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Nederlog

August 28, 2015
Guardian + Pictures (!), Psychology not a science, Edward Gibbon
Sections
Introduction

1. The Guardian has pictures!!  
2. Study delivers bleak verdict on validity of psychology
     experiment result

3. The Best of Scribblers



This is a Nederlog of Friday August 28, 2015.

This is not a crisis blog. The previous file of today is a crisis blog, and a bitter one, though what I am bitter about won't harm most of my readers.

But
the present file is not a crisis log and is even a bit happy: Item 1 is about The Guardian's appearance: After 8 months of nearly imageless pages (and those that appeared artificially fazed out, it seemed) at long last there is - without any notification that I saw - again a Guardian that appears a bit decent; item 2 is about a study of 100 papers in psychological top journals of which 1/2 to 2/3rd have results - in top journals - that are not reproducible (which is strong support for my thesis that psychology is not a real science); and item 3 is about a really excellent piece on the joys of reading Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Joseph Epstein, that I strongly recommend you read all of. 

1. The Guardian has pictures!!

The first article has a link, to the site of The Guardian, but it has no associated article. First, here is the site of The Guardian of today...

which should be compared to this, that was served to The Guardian's readers since the end of January of 2015, simultaneously with the news that The Guardian had changed to a new web format, namely this:



For me - and I confess that when I was 14 I wanted to become a graphical illustrator, which I gave up the next year because I didn't draw well enough and
had (rather suddenly) developed strong intellectual interests - this looked very horrible, and I wrote several pieces about it, of which this is the first:
Well... it lasted until yesterday, for then it suddenly, without any warning or explanation, looked like so:


            Click the image to see more of The Guardian WITH pictures

And the pictures are sharp! (For most of them were carefully fazed out, the last 8 months, again for a completely unstated wholly incomprehensible reason.)

I say! Well... it looks a whole lot better than the 1995-four-colours-no-images "New Style" from January 2015.

I grant that the lettering is still mistaken (it's fine on paper, but mistaken on computer screens: really!) and I could not find one of the horrible fading videos (they disappear when you move your cursor to them) that were also introduced in January 2015, and which also can only be played in order to find out how long they take, but I like to be right, and this is a move in the right direction!

Congratulations, Guardian! Well done!

2. Study delivers bleak verdict on validity of psychology experiment result

The next article is by Ian Sample on The Guardian:

This is here because I have an excellent M.A. in psychology, though I should add that nearly all of it was done in mathematics, logic and physics, and that simply because I had decided by 1980, when I also was thrown out of the methodology group because I protested against including bullshit about the excellencies of the government of Togo [1] as part of the methodology we were supposed to learn, that psychology is not a real science, apart from a few fields, and those mainly scientific methodology and statistics (which also have little to do with psychology as such).

Consider this:

A major investigation into scores of claims made in psychology research journals has delivered a bleak verdict on the state of the science.

An international team of experts repeated 100 experiments published in top psychology journals and found that they could reproduce only 36% of original findings.

The study, which saw 270 scientists repeat experiments on five continents, was launched by psychologists in the US in response to rising concerns over the reliability of psychology research.
Note that this means that 2 out of 3 of the publications in top psychology journals are irreproducible, and are therefore without any support. This means - to an objective mind - that either most of these 100 (!) experiments were flukes or else psychology cannot be a real science, for any real science has a majority of reproducible experiments: Only non-sciences admit "experiments" of which the majority (2 out of 3) fails when reproduced.

In case you doubt this, or are an M.A. or Ph.D. in psychology, you are adviced to read this essay, by Paul Lutus, who also thinks psychology is not a science, and explains it well:
There is also this in the article:

All of the experiments the scientists repeated appeared in top ranking journals in 2008 and fell into two broad categories, namely cognitive and social psychology. Cognitive psychology is concerned with basic operations of the mind, and studies tend to look at areas such as perception, attention and memory. Social psychology looks at more social issues, such as self esteem, identity, prejudice and how people interact.

In the investigation, a whopping 75% of the social psychology experiments were not replicated, meaning that the originally reported findings vanished when other scientists repeated the experiments. Half of the cognitive psychology studies failed the same test. Details are published in the journal Science.

Even when scientists could replicate original findings, the sizes of the effects they found were on average half as big as reported first time around. That could be due to scientists leaving out data that undermined their hypotheses, and by journals accepting only the strongest claims for publication.
Note also that until these experiments were replicated and the results "vanished"
(3 out of 4 studies in social pscychology are not valid; 1 out of 2 studies in cognitive psychology are not valid - and all in top journals) these results were
respected, at least among psychologists, politicians and bureaucrats, and that
simply on the ground that it was "science" and it was "experimentally esta- blished".

Well... no: it was not "experimentally established", for then it were quite probably reproducible, and no: it was not science, because it was not experimentally established, at all.

Next, there is a lot of bullshit by "professional psychologists" (who have a lot of money to loose, personally, if there science is not a science). First, there is this:
John Ioannidis, professor of health research and policy at Stanford University, said the study was impressive and that its results had been eagerly awaited by the scientific community. “Sadly, the picture it paints - a 64% failure rate even among papers published in the best journals in the field - is not very nice about the current status of psychological science in general, and for fields like social psychology it is just devastating,” he said.
It is not just "not very nice": it shows - experimentally, with no less than 100 experiments - that psychology cannot be a real science, for any real science has experimental results that are mostly reproducible. Period.

And what establishes that X - astrology, psychology - is not a science is precisely that it does not produce experiments that are reproducible. And that is what happened here. In 64 out of a 100 experimental cases!

Here is another lie:

As Alan Kraut at the Association for Psychological Science puts it: “The only finding that will replicate 100% of the time is likely to be trite, boring and probably already known: yes, dead people can never be taught to read.”
O no! We are not talking about some statistical deviance around a norm: We are talking about 3 out of 4 papers in social psychology and 1 ot 2 papers in cognitive psychology, all plucked from top journals, all therefore undoubtedly offered as a 90% or 95% certainty, but even so false in half or three quarters of the cases.

Mr Kraut seems to me to be therefore just producing bullshit.

Finally, there is this sickening and lousy excuse:
Munafo said that the problem of poor reproducibility is exacerbated by the way modern science works. “If I want to get promoted or get a grant, I need to be writing lots of papers. But writing lots of papers and doing lots of small experiments isn’t the way to get one really robust right answer,” he said.
Total bullshit: Physicists, mathematicians and chemists have precisely the same problems. The difference is not in their working conditions, but in the fact that
physics, mathematics and chemistry are real sciences, and psychology is not.


But OK: Now you have a large slew of evidence - 100 experiments - that show that the majority of the experiments done in psychology are not reproducible, and are therefore not science. [2] 

3. The Best of Scribblers

The final item for today is by Joseph Epstein on Commentary Magazine:

The best of scribblers is Edward Gibbon (<- Wikipedia) and Joseph Epstein's evocation of him is excellent. It starts as follows

This starts as follows:

A pudgy man with a big head, double chin, and pursing mouth, under five feet tall, foppishly overdressed, stilted in conversation, Edward Gibbon was easily the greatest English historian and quite possibly the greatest historian the world has known. How did this preposterous little man—a snob with often ludicrous opinions who was known as he grew older and fatter as Monsieur Pomme de Terre—produce The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a panoramic work of roughly a million and a half words with some 8,000 footnotes, covering 1,300 years of history? More than two centuries after Gibbon wrote it, the entertainment value of his history is as great as it was when it appeared in three volumes between 1776 and 1788, its standing as literature as firmly fixed.

Psychotic tyrants, savvy eunuchs, cunning courtesans; brutal barbarian tribal chiefs; battlefields bedewed with blood and strewn with the white bones of human corpses; Byzantine luxuriance; Saracen leaders “never seen to smile except on a day of battle”; ragtag Roman crusaders no less fanatical than the forces they were recruited to fight; Russians, Hungarians, Persians, Moors all engaging in tortures of a rare exquisivity—cutting off noses, ears, tongues, hands; putting out eyes with needles; poisoning husbands; the rope, the rack, the axe all finding full employment—in Gibbon’s pages it all goes whirring by, leaving one in a state of nearly perpetual dazzlement.

Through it all there are the emperors, the central figures of the history—and what a rogue’s gallery they are! Caracalla “was the common enemy of mankind,” a “monster whose life disgraced human nature”; Elagabalus was no “rational voluptuary,” also a transvestite; Maximin, “though a stranger to real wisdom…was not devoid of a selfish cunning”; the reigns of Valerian and his son Gallienus, provided a 15-year period that “was one uninterrupted series of confusion and calamity”; Maxentius was “a tyrant as contemptible as he was odious”; Valens “was rude without vigor, and feeble without mildness”; Theophilus was “a bold, bad man…whose hands were alternately polluted with gold, and blood.” Gibbon writes: “Such was the unhappy condition of the Roman emperor…almost every reign is closed by the same repetition of treason and murder.”

Yes, indeed! And these are just the first three paragraphs of this excellent exposition about why any intelligent man or woman should read The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, for this is both one of the best texts I have read and one of the best histories I have read.

I could quote a lot more, but instead refer you to the original.

But there is one detail I like to mention, which is inspired by Joseph Epstein's

How today is one to read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire? I recently did so at the rate of roughly 20 pages a day, early in the morning, over a five-month period. The greatest compliment I can pay it is to say that I regretted finishing it.
I did so in 2004, in about 3 months, which shows I must have read around 50 pages a day, and I agree with Epstein that I regretted finishing it. But what I wanted to say are three - no: four things:

First, your command of English must be really good, and you must be quite intelligent. If either is missing, you will not enjoy him. Second, and probably also for native Englishmen (which I am not): it probably does take a little getting used to Gibbon's very fine, much layered, ironical style. And third and most important:
Read all of the seven volumes and not one of the main shortenings of it (although there are fine ones), and do not forget to read Gibbon's often very fine footnotes.

Fourthly, although I like Gibbon very much, there are two other historians I liked nearly as much: Thucydides and Jacob Burckhardt.

--------------------------------------
Notes

[1] In fact it was there (it seems: I repeat what I was told) because the leading members of the ASVA (the student organization that had the power in the University of Amsterdam, most of whose leaders - it was admitted in 1991 - were members of the Dutch Communist Party) had a deal with the leaders of Togo that the top members of ASVA could have free holidays in Togo, provided they advertised the excellencies of Togo in the University of Amsterdam...

(I don't know whether this is true. I do know I was told this as if it were true, ca. 1981.)

[2] In case you need remembering: Diederik Stapel was a Dutch psychologist, who was a major fraud, and was discovered as such in 2011. Here is a link to the first article I wrote about him.


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