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comment by mknod
mknod  ·  3286 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Cargo Cult Science

I think there is a better use for Cargo Cult Science, having read this article and pondered over it many times, I think that Cargo Cult Science should be applied more closely to real scientists faking or otherwise manipulating data in such a way that the truth is obfuscated.

It's easy, for example, to call those late night television commercials promising "HD Vision" a sort of cargo cult science, because of just how fraudulent they are, but we already _know_ they are fraudulent, we know that glasses won't provide "HD Vision" so calling this sort of thing "Cargo Cult Science" weakens the phrase a bit.

Instead, we should be looking at real science that might not be accurate, then using the phrase to help remind people not to trust everything we read!

For example these articles:

www.newscientist.com/article/mg21628910.300-fraud-fighter-faked-research-is-endemic-in-china.html

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100629/14033810006.shtml

http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2010/06/scott_reuben_...

Show how arguments from authority are dangerous. How a sort of Cargo Cult Science can develop a dangerous trust in people in lab coats which is probably not deserved.

Then we come to an even harder question to answer: Who is telling the truth? Who do we rely on? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

It turns out to be a hard question to answer! After all, we can't all invest our time in understanding the current edges of theoretical physics or staying up to date with the latest Lancet or current advances in computational sciences. I don't have a solution for this question, unfortunately most of us are left with this sort of trust the scientists, because they'll self correct. We'll just hope we are right! Our only real hope is that we can point out the Cargo Cults when we see them, and shun their methods with as much fervency as we now shun drilling holes in heads to release demons.





wasoxygen  ·  3285 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Who do we rely on?
I think we have little choice but to be skeptical of all sources, all the time. Even those who have earned our trust as reliable sources can make mistakes.

Someone described a telling example. They said when you read an article about something you don't know much about, you might find it interesting and informative. Hm, I didn't know that. But when you read an article about something you happen to have some expertise in, you see that it is full of errors and misrepresentations. Makes you wonder about all those informative articles. [Note: I am sure I am getting this story wrong.]

wasoxygen  ·  2701 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Someone described a telling example.

This turns out to be the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect, according to Michael Crichton, as mentioned by Scott Alexander.