Sunday, July 10, 2011

Class in Session

Research is neither validated nor invalidated by who pays for it. Any sane person would have heightened suspicion if they learned that a particular study was paid for by a person or entity who had something to gain or lose by it. In such circumstances, we should go back over the ground more carefully, to see if there is data curiously absent, or conclusions drawn for us that are not quite sound, or even - and it does occur - that the whole thing is a put-up job and a pack of lies. But it is the discovery that there is missing data, or poor reasoning, or flat out lying that ruins a study. The mere fact that The Industry paid for it means nothing in itself. Nor does the fact that The Government or Non-Profits paid for it prove that it is objective, for government is itself an industry, with jobs, reputations, and incomes to protect. And non-profits are similarly an industry with fish to fry as well. If the CEO of Hamster International makes $200K, and twenty people working for HI make $50K, then their situation is the same whether HI is an advocacy group that works to protect hamsters, or an agribiz that farms hamsters for profit. How they raise money and how they handle what is left over will be different, but they will pay their employees in the same way.

Pay no attention to those hamsters. Their cuteness is distracting you. Keep focused on the logical point here. Research is invalid when it is shown to be invalid in some way. Whether the Sierra Club, or the Commonwealth of Virginia, or Big Hamster, or Uncle Wilbur paid for the research is only a warning bell, a red flag, not a disproof.

Are we clear on this? Good. Then will someone call up the reporters at NPR and tell them about this strange and wonderful idea in science? Because, seeing that they are smarter than us and have to package everything in the right way so that their audience doesn't get any wrong ideas, I thought they should know about the latest advances in logical thinking.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

Arrogant, deceptive, sneering, lying bastards.

Sam L. said...

They may actually know about this, but they ignore it because it doesn't fit their minds.

Dubbahdee said...

I have, in passing, noted a few instances of this flagrant fallacy passing the lips of the persons of reportage. It seems to have become a common trope.