# Real Fake News: Science Used as Propaganda

News flash!  Most folks would lie right to your face for a rather small pile of fiats with an actual value of 0.

VWAndy Mon, 07/17/2017 - 16:52 Permalink

Correlation is not causation. This is a basic foundational tenet of science. Two things may be very strongly correlated, but that does not prove that one causes the other.

This is actually not the basic foundation of science.  While it is true that correlation does not necessarily imply causation, science often relies very heavily on using correlations to find causations.  It is why there is never going to be a provably final scientific explanation in science.  To state the correlation does not necessarily imply causation in logical terms: A implies B does not necessarily mean that B implies A To put it in a hypothetical example:  Theft implies that you will lose property, but just because you lost some property does not necessarily imply that it was stolen from you.  You can lose property by simply losing it, in floods, fires, etc...  But you can also lose it via theft.   Say you come home, and you see that your door is busted open, and you are missing property.  You automatically are going to think theft.  You can look and see that your house hasn't been burned down, so you eliminate fire as the reason.  If there isn't water everywhere, you know that a flood didn't force your door open and wash your property away or destroy it, so that is eliminated.  It was most likely theft that removed your property.  However, if you are missing some small little personal property on top of your flat screen and your computer, you cannot rule out that you simply lost it at another time, unless the thief is caught with it.   But you have used a correlation to point to a potential cause, then looked to eliminate other possible explanations.  It is the unimagined or unknown possible explanations that will get you.  To get to a concrete example, take Newton's laws.  They worked very well within the bounds that humans could observe the universe.  Then we got better at looking at things, and we got general relativity and quantum mechanics.  You're still going to want to use classical mechanics to predict where an artillery shell is going to land, but, if you want to set up a system of GPS satellites, you're going to need to go to general relativity and quantum mechanics.   While GR and QM both work on the scales that we can observe, once you get to scales that are too small for us to observe, GR and QM start disagreeing with each other.  At least one of them is wrong.  If we find the answer to that, at least one, and most likely both, will be superseded.  They'll still be good tools for predicting behaviors within the realms that we can observe today.  All of this because science often uses correlations to find potential causations.   Science is not a search for Truth in the sense that a Christian might think of Truth in terms of scripture.  It is a search for natural explanations of natural phenomena.  It is a tool, and a powerful one at that.  But it is not a search for some be all end all truth.

El Vaquero Mon, 07/17/2017 - 17:17 Permalink

It all comes down to trust for most things. Always ask why you trust someone.Personally I can't find one single reason to trust the gov. Even if you forget all the bad things they've done. There's not one thing they've done to earn trust. It's their job to protect us and just doing your job doesn't earn any trust. (Unless they went "above and beyond" their requirements say... giving me automatic weapons from the DOD/DHS budget paid for with excise taxes with no strings attached or contracts to sign.) Conversely, ZH has upon occasion taught me some very valuable insights which they were under no obligation to do and the comments can be just as good sometimes. That earns them some level of trust, still "Trust but Verify"

In reply to by El Vaquero

CheapBastard Mon, 07/17/2017 - 18:57 Permalink

Indeed.  And when some political hack with only a four-year mechanical engineering degree gets christened "The Science Guy" as if he were a PhD, and then that "Science Guy" is accorded the authority of a real scientist, the public ends up even further dumbed down.Critical thinking is in short supply anymore.

El Vaquero Mon, 07/17/2017 - 18:22 Permalink

"[Science] is not a search for some be all end all truth."Sure it is.  We haven't found that be-all and end-all of truth, yet, but the goal of science is, indeed, to find it.  At this point, repeatability of certain phenomena is the closest thing we have to that, but we absolutely are striving to advance science to a point at which absolute truth replaces theory.By then, of course, we will be virtually god-like.

In reply to by El Vaquero

Centerist Mon, 07/17/2017 - 19:44 Permalink

It is not logically set up to ever be in a position to say "EUREKA!  THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH!"  An honest scientist always acknowledges that there is a possibility that his theory may be wrong, or that it may be superceeded.  This is because it most often starts off by using correlation to find causation.  In fact, I can't think of any scientific discoveries that aren't using correlation to find causation.  Science, by its very nature, sees B and sets off to find A.  Even with something that you are 99.9999999% sure is correct within your ability to observe the world, there is still that 0.0000001% chance that you are wrong.

El Vaquero Mon, 07/17/2017 - 21:00 Permalink

Seeking the absolute truth is a journey similar to the search for perfection.  Even if neither can actually be attained, the effort to achieve them is what spurs progress on all fronts.I have no issues with your statements about correlation and causation in science, by the way.  They are spot on.

In reply to by El Vaquero

El Vaquero Mon, 07/17/2017 - 18:23 Permalink

Correlation does not necessarily imply causation.Causation necessarily implies correlation.See Rubin and Rosenbaum, Propensity Score Analysis, then head out to the hinterlands for Bayesian statistics!I did, successfully, in a field of science and engineering.

In reply to by El Vaquero

Alananda Mon, 07/17/2017 - 18:54 Permalink

Causation necessarily implies correlation

This is almost certainly true, however the correlation may take place at some level or on some timescale that is difficult to establish empirically..That is, A[t] may cause B[t+i] where i could be from 0 to 'large'... but corr(A[t+i], B[t+i]) may be statistically indistinguishable from zero. Smoking 'causes' lung cancer, but it doesn't do so with P=1, and it doesn't do so contemporaneously.Also, it's highly conditional on us being 'right' about unidirectionality of time: that strikes me as a stretch, given that we have been wrong about almost everything at some point in human history. (That said, I'm not going down the primrose path to "having lung cancer aged 50 causes smoking aged 13": it will turn out to be scale-dependent, like everything else).The fact that our models break down if time gets to go backwards (i.e., if temporal causality can be reversed), probably will turn out to mean that our models were wrong. In fact as I understand it, one of Feynman's interesting findings was that a particle's current state can be affected by its future state (I only have a dilettante interest in QED, so I am not certain that I am depicting the finding accurately)..As a Bayesian, my prior for the distribution of wrong answers from human intellectual effort is that P(Wrong|seems right) has all its mass at 1. That's served me well for the whole of my adult life {note also that it's consistent with a range of plausible values for P(seems right|Wrong), P(Wrong) and P(seems right)}.

GeoffreyT Mon, 07/17/2017 - 19:50 Permalink

Sure, but I would argue that, within the frames of reference that Newton was able to observe the natural universe, classical mechanics is still "correct," even though it is not correct when you get to the super fast, super small and/or super high gravity.  But that's a philisophical opinion, and not a fact.

El Vaquero Mon, 07/17/2017 - 21:52 Permalink

This is exactly why we all need to practice being totally honest with ourselves first. To thine own self be true. Its this foundation that clears up so much of the smoke and mirrors we have today. Now that we have accepted our falability we can lean harder onto our ability to discern things well.  Always asking the good questions of ourselves first. Then we can accuratly measure the answers of others.  The intellectual sloth thing is whats really holding society back. imho

In reply to by El Vaquero

El Vaquero Mon, 07/17/2017 - 19:17 Permalink

A implies B does not necessarily mean that B implies A

is absolutely not a 'logical' rendition of

correlation does not imply causation

.They are semantically very different statements..Look at them written down:(A -> B) !-> (B -> A) ("A implies B does not imply that B implies A")A !-> B ("A does not imply B"). The first statement contains zero information on the truth value of (A !-> B) -> (B !-> A)(Nor should it, by the way: they are semantically unrelated statements). There is far too much bandying about of meaningful terminology (such as 'logical implication') by people who use it without understanding it. .In this age where an individual can do, e.g., Stanford's excellent "Introduction to Logic" for free, folks have no excuse for such logical malapropisms (inb4 grammar nazis: I know that abuse of terminiology is not a malapropism... I was making a point - see how infuriating it is?).Symbolic logic is one of the great inventions of humanity, and enables relatively precise statements to be made: sadly, it also enables false statements to be made under cover of jargon.

In reply to by El Vaquero

GeoffreyT Mon, 07/17/2017 - 19:52 Permalink

Right, however, the logical rendetion A -> B does not imply that B -> A is incorrect.  Take quantum entanglement, for example.  That is an instance, where to our knowledge, A -> B absolutely implies that B -> A.  Of course, that is dependent on entanglement never being shown to be false, but until it is, A -> B implies B -> A on that particular subject.

thats like me not trusting you about mcdonalds fries, even tho you work there.

Yes I prefer to be brainwashed by complete idiots.  Which is why I hang on every word at Alt Right web sites.

NickPeeMe Mon, 07/17/2017 - 20:49 Permalink

Yo, NickPee-Me, back when I was a tiny little piglet, ... well, I hate to admit this ... but I would lie in a bath and, well pee on me.  I outgrew this about a month later (at age 14 months or so).Did u grow up?Or are you still peeing u-self?- Ned

People are under the misconception that science is fact.Science is theory based on observation. Theories can change.

hoytmonger Mon, 07/17/2017 - 18:24 Permalink

Factually wrong.  The word "science" derives from the Latin for knowledge, which itself can be spurious, e.g. knowledge about fairies or aliens, but is usually associated with facts, such as the knowledge of how to maintain a car.  A theory is entirely different, it is a proposition or speculation which can be put to the test of experimentation and/or observation conducted numerous times ... which yields "the scientific method" of falsification, i.e. that one should not set out to prove a theory, such as that dense objects always fall to the ground at the same rate of acceleration.  Newton's theories proved to be immutable and are no longer theories (I'll leave aside "probability").IF you want to be correct about definitions (in various contexts) then it would be wise to use some etymology and philosophical inquiry, e.g. the word "phiosophy" is actually a Greek phrase: "the love of, or desire for wisdom", with wisdom being knowledge put to the test experience.  Your theory is wrong etymologically and factually, e.g. observation, except cursory, does not come before a theory.  A theory is often more in the nature of inspiration or intuition, then follows observation or experimention, which may lead to confirmation, or not.  Classically Socrates heard that he'd been called, "The wisest man in Athens."  He did not believe it, so he went around asking peoples' opinions about "the gods", only to find that no two people agreed.  His conclusion was that if he was wise at all, then it was because he knew he was ignorant in such matters.

Setarcos Mon, 07/17/2017 - 19:43 Permalink

Etymology is useful in its context, but this is not the right context.To see why this is true: parse schadenfreude and ennui etymologically - their meaning in English bares scant resemblance to their native meanings. In its 'purest' form the hypothesis ought to precede the data (as Conan Doyle had Holmes invert, to his shame, in 'A Study In Scarlet'), but the entire point being made is that even when the hypothesis precedes the data, the data and its analysis can be woefully bad. (Also, it is hard to imagine any hypothesis arising ex nihilo without being biased by the life experience of the person doing the hypothesising: that's why we test!)Bad data can happen because of researcher bias (conscious or unconscious) in sample design; bad analysis can happen because of incompetence (misapplication of technique) or corruption (analysis designed to meet a predetermined outcome).Unconscious bias and incompetent selection or application of technique are still 'science'. They're not 'science' at its best, but the individuals undertaking it are genuinely seeking an actual truth value. Furthermore, subsequent research that invalidates the outcomes will be received neutrally (although the incompetent scientists may well be heavily invested in their own output, the discipline as a whole will not be).Conscious bias and end-point targeting (p-hacking etc) are not science: they are politics. That is why departments of "Climate Science" are as much of an abuse of the word 'science', as the "Chuch of Jesus Christ, Scientist". (They're not 'theology' either, despite the fact that I refer to them as the Climate Cult: to come back to etymology, anything ending in '-ology' implies a quest for logos [so astrology and Scientology are egregious abuses of the term]). A wise man once said "ta sika sika, ta skafen den skafen onomason" (it looks way better in Greek): sadly, those who do that tend to wind up on the outer fringes of any 'scientific' discipline. That's changing, albeit slowly: as Ingersoll famously said, all advances happen because of heretics, and the most orthodox place in the world is a graveyard.

New_Meat Tue, 07/18/2017 - 06:35 Permalink

What is your gripe, ignoramus? "Data" is plural, therefore "data are". "Datum" is the singular, therefore "a datum is", such as average sea level for measuring heights of montains, or depths of oceans.  Similarly there can be an agendum, singular, or agenda plural.

New_Meat Tue, 07/18/2017 - 06:18 Permalink

Merely a typo.  Too clever duuuude aren't you, but not clever enough know that philos is Greek for lover and sophia is wisdom.  There is nothing kinky about desiring wisdom.  Perhaps you cannot use a dictionary and just like making inane comments.

Consensus is only a large majority believing the same thing, or saying the same thing so as to avoid punishment by a powerful force.

To make more money, you want as many and the biggest beans you can grow, because you are paid by the weight of your truckload of beans at the weigh station...So you add 5-10-5 fertilizer, thats 5% Nitrogen, 10 percent phosphorous and 5% potassiumSo you get BIGGER BEANS, and you make MORE MONEY off your crop!However, your beans are deficient in Magnesium... as well as other trace nutrients, and because of those deficiencies the plants do not make enough phytotoxins, which are the natural nasty tasting chemicals that insects don't like, so you have more bugs eating your crop you now have to spray pesticides!Apply this lesson to the entire US Food chain, used for cattle feed, The entire food chain is deficient in magnesium, boron, lithium, and everythig that does not get added when you use 5-10-5 fertilizer... but, then, your beans are bigger, and then people wonder why humans are getting heavier... and craving more food, as their bodies try to get those trace minerals by eating more!

Horse Pizzle (not verified) Mon, 07/17/2017 - 19:11 Permalink

Climate professors are not scientists.  They do not do experiments.

On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit
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Although bullshit is common in everyday life and has attracted attention from philosophers, its reception (critical or ingenuous) has not, to our knowledge, been subject to empirical investigation. Here we focus on pseudo-profound bullshit, which consists of seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous. We presented participants with bullshit statements consisting of buzzwords randomly orga nized into statements with syntactic structure but no discernible meaning (e.g., “Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena”). Across multiple studies, the propensity to judge bullshit statements as profound was associated with a variety of conceptually relevant variables (e.g., intuitive cognitive style,supernatural belief). Parallel associations were less evident among profundity judgments for more conventionally profound (e.g., “A wet person does not fear the rain”) or mundane (e.g., “Newborn babies require constant attention”) statements. These results support the idea that some people are more receptive to this type of bullshit and that detecting it is not merely a matter of indiscriminate skepticism but rather a discernment of deceptive vagueness in otherwise impressive sounding claims. Our results also suggest that a bias toward accepting statements as true may be an important component of pseudo-profound bullshit receptivity.