News Peer review

Well, this might be useful: Tackling biases in science

Spread the love

Biases? In science? From Nautilus:

Sometimes it seems surprising that science functions at all. In 2005, medical science was shaken by a paper with the provocative title “Why most published research findings are false.”1 Written by John Ioannidis, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, it didn’t actually show that any particular result was wrong. Instead, it showed that the statistics of reported positive findings was not consistent with how often one should expect to find them. As Ioannidis concluded more recently, “many published research findings are false or exaggerated, and an estimated 85 percent of research resources are wasted.”

It’s likely that some researchers are consciously cherry-picking data to get their work published. And some of the problems surely lie with journal publication policies. But the problems of false findings often begin with researchers unwittingly fooling themselves: they fall prey to cognitive biases, common modes of thinking that lure us toward wrong but convenient or attractive conclusions. “Seeing the reproducibility rates in psychology and other empirical science, we can safely say that something is not working out the way it should,” says Susann Fiedler, a behavioral economist at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in Bonn, Germany. “Cognitive biases might be one reason for that.”

Why don’t we apply that thinking to the multiverse, and the claim that natural selection acting on random mutation (Darwinism) can produce massive amounts of new information?

Follow UD News at Twitter!

5 Replies to “Well, this might be useful: Tackling biases in science

  1. 1
    mahuna says:

    The problem with finishing your research and NOT finding a correlation is that it proved nothing. That is, in most cases you haven’t actually disproved the assumption, you’re just hanging in the middle.

    But it’s important to do a lot of varied research to make sure the ground gets covered thoroughly. I think Edison documented 1,000 things that did NOT make good filaments before he settled on tungsten. A researcher who’s looking for a cheaper alternative might be interested to know what came in 2nd or 3rd.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Even though the leading science journals are overtly biased towards accepting Darwinian evolution, and towards excluding Intelligent Design, it is interesting to note that none of the scientific papers, in these leading journals purporting to support Darwinian evolution, actually ever provide any empirical evidence that unguided material processes can produce non-trivial functional information and/or complexity.

    In 1997 Dr. Behe’s noted that none of the papers he surveyed discussed detailed accounts of how any molecular machine evolved:

    Molecular Machines: – Michael J. Behe – 1997
    Excerpt: JME is a journal that was begun specifically to deal with the topic of how evolution occurs on the molecular level. It has high scientific standards, and is edited by prominent figures in the field.,,,
    In the past ten years JME has published 886 papers. Of these, 95 discussed the chemical synthesis of molecules thought to be necessary for the origin of life, 44 proposed mathematical models to improve sequence analysis, 20 concerned the evolutionary implications of current structures, and 719 were analyses of protein or polynucleotide sequences. There were zero papers discussing detailed models for intermediates in the development of complex biomolecular structures. This is not a peculiarity of JME. No papers are to be found that discuss detailed models for intermediates in the development of complex biomolecular structures in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Nature, Science, the Journal of Molecular Biology or, to my knowledge, any journal whatsoever.
    http://www.arn.org/docs/behe/mb_mm92496.htm

    Dr. Behe is not alone in his claim, James Shapiro agreed with him in 1996

    “The argument that random variation and Darwinian gradualism may not be adequate to explain complex biological systems is hardly new […} in fact, there are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations. It is remarkable that Darwinism is accepted as a satisfactory explanation for such a vast subject — evolution — with so little rigorous examination of how well its basic theses works in illuminating specific instances of biological adaptation or diversity.”
    Prof. James Shapiro – “In the Details…What?” National Review, 19 September 1996, pp. 64.
    http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.ed.....Review.pdf

    In 2001, Franklin M. Harold reluctantly admitted pretty much the same thing as Shapiro did in 1996

    ,,,we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.’
    Franklin M. Harold,* 2001. The way of the cell: molecules, organisms and the order of life, Oxford University Press, New York, p. 205.
    *Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry, Colorado State University, USA

    In 2006, Nick Matzke took up Behe’s challenge and came up, embarrassingly, short:

    Calling Nick Matzke’s literature bluff on molecular machines – DonaldM UD blogger – April 2013
    Excerpt: So now, 10 years later in 2006 Matzke and Pallen come along with this review article. The interesting thing about this article is that, despite all the hand waving claims about all these dozens if not hundreds of peer reviewed research studies showing how evolution built a flagellum, Matzke and Pallen didn’t have a single such reference in their bibliography. Nor did they reference any such study in the article. Rather, the article went into great lengths to explain how a researcher might go about conducting a study to show how evolution could have produced the system. Well, if all those articles and studies were already there, why not just point them all out? In shorty, the entire article was a tacit admission that Behe had been right all along.
    Fast forward to now and Andre’s question directed to Matzke. We’re now some 17 years after Behe’s book came out where he made that famous claim. And, no surprise, there still is not a single peer reviewed research study that provides the Darwinian explanation for a bacterial flagellum (or any of the other irreducibly complex biological systems Behe mentioned in the book). We’re almost 7 years after the Matzke & Pallen article. So where are all these research studies? There’s been ample time for someone to do something in this regard.
    Matzke will not answer the question because there is no answer he can give…no peer reviewed research study he can reference, other than the usual literature bluffing he’s done in the past.
    Per UncommonDescent

    As of 2014, the empirical evidence supporting grand Darwinian claims is still missing:

    PNAS Paper Admits Understanding the Origin of Cellular Features Is a “Glaring Gap” in Evolutionary Biology – Casey Luskin – December 10, 2014
    Excerpt: In 2001, biochemist Franklin Harold wrote in an Oxford University Press monograph that “there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.” Last month, a new paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Evolutionary cell biology: Two origins, one objective,” admitted much the same thing.,,,
    ,,,”a full mechanistic understanding of evolutionary processes will never be achieved without an elucidation of how cellular features become established and modified.”
    Though they don’t put it quite as bluntly as Franklin Harold, this paper’s message is no less potent: modern evolutionary biology lacks explanations for the origin of molecular machines.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....91901.html

    Talking Back to Goliath: Some Advice for Students in the Evolutionary Biology Classroom – Paul Nelson – September 30, 2014
    Excerpt: (if neo-Darwinism) is true, we should be able to find in the scientific literature the detailed explanations for the origin of complex structures and behaviors, rendered strictly in terms of random variation plus natural selection.
    Guess what? Those explanations aren’t there; they don’t exist. If anyone doubts this, he should try looking for himself. Choose any complex structure or behavior, and look in the biological literature for the step-by-step causal account where the origin of that structure (that is, its coming-to-be where it did not exist before) is explained via random variation and natural selection.
    You’ll be looking a long time. The explanations just aren’t there, and this fact is well known to evolutionary biologists who have become disenchanted with received neo-Darwinian theory. When proponents of the received theory, such as Richard Dawkins, face the task of making random variation and natural selection work, they resort to fictional entities like Dawkins’s “biomorphs” — see Chapter 3 of The Blind Watchmaker (1986) — or flawed analogies such as the “methinks it is like a weasel” search algorithm scenario. No one would have to employ these toy stories, of course, if evidence were available showing the efficacy of random variation and selection to construct novel complexity.
    “Research on selection and adaptation,” notes Mary Jane West-Eberhard, a disenchanted evolutionary theorist, “may tell us why a trait persisted and spread, but it will not tell us where a trait came from….This transformational aspect of evolutionary change has been oddly neglected in modern evolutionary biology” (2003, p. 197).
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....90141.html

    Moreover, besides the total lack of actual empirical evidence supporting Darwinian claims, it is interesting to note how evidence is falsely attributed to Darwinian evolution in these papers:

    In the peer-reviewed literature, the word “evolution” often occurs as a sort of coda to academic papers in experimental biology. Is the term integral or superfluous to the substance of these papers? To find out, I substituted for “evolution” some other word – “Buddhism,” “Aztec cosmology,” or even “creationism.” I found that the substitution never touched the paper’s core. This did not surprise me. From my conversations with leading researchers it had became clear that modern experimental biology gains its strength from the availability of new instruments and methodologies, not from an immersion in historical biology.”
    Philip S. Skell – (the late) Emeritus Evan Pugh Professor at Pennsylvania State University, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
    http://www.discovery.org/a/2816

    At the 7:00 minute mark of this following video, Dr. Behe gives an example of how positive evidence is falsely attributed to evolution by using the word ‘evolution’ as a narrative gloss in peer-reviewed literature:

    Michael Behe – Life Reeks Of Design – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hdh-YcNYThY

    Rewriting Biology Without Spin By Ann Gauger – Jan. 12, 2014
    Excerpt: It’s a funny thing—scientific papers often have evolutionary language layered on top of the data like icing on a cake. In most papers, the icing (evolutionary language) sits atop and separate from the cake (the actual experimental data). Even in papers where the evolutionary language is mixed in with the data like chocolate and vanilla in a marble cake, I can still tell one from the other.
    I have noticed that this dichotomy creates a kind of double vision. I know what the data underlying evolutionary arguments are. By setting aside the premise that evolution is true, I can read what’s on the page and at the same time see how that paper would read if neutral, fact-based language were substituted for evolutionary language.
    Let me give you an example.,,,
    http://www.biologicinstitute.o.....thout-spin

    Darwinian ‘science’ in a nutshell:
    Jonathan Wells on pop science boilerplate – April 20, 2015
    Excerpt: Based on my reading of thousands of Peer-Reviewed Articles in the professional literature, I’ve distilled (the) template for writing scientific articles that deal with evolution:
    1. (Presuppose that) Darwinian evolution is a fact.
    2. We used [technique(s)] to study [feature(s)] in [name of species], and we unexpectedly found [results inconsistent with Darwinian evolution].
    3. We propose [clever speculations], which might explain why the results appear to conflict with evolutionary theory.
    4. We conclude that Darwinian evolution is a fact.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ilerplate/

    It’s Optimal. It Must Have Evolved! – August 16, 2014
    Excerpt These (optimal) solutions “have been arrived at” — by design? No; read the last sentence in the paper: “It is appealing that one might look to biology for insights into solutions of hard optimization problems, arrived at as a result of evolution within an information niche.” Evolution did it. Give evolution the engineering design award.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....89031.html

    I seriously would have never believed that science could be practiced in such a grossly negligent manner.
    Never questioning basic assumptions, falsely attributing positive evidence where it does not belong, as Darwinists do in these ‘peer reviewed’ papers, unless I had seen it myself.

    It is a shame, and travesty, that this sort of unethical behavior is tolerated, perhaps even encouraged, in biological science.

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    Mahuna, yup, it is hard to be hanging there with a “no conclusion” in a publish or perish world. KF

    PS: I think it was bamboo based Carbon filaments for Edison, Tungsten came later.

  4. 4
    0812681 says:

    An article (of an interview) related to this subject

    An Interview With Donald Green, the Co-Author of the Faked Gay-Marriage Study
    http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2.....s-out.html

    …….

    In the immediate wake of the news that the data were faked, I’ve seen a lot of people cite this study as an example of problems with the peer-review system or even the broader scientific method. What do you think about this argument?
    The question of what does this mean about the integrity of science, or the integrity of scientific vetting procedures — I suppose you could look at it one of two ways. The negative way to look at it is here was a failure of the review process, or a failure of the vetting process, or a failure on my part as the senior author. We posted our data, we did all kinds of checks, and still fraud slipped through. That’s one way to think about it.

    Another way to think about it is, it was because of the posting of replication data sets and because of the meticulous way in which the study was described that others who sought to do a study like the original studies like Michael LaCour had done, tried and failed and asked questions and got answers form the data, and recognized that things were out of sync with what had been reported in the article. And so from that standpoint, it’s a positive story about the self-correcting nature of science.

    But you can understand why a lot of people aren’t interpreting it that way, that they think that the fact that he was able to fool so many people is a pretty big indictment of the process itself.
    I think that it’s absolutely correct to say that in the short run, the process has its vulnerabilities, and one of the things I’m certainly reflecting on now is how can something positive come out of this in terms of the way in which we structure our procedures in our research group. Maybe the answer is that we need to have at least two people at all times gathering primary data. Maybe that was the source of this problem.

    Was the personnel structure here, where he was the only guy doing the primary data collection, at all unusual?
    No, it’s not that unusual.

    On the one hand, there’s obviously the potential for abuse in that sort of situation. On the other hand, in any professional settings, if we didn’t have certain baseline assumptions that our colleagues are acting honestly, or not making stuff, everything would grind to a halt. There’s no way to not have some degree of trust baked into the research process, right?
    I agree. I think that one wants to be skeptical and build in checks, but without some degree of trust one would have to build in so many checks and so much redundancy into the system that nothing would be feasible except at very high cost. So there’s a cost of ratcheting up the level of mistrust.

    ….

    I couldn’t help but think about confirmation bias, as I went back to look at my own reporting on the study. Because the stuff the study said — that you’ll have more luck appealing to people on an emotional level, tying their own values to the issue in question — most of those basic findings aren’t really in question. That’s what political science and political psychology have known for a while, right?
    Yes, …

    The last question in the quote above, and the answer to it, says it all.

    @ Bornagain 77 #2

    I think that this might explain why ”the leading science journals are overtly biased towards accepting Darwinian evolution, and towards excluding Intelligent Design… Never questioning basic assumptions, falsely attributing positive evidence where it does not belong, as Darwinists do in these ‘peer reviewed’ papers..”

    and why

    ”…this sort of unethical behavior is tolerated, perhaps even encouraged, in biological science.”

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Thanks 0812681 !

Leave a Reply