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Why the dishonesty related to science?


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In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2011 3:30:44 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 3, 2011 3:49:20 PM PDT
noman says:
RE: ""For example: throw a yard (or meter) square marker made of wood out into a meadow. Count all the animals and plants. Go back to the college and enter data. Do you know how the animals and plants interact? No, you are just counting them. It is bad science, it may be good math though."

EDIT: Part of analyzing interactions depends first on finding out what you have and how much. For example, it's a little hard to analyze prey/predator interactions without first knowing what predators and what prey are available and how much. Knowing how much area it takes to support a particular population of shrews is rather critical. And it also helps to know what is available for the shrews to eat and how those numbers change over time and space. Hard to analyze behavior if you don't have any data on what lives where, when and in what numbers.

I'll give an example I've done. We wanted to look at pesticide effects on bird populations and set up a system very like the one described in the paper you cite. Over several hundred square miles and lasting about three years. We randomized our sampling areas (bird boxes, mist nets, small mammal traps) and did a lot of sheer counting. It's hard to tell if you're getting an effect from the pesticide if you don't have a good idea of normal behavior. We had teams dedicated to nothing but quality control to make sure our samples were properly randomized and all the raw data was done in special permanent ink on special paper that could not be erases w/o leaving evidence. Any corrections in field data had to be initialed and referenced (date, time, reason why). Two separate teams did data entry and if the numbers didn't check. . . not pretty. Then another team at the other end went back over the raw data and checked it against the entered data. That had to check. Your assertion that ecologists/biologists aren't going into the field is simply counterfactual. There are hundreds of permanent field research facilities (http://www.dmoz.org/Science/Biology/Ecology/Research_Groups_and_Centers/) around the world. Your assertion that ". . . just counting them" is "bad science" is also counter factual. If you don't know what you started with how do you know if there's been any change? If you don't know *what* you started with, how do you know what you are looking at?
END EDIT
and
". . .I have written paleo papers as well as others."

Below find a simple overview of the technique(s) being described in the paper you cite. You can also find similar techniques described in almost any type of filed research (see Maritime archaeology by Keith Muckelroy as an example of how seemingly disparate disciplines use similar techniques) Now perhaps I've misunderstood you, in which case I apologize. However it appears, to me, that you find ecological research in general and this paper in particular lacking. I'm simply asking that you be more specific in your objections. I am not suggesting that there is not a misuse of mathematics in science. There is. Nor am I suggesting that Paleontology is not heavily descriptive. However lying, by commission or omission is (IMO) common to human behavior in general (How to Lie with Maps (2nd Edition) Mark Monmonier &
How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff ) and the limitations of paleontology are not uncommon nor unexpected. So my question is, what specifically do you find that differentiates Ecology or Paleontology from any other scientific endeavor in terms of bad science or bad scientists?
Or, to use your GIGO analogy, what makes their garbage any stinkier that any other garbage?

Simple random sampling in the field
http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/bot440/wilsomar/Content/SRS.htm

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2011 4:52:10 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 3, 2011 5:00:14 PM PDT
Omnireader says:
noman: As I noted it is obvious that you have no experience with any college or university ecology courses.

You said: " So my question is, what specifically do you find that differentiates Ecology or Paleontology from any other scientific endeavor in terms of bad science or bad scientists?
Or, to use your GIGO analogy, what makes their garbage any stinkier that any other garbage? "

My point is that there is no difference. Much of science is decorated with the effluvia of bad analogies backed up with math.

Some folks are so awestruck by math that as soon as they see a differential or other equation they just nod their heads and say "Well, that must be true. There's an equation".

If you are just counting things with no insight as to how they are connected exactly what do hope to produce? You could count the number of flies in a meadow, the number of plants. Which flies pollinate which plants, which plants are carnivorous, which plants take nitrogen form the soil, which have a commensal microbe on it's roots that allow the plant to fix nitrogen. How do dead insects affect nitrogen in the soil. How does the soil/plant/animal dynamic change and why?

BTW: How do you determine which are predators and which prey if you are just counting organisms?

My understanding is that you were a undergrad working with a prof who was paid to determine what happened when you poisoned things.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2011 4:56:43 PM PDT
Omnireader says:
noman: Here is the selection from my post that you question.

[We can use the laws of physics and apply them to our dinosaurs; this is called biomechanics.
We can "reconstruct" a dinosaur's muscles (using the musculature of the dinosaur's closest living relatives - the crocodilians and birds - as guides), estimate its weight, and apply established engineering principles to figure out how fast that particular dinosaur could move if it wanted to.

Or so we think.
The problem is that it is very hard to do this with any living animal!

The difficulties are staggering when we try to do this with 65 million year old fossils (which are often incomplete).
When you hear quotes about T.rex moving 40-60 mph, ask for the evidence and judge for yourself.] http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/diapsids/buzz/locomotion.html

The bit that says: http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/diapsids/buzz/locomotion.html
is called a reference.

Posted on Jun 3, 2011 6:29:17 PM PDT
Don Jennings says:
Since I cannot stand to deal with the dishonesty of John Smith but he has simplistically brought up "free will" as if he understands the topic, I will just summarize what was an outcome of a very interesting thread on the subject:

To us materialists, it seems obvious that human beings are extremely complex organic computers. So our actions are deterministic. But the complexity of our "natural programming" pretty much assures that while our choices are deterministic, they are not uniformly predictable. Many are but the sum total of variables input to our "software" plus the fact that our "software" changes on a daily basis both insure that it will be virtually impossible to predict human choices in detail.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2011 5:24:32 AM PDT
Omni: How do you determine which are predators and which prey if you are just counting organisms?

BPL: Trophic ratio?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2011 7:38:35 AM PDT
My son was born to the strains of the Burana - every time I here it I remember his coming into the world 30 years ago!!.

Thanks for the memory

John

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2011 7:48:56 AM PDT
Omni

I can remember reading that many spiders prey upon other spiders, needing a huge venom load to kill when spiders are resistent to their own venom. The overkill on other species is just a byproduct.

Regards

John

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2011 9:51:58 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 4, 2011 1:10:48 PM PDT
Omnireader says:
BPL: That is pretty iffy because your sampling is so small. Only a meter square in most cases. The basic premise is flawed. It postulates that the meadow is fractal. That any small part of it is truly representative of all of it.

If you throw you square randomly and it lands on a large ant nest what happens to your predator prey ratios if you are not aware that ants are predators?

There are many interactions that skew data. Parasitism, seasonality, unidentified species.
We know that ants are predators, however we don't know the interrelationships of other organisms.

We should do counting as a last data gathering step not the first.

What would happened if a space alien came to earth and cast a random square into a large city?
Ants and roaches would be dominant, humans less so, and cats less than human. Which is the dominate species if we are just counting?
What is the trophic web really under these conditions? How could our hypothetical aliens tell?

Posted on Jun 4, 2011 12:38:34 PM PDT
Omni,

You don't just sample one square meter. You sample at least thirty, in randomly chosen locations, to get 95% confidence.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2011 1:28:08 PM PDT
noman says:
RE: "What would happened if a space alien came to earth and cast a random square into a large city?
Ants and roaches would be dominant, humans less so, and cats less than human. Which is the dominate species if we are just counting?
What is the trophic web really under these conditions? How could our hypothetical aliens tell?"

What you describe in this post ". . .cast a random square into a large city? " certainly would be a problem. That however was NOT what was described in the paper you linked, nor would it normally be acceptable to have a single sampling area.

Below a few links that discuss in detail problems such as "selection bias" probability sampling, sampling frame.

Again, what you describe would certainly be a real problem. However that's not the way field work is supposed to be done and certainly isn't what was described in the paper you linked to. In fact one thing that is heavily scrutinized in any sort of field research are the sampling methods. If you can find any peer reviewed paper which suggests a single random sample taken in the manner you're describing I'll probably agree it's too limited. (the caveat is because there are circumstances when you're opportunity to sample is limited and you either take what you can get or get no data at all. Viking was a bit like that. Where they landed was all they had. Not ideal, but some data about the surface was better than no data.)

Also, random sampling grids are designed to even out the very errors you're talking about.

Field research Methods, lecture 4 sampling

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2011 1:34:53 PM PDT
Omnireader says:
noman: You do not understand that meadows and other environments are not fractal.
I have given you data that demonstrates that indeed that is exactly how Ecology field work is done at major colleges and universities.

Again, have you ever taken an Ecology course? You say you have not. I belie that.

You seem to be caught up in a glaze of jargon. That leads to junk science.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2011 1:48:29 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 4, 2011 1:54:17 PM PDT
noman says:
RE: "My point is that there is no difference. Much of science is decorated with the effluvia of bad analogies backed up with math."

OK, I've certainly seen that happen. However " . . . Much of science. . ." requires a little something to back it up. What numbers do you have to back that up?
YES, there is bad science. Yes, equations, graphs, etc are used to pretty things up. See "How to lie with statistics" & "Lying with maps" I gave a talk at the World Mapping Congress on that very topic. (got an autographed copy of "Lying with maps" too) H***, there's a book (one of several no doubt) on my sheld "Betrayers of the truth fraud and deceit in the halls of science. William Broad, Nicholas Wade on that very thing. I used to review environmental impact papers for EPA. One of my favorites was from a company that had contaminated a wetland with mercury. (two of my favorite subjects. Wetlands and methylated mercury. ) They had about two hundred densely packed pages (small font, front and back, color pictured, bar graphs, pie charts and tables. Lord did they have tables) going into excruciating and accurate to 4 decimal places about the chemical breakdown pathway of Hg in the soil. I wrote them a very nice letter and complimented them on their detailed chemical analysis. And could they please forward the part that dealt with the environmental impact? Someone had hoped (or perhaps they were simply clueless) that no one would notice the complete absence of any plant or animal data.

Bad science is out there. I've seen it. G** help me I've probably done some. (actually I have, fortunately caught and dumped down the drain in the early stages. Important tip, use 'quartz' covers for your petri dishes when irradiating with UV. ~_^)

Your statement however is "Much of science . . ." and I simply want to know how you arrive at that conclusion. You may be correct. And if you are it's an important thing to know. But what *is* much? 1/2, 1/3, 95% or 5%? And how do you get your numbers?

EDIT:
RE: "If you are just counting things with no insight as to how they are connected exactly what do hope to produce?"

Just counting is one of the ways you get an insight into how things are connected. For example, looking at the number of birds feeding in a series of randomly selected plots in randomly selected fields from 10-15 randomly selected blinds and then comparing those numbers with a similar set of fields that have been dusted with an experimental pesticide. You find how may birds feed per acre per day over a period of months. You get an idea of habitat load, feeding habits and by correlating the two get an idea of the range of pesticide load the birds are likely to get. You correlate this with soil samples, insect samples and blood samples from randomly captured birds to check pesticide levels in all three. So it's not "just counting" and even the part that *is* simply counting how many tells you a lot.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2011 2:06:35 PM PDT
noman says:
RE: "noman: You do not understand that meadows and other environments are not fractal."

Actually, they are fractal.
Fractal Geometry in Landscape Ecology
Landscape ecology is concerned explicitly with the effect of spatial heterogeneity on ecological processes. Fractal geometry provides a multiscale quantitative approach to describing landscape patterns. In ecology, fractals have been applied in analyzing animal movements, quantifying land use patterns, developing forest management schemes, estimating habitat usage, and in map renormalization procedures, such as GAP analysis.
http://sev.lternet.edu/~bmilne/bio576/instr/html/fractals/fractals.html

RE: "I have given you data that demonstrates that indeed that is exactly how Ecology field work is done at major colleges and universities."

No. You haven't. I've seen one paper that's close to ecological field work (apparently a class project but I'm not sure) and you've completely misrepresented what was done in the paper with your single random sample analogy. You've also said that ". . .meadows and other environments are not fractal." which is not only completely and utterly counter-factual (the entire universe is fractal) but has nothing to do with the sampling technique you're describing. Which 'sampling technique' has noting to do with the paper you're referring to.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2011 3:48:56 PM PDT
Mr. Smith,

Yours: "Either a person can decide to do something, or they can't. Free will either exists, or it doesn't."

Mine: These are both wonderful examples of a false dichotomy. You can only believe these statements if you haven't studied anything about psychology, education, neuroscience, or psychodynamics. By espousing such comic statements you're exposing your ignorance.

But, truly, it seems to me that you're smarter than that. Surely you can imagine the possible alternatives to "either yes or no."

I will say of Hitler what I said of Jefferson: his situation was a complex one, we cannot know how he weighted the alternatives he knew about (and those are the only ones he could choose from); and his action, or lack of it, was the result of a complex process entailing his personal goals and values along with the influence of past and current social events.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2011 3:55:44 PM PDT
Mr. Smith,

Yours: "... the word has different connotation..."

Mine: That is certainly true. But we're not talking about connotation; we're talking about denotation, which is far less flexible and arbitrary. In the context of science, an "hypothesis" is a very precise thing -- and that certainly is not "a false thesis." I've heard the word "hypothesis" informally defined as "an educated guess;" I think that is reasonably accurate, though it misses the implication of deductive or inferential (i.e., logical) inspiration.

Posted on Jun 4, 2011 10:58:56 PM PDT
noman says:
FYI:
I'm learning (correction 'trying to learn') to do proofs prepping for abstract algebra <whimper> and I've run across a nice tutorial series that may interest some of you. Here's an example:

Statistics : Introduction to Hypothesis Testing for the Binomial Distribution
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61Wi04SqF34&feature=fvst

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 5, 2011 8:55:17 AM PDT
psychodynamics? Studying Fraudian, pardon Freudian psychology is more of a philosophy than a psychological science.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 5, 2011 12:48:28 PM PDT
Mr. Lyons,

Yours: "psychodynamics? Studying Fraudian, pardon Freudian psychology is more of a philosophy than a psychological science."

Mine: You're correct. But I'll ask you to notice that I didn't specify Freudian psychology. From Wikipedia: "Psychodynamics is the theory and systematic study of the psychological forces that underlie human behavior, especially the dynamic relations between conscious motivation and unconscious motivation.[1]" Freudianism is only one kind of psychodynamics and you are correct to be leery ("Fraudian") of its practice or tenets; traditional Psychoanalysis is far from scientific and, in my view, would struggle even to maintain a veneer of philosophy.

Nevertheless, it is clear that human brains process information of several kinds (data, emotion, sensation, recall, habit, etc.) and make decisions on various levels of awareness, hence psychodynamics in the generic sense.

In that generic sense, again from Wikipedia: "Cognitive psychodynamics is a blend of traditional psychodynamic concepts with cognitive psychology and neuroscience, resulting in a relatively accessible and sensible theory of mental structure and function.[19]"

Recent psychodynamic notions entail such ideas as memory being a reconstructive process, rather than a simple review of "hardwired" experience, the narrative nature of identity (i.e., the personal definition of self), and one's "theory of mind." Needless to say, such ideas are unanticipated in any argument that suggests, for example, that either free will exists or it doesn't.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2011 5:23:08 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 6, 2011 5:26:38 AM PDT
Psychodynamics is freudian psych. It uses the same terminology and underlying structure. In my own research (for instance see Lyons & Woods 1990) in comparison to other therapies, as an approach its typically a bit better than either a no treatment control or baseline but this difference was not statistically significant compared to other therapies, (F (6,229) = 9.624, p < .001). More empirically based therapies such as Rational Emotive Therapy, Cognitive Therapy or Behavior Therapy all tended to have the best therapy outcomes, especially in comparison to No treatment controls, baseline or other less empirically based approaches to therapy.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2011 8:25:45 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 6, 2011 8:38:00 AM PDT
Mr. Lyons,

Not being one to take the word of even a researcher, I checked the abstract of another source (Psychodynamics and the unconscious. Erdelyi, Matthew H. American Psychologist, Vol 47(6), Jun 1992, 784-787). I know, it's not much but it supports your general statement that "psychodynamics is freudian psych." I was happy to see the comment that the freudians' strict divide between "conscious" and "unconscious" seems to have been rejected.

Thanks for the clarification. However, that leaves a vocabulary question for you: what term do researchers and/or clinicians use to capture the breadth and complexity of all that goes on "inside our heads" as we reach decisions, process sensory information, integrate memories, etc? I've seen the word "processing" in many contexts, most related to Signal Detection Theory. (I finished college in 1981, and my continuing interest has involved popular works by Antonio Damasio and others, as well as some university-level textbooks by the likes of Michael Gazzaniga. I also enjoy popular magazines like Scientific American Mind, ScienceDaily, and Science News. Hence, much of my knowledge is probably pretty dated. Also, I was and am much more interested in social psych.)

BTW, I googled "Lyons & Woods 1990" and found connections to a software developer in Manassas, Va. with advanced degrees in experimental psych?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2011 9:12:13 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 6, 2011 9:18:49 AM PDT
yes. I basically walked out of my defense, telling the committee where they could put things. I'm still involved in some research, and creating tools for researchers, such as an online meta-analysis application.

what you're asking in the second question is far beyond this forum. I suggest you start with some good texts on psychology then expend from there. You're touching on Cognitive Psych/Information Processing, perception etc. Basically most of psychology.

I'd start with Zimbardo's Psychology and Life, Psychology and Life (19th Edition), then start looking at how the different theoretical approaches tackle your questions. I'd also look at emailing your questions to some of the top researchers in the field. Use the google scholar to find out who they are, specifically the citation options - that can tell you how important the study has been - by the number of citations.

Also look at the recent writings of the major theoreticians for instance in REBT look at Ellis's later works, or scan the Journal of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. Do the same for the equivalent journals for Cognitive, Humanistic or your Psychodynamic Therapies. Not only look at the theoretical stances, but also how effective the therapy is.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2011 9:34:27 AM PDT
Mr. Lyons,

Thanks for all of your information and suggestions. I've admired Zimbardo since reading about the Stanford Prison Experiment, so I'll look forward to reading the text you suggest.

Please keep up the good work on meta-analysis.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2011 10:01:24 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 6, 2011 11:04:01 AM PDT
John Smith says:
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In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2011 10:14:18 AM PDT
That one and his AP text Psychology, are about the two best general intros. I have an earlier edition I still use as a reference. Every few years I buy one or the other. Between those and the Annual Reviews series, I try to keep up with my own original areas of interest.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2011 10:21:44 AM PDT
N. Griffith says:
Yothgoboufnir:

I'd like to comment on your post about what a theory is. And I am so happy someone realizes the differences between Theory and Hypothesis. Many people misuse the word theory not knowing that Theory requires research, development and thus a strong arguement to follow.
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