What Would We Do Without Social Science?

Featured image Quantitative social science is best when it provides rigorous evidence of counter-intuitive propositions, that is, when it can debunk commonly held perceptions about phenomena.  A good example is Charles Murray’s careful analysis of social survey data in Coming Apart, showing that in fact low-income whites are abandoning religion and marriage much more than high-income whites—the reverse of what is typically perceived.  But much of the time, social science is proving »

The Democratic War on Science (with Update)

Featured image One mark of the pervasive media bias of our time is how easily the risible thesis of Chris Mooney’s book The Republican War on Science gained traction with the mainstream media.  It’s become a “goes-without-saying” axiom of political discourse today.  Jonathan Adler had the most sober takedown of Mooney’s moonbattery at Regulation magazine back in 2007 (updated and downloadable from SSRN).  Here’s Jon’s able summary of the problem of the »

Ron Bailey on Science Fraud (Video)

Featured image The second half of my recent conversation with Reason magazine science and technology writer Ron Bailey concerns the epidemic of fraud and false results in scientific studies.  Scientific fraud, Nature magazine reported recently, has increased tenfold over the last decade.  There’s even a Retraction Watch blog that tracks the problem.  The problem, as Ron explains in this three-minute video with me, is even worse than just chasing after grant money. »

Layers and Layers of Fact-Checkers Score Again

Featured image Screen shot from MSNBC, the network for supposedly “reality-based” liberals–faster than the speed of light, eh?  Did Baumgartner turn into pure energy, like Chris Matthews, or a black hole, like Keith Olberman?  (Reminds me a little of an old Eddie Izzard sketch: “Just how fast is Godspeed, anyway?”  I’m sure MSNBC will be able to tell us.) »

A Few Minutes with Ron Bailey

Featured image Earlier this week I spent some time chatting with Reason magazine’s superb science and technology writer, Ron Bailey, about all kinds of things.  The short video here (2:30 long) talks about the findings of the Yale Cultural Cognition Project, which throw cold water on the “if only people were more informed” argument.  Some types of people get more irrational when they have more information about a subject.  (The typology Bailey »

In Other News. . .

Featured image There are some interesting and important things happening besides the meltdown of Obama’s foreign policy.  The journal Nature reports on a brand new mathematical proof about one of the major lingering issues of number theory—something known as the abc conjecture.  I can’t begin to summarize the short explanation Nature offers (I imagine that among Power Line’s superb readership there is someone more astute in advance mathematics than me who might »

I Told You So!

Featured image Actually, I probably didn’t. I don’t remember when I first heard about “junk DNA,” but I think it was before we had this site. So when I read that 99% of the human genome is irrelevant stuff that has no function, I thought: how stupid! What are the chances that the human body was designed (or evolved, it makes no difference) with 99% of our DNA being “junk”? I thought »

An Omen for November, or Just Karma?

Featured image I think it was the 1984 American Political Science Association (APSA) annual convention (Woodstock for political science geeks, one of whom I am which) where a straw poll found that of the attending academic political scientists, over 90 percent were going to vote for Walter Mondale. Most of the remaining 10 percent were going to vote for someone further left; Reagan was only drawing about 2 percent. This comes to »

Maybe NBC Should Hire Some Guys in Pajamas

Featured image Is NBC the most inept media organization?  How about their botched announcement of the death of the first man to walk on the Moon, Neil Young of Buffalo Springfield. The Daily Show better have a field day with this: »

Predicting the Past

Featured image It was either Edward Banfield or James Q. Wilson—I forget which, but it doesn’t matter since they were both giants of political science who thought in similar ways—who once told another political scientist: “Stop trying to predict the future; you can’t even predict the past!” This lapidary epigram came to mind recently when all the usual people (meaning liberals and the media) got their knickers in a twist when those »

John the Baptist? Possibly So

Featured image There is an old joke about a guy in a monastery explaining that a reliquary contains the skull of John the Baptist as a boy. And it is true that a remarkable number of John the Baptist relics, including multiple skulls, are dispersed over a wide area of Europe and Asia. But who knows? Some of them might actually be genuine. Two years ago, a sarcophagus was discovered under the »

Why Scientists Have Squandered Public Trust

Featured image I have commented before about the political problems of the scientific community, which are typically being turned around against Republicans.  In a post last month I recalled the 2004 remark by Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin in the New York Review of Books that “Most scientists are, at a minimum, liberals,” and the caution of MIT’s Kerry Emanuel about the dangers of “group think” and the “shocking lack of political diversity »

Please–No One Tell Jerry Brown About This

Featured image The Wall Street Journal notes this morning in “California’s Kafka Express” that Gov. Jerry Brown is determined to go ahead with building California’s high-speed rail-to-nowhere despite that fact that it will cost at least $100 billion (he says only $68 billion, but can anyone point to a major rail project that has come in on budget?), when the state faces deficits and unpayable debt as far as the eye can »

A Practical Science Project?

Featured image Over at the New York Review of Books, physicist Steven Weinberg laments the decline in government funding for “big science,” especially noting that the proposed James Webb telescope, a replacement for the aging Hubble telescope, is withering for lack of funding from Congress.  Well, here’s an idea to get those “anti-science” Republicans to cough up the dough: combine the two telescopes into one!  Call it the “Webb Hubble telescope,” after »

Social Darwinism, Continued

Featured image There is some risk that this morning’s meditation on Social Darwinism might become another multi-part tutorial from me, if you can stand it.  A gimlet-eyed reader points me to the biology textbook, A Civic Biology: Presented in the Problems, used by the infamous John Scopes, of monkey trial fame, which includes these fine passages: Improvement of Man. – If the stock of domesticated animals can be improved, it is not »