Friday, September 11, 2015

Self-Defenestration

Whuppsie-Daisy, there's a scandal:  what we thought was scientific, anthropological evidence, ain't.  This has some legs, too;  an eminent scholar ends his career in shame, forced to resign after several falsifications were revealed.

Defenestration -- being thrown out a window.  This particular phrasing has roots in Catholic-Protestant tensions in early modern Europe.

Except science scandals like this qualify more as self-defenestration.  Everything rolling their way, and the agents in question simply go out of their way to screw things up for themselves.  They throw themselves out a window.  Self-Defenestration.

Maybe this is just another way of saying:  original sin.  Keep rubbin'--that stain ain't coming out.

In our memed-up world where we communicate in Uzi-short bursts of 140 characters and Handmaid's Tale-esque images, these sorts of scandals will continue as the norm.  The conventional wisdom:  "science" tells us what's true because it's verifiable.  So whatever science tells us is true, then that, and certainly not "religion," is the acceptable view.

Hence memes like this:


This is a secular version of what I've called "comedy porn."  Here's another version (NSFW/offensive language warning!):

Here we have one embodiment (there are others) of "comedy porn:"  the self-satisfied, condescending, "you don't know what's good for you" tone that delights in ridiculing others.  Usually this serves a progressivist, roughly secular, perspective but that doesn't stop progressivist Christians from getting in on the act.  If there's a chance to lampoon supposedly dumb Christians, watch everybody line up! Note:  this savage satire does, at times, serve important purposes.  Consider the success of Eye of the Tiber.




That's where arguments like this--Aschwanden's reassessment of compiling scientific data--are so important.  Too often we mistake snarky comedy porn as science.  Just consider the above...but Aschwanden reminds us that science is far more difficult, tedious, and exacting than conveniently snarky memes.  Aschwanden:

As you manipulated all those variables in the p-hacking exercise above, you shaped your result by exploiting what psychologists Uri Simonsohn, Joseph Simmons and Leif Nelson call “researcher degrees of freedom,” the decisions scientists make as they conduct a study. These choices include things like which observations to record, which ones to compare, which factors to control for, or, in your case, whether to measure the economy using employment or inflation numbers (or both). Researchers often make these calls as they go, and often there’s no obviously correct way to proceed, which makes it tempting to try different things until you get the result you’re looking for.
Scientists who fiddle around like this — just about all of them do, Simonsohn told me — aren’t usually committing fraud, nor are they intending to. They’re just falling prey to natural human biases that lead them to tip the scales and set up studies to produce false-positive results.

Since publishing novel results can garner a scientist rewards such as tenure and jobs, there’s ample incentive to p-hack. Indeed, when Simonsohn analyzed the distribution of p-values in published psychology papers, he found that they were suspiciously concentrated around 0.05. “Everybody has p-hacked at least a little bit,” Simonsohn told me.

But that doesn’t mean researchers are a bunch of hucksters, a la LaCour. What it means is that they’re human. P-hacking and similar types of manipulations often arise from human biases. “You can do it in unconscious ways — I’ve done it in unconscious ways,” Simonsohn said. “You really believe your hypothesis and you get the data and there’s ambiguity about how to analyze it.” When the first analysis you try doesn’t spit out the result you want, you keep trying until you find one that does. (And if that doesn’t work, you can always fall back on HARKing — hypothesizing after the results are known.)

It's a provocative article, well worth the read here.

And yet we are called to something more, difficult though following that call is and will be.  We know that, but try as we might we cannot tune out the small voice calling us to the Good.  Hey, I might've grown up a Calvinist (of sorts), so I still hold to a strong notion of God's sovereignty.   God overcomes all the obstacles we throw in His way.  Here's Strahlen Smith's reflections on her divorce.  Money line:  don't give into the temptation...of bitterness.  The cheating ex-husband fell for sexual temptation, and left Strahlen with five boys to raise.  In what should count as a modern conversion story, she has turned that pain into remarkable spiritual advice.  Smith:

The corruption within ourselves allows some to succumb to temptation, to blame everything outside of ourselves, and to seek that elusive emotion of happiness by breaking marriage vows.

The abandoned spouse cannot change that. Free will is a God-given gift that is too often used to curse.


The challenge to faithful spouses is to not fall for the same evils within. Satan is smart; he knows each person’s weakness almost as well as the Father does.


Satan knew your husband would fall for divorce.

He’s hoping you will fall for bitterness.


It is the same evil within your husband that made him seek another, seek to please himself above all others, and seek to destroy the marriage and family you worked so hard to build that begins working on your heart when you have those thoughts of scornful revenge.

You must fight against that evil with prayer and peace.

Thus, Smith advises, do something good--for your family and yourself--but pray while you do so.  Smith:
Pray that that same evil does not take hold of your heart or your mind. Pray that the Lord fills your heart with Goodness, with Love, with Hope, with Faith, with chastity, generosity, life, loyalty, Love, honesty, morality, concern for others, humility, wisdom, with all those things your husband and the other woman lack without their even realizing it.

So you need not throw yourself out a window.  Or anybody else.  In so many avenues of life we can and should do good prayerfully.  And, yes, quite frankly, that includes science.  Consider this guy's career.

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