Friday Funny – the scientific method

Not Josh nor Fenbeagle, but still pretty funny. I think maybe this comic was penned around the time Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth came out, which was enough to make any thinking person start doubting science.

scientific_method

See this and many other funny cartoons about science and academia at: http://tapastic.com/episode/40056

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63 thoughts on “Friday Funny – the scientific method

  1. Nice try but the iterative process in the second case is “modify data to fit theory”.

  2. Assign polarity of correlation coefficient to ensure data fits expected result. [Tiljander , cough]

  3. I have to agree with Greg. The original cartoonist probably didn’t think people could / would stoop to simply changing the data to fit the theory.

  4. Select ‘proxies’ that fit preconceived result. Discard others as “unsuitable” . [Gergis]

  5. spetzer86 says:
    I have to agree with Greg. The original cartoonist probably didn’t think people could / would stoop to simply changing the data to fit the theory.

    ===

    He’s obviously mocking “real” science, not climatology which, as Spencer pointed out, is beyond parody.

  6. In climatology, the Actual Method is to draw logically illicit conclusions from equivocations thus obscuring the fact that the method is not scientific.

  7. “hide behind” intellectual property rights to prevent third party verification [ Phil Jones ]

  8. “In climatology, the Actual Method is to draw logically illicit conclusions from equivocations thus obscuring the fact that the method is not scientific.”

    Oh, Terry, you make it sound really complicated. No equivocations, more like cheat and lie for “the cause”.

  9. The box next to “The Actual Method” showing the feedback should read “Modify data to fit theory.”

  10. Last box is wrong too. There is no contrary evidence because you’ve ensured it never got published.

  11. Jorge Cham did this in 2006! He deserves applause. Still, we now know it’s turtles all the way down. We’ve learned a lot about “climate scientists” in 8 years.

  12. Admittedly, the scientific method tends to differ in practice from the ideal. But this comic perpetuates a common myth: That theories are made up “based on what Funding Agency Manager wants to be true.”

    I’ve never known this to be true, yet it’s pushed by the loud fringe groups on both the left and the right. The notion is that so-and-so scientist is in the pocket of big pharma or big oil or big green or big tobacco … anything “big.” It’s insulting.

    The truth is almost the opposite of this: Scientists with a particular bias or belief or hypothesis seek out funding from agencies that are likely to fund them. If you are a scientist and think that tobacco is beneficial, you probably won’t go to the American Lung Association for funding. You’ll go to Marlboro. If you have a hypothesis that suggests humans are destroying the planet by burning fossil fuels, you won’t go to Exxon-Mobil for funding, you’ll go to an environmental advocacy group or perhaps seek out a NASA grant.

    It’s not a matter of being in anyone’s pocket. Scientists don’t change their opinions based on dollars that somebody waves as them: Scientists seek out the dollars that will support their existing opinions, or beliefs, or causes.

    • So the Scientists are corrupt. All this time I was giving them the Credit of practicing the Scientific Method. Your assertion doesn’t change anything. So I’ll accept it.
      In the End, skepticism is sine-qua-non. So let the “so-in-so scientist is in the pocket of Whomever” accusations Fly. There is no downside… unless your ideology relies on blind acceptance.

  13. Nah, the real method is to create fake survey statistics claiming 97% of all scientists support the desired hypothesis then get your University to sue the pants off anybody who asks for proof.

    There, fixed it for you………

  14. Actual Method, box 3.
    Was “Modify Theory to Fit Data”
    Should be: “Statistically Torture Data to Fit Theory. Bury Data that resists Torture.”

  15. “Modify theory to fit data”

    This is clearly untrue, what it should say is “Modify Data to fit theory, and, if you can’t, then bury the data so no one can ever find it.”

  16. The BBC wait for a period of unseasonally warm weather and then break some climate story on the news. This is what they were doing towards the end of our winter this year when there was a lot less snow and ice than in previous winters. Last week they did exactly the same thing when we had temperatures up to 22 Celsius and blue skies. Unfortunately for them, the weather changed yesterday and at 18:00 (now) it is currently 8 Celsius and raining.
    This is the other irritation I have with the climate zealots, they always confuse weather with climate

  17. Actually, now that I think about it, it should be “Modify Data to fit theory, and, if you can’t, then ignore the data (and hopefully bury it as ‘irrelevant’) and rely on models specifically designed to produce results in line with the theory ”

  18. Forgot the last and most important step. “Conclude ‘More study is required’ and demand more funding.”

  19. When in doubt, study Lysenkoism and do what they did. Make things up out of whole cloth, and couch in sciency-sounding terms. People will fall all over themselves with awe and Belief. Be sure to have lots of pals ready to do pal review, as you will do for them.

  20. ZombieSymmetry says:
    May 23, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Mark B says:
    May 23, 2014 at 10:16 am


    Forgot the last and most important step. “Conclude ‘More study is required’ and demand more funding.”

    Almost, but not quite.

    Step 1. “Write conclusion and abstract to obtain funding.”
    Step 10. “Conclude ‘More study is required’ and demand more funding.”

  21. “Last week they did exactly the same thing when we had temperatures up to 22 Celsius and blue skies. Unfortunately for them, the weather changed yesterday and at 18:00 (now) it is currently 8 Celsius and raining.”

    That’s perfectly normal for Britain. You often get a couple of weeks of really nice weather in May, then it clouds over for the rest of the summer. Some years, if you’re really lucky, there’s a week or so of warmish, sunny whether in September.

    The real climate refugees are all the brits living France and Spain.

  22. Should be something included in the actual method that encourages inclusion of alarming interpretations of results in press releases for the purpose of gaining headlines, PR impact and future funding in the full knowledge that the interpretations probably won’t survive peer review, but hey, who cares at that stage? There are no penalties for deliberately bad papers that don’t get through peer review.

  23. Bengtsson’s quote “the illusion of knowledge is far more damaging than acknowledged ignorance” comes to mind.

  24. Reminded me of this…

    How to sell a used Climate Simulator

    “Hey, pal! Come on over here and look at this baby — super-duper fiiiine ’97 GCM. Just give it a test run, there…. you gotta see it to BELIEVE it.”

    An allegory.

    from movie “Mathilda”

    by Supersonicj1m on YouTube

  25. I agree with Greg, but add that modifying the data appears to be an iterative process. I believe the flowchart arrow direction is incorrect between Design Experiment and Publish Paper.

  26. @Joel O’Bryan at 11:59 am
    Bengtsson’s quote “the illusion of knowledge is far more damaging than acknowledged ignorance” comes to mind.

    The illusion of knowledge is usually far more lucrative than acknowledge ignorance.

  27. In post-modern science you do not need the second step, Just write a program that generates 100 years worth of data, publish it and go to the “need more money” step. Reality is not needed, this is post-modern science.

  28. Mike:

    “So the Scientists are corrupt. All this time I was giving them the Credit of practicing the Scientific Method. Your assertion doesn’t change anything. So I’ll accept it.
    In the End, skepticism is sine-qua-non. So let the “so-in-so scientist is in the pocket of Whomever” accusations Fly. There is no downside… unless your ideology relies on blind acceptance.”

    The opposite, actually. Zealots like Michael Mann aren’t on a crusade to deceive people and they don’t do what they do because somebody waved a fistful of money in their faces. It just happens that the easy money is on their side at the moment. If the easy money suddenly switched, they wouldn’t all jump off that boat.

    Conversely, non-zealot scientists like Judith Curry and Richard Lindzen didn’t form their opinions because Exxon-Mobil waved a lot of money at them.

    Cartoons such as this perpetuate an idiotic stereotype of science and scientists guided, controlled, and influenced by money. This is the sort of stupidity that breeds conspiracy theories like we would all be enjoying car engines fueled by unicorn dreams if it weren’t for the evil “big oil” powers that stole some magical engine invented by Nikola Tesla.

    The scientific method is an ideal that’s never followed quite exactly. You aim to follow it, but scientists are influenced by biases, beliefs, and ideologies just like every other human on the planet. To be influenced by an ideology is not the same thing as being corrupt. Corruption implies a willful deception that, by and large, doesn’t exist. That willful deception CAN exist, and it does exist at the fringes in science, but I don’t think it really extends beyond that fringe minority.

    • ZombieSymmetry

      It’s not true that “the scientific method is an ideal that’s never followed exactly.” I follow it exactly in designing and managing studies. With rare exceptions, climatologists don’t follow it at all.

  29. Terry Oldberg:

    There are a great many caveats in what I said. Are you bias free? Have you never taken a short cut? You are a rarity then!

    I’m not suggesting people abandon the scientific method, but we do tend to steer off course into the bushes now and then. I think that’s likely true of all people, including you.

  30. Greg says:
    May 23, 2014 at 9:12 am

    … He’s obviously mocking “real” science, not climatology which, as Spencer pointed out, is beyond parody.

    Nobody can parody parody.

  31. Terry Oldberg:

    “In my case, your cynicism is unwarranted.”

    If I had said in my comment that human beings generally have two hands, somebody would surely have raised a hook in the air to object.

    It’s not cynicism to acknowledge that human beings are imperfect and that imperfect beings tend to color outside the lines on occasion.

    Indeed, if you are a “good” scientist, your first assumption should always be that you are screwing it up and that your objectivity is tainted by bias. Those who consider themselves immune to bias are the ones you need to look out for.

    • ZombieSymmetry:

      Your claim is that it is impossible to eliminate bias but this is possible. As a research administrator, I’ve done this on numerous occasions.

      More to the point, in the design of their field of study, climatologists ensured that conclusions from their observational data would not be unbiased. Unbiasedness is produced, in part, by testing the model in a sample that is drawn randomly from the statistical population underlying this model and independent of the construction of it. For the IPCC climate models the underlying statistical population does not exist making unbiased testing of them impossible.

  32. Mike says:
    May 23, 2014 at 10:11 am

    … And this is just how the Left likes it….

    Mike, you are onto something in more ways than one. See here:

    The degradation of science under capitalism
    Written by Adam Booth
    Wednesday, 26 March 2014

    “The senile decay of capitalism expresses itself also in terms of the very quality of scientific research itself.”

    “It is clear that capitalism has had its day and must now exit the stage of history. The limits of private ownership and production for profit have become an enormous fetter on the development of science and society as a whole. Only with the socialist transformation of society, involving a democratic and ration plan of production, can we utilise the enormous human and material potential that currently lies idle and wasted under capitalism.”

    http://www.marxist.com/the-degredation-of-science-under-capitalism.htm

    So the Left corrupts science for its immediate goals and then it uses this corruption to argue that it needs to take power to fix science and the rest of society.

    Nobody should take my word for it. Read what the Marxists themselves say.

  33. It should say “modify data to fit theory”.

    That is actually what has been happening ….. the all time classic example being the ‘corrections’ to global sea level data of removing the change in basin size due to isostatic readjustment. That way you can show the sea level still rising when it actually isn’t. OMG …. how perverse can one get before one cannot even look oneself in the mirror ?

  34. ZombieSymmetry Advocacy groups do not pay for science they pay for position papers, which the IPCC than use as if it was science. Government do not pay for science they pay for something that will support advocacy for what ever position they are using to extort more money out of the population, the left is just far more successful than those whom pretend to be on the right, someone truly on the right does not care what the science truly determines they just don’t want the tax payer to pay for it.

    • Santa Baby:

      I’d describe the conflict as being between “the scientific method vs the pseudoscientific method,” the latter being the method of investigation of the IPCC.

  35. The degradation of science under capitalism
    Written by Adam Booth
    Wednesday, 26 March 2014

    . Only with the socialist transformation of society, involving a democratic and ration plan of production,

    Heh, heh. The subconscious, desperately trying to confess the truth, generates revealing typos! A “ration plan” is the real deal.

  36. I believe the climate research funding requires a politically correct result.
    I believe the scientists will produce that result to get the funding.
    I believe the checks that should prevent this are circumvented by authority.
    I believe the media conspires to hide the truth
    I believe honest men are persecuted for speaking that truth
    I believe I am going to have trouble convincing anyone of this

    No sarc tag, I really do believe all the above, but sometimes it makes me pause.

  37. The second flow chart must be part of the hidden data Mann is fighting so hard to keep hidden.

  38. Colorado.says……….
    The problem with the anti-capitalists is that they have the same blinkered approach to communism as they do to the climate. Communism does not work, end of! The only communist countries that have prospered are the ones like Russia and China that have used capitalistic measures to make wealth. True communist countries like Albania and North Korea have their citizens living in abject poverty, except of course for the ruling classes..
    The only conclusion I can draw is that communists are either idiots, control freaks or a combination of the two.

  39. ZombieSymmetry says:

    “Indeed, if you are a “good” scientist, your first assumption should always be that you are screwing it up and that your objectivity is tainted by bias. Those who consider themselves immune to bias are the ones you need to look out for.”

    This is true for every field of endeavor where actual results are desired. One should always question one’s conclusions and look for contrary data. The more complex the system the more that this is required for success.

  40. Mark Luhman:

    “Government do not pay for science they pay for something that will support advocacy for what ever position they are using to extort more money out of the population, the left is just far more successful than those whom pretend to be on the right, someone truly on the right does not care what the science truly determines they just don’t want the tax payer to pay for it.”

    Have you ever heard of an NSF grant? Or an NIH grant? Have you ever written a proposal for either?

    I agree that funding processes become biased and are often influenced by whatever is politically trendy, but you’re making a blanket statement there that is absurd. You are effectively saying that every grant for any scientific research of any kind exists solely for advocacy. So, if I write a proposal to build a certain class of molecules in a new way, and I get it funded through NIH because those molecules have potential as oncology drugs, that whole process is tainted by … what … molecular advocacy?

  41. Brian H says:
    May 23, 2014 at 11:34 pm

    The degradation of science under capitalism

    “. Only with the socialist transformation of society, involving a democratic and ration plan of production,”

    Heh, heh. The subconscious, desperately trying to confess the truth, generates revealing typos! A “ration plan” is the real deal.

    Heh! I guess we should update our proclamation to:

    “Read what the Marxists themselves say. Pay close attention to grammar and spelling.”

    And they should update the Communist Manifesto from the original:

    “A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism.”

    to the more pressing:

    “A spectre is haunting our sacred scriptures — the spectre of freudianism.”

  42. It certainly gave me a laugh for the day. On the more serious side, it is unfortunate that this turns out to be true all too often. False hypotheses and staged results hold up actual scientific advancements and soak up funds that could be put to better use.

    • “False hypotheses and staged results hold up actual scientific advancements and soak up funds that could be put to better use.”

      The feature of global warming climatology that makes it pseudoscientific is not generally that its hypotheses are false but that that they are not falsifiable. The lack of falsifiability is obscured by widespread applications of the equivocation fallacy on the part of climatologists.

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