That “Bad science infographic” I wailed on last week is making its rounds on the Internet. Google searching it reveals a plethora of blogs that have pasted it, often with nary a critical word. For instance, the blog “Science, Reason and Critical Thinking” lauds it without any critical thinking.
The library science blog “Half pint of library wisdom” simply cuts and pastes it while at the same time gently reprimanding students who find it so easy to cut and paste and not practice “critical literacy.” The blog “Science & … ” lauds it as well, and further opines that “Science is about finding the truth – no matter what it is – and as more businesses start using data science in order to drive business outcomes, we need to make sure that science is about being honest – with the truth and with ourselves.” First, since when is business about being honest, and why should I look to business to “make” science honest? Second, if science is about “finding the truth”, science has a horrible record because history shows it is constantly revising itself. Third, doesn’t the author know that “data mining”, a “questionable practice” according to this infographic, drives business outcomes, such as Amazon?
Anna Maria’s blog, written by a professional statistician (!) says, “I knew it!” affirming many of the quotemined statistics. How can a trained statistician be so dramatically blind to the cardinal sin of sampling bias in this infographic?
In the comments there, however, we finally see some dissent — although the important message gets lost in the old debate of subjectivity vs. objectivity. But there we finally find the criticism this infographic warrants, at the blog “On Research…”.
This all annoys me because it is yet another symptom of “science” continuing its journey to becoming a bad word in the USA. Politicians and fundangelicals have always preyed on the ignorant and naive; and now the less literacy in science there is, the better for making money and keeping power. Government funding of basic research has been under attack for many years by opportunist politicians. Who would have thought scientists are really in it for the power and money? Are they really the ones fleecing America? Climate change is definitely a bad word in the US, and I avoid it at all dinner conversations when I am not sure of the political leanings of the guests. Many Americans think the opinion of a weatherman is scientifically valid when it comes to climate change. Glossy colorful infographics like this seem to make many people believe they can argue against, e.g., evolution and climate change, because they are armed with facts and hard numbers. Science is so inconvenient because it is hard to understand! Truth is not so simple to those of us who believe context is important, and that the world is not black and white.