Posts tagged ‘science’

Lying with numbers

November 24th, 2008

99% of all numbers provided to support an argument — be it in scientific or popular media — have no value whatsoever unless they come with proper mention of at least the confidence intervals, the size of the sample and its properties, or other means of making reliability comparable such as standard deviation.

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A soft cut

November 16th, 2008

For those who know what science means in its very original sense it is obvious that the exact sciences are at least the lesser of two evils. No one wants contused lacerations.

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Bad science

May 5th, 2007

If there was a commandment for “(really) good liars” it might be: You shall not use fallacious arguments. A “bad liar” — heck, who would not want to be bad from time to time — might just as well juggle with fallacies, and hope for the listeners logical illiteracy.

The Fallacy Files is one of Internet’s finest collection of examples of fallacious reasoning, see for instance “appeals to ignorance“. Moreover, Fallacy Files comes with a weblog, a comprehensive taxonomy of logical fallacies, and more.

Bad Science is the tempting apple that does not fall far from the tree of fallacious reasoning. “If you ever doubted the dangers of fallacious reasoning” says Gary N. Curtis, author of the Fallacy Files, you should read Losing the Lottery by Ben Goldacre, “guardian” of Bad Science.

If you’re unlucky enough, fallacious reasoning could put you behind bars for the rest of your life for “murders” you didn’t commit, and which in fact may not be murders at all.
Gary N. Curtis, Fallacy Files

A nurse called Lucia de Berk has been in prison for 5 years in Holland, convicted of 7 counts of murder and 3 of attempted murder. An unusually large number of people died when she was on shift (…)
Ben Goldacre, Bad Science

If I myself was only safe from fallacy.

Trapped in a feedback loop

March 3rd, 2006
a pair of scissors

See what science is named after.

Some say science is about truth. It is not about lies. What could science of science be? The truth about no lies? Says who? And do we know that it is the truth? Isn’t science also about questioning and analysis? Hence, what do we know about analysis of analysis?

Science “refers to a system of acquiring knowledge (…) aimed at finding out the truth” (Wikipedia, 2006-03-03). So we assume that knowledge is not truth. Probably that’s why to know is derived from “view”, as are “vision”, “witness” and the German “Wissen”. What do we know about knowledge?

No, not me. I am a liar.
I am trapped in a feedback loop. Please, don’t cut it!

I am a liar

January 29th, 2006

I am a liar, and you are probably not. I am even a member of the Club of Liars. Are you? What does it mean if someone says “I am no liar”?

That’s a tricky question. Maybe we should ask a scientist. Science “refers to a system of acquiring knowledge (…) aimed at finding out the truth” (Wikipedia, 2006-01-16). So, scientists should know. They are telling the truth, aren’t they?

Most scientists, like other people, too, are understandably eager to make us believe that they are at least not telling lies. Let’s assume for a mere moment that scientists do not always tell the truth — in fact, there are some hints for this. How do we know? If it is possibly a lie that scientists are not telling lies, what is it they are doing?

Was Epimenides the first scientist, indeed? Rats!

What do we know anyway? Never I would dare to state that I knew everything. I do like to learn, and I am sure there is a lot I do not know. So, what do we know about what we do not know? Might that what we do not know be even more important than what we know?

These are big questions. Aren’t they? Let’s ask whether they are. Or is this one?
No, I do not have any answers. But, I am afraid, this is an answer. You might think that this is all nonsense. Go ahead, I won’t object your objection. There are puns, games of words, even riddles, and paradoxes. Language is deceiving. (I love this one.) We are used to deal with everyday paradoxical situations, unanswerable questions, and double binds. Some say the fun ends where these games are to affect people but that’s just where it started.

(Last update: 2006-05-20)