Support Aeon Donate now We live enmeshed in networks. The internet, a society, a body, an ant colony, a tumour:
Allan Crossman calls parapsychology the control group for science. That number tells you how many people will recover whether the drug works or not.
That number tells you how many studies will discover positive results whether the phenomenon is real or not. Trying to set up placebo science would be a logistical nightmare.
The results are pretty dismal. Parapsychologists are able to produce experimental evidence for psychic phenomena about as easily as normal scientists are able to produce such evidence for normal, non-psychic phenomena.
As Eliezer Yudkowsky puts it: Parapsychologists are constantly protesting that they are playing by all the standard scientific rules, and yet their results are being ignored — that they are unfairly being held to higher standards than everyone else.
It just means that the standard statistical methods of science are so weak and flawed as to permit a field of study to sustain itself in the complete absence of any subject matter.
These sorts of thoughts have become more common lately in different fields. Psychologists admit to a crisis of replication as some of their most interesting findings turn out to be spurious.
And in medicine, John Ioannides and others have been criticizing the research for a decade now and telling everyone they need to up their standards. But there is broad agreement among the most intelligent voices I read 12345 about a couple of promising directions we could go: Demand very large sample size.
Demand replication, preferably exact replication, most preferably multiple exact replications.
Trust systematic reviews and meta-analyses rather than individual studies. Meta-analyses must prove homogeneity of the studies they analyze. Use Bayesian rather than frequentist analysis, or even combine both techniques.
It is far too easy to massage p-values to get less than 0. Require pre-registration of trials. Do heterogeneity analyses or at least observe and account for differences in the studies you analyze.
Demand randomized controlled trials. Stricter effect size criteria. Well, what now, motherfuckers? Everyone had a lot of criticisms, some of which were very very goodand the study failed replication several times.
By my count, Bem follows all of the commandments except  and . And he apologizes for the small effect size but points out that some effect sizes are legitimately very small, this is no smaller than a lot of other commonly-accepted results, and that a high enough p-value ought to make up for a low effect size.
This is far better than the average meta-analysis. Bem has always been pretty careful and this is no exception. Yet its conclusion is that psychic powers exist. So — once again — what now, motherfuckers? In retrospect, that list of ways to fix science above was a little optimistic.
The first nine items large sample sizes, replications, low p-values, Bayesian statistics, meta-analysis, pre-registration, publication bias, heterogeneity all try to solve the same problem: Bem definitely picked up a signal.Top Successful College Essays.
Get into the college of your dreams! We hope these essays inspire you as you write your own personal statement. Just remember to be original and creative as you share your story. For those new to Wait But Why, blue circle footnotes (like this one) are good to click on—they’re for fun facts, extra thoughts, extraneous quotes from my conversations with Musk, and further explanation.↩.
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