Anecdotes, more evolution, exaggerations, and expertise
Another very busy week this week. Things should get less hectic next week, when I will hopefully have time to write something more substantial. Until then, here are some semi-coherent thoughts and links:
- Facebook became the discussion ground for this positive review of the No Child Left Behind legislation. The generally positive statistical evaluations were countered with stories of teachers’ concerns. A theoretical physicist and good friend responded that statistics should trump anecdote, and thus we must conclude that NCLB is a success! Just a couple years ago I probably would have given him my unequivocal support. Now I’m not so sure. Statistics are definitely important. But for complex questions, qualitative methods, case studies and even anecdotes can be useful. I now see them as a complement to, rather than in competition with, data and statistics. Thoughts?
- Rod Dreher interviews a co-author of the recent study on evolution in U.S. high schools. The introduction of the interview describes evolution as “the unshakable bedrock of high school biology courses.” As I said a long time ago, that assertion is dubious. Much of biology can be taught without reference to evolution. Whether it should is a different question of course. I really want to comment more, and promise to get it soon!
- A few British neuroscientists protest exaggerations by their colleagues. I didn’t think scientists ever did that! The post made me think that this situation is partially driven by forcing scientists to identify the outcome or impact of their work. Basic research often doesn’t have direct positive outcomes, and asking scientists to demonstrate otherwise is a recipe for distortions and misleading publicity campaigns (h/t Roger Pielke Jr.)
- Over at The League, they’re discussing why liberals trust expert consensus on global warming but not free trade. I’m sure this has been mentioned in the comment thread, but it’s the politics silly!