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Bias In Science

February 27, 2017

By Paul Homewood


h/t Ardy





Quillette, the self described platform for free thought, has an interview with Clay Routledge, a social psychologist and Professor of Psychology at North Dakota State University


It covers a number of topics, but two particular sections took my eye.



Q. Let’s turn to another topic, post-modernism. Do you think that critical theory or postmodernism will ever go away? There have been attempts to discredit postmodernism before (e.g. the Sokal Affair) but nothing seems to work. What should empirically minded academics do to counter the effects of these ideas?

“I am not sure it will ever go away. The basic idea has been around in different forms for a long time. Plus, part of the appeal of this kind of scholarship is that it approaches an important point. It just makes a dramatic turn in the wrong direction before it gets there. The important point is that people are biased and this influences scientific work. I and others have written about the problem of ideological bias in the empirical sciences. However, postmodernists horribly misdiagnose the problem. Science isn’t the problem. People are the problem. Scientists are people, so they can be biased. And this undercuts our ability to develop an objective understanding of the world. This means we need to increase our efforts to remove human bias. Postmodernists oddly go the opposite direction. They increase potential bias by rejecting the methods that help reduce bias. They put their faith, and I use the term faith purposely, in subjective human experiences instead of trying to remove subjectivity from research.”

Q. You’re outspoken about left-leaning bias on campus and even in psychology. Why do you think that it is important to draw attention to this issue? And have you suffered any blowback at all for talking about it?

“As I previously noted, ideological bias can influence research and most academics, especially in the social sciences and humanities, are on the political left. This leads to groupthink and reduces the amount of scrutiny certain research receives and the debate it inspires. And it can bias every step of the research process. It can influence the choice of research questions, the way scales or questionnaires are worded, the specific outcomes measured, the decision to publish or not publish results, the amount of criticism the research receives in the peer-review process, the topics of selected research symposia at conferences, what projects receive grant funding, and so on.

Viewpoint diversity helps because we rely on peers to challenge us, to debate our ideas and point out the biases and flaws in our research. In research that does not touch on social or political issues, we often see considerable debate, people offering alternative hypotheses or questioning particulars of the research design and statistical tests. This always improves the quality of the work and helps us get closer to the objective truth. But people seem to go a little or a lot easier on research that touches on sensitive social or political topics, or supports leftist ideology. I have seen this firsthand. I have been at talks where people present very poorly conducted research related to ideas that failed to replicate or were never well-supported to begin with and watched as hardly anyone in the audience offered even the slightest challenge. It is very strange to see well-trained scientists so blatantly ignore fundamental research flaws because they find the conclusion ideologically affirming. This is precisely why we need to make our methods more rigorous, fight for an academic culture that challenges groupthink and prioritizes the pursuit of truth over tribal loyalty, and encourage diversity of thought.”


He could have been talking about climate science.

  1. John Page permalink
    February 27, 2017 12:49 pm

    It won’t be the first time it’s been said, but as Dan Hannan tweets today:

    People who accept “the scientific consensus” on climate change often dismiss “the scientific consensus” on, say, fracking or GMO being safe.

    • February 27, 2017 1:05 pm

      It was my great honor to meet Daniel Hannan on June 14, 2015 at the unveiling of the statue of Queen Elizabeth II on the Runnymede Pleasure Grounds. He was acting as MC for the event. I was there with a group of members of the National Society of Magna Charta Dames and Barons who had come for the June 15 festivities for the 800th Anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta.

      I introduced myself to him and told him I followed him on FoxNews, watched him address a joint session of Congress and eagerly listened to him talk to Rush Limbaugh whenever in “town.” If you ever tire of him, you can just ship him across the pond. We love Nigel Farage also. He just spoke at CPAC and of course spoke for Donald Trump during the election season. It is so nice that common sense has made a return.

    • February 27, 2017 3:59 pm

      Or nuclear being safe. As I’ve said before, it is not worthwhile arguing with green fanatics, since scientific logic does not form any part of their thinking. It is impossible to change their minds with the facts.

      • David Richardson permalink
        February 27, 2017 4:13 pm

        How true Phillip – I think about 1 or maybe 2 in a 100 will look at the evidence and change position. The other 98+ will never look at evidence at all, just roll along with whatever fixed view they have.

      • Athelstan permalink
        February 27, 2017 6:16 pm

        Indeed Phillip, British engineering ensured as much as they were able – thus standards set in the UK nuclear industry were second to none and bar none.

        The problem, always, at any rate for me, was the transuranic stuff namely Pu239 and it’s 24,000 odd year half life and thus its safe storage.

        The other big fear I have and concerning all about Hinkley – the so called Chinese engineers and its nuclear industry have a quite appalling safety record.

        I say yes to nuclear but only done on the mark of, a British standard. And to that, the problem is, so many of our great nuclear engineers have passed on to that great laboratory – in the sky.

        If they are looking down on the dogs dinner of ‘current’ UK energy policy and nuclear – I’d love to know their thoughts.

      • February 27, 2017 7:19 pm

        Activists oppose nuclear all right, but you may not have noticed they are also against hydropower. Only solar and wind count in their view.

      • Paddy permalink
        February 28, 2017 8:35 am

        I have taken to saying that you cannot argue with ignorance.

      • February 28, 2017 11:23 pm

        ” with green fanatics”
        You cannot reason
        …………………………………………… with the unreasonable/

  2. February 27, 2017 1:56 pm

    Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    “Science isn’t the problem. People are the problem…

    “especially in the social sciences and humanities, are on the political left. This leads to groupthink and reduces the amount of scrutiny certain research receives and the debate it inspires. And it can bias every step of the research process. It can influence the choice of research questions, the way scales or questionnaires are worded, the specific outcomes measured, the decision to publish or not publish results, the amount of criticism the research receives in the peer-review process, the topics of selected research symposia at conferences, what projects receive grant funding, and so on.”

    James Delingpole NAILED this corruption/politicisation/self-interested state of climate “science” ergo, perhaps many of the ‘pal-reviewed’ sciences, at the latest CPAC conference :

    “If you’re a scientist, you must publish to support yourself and your family. And if you’re out there saying global warming is not a problem, you are not going to get a research grant. If you’re a politician, you know that if you can control carbon, you can control life.”

    • February 27, 2017 2:28 pm

      I have noticed in recent years that the “Scientific Method” is being ignored–with good reason for those on the left. They would not have a case were it being enforced.

      The Scientific Method was in use for hundreds of years until recently. 1. Define the problem or question 2. Research it–does it need investigation 3. Form a hypothesis 4. Test the hypothesis by collecting data and experimentation 5. Analyze the data 6. Interpret the data and draw conclusions 7. Report the work and make data available, known as full disclosure, for others to view. The work must be able to be duplicated. It must be open to debate, peer review, transparency in methodology, sharing of data and trust.

  3. February 27, 2017 4:20 pm

    Over the last 10 years of observing the Global Warming debate, now morphed to the Climate Debate, I have noticed that most scientific articles now include somewhere in the text, usually in the conclusion or explanation section some statement akin to “Due to anthropological CO2”. The wording varies but the essence is the same. It appears to me that this is now a required adjunct to any research if it is to be considered for publication. Am I wrong?
    For my part I have dubbed this to be a Meme. In fact a viral Meme, which now infects global thinking patterns; for it persistently pops up – Everywhere!
    The word “Meme” I believe was coined by that arch atheist Richard Dawkins; but Susan Blackmore’s book “The Meme machine” gives a far more detailed analysis, which briefly explains it as akin to the Gene in that it can be replicated and passed on from one mind to another, with the ability to morph into associated memes ano form complex structures resident in books, minds, articles and laws. And indeed very relevant in the various religions.
    The point I make here is that I suspect this “Anthropological Meme” has now infected and creating a major bias in the scientific community.

    • auralay permalink
      February 27, 2017 5:18 pm

      I think you are wrong here. It is not a meme, rather a mantra which has to be chanted to appease the gods; just as Pratchet’s whitches chant “maysherestinpeace” when mentioning Black Alice. Knowing young science students, they are already chafing at having to conform. Sooner or later a modern Luther will nail his 92 theses to his university Facebook page and start a schism. Then I predict the scam will topple as fast as the Berlin wall.

      • bea permalink
        February 27, 2017 5:57 pm

        “…to appease the gods…”

        And more urgently, to appease “the big men” (who are in reality very silly little boys.)

      • February 28, 2017 12:14 pm

        @auralay: Indeed; whether it be Meme or Mantra it is still a viral infection and Joan Gibson is right: the scientific process is debilitated.
        You only have to look at the IPCC definition of Forcing Rate to see this for it in no way complies with thermodynamic law.
        The University of Melbourne informed me that it was a convenience to enable simplicity of concept and calculation and got sorted out further down the line in the logic. Not so as I have found as there are a number of serious anomalies in this IPCC logic by my reckoning.
        The first being that this purported energy flux cannot be included in the Stephan- Boltzmann equation.
        The others are a bit complicated to be included here.
        Generally I find that all these arguments about statistical evidence on say ice coverage etc. are irrelevant; for it is the basic logic that needs to be addressed. Meanwhile the Meme/ Mantra prevails!

  4. bea permalink
    February 27, 2017 5:58 pm

    Updated graphs:

  5. February 27, 2017 7:39 pm

    Reblogged this on CraigM350.

  6. Ardy permalink
    February 27, 2017 8:11 pm

    Hi Paul, thanks for giving this article a wider audience. I was not sure you would find it worthwhile. If I run across anything else I consider worthy and possibly of interest to your readers, I will post another note to you.

    Regards tp you and thanks for the great work you are doing, combating ideology and the undermining of science with logic and some common sense. Ardy

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      February 27, 2017 8:49 pm

      I would add my mite of praise too.

  7. February 28, 2017 11:32 pm

    Clay Routledge a pal of Jonathan Haidt
    Here’s another worth reading from Clay Routledge | November 10, 2016
    Fetishizing Victimhood: How Colleges Promote Psychological Frailty
    Curiously, the loudest cries often come from students attending the most expensive and elite colleges.

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