Articles to 2012-06-16

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First the link to this week’s complete list as HTML and as PDF.

Lager & Torssander report another spurious non-result from the humanities posing as science. In their table 3 they test for 42 outcomes and from the text another 84 (age under 40 and whole group) are untabulated. Out of these 126 tests 8, i.e. 1 in 16 come out as barely significant, meaning with a probability of 1 in 20 for occurring purely by chance. So what exactly is it they are reporting here and what did the referees do in their peer-review?

On the other hand there is a well proven correlation between higher education and longevity. Read correctly the new result might be relevant: Whatever it is about education, that confers health benefit, longer mandatory schooling isn’t it. The correlation isn’t that strong anyway and my totally untested guess is this: Higher education usually is the result of higher success in primary education and a big part of that comes from higher self-discipline. The same trait tends to promote healthier living.

Cho et al. review the open questions in Astronomy. Dark energy and matter continue to remind me of Ptolemy’s epicycles. I’m convinced the truth is much simpler and will be found once we free ourselves from some seemingly obvious but wrong premise.

There is one problem I have with experiments like the one described by Ginges: When psychologists propose decision scenarios in terms of "a third probability that all hostages are freed" and "certainty that a third of hostages are freed", they expect the participants to treat those as god-given, mathematical truths. For all the real choices I have to make I know that most doctors stating probabilities of success or failure of a treatment tend to be wildly wrong and politicians canvassing for my vote are often totally ignorant or lying or both. When it comes to risks in financial advice, I know I’m consistently lied to. So the probabilities and outcomes I really base my decision on and the ones stated by the examiner tend to be wildly different. I doubt that I could or would treat them that much differently as a participant in a study and I wonder if and how psychologists deal with this problem. Their reports never mention it at all.

Take this example:

The people of Israel would be able to live in peace and prosperity, free of the threat of war or terrorism.
Nobody with all the goodwill in the world could ever guarantee this. Ginges & Atran interpret the result as Israeli settlers not valuing peace and security, while what they in fact evaluate and offset against their concession is an empty promise. This makes their choice entirely rational and has nothing whatever to do with valuing the sacred above the material. I see this problem as pervasive through all kinds of hypothetical scenarios proposed in psychology.

One question neither Balter, Higham nor anybody else seems to ask is: If Aurignacian bones were contaminated and new ultrapurification makes them appreciably older, should not the same be true for many of the apparently very late surviving Neanderthals?

For Dai see also Dakos 2008 and Scheffer 2009.

Azémas theory is not new but please see his excellent supplementary video.

Lockyer smacked of pseudoscience even in 1906, but being the editor himself he still managed to get it into nature.

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