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  #1  
Old 06-24-2011, 09:05 PM
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Default Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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  #2  
Old 06-24-2011, 09:46 PM
sugarkang sugarkang is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

Bless you, John. The vicarious curmudgeonry is wonderfully cathartic.
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  #3  
Old 06-24-2011, 09:55 PM
Ken Davis Ken Davis is offline
 
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Default Re: Free Will

To paraphrase Schopenauer: Man always does what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills.

I agree with John on the apparent triviality of tests which measure the time lapse between the instant a decision made by the subconscious and the instant of awareness of the decision, but I think he sells short the capability of a human brain. Think of dreams!

I think people are so damned sure they have free will because in intense introspection, it seems obvious. But introspection has great limits as to what mysteries it might notice, much less grasp.

Thanks for touching on this topic!
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Old 06-25-2011, 12:31 AM
Hume's Bastard Hume's Bastard is offline
 
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Default Re: Free Will

I just find that entire segment ironically disturbing, after the preceding discussion about bias. It's clear Horgan is letting his preconceptions run rampant through his conclusions.

Last edited by Hume's Bastard; 06-25-2011 at 07:53 PM..
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  #5  
Old 06-25-2011, 11:01 AM
themightypuck themightypuck is offline
 
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Default Re: Free Will

Concussions can do that.
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  #6  
Old 06-28-2011, 12:22 AM
eeeeeeeli eeeeeeeli is offline
 
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Default Re: Free Will

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Originally Posted by Hume's Bastard View Post
I just find that entire segment ironically disturbing, after the preceding discussion about bias. It's clear Horgan is letting his preconceptions run rampant through his conclusions.
Interesting, could you elaborate?

I couldn't help but think of those defenders of contra-causal free will who resort to quantum mechanics to pretend to explain their magical thinking. Telekenesis, mind-reading, astral-projection... this is the company they keep!
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  #7  
Old 06-28-2011, 08:34 AM
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Default Re: Free Will

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Originally Posted by eeeeeeeli View Post
Interesting, could you elaborate?

I couldn't help but think of those defenders of contra-causal free will who resort to quantum mechanics to pretend to explain their magical thinking. Telekenesis, mind-reading, astral-projection... this is the company they keep!
Now, I'm the one asking you to elaborate. You are aware that both John and George have denounced false beliefs and superstition in a systematic fashion, right? Am I misunderstanding your statement?
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  #8  
Old 06-30-2011, 11:31 AM
eeeeeeeli eeeeeeeli is offline
 
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Default Re: Free Will

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Now, I'm the one asking you to elaborate. You are aware that both John and George have denounced false beliefs and superstition in a systematic fashion, right? Am I misunderstanding your statement?
Yep.

I wasn't talking about John and George. Just referring to quantum mechanics being a frequent trope of the free will debate.
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  #9  
Old 06-30-2011, 07:47 PM
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Default Re: Free Will

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Originally Posted by eeeeeeeli View Post
Yep.
Ah, okay. Phew!

Quote:
I wasn't talking about John and George. Just referring to quantum mechanics being a frequent trope of the free will debate.
I don't know about free will, but a lot of people hear that quantum mechanics predicts "strange" things, so whatever strange beliefs they have, they think that they can be explained by it.
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  #10  
Old 06-28-2011, 11:16 PM
sapeye sapeye is offline
 
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Default Re: Free Will

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Originally Posted by Hume's Bastard View Post
I just find that entire segment ironically disturbing, after the preceding discussion about bias. It's clear Horgan is letting his preconceptions run rampant through his conclusions.
True, but at least he openly admits it.
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  #11  
Old 06-28-2011, 10:50 PM
sapeye sapeye is offline
 
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Default Re: Free Will

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Originally Posted by Ken Davis View Post
To paraphrase Schopenauer: Man always does what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills.
My favorite comment on free will is attributed to Isaac Bashevis Singer: “Of course I believe in free will. What choice do I have?”

What strikes me as fascinating is the paradox: When we really consider someone else, or ourselves from the outside, it seem evident that there is no free will, no matter whether we are looking through a molecular lens, a psychological lens or a behavioral lens. Nothing we think or feel or do arises in a vacuum. We are conditioned and perhaps even determined. Even this post is arising within a context of the general discussion, my experience with BH, and my personal reflections. Where's the freedom? And yet... from the inside it sure feels like I'm freely choosing my actions. Of course it's possible to simply call my personal experience choice an illusion, but that strikes me as a cheap way out.

John's worry that if we give up the responsibility of having free will, then all our values will go down the crapper doesn't seem to mean a lot since who's to say why some people do pause to reflect on the consequences of their actions and others do not? Perhaps that's determined, too.
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Old 06-28-2011, 10:59 PM
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Default Re: Free Will

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Originally Posted by sapeye View Post
My favorite comment on free will is attributed to Isaac Bashevis Singer: “Of course I believe in free will. What choice do I have?”

What strikes me as fascinating is the paradox: When we really consider someone else, or ourselves from the outside, it seem evident that there is no free will, no matter whether we are looking through a molecular lens, a psychological lens or a behavioral lens. Nothing we think or feel or do arises in a vacuum. We are conditioned and perhaps even determined. Even this post is arising within a context of the general discussion, my experience with BH, and my personal reflections. Where's the freedom? And yet... from the inside it sure feels like I'm freely choosing my actions. Of course it's possible to simply call my personal experience choice an illusion, but that strikes me as a cheap way out.

John's worry that if we give up the responsibility of having free will, then all our values will go down the crapper doesn't seem to mean a lot since who's to say why some people do pause to reflect on the consequences of their actions and others do not? Perhaps that's determined, too.
My favorite: Free will exists, but it's like the dollar menu at McDonald's; your options are limited.
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  #13  
Old 06-28-2011, 11:11 PM
Starwatcher162536 Starwatcher162536 is offline
 
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Default Re: Free Will

Free will huh? Well then, free from what?
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  #14  
Old 06-24-2011, 10:07 PM
Ken Davis Ken Davis is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

John's example of e coli is thin. The only way identical twins would behave identically is to become one and the same. Occupy the same space in every respect. George explaines this, and then decides their views are in harmony at the end?
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  #15  
Old 06-24-2011, 10:10 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

Great range of topics.
Gould may have been wrong about something and may have been influenced by his own bias. Astounding!

So much for settled science.

When he was making his arguments about the relative sizes of skulls I wonder of he was aware that neanderthals exceeded homo sapiens in cranial capacity. Does a bigger brain make for a smarter individual or species? I guess people assume it does.

As for biological determinism...it may very well explain everything but according to John it's not good to think that it does. I like to think that it is biologically determined that people have the feeling of having free will.
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  #16  
Old 06-24-2011, 11:25 PM
sugarkang sugarkang is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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Originally Posted by badhatharry View Post
So much for settled science.
This goes back to Gary Taubes' observations that not only is science hard to do correctly, but the incentives are all screwed up. I think it's easy for everyone to see the profit motive bias in corporate backed studies. But the thing I never considered was that academic and government institutions also have a similar bias: funding. I mean if every institution has an incentive to get the "right" results, i.e., ones that lead to either more funding or profit, the truth will fall through the cracks.

This is a huge problem and I don't know what a solution would be.

Perhaps, this would be a case for government? Though, it's completely antithetical to my libertarian impulses.
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  #17  
Old 06-25-2011, 01:00 AM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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Originally Posted by sugarkang View Post
This goes back to Gary Taubes' observations that not only is science hard to do correctly, but the incentives are all screwed up. I think it's easy for everyone to see the profit motive bias in corporate backed studies.
I wonder if the research for Gould's work was funded beyond the advances and proceeds from his books. If his university gave him a grant I suppose they might have done so because of his reputation. I'd imagine the emergence of popular science books has helped to fund people who otherwise would have had to depend strictly on grants from institutions.

But probably the kind of research you are talking is different than Gould's anthropological studies...hard science rather than social science. Drug companies, for instance, are very interested in getting 'right' results but they can't afford to put a killer drug in the marketplace, either.

however:
Quote:
This problem has been most convincingly demonstrated in medical clinical trials. A 2005 study of psychiatric drug trials found that when academic researchers were funded by a drug company, they were nearly five times as likely to report that the treatment was effective. (A similar pattern was found with oncology drugs.) What makes this result so disturbing is that all of these studies were randomized, double-blind trials, which are typically regarded as the gold standard of medical evidence. And yet the financial incentives seemed to decisively influence the data.
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  #18  
Old 06-25-2011, 03:08 AM
sugarkang sugarkang is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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But probably the kind of research you are talking is different than Gould's anthropological studies...hard science rather than social science.
Yeah. I suppose if you give a professor tenure, then you've eliminated at least some of the bias. Nothing's perfect, but is this enough?

That WSJ article is scary. It seems like corporations have already figured out that their internally funded scientists aren't credible, so they go looking for academic institutions to put their stamp on it, knowing that they can just as easily get the "right" results.

Whatever. I might as well take up smoking again.
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  #19  
Old 06-25-2011, 05:08 AM
Hume's Bastard Hume's Bastard is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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Yeah. I suppose if you give a professor tenure, then you've eliminated at least some of the bias. Nothing's perfect, but is this enough?

That WSJ article is scary. It seems like corporations have already figured out that their internally funded scientists aren't credible, so they go looking for academic institutions to put their stamp on it, knowing that they can just as easily get the "right" results.

Whatever. I might as well take up smoking again.
If you can look at this all day, you're superhuman.



But, perhaps what we need is more consumer education and more transparency. Teaching basic science is never a bad idea. Or, like cigs, just scare the unholy crap out of people so that we all err on the safe side!
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  #20  
Old 06-25-2011, 09:39 AM
sugarkang sugarkang is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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Originally Posted by Hume's Bastard View Post
If you can look at this all day, you're superhuman.

But, perhaps what we need is more consumer education and more transparency. Teaching basic science is never a bad idea. Or, like cigs, just scare the unholy crap out of people so that we all err on the safe side!
The picture doesn't bother me at all. That comes with the territory of being a sociopathic libertarian, though. After 18 years at a pack and a half, I quit January 7, 2009. I wouldn't go back. Pretty sure the pics don't work in Canada, nor do they work anywhere else in the world. It's not for lack of education that people smoke, the same way that drug addicts don't continue down their spiral of self-destruction because they are unaware of the health consequences. It's nothing more than the ability to stave off short-term desires in favor of long-term goals.

Anti-cigarettes commercials were just a reminder to have a cigarette. Quitters' worst nightmare. It's kind of like "don't think of a white bear." The problem with top-down management is that the world doesn't run on intuitive processes. Oh yeah. And people have largely forgotten why smokers start in the first place: because it's cool.
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  #21  
Old 06-25-2011, 07:58 PM
Hume's Bastard Hume's Bastard is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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The picture doesn't bother me at all. That comes with the territory of being a sociopathic libertarian, though. After 18 years at a pack and a half, I quit January 7, 2009. I wouldn't go back. Pretty sure the pics don't work in Canada, nor do they work anywhere else in the world. It's not for lack of education that people smoke, the same way that drug addicts don't continue down their spiral of self-destruction because they are unaware of the health consequences. It's nothing more than the ability to stave off short-term desires in favor of long-term goals.

Anti-cigarettes commercials were just a reminder to have a cigarette. Quitters' worst nightmare. It's kind of like "don't think of a white bear." The problem with top-down management is that the world doesn't run on intuitive processes. Oh yeah. And people have largely forgotten why smokers start in the first place: because it's cool.
That's exactly what I thought you would write. But, your enemy hasn't forgotten the "cool" thing. And, the illustration I posted was the least offensive of the bunch. This research confirms your contrarian disposition.

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  #22  
Old 06-25-2011, 08:44 PM
sugarkang sugarkang is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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That's exactly what I thought you would write.
Then why do we keep allowing the government to waste our money on stupid shit that doesn't work?
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Old 06-25-2011, 08:52 PM
Hume's Bastard Hume's Bastard is offline
 
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Then why do we keep allowing the government to waste our money on stupid shit that doesn't work?
You mean, like subsidies? Perhaps, the goal is an effective drugs regulation policy, creating the most efficient compromise between tax haul and enforcement. Cocaine, next? I agree, though, it's not about ending smoking.
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Old 06-25-2011, 08:51 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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That's exactly what I thought you would write. But, your enemy hasn't forgotten the "cool" thing. And, the illustration I posted was the least offensive of the bunch. This research confirms your contrarian disposition.
can't you just see people collecting these?

"Do you have my brand with the rotting lung graphic? I already have the complete traceotomy series."

Kathleen Sibelius, you gotta love her.
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Old 06-25-2011, 08:55 PM
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Kathleen Sibelius, you gotta love her.
Her heart and her loyalty to the party are unquestioned. It's hard these days to devise the perfect revenue-enhancing gimmick and not look too callous.
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  #26  
Old 06-28-2011, 12:29 AM
eeeeeeeli eeeeeeeli is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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Anti-cigarettes commercials were just a reminder to have a cigarette. Quitters' worst nightmare. It's kind of like "don't think of a white bear." The problem with top-down management is that the world doesn't run on intuitive processes. Oh yeah. And people have largely forgotten why smokers start in the first place: because it's cool.
Haven't they done studies that confirmed this? I can't remember where I read it - but billboards were actually reminding people.

However, faces of meth seems pretty effective. Every time they show them to the kids at my school, everyone freaks! Maybe they just need to be gruesome.
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  #27  
Old 06-26-2011, 12:28 AM
Starwatcher162536 Starwatcher162536 is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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A 2005 study of psychiatric drug trials found that when academic researchers were funded by a drug company, they were nearly five times as likely to report that the treatment was effective.
But what is the relative importance of the components contributing to said tendency where one component is the researchers in question are less rigorous when corporately funded and the other component being that negative results are less often published because the company doesn't feel like putting in additional money just to letting it be known they failed?
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Old 06-25-2011, 11:54 PM
Starwatcher162536 Starwatcher162536 is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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But the thing I never considered was that academic and government institutions also have a similar bias: funding. I mean if every institution has an incentive to get the "right" results, i.e., ones that lead to either more funding or profit, the truth will fall through the cracks.

This is a huge problem and I don't know what a solution would be.

Perhaps, this would be a case for government? Though, it's completely antithetical to my libertarian impulses.
Yes, but perhaps not a big problem as many think. One shouldn't be too concerned with the incentives of a particular researcher or institution but with the system as a whole. Other researchers have an incentive to skewer bad work, so this greatly reduces if not the quantity then the impact of bad science. I say it only reduces the impact and not also the quantity because from anecdotal experience bad science is more often ignored then critiqued. Probably because in popular opinion how notoriously stupid-hard it is to get comments submitted.
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  #29  
Old 06-26-2011, 12:14 AM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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Yes, but perhaps not a big problem as many think. One shouldn't be too concerned with the incentives of a particular researcher or institution but with the system as a whole. Other researchers have an incentive to skewer bad work, so this greatly reduces if not the quantity then the impact of bad science. I say it only reduces the impact and not also the quantity because from anecdotal experience bad science is more often ignored then critiqued. Probably because in popular opinion how notoriously stupid-hard it is to get comments submitted.
The imperative to publish and peer review strong factors helping to arrange the incentives at both the individual level and systemically. It's hard to overestimate the importance of peer review to the process of scientific inquiry, and it's the strongest argument against private, proprietary research that one could imagine.
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Old 06-26-2011, 12:22 AM
Starwatcher162536 Starwatcher162536 is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

More specifically; it helps alleviate the free-rider problem and the unnecessary duplication of work.
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Old 06-26-2011, 12:39 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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More specifically; it helps alleviate the free-rider problem and the unnecessary duplication of work.
Those are important aspects of the advantages it provides. It also introduces a competitive framework that increases the likelihood that mistakes, bad assumptions, faulty methods, etc... will be exposed. It's a hell of lot harder to cheat when both your friends and your enemies are looking over your shoulder.
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Old 06-26-2011, 01:45 AM
Ken Davis Ken Davis is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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Originally Posted by sugarkang View Post
This goes back to Gary Taubes' observations that not only is science hard to do correctly, but the incentives are all screwed up. I think it's easy for everyone to see the profit motive bias in corporate backed studies. But the thing I never considered was that academic and government institutions also have a similar bias: funding. I mean if every institution has an incentive to get the "right" results, i.e., ones that lead to either more funding or profit, the truth will fall through the cracks.

This is a huge problem and I don't know what a solution would be.

Perhaps, this would be a case for government? Though, it's completely antithetical to my libertarian impulses.
This suggestion calls to mind the scandal of several years ago when the NIH withdrew funding from researchers at Emory after it was discovered that a pile of big pharma money had secretly made its way to the researchers... Here.

Charles Nemeroff has temporarily stepped down as chair of Emory's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences after Sen. Charles Grassley alleged that the researcher had failed to report a significant portion of the $2.8 million he was paid by GlaxoSmithKline between 2000 and 2007, even as he was leading research into five of the company's drugs.
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Old 06-26-2011, 01:10 PM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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This suggestion calls to mind the scandal of several years ago when the NIH withdrew funding from researchers at Emory after it was discovered that a pile of big pharma money had secretly made its way to the researchers... Here.

Charles Nemeroff has temporarily stepped down as chair of Emory's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences after Sen. Charles Grassley alleged that the researcher had failed to report a significant portion of the $2.8 million he was paid by GlaxoSmithKline between 2000 and 2007, even as he was leading research into five of the company's drugs.
Here's a more in depth discussion.

I think this kind of scrutiny and monitoring is very important, and I don't question the veracity of the allegations. However, reading the article from OMSJ I did wonder whether they were exaggerating the consequences of Nemeroff's lack of disclosure. I would like to see whether his studies are flawed/biased favoring the drugs produced by the pharmaceutical companies that were funding his research. It wouldn't be unusual, but it has to be shown before accusing him. And the bit about "potential to bring real harm to thousands of patients" is a very serious allegation which as far as I can tell seems unsupported.

I agree that if his conduct was shady and he intentionally hid funding or other forms of payments from pharmaceuticals, he should probably be banned from any direct involvement with NIH.
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Old 06-26-2011, 07:16 PM
Ken Davis Ken Davis is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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Here's a more in depth discussion.
This is the story I was actually trying to remember.
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  #35  
Old 06-28-2011, 12:25 AM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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Though, it's completely antithetical to my libertarian impulses.
lol - look away, look away!
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  #36  
Old 06-28-2011, 11:01 PM
sapeye sapeye is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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Originally Posted by sugarkang View Post
This goes back to Gary Taubes' observations that not only is science hard to do correctly, but the incentives are all screwed up. I think it's easy for everyone to see the profit motive bias in corporate backed studies. But the thing I never considered was that academic and government institutions also have a similar bias: funding. I mean if every institution has an incentive to get the "right" results, i.e., ones that lead to either more funding or profit, the truth will fall through the cracks.

This is a huge problem and I don't know what a solution would be.

Perhaps, this would be a case for government? Though, it's completely antithetical to my libertarian impulses.
Yeah, the funding agencies and also peer pressure in terms of having work published in "reputable" journals is intense. As an example, look how quickly John and George always insert the qualifier "I'm a strict materialist," as though in fear that the science police are lurking in wait ready to repudiate as heretical anyone who might question some of the basic ideologies of science. As though to consider the possibility that consciousness may not be a mere epiphenomenon, but as fundamental to the universe as matter is simply absurd and a manifestation of flaky thinking.
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Old 06-29-2011, 08:53 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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look how quickly John and George always insert the qualifier "I'm a strict materialist," as though in fear that the science police are lurking in wait ready to repudiate as heretical anyone who might question some of the basic ideologies of science.
Or because they ARE strict materialists. I have listened to and read alot of Horgan and Johnson over the years and while they like to probe the outer edges at times, both of them have always struck me as 100% sincere in their materialism.
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Old 06-29-2011, 08:31 PM
Hal Morris Hal Morris is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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Originally Posted by sugarkang View Post
But the thing I never considered was that academic and government institutions also have a similar bias: funding. I mean if every institution has an incentive to get the "right" results, i.e., ones that lead to either more funding or profit, the truth will fall through the cracks.
The biggest motive in the scientific community is to say something surprising that you can demonstrate is actually true.

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Originally Posted by sugarkang View Post
Perhaps, this would be a case for government? Though, it's completely antithetical to my libertarian impulses.
A very odd thing for you to say indeed.
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Old 06-24-2011, 11:22 PM
osmium osmium is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

Re: the part about Stephen J Gould and biological determinism

The analysis is complex! I'm here to tell you the analysis about everything is complex. You know what I think is a great thing to read about the complexity of scientific analysis: George's book about the ten greatest experiments where he talks about doing the oil drop experiment himself at the end. You want to know how hard it is to trust hard numbers? Read that.

As far as Gould goes, you can rest assured osmium is always on the side of the assholes.
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Old 06-24-2011, 11:25 PM
osmium osmium is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Indie Films, Drugs, and Free Will (John Horgan & George Johnson)

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Originally Posted by osmium View Post
Re: the part about Stephen J Gould and biological determinism

The analysis is complex! I'm here to tell you the analysis about everything is complex. You know what I think is a great thing to read about the complexity of scientific analysis: George's book about the ten greatest experiments where he talks about doing the oil drop experiment himself at the end. You want to know how hard it is to trust hard numbers? Read that.

As far as Gould goes, you can rest assured osmium is always on the side of the assholes.
BTW, John at one point you call the paper that is the counterpoint to Gould "graduate student" work, and at another you call it "undergraduate." Big difference! You should clear that up.

A 4th or 5th year grad student is a powerful creature. Undergraduates are another story.
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