This weeks piece of nonsense from George Monbiot in the Guardian is based around a scientific paper that “revealed that people with conservative beliefs are likely to be of low intelligence”
IF the paper were true, I would respond with the famous quote by Thomas Sowell:
“Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it”
Socialism is rejected by the not so bright because their common sense tells them it’s nonsense and they don’t understand the silver tongued sophistry that leftist intellectuals use to justify it.
However, it’s even simpler than that, the research paper George relies on so uncritically is absolute nonsense!
It is wise to be sceptical of “scientific papers” in the field of psychology, particularly ones that reach counter-intuitive conclusions.
The standard of proof used in psychology is “statistically significant” which is usually taken to mean that there is a 95% probability that the data observed could not be explained by chance alone.
Sounds very impressive doesn’t it, until you consider the remaining 5% of the time the data is pure chance. That equates to one “scientific paper” in every twenty published reaching a conclusion which is actually nothing more than a chance variation in the data.
There is also the specific problem for psychology, which is that psychologists are not known for their love of higher mathematics and advanced statistics: A quick look at statistics books on Amazon reveals a number of titles, just for them, along the lines of:
The problem here is that if you don’t actually understand the maths behind the crank handle formulas and statistical software packages beloved of psychologists you can misapply them and create results which look impressive but are actually nonsense.
The final reason to be cautious, is that without a series of research papers, carried out by different researchers, all reaching the same conclusion, there is the possibility that the researchers simply made up the data to further a political view. This has already happened
a number of times in the field of psychology, including cases by some eminent academic figures.
This particular psychology paper has been reviewed by Dr William M. Briggs, Adjunct Professor of Statistical Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York who ranks it as:
“A contender for the worst use of statistics
in an original paper ever”
If you are interested in statistics you can read about all the flaws in the analysis here
George Monbiot adds sagely:
“There is plenty of research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood”
But of course that is an entirely different claim. I think we can all agree that prejudice and stupidity are linked, without the need for lots of research!
As a Libertarian I don’t have the conservative beliefs which the paper refers to, which are defined as: Social conservatism & right-wing authoritarianism, but we should always be ready to challenge the nonsense of the left, even when it is directed at others.
Created by: Clinical Psychology