

open ones. On the other hand, the scientists who seek the cor­

rect solution are not relativist, almost by definition. Of course

they do “use Nature as the external referee”: that is, they seek to

know what is really happening in Nature, and they design ex­

periments for that purpose.


the footnote 123 is:

An even more extreme example o f this confusion appears in a recent article by

Latour in La Recherche, a French monthly magazine devoted to the popularization of

science (Latour 1998). Here Latour discusses what he interprets as the discovery in

1976, by French scientists working on the mummy of the pharaoh Ramses II, that his

death (circa 1213 B.C.) was due to tuberculosis. Latour asks: “How could he pass

away due to a bacillus discovered by Robert Koch in 1882?” Latour notes, correctly,

that it would be an anachronism to assert that Rainses II was killed by machine-gun

fire or died from the stress provoked by a stock-market crash. But then, Latour

wonders, why isn’t death from tuberculosis likewise an anachronism? He goes so far

as to assert that “Before Koch, the bacillus has no real existence.” He dismisses the

common-sense notion that Koch discovered a pre-existing bacillus as “having only the

appearance o f common sense”. Of course, in the rest o f the article, Latour gives no

argument to justify these radical claims and provides no genuine alternative to the

common-sense answer. He simply stresses the obvious fact that, in order to discover

the cause of Ramses’ death, a sophisticated analysis in Parisian laboratories was

needed. But unless Latour is putting forward the truly radical claim that nothing we

discover ever existed prior to its “discovery”— in particular, that no murderer is a

murderer, in the sense that he committed a crime before the police “discovered” him

to be a murderer— he needs to explain what is special about bacilli, and this he has

utterly failed to do. The result is that Latour is saying nothing clear, and the article

oscillates between extreme banalities and blatant falsehoods.





a quote from one of the crazy ppl:


The privileging o f solid over fluid mechanics, and indeed the

inability o f science to deal with turbulent flow at all, she at­

tributes to the association o f fluidity with femininity. Whereas

men have sex organs that protrude and become rigid, women

have openings that leak menstrual blood and vaginal fluids.

Although men, too, flow on occasion— when semen is emit­

ted, for example— this aspect o f their sexuality is not empha­

sized. It is the rigidity o f the male organ that counts, not its

complicity in fluid flow. These idealizations are reinscribed in

mathematics, which conceives o f fluids as laminated planes

and other modified solid forms. In the same way that women

are erased within masculinist theories and language, existing

only as not-men, so fluids have been erased from science, ex­

isting only as not-solids. From this perspective it is no wonder

that science has not been able to arrive at a successful model

for turbulence. The problem o f turbulent f low cannot be

solved because the conceptions o f fluids (and o f women)

have been formulated so as necessarily to leave unarticulated

remainders. (Hayles 1992, p. 17)


u cant make this shit up



Over the past three decades, remarkable progress has been

made in the mathematical theory of chaos, but the idea that

some physical systems may exhibit a sensitivity to initial con­

ditions is not new. Here is what James Clerk Maxwell said in

1877, after stating the principle of determinism ( “the same

causes will always produce the same effects”):


but thats not what determinism is. their quote seems to be from Hume’s Treatise.


it is mentioned in his discussion of causality, which is related to but not the same as, determinism.


Wikipedia givs a fine definition of <determinism>: ”Determinism is a philosophy stating that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given those conditions, nothing else could happen.”


also SEP: Causal determinism is, roughly speaking, the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature.”



[T]he first difference between science and philosophy is their

respective attitudes toward chaos. Chaos is defined not so

much by its disorder as by the infinite speed with which every

form taking shape in it vanishes. It is a void that is not a noth­

ingness but a virtual, containing all possible particles and

drawing out all possible forms, which spring up only to dis­

appear immediately, without consistency or reference, with­

out consequence. Chaos is an infinite speed o f birth and dis­

appearance. (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, pp. 117-118, italics

in the original)





For what it’s worth, electrons, unlike photons, have a non-zero

mass and thus cannot move at the speed of light, precisely

because of the theory of relativity of which Virilio seems so



i think the authors did not mean what they wrote here. surely, relativity theory is not the reason why electrons cannot move at the speed of light. relativity theory is an explanation of how nature works, in this case, how objects with mass and velocity/speed works.



We met in Paris a student who, after having brilliantly fin­

ished his undergraduate studies in physics, began reading phi­

losophy and in particular Deleuze. He was trying to tackle

Difference and Repetition. Having read the mathematical ex­

cerpts examined here (pp. 161-164), he admitted he couldn’t

see what Deleuze was driving at. Nevertheless, Deleuze’s repu­

tation for profundity was so strong that he hesitated to draw the

natural conclusion: that if someone like himself, who had stud­

ied calculus for several years, was unable to understand these

texts, allegedly about calculus, it was probably because they

didn’t make much sense. It seems to us that this example should

have encouraged the student to analyze more critically the rest

of Deleuze’s writings.


i think the epistemological conditions of this kind of inference ar very interesting. under which conditions shud one conclude that a text is meaningless?



7. Ambiguity as subterfuge. We have seen in this book nu­

merous ambiguous texts that can be interpreted in two differ­

ent ways: as an assertion that is true but relatively banal, or as

one that is radical but manifestly false. And we cannot help

thinking that, in many cases, these ambiguities are deliberate.

Indeed, they offer a great advantage in intellectual battles: the

radical interpretation can serve to attract relatively inexperi­

enced listeners or readers; and if the absurdity of this version is

exposed, the author can always defend himself by claiming to

have been misunderstood, and retreat to the innocuous inter­



mor on Janus-sentences.




The low quality of psychology as a field, and how to improve science: reading material

I recently came across an interesting journal:

It was becus of a recent issue about the status of psychology as a scientific field. Its both distressing and very interesting reading.

Here are the papers:

Editors Introduction to the Special Section on Replicability in Psychological Science A Crisis of Confidence?

Is the Replicability Crisis Overblown Three Arguments Examined

Replications in Psychology Research How Often Do They Really Occur

The Rules of the Game Called Psychological Science

A Vast Graveyard of Undead Theories Publication Bias and Psychological Science’s Aversion to the Null

Science or Art How Aesthetic Standards Grease the Way Through the Publication Bottleneck but Undermine Science

Low Hopes, High Expectations Expectancy Effects and the Replicability of Behavioral Experiments

The Psychology of Replication and Replication in Psychology

You Could Have Just Asked Reply to Francis (2012)

It Does Not Follow Evaluating the One-Off Publication Bias Critiques by Francis (2012a, 2012b, 2012c, 2012d, 2012e, in press)

Teaching Replication

Harnessing the Undiscovered Resource of Student Research Projects

Rewarding Replications A Sure and Simple Way to Improve Psychological Science

Scientific Utopia I. Opening Scientific Communication (not part of the issue, but is a must read! – from here)

Scientific Utopia II. Restructuring Incentives and Practices to Promote Truth Over Publishability

An Agenda for Purely Confirmatory Research

Psychologists Are Open to Change, yet Wary of Rules

The Nine Circles of Scientific Hell

Why Science Is Not Necessarily Self-Correcting

Introduction to the Special Section on Research Practices

An Open, Large-Scale, Collaborative Effort to Estimate the Reproducibility of Psychological Science

The Long Way From α-Error Control to Validity Proper Problems With a Short-Sighted False-Positive Debate

Scientific Misconduct and the Myth of Self-Correction in Science

DSM-5 Task Force Proposes Controversial Diagnosis for Dishonest Scientists