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Thread: Science! Data! And how we use them.

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    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Science! Data! And how we use them.

    There are about a million scientific journals around. We seem to get 20 a week (not for me, I can't even read them). The amount of data that is provided within the medical annals is pretty amazing. I am not sure how it is possible though anymore to fully understand the "data" as it is so skewed based on your personal political or moral compass. This piece from the American Enterprise Institute is thought provoking...

    http://www.american.com/archive/2013...-gay-parenting

    Conservativesí trust in science has dipped to an all-time low.
    The take away from the article is that data is skewed to meet a specific persons viewpoint, and that it is difficult to ascertain if that data is real or if it is just groupthink.

    To me it brings up the fundamental process of scientific research - peer review. We seem to have this conversation every couple of years when one scientist goes out and speaks out against Climate Change. Everyone again questions whether the process for determining data is flawed. In the end though it is clearly shown that peer reviewed data is the best data available. Publishing data and having the results be repeated are what make data valuable. Providing a viewpoint is one thing. Providing a set of data that has been peer reviewed or meets the "general wisdom" of the scientific community is not unreasonable.

    What say you Throbbing Brian? How do you determine whether the data you use to inform your thought processes or beliefs is real or fake?
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  2. #2
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    The key is peer reviewed data. That generally seems to separate out most of the flawed research that is agenda driven IMO. What it doesn't do is satisfy those who are agenda driven and whose beliefs or ideology override the scientific method (hence the conservative distrust of science at an all time low) but that is as it should be. Unfortunately our media and politicians give more weight to science deniers than they should.

    I was reading recently how reddits subforum banned climate change deniers because they were bombarding scientific discussion of peer reviewed studies with nonsense.
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Hink View post
    There are about a million scientific journals around. We seem to get 20 a week (not for me, I can't even read them). The amount of data that is provided within the medical annals is pretty amazing. I am not sure how it is possible though anymore to fully understand the "data" as it is so skewed based on your personal political or moral compass. This piece from the American Enterprise Institute is thought provoking...

    http://www.american.com/archive/2013...-gay-parenting



    The take away from the article is that data is skewed to meet a specific persons viewpoint, and that it is difficult to ascertain if that data is real or if it is just groupthink.

    To me it brings up the fundamental process of scientific research - peer review. We seem to have this conversation every couple of years when one scientist goes out and speaks out against Climate Change. Everyone again questions whether the process for determining data is flawed. In the end though it is clearly shown that peer reviewed data is the best data available. Publishing data and having the results be repeated are what make data valuable. Providing a viewpoint is one thing. Providing a set of data that has been peer reviewed or meets the "general wisdom" of the scientific community is not unreasonable.

    What say you Throbbing Brian? How do you determine whether the data you use to inform your thought processes or beliefs is real or fake?
    First of all, this is AEI. It is their job to try and convince you that science can't be trusted. That's what they get paid for. Of course cons' trust is at an all time low: CEI, AEI. Heritage et al. get paid to lower cons' trust in science.

    There is little problem with peer review. Once or twice a year there is a problem.

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    For me, it comes down to a simple phrase...

    "We don't know what we don't know, and some of what we think we know, ain't so."

    For a long time, science could not explain how a bumble bee could fly... for a long time, science said that that the sun went around the earth and that the earth was flat... because the data at that time supported that concept. We have gotten a lot better regarding data, but also a lot worse in terms of manipulating data to create unrealistic correlations.

    I read over an article saying that students do better in public school that they do in private school. The title was interesting given they looked at one subject (math) and the data was 'adjusted' for economic, race, and social factors. The article did admit that the raw data showed that private schools did better.

    I guess my point is we accept scientific theories as absolute facts. Sometimes that is the case... other times, not so much. Even things such as carbon dating is being brought into question because it assumes that the progression of carbon deterioration has always occurred at the same rate and ignores outside factors.
    If you want different results in your life, you need to do different things than you have done in the past. Change is that simple.

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    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    I blame the spread of media for a lot of this. Any idiot can get on TV or the interwebs and declare they "researched" a topic and it is good or bad according to them. I stand strongly behind peer reviewed work. So much is agenda driven and even if they can show their method is sound, they can easily editorialize the results. I admit I have my beliefs, but I will accept the findings of a well established peer reviewed work. Then again, I would look for other similar work that either backs it up or disputes the findings. Sadly we have to research the research people put out and we can't just trust the news to tell us what to think.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    For me, it comes down to a simple phrase...

    "We don't know what we don't know, and some of what we think we know, ain't so."

    For a long time, science could not explain how a bumble bee could fly... for a long time, science said that that the sun went around the earth and that the earth was flat... because the data at that time supported that concept. We have gotten a lot better regarding data, but also a lot worse in terms of manipulating data to create unrealistic correlations.

    I read over an article saying that students do better in public school that they do in private school. The title was interesting given they looked at one subject (math) and the data was 'adjusted' for economic, race, and social factors. The article did admit that the raw data showed that private schools did better.

    I guess my point is we accept scientific theories as absolute facts. Sometimes that is the case... other times, not so much. Even things such as carbon dating is being brought into question because it assumes that the progression of carbon deterioration has always occurred at the same rate and ignores outside factors.
    One of my favorite quotes is one that is commonly attributed to Keynes.

    "When the facts change I change my mind. What do you do?"

    Scientific consensus is often changing as new information is found. But science doesn't have an agenda. Some people in science may have an agenda but peer review usually sniffs those out. The issue at the heart of the AEP articles whining is that too people with agendas put forth non-peer reviewed studies as somehow as legitimate as peer reviewed studies. The reason for that is that AEP and so many others prepare studies to support a predetermined conclusion. That's not science.
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian terraplnr's avatar
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    If anything, the "agenda" that actual scientists have is to only do research that they can get funding for, or that they'll be able to write a journal article about so that they can continue their funding, get tenure, etc.

    The media will often report results of studies that had small sample sizes, or were the first study of its kind (so hasn't been replicated) if the results will catch readers' attention. Then, a few years later when subsequent studies determine that the result isn't as significant or there are confounding factors or whatever, it will be portrayed as "the facts were wrong" instead of JUST THE WAY THAT THE SCIENTIFIC PROCESS WORKS. Then people who weren't adequately taught about the scientific method don't know what to "believe" and begin discrediting science that doesn't conform to their beliefs.

    I think it is simply amazing what our brains have been able to figure out about the way our world works in such a relatively short period of historical time. But, yes, when I hear of a new study with "suprising results" I file it away as something that is interesting, but needs more time and research to actually prove it.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner View post
    Scientific consensus is often changing as new information is found. But science doesn't have an agenda. Some people in science may have an agenda but peer review usually sniffs those out. The issue at the heart of the AEP articles whining is that too people with agendas put forth non-peer reviewed studies as somehow as legitimate as peer reviewed studies. The reason for that is that AEP and so many others prepare studies to support a predetermined conclusion. That's not science.
    While I agree with most of what you said, I think that sometimes, science does have an agenda... and when it does it is based on the funding sources. I agree that in those cases, it is not real science.

    For example, the statistics that are provided in the book Point Man by Steven Farrar show how important or detrimental a father figure can be in a household. He shows the whole picture where if a father is a positive influence and in short is an upstanding member of society, there is a low risk of the child being arrested at some point in their lives. He also shows that if there is no father, it is something like 60% risk that the child be be arrested, but if the father is a negative influence and is not a upstanding guy, it is in the 90% range that the child will get arrested.

    However, some years ago, I read an article written by an extreme feminist illustrating that only used the last two parts (did not include the positive influence part) to show that father figures are detrimental. Same data and only part of the conclusion is presented.

    That is why I get skeptical when the full data set is sampled, weighted, or adjusted.
    If you want different results in your life, you need to do different things than you have done in the past. Change is that simple.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    Being a smoker, my favorite misuse of data is the cigarette to cigar comparison. I will admit that not smoking is the best alternative, but the scare tactics used can be funny (at least to me).
    Cigarette smoking is something like 12x more likely to cause certain cancers. A typical cigar or pipe smoker is one 1-2x more likely. This is based on reduced amounts of smoking and not inhaling.
    What a lot of reports like to put out is just that cigars contain 5x the tobacco so must be as much or more dangerous without taking into account the actual reduced smoking and inhaling.
    Yes this data is all sound and peer reviewed, but the final message is off base a little. I would rather just read the actual findings and compare apples to apples (at least as close as possible) than have someone translate the findings to their own agenda (even if it is a good agenda for a healthier society). Mskies example is classic, fathers are bad! No, bad fathers are bad, good fathers are good. I want all the facts then I'll choose to take the risk or not.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Anyone can undertake a scientific study and draw conclusions from it or write some silly book about it. But again, unless it is peer reviewed, it's hogwash.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  11. #11
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    While I agree with most of what you said, I think that sometimes, science does have an agenda... and when it does it is based on the funding sources. I agree that in those cases, it is not real science.

    For example, the statistics that are provided in the book Point Man by Steven Farrar show how important or detrimental a father figure can be in a household. He shows the whole picture where if a father is a positive influence and in short is an upstanding member of society, there is a low risk of the child being arrested at some point in their lives. He also shows that if there is no father, it is something like 60% risk that the child be be arrested, but if the father is a negative influence and is not a upstanding guy, it is in the 90% range that the child will get arrested.

    However, some years ago, I read an article written by an extreme feminist illustrating that only used the last two parts (did not include the positive influence part) to show that father figures are detrimental. Same data and only part of the conclusion is presented.

    That is why I get skeptical when the full data set is sampled, weighted, or adjusted.
    Exactly. I think it's probably human nature to form a conclusion and then grab at whatever you can to make justify the conclusion. That's why peer review is so important. But I think you hit on the main issue with distrust of science- that being that people with agendas (in this case the extreme feminist - often pick and choose what parts of peer reviewed studies to use to make points that maybnot actually be supported by the study. Then people read those articles and fail to make the distinction between the article and the studies. Nowhere is this more widespread (IMO) than in the national discussion of climate data.
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

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    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner View post
    Exactly. I think it's probably human nature to form a conclusion and then grab at whatever you can to make justify the conclusion.
    This is called "confirmation bias".

    BTW, the professional disinformers at AEI, CEI, Cato, et al have the art of the persuasive essay down to....erm...a science, and they have spent the years since their formation post-Goldwater to perfect the essay that pooh-poohs the findings that impact the profit of their funders. Krauthammer and Will use the technique as well. They know exactly how to get your head nodding 'yes' then inject their disinformation. I'm not talking about the big-time shills like Limbaugh and Beck, BTW, who s--k at it but their job is different than AEI and the job they do, they do well.

    All this is very well documented, probably none better than Oreskes' Merchants of Doubt. I'm also looking at a couple books on a shelf right now from the early noughties about this subject as well - Beder's Global Spin and Wilkinson's Science Under Seige, in which is chronicled the travails of several combat biologists, and one of our friends is finally succumbing to one such campaign, likely due to his work in carbon markets.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Science is so often wrong.

    I only trust studies that reinforce my current beliefs.
    1 3 5
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    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post
    Science is so often wrong.

    I only trust studies that reinforce my current beliefs.
    Hot snow falls up?
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner View post
    Hot snow falls up?
    There is a bit of irony in that given the strange properties of water. (water is most dense at 39 degrees.) As bodies of water cool off to freeze it creates a strange churning effect. So sometimes it gets colder when you go deeper, sometimes it gets warmer.
    If you want different results in your life, you need to do different things than you have done in the past. Change is that simple.

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    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Any real science makes a prediction. If it can be reproduced in other studies, it must add to the body of knowledge.

    The climate models predict a global warming trend. The prediction can be tested through long term weather observation (weather is not climate. climate is the sustained trend of weather over time.). The Climate is warming.

    The only question is to what degree. I am not sure if another predictive set of models has ever had more peer review for consistency. Its real.
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

  17. #17
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Duke Of Dystopia View post
    Any real science makes a prediction. If it can be reproduced in other studies, it must add to the body of knowledge.

    The climate models predict a global warming trend. The prediction can be tested through long term weather observation (weather is not climate. climate is the sustained trend of weather over time.). The Climate is warming.

    The only question is to what degree. I am not sure if another predictive set of models has ever had more peer review for consistency. Its real.
    I think the degree question depends on the model. I agree that there is climate change. This winter is evidence of that. (Warm water in the Pacific pushing air into the Arctic around Alaska, thus causing a drought in California, and altering the jet stream patterns causing the cold Arctic are to push south of the Great Lakes.)

    A few years back, I went to a presentation where a book author (I forget his name) made some dire predictions, namely in how it related to global food supplies and explained that it is warming up at an exponential rate and by 2025, northern California will look more like Arizona and most of the coastal communities will be underwater. Alaska will have the same climate that Washington and Oregon have right now and the great planes and southern Midwest will not be able to sustain the growth of corn and wheat anymore, so all of that will end up in Canada. I think that was the most dire of the predictions that I heard.

    It was a short time later that I found Matt Grocoff who bluntly stated that to make a real difference in climate change, we need to make the existing buildings energy efficient, to the point of Net Zero.
    If you want different results in your life, you need to do different things than you have done in the past. Change is that simple.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    I think the degree question depends on the model. I agree that there is climate change. This winter is evidence of that. (Warm water in the Pacific pushing air into the Arctic around Alaska, thus causing a drought in California, and altering the jet stream patterns causing the cold Arctic are to push south of the Great Lakes.)

    A few years back, I went to a presentation where a book author (I forget his name) made some dire predictions, namely in how it related to global food supplies and explained that it is warming up at an exponential rate and by 2025, northern California will look more like Arizona and most of the coastal communities will be underwater. Alaska will have the same climate that Washington and Oregon have right now and the great planes and southern Midwest will not be able to sustain the growth of corn and wheat anymore, so all of that will end up in Canada. I think that was the most dire of the predictions that I heard.

    It was a short time later that I found Matt Grocoff who bluntly stated that to make a real difference in climate change, we need to make the existing buildings energy efficient, to the point of Net Zero.
    The only climate models that are worth looking at are the most extreme outliers. None other come close to matching observations being made in the real world.

    For WI, that means a climate similar to Missouri. 8 to 9 inches more rain per year but in larger amounts in individual storm events, meaning we will be drier as the water we do get will run off into our water bodies rather than sinking into the ground.
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

  19. #19
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Duke Of Dystopia View post
    The only climate models that are worth looking at are the most extreme outliers. None other come close to matching observations being made in the real world.

    For WI, that means a climate similar to Missouri. 8 to 9 inches more rain per year but in larger amounts in individual storm events, meaning we will be drier as the water we do get will run off into our water bodies rather than sinking into the ground.
    It makes me wonder how realistic this claim is. Granted I think if it is real, it is more along the lines of 100 to 1000 years, and not the day after tomorrow... but it is still soemthing to think about.

    http://www.tubechop.com/watch/1969315

    (Had to chop the video so I did not use you-tube)
    If you want different results in your life, you need to do different things than you have done in the past. Change is that simple.

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