If replication is what separates the rigor of science from the squishiness of pseudoscience, where do we put all these rigorously validated findings that can no longer be proved? Which results should we believe? Francis Bacon, the early-modern philosopher and pioneer of the scientific method, once declared that experiments were essential, because they allowed us to “put nature to the question.” But it appears that nature often gives us different answers.
Doesn’t everyone in grad school read Thomas Kuhn on the progress and process of scientific inquiry? And Karl Popper on how to conduct scientific inquiry? This article discusses the “publication bias” in scholarly and scientific publishing, but finds an even more alarming effect called “the decline effect” wherein empirical studies that show a statistically significant effect upon initial publication, show declining effects over time, as other similar studies are published. Ha, even empirical studies of gravity showed errors, though it seems that gravity still holds sway.
I recommend this one, and I would love to talk about it with anyone else who reads it.
The disturbing implication of the Crabbe study is that a lot of extraordinary scientific data are nothing but noise. The hyperactivity of those coked-up Edmonton mice wasn’t an interesting new fact—it was a meaningless outlier, a by-product of invisible variables we don’t understand. The problem, of course, is that such dramatic findings are also the most likely to get published in prestigious journals, since the data are both statistically significant and entirely unexpected. Grants get written, follow-up studies are conducted. The end result is a scientific accident that can take years to unravel.
- Is Science Dead? In a Word: No (psychcentral.com)
- The Decline Effect Postulate Fails to Find Its Theory (scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org)