Diagnoses and treatment plans differ.
In “Guy carts out bad science writing, along with demolished literary Darwinism,” science writer Michael Suk-Young Chwe, political scientist and author of Jane Austen, Game Theorist, was attacked for, well, basically for having a tin ear for literature. (No disgrace if you aren’t trying to write literary criticism; thing is, he was.)
Yet Chwe senses the same problem in science today that the former editor of the British Medical Journal does:
SCIENCE is in crisis, just when we need it most. Two years ago, C. Glenn Begley and Lee M. Ellis reported in Nature that they were able to replicate only six out of 53 “landmark” cancer studies. Scientists now worry that many published scientific results are simply not true. The natural sciences often offer themselves as a model to other disciplines. But this time science might look for help to the humanities, and to literary criticism in particular.
A major root of the crisis is selective use of data. Scientists, eager to make striking new claims, focus only on evidence that supports their preconceptions. Psychologists call this “confirmation bias”: We seek out information that confirms what we already believe. “We each begin probably with a little bias,” as Jane Austen writes in “Persuasion,” “and upon that bias build every circumstance in favor of it.”
He is, as it happens, attempting to defend his position that Jane Austen was a game theorist.
She wasn’t. It was more like this: Jane Austen’s novels are set roughly around the turn of the nineteenth century when women of the genteel classes who were not rich or titled had to negotiate between respectable marriage, dependent spinsterhood, a lifetime as a governess—or falling out of the genteel classes altogether. Calling it a game or treating it as one misses the point. Most of the people in it had few gaming skills and were not interested in playing a game. They were stuck in a social position with limited mobility which a dilettante, centuries later, could frame as a game to sell a book to people who enjoy game theory. It does no harm except that it diminishes Austen.
Bigger news is the general recognition of the current problem with the evaluation of research.