Saturday, July 14, 2007

How to maintain the hegemony of a reductionistic viewpoint. . . (Repost from AMNAP 1.0)

Just offer misleading criticism of dissenting scientists, then refuse them the opportunity to respond:


i) Dr Sheldrake said the programme's treatment of his decision to remove trials when N'kisi did not respond, was flawed for two reasons:

a) The programme did not understand that the decision not to include these trials was in line with established practice in mainstream research with animals, young children and autistic people. Dr Sheldrake explained that analysis is performed in this way, to take into consideration the subject's limited attention span and inability to know that they are being tested.

b) Notwithstanding the first reason, Dr Sheldrake said the programme completely ignored a key finding of one of the paper's reviewers. This reviewer, included at the end of the paper, directly questioned and tested the effect that the removal of non-response trials had had on the results. The reviewer found that if the non-response trials were included, the results "differed only trivially". Therefore it was false for the programme to imply that by omitting these trials the results would have altered.

Dr Sheldrake said the programme implied that by removing the trials, where rarely used words were used, from the analysis of test results he increased the probability that N'kisi would appear telepathic.

However, Dr Sheldrake said that, as his paper had explained, by removing such trials the opposite occurred: the removal of such trials "made the result slightly less significant, rather than more". Dr Sheldrake said the programme failed to explain that regardless of which methods of analysis were used, the experiment's results remained significantly above the level of chance.

ii) Dr Sheldrake maintained that the test conducted by programme makers was flawed, therefore making a comparison between the two tests unscientific. However notwithstanding such flaws, Dr Sheldrake said that the programme's attempts to apply his methods of analysis were misleading for the following reasons:

a) Dr Sheldrake's conclusions were not based on 'percentage hit rates', as used by programme makers. Rather the conclusions were based on standard kinds of statistical probability analysis including randomised permutation analysis.

b) The programme implied that N'kisi's success in telepathy tests was a result of data manipulation rather than due to any genuine ability of N'kisi. The programme made it appear to viewers that Dr Sheldrake had omitted or massaged data to get the desired result, regardless of what the facts indicated. Dr Sheldrake said his results were analysed in several alternative ways and the significance of the results were not dependent of the type of analysis used.

. . .

Dr Sheldrake complained that the programme makers gave assurances that his work would be presented fairly and without bias, which they did not fulfil. Ofcom noted that both broadcaster and complainant offered correspondence which confirmed that such an assurance had been given by programme makers to Dr Sheldrake.

. . .

Dr Sheldrake complained that the programme did not offer him or any other qualified scientist an opportunity to respond to Mr Youen's claims, which resulted in unfairness. As previously noted, if a programme alleges wrongdoing or incompetence or makes other significant allegations, those concerned should normally be given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond. Accordingly, Ofcom first considered whether the programme made any such allegations. In this respect, Ofcom concluded that the programme's critique of Dr Sheldrake's work was capable of adversely affecting the regard in which Dr Sheldrake's work was held which in turn drew into question Dr Sheldrake's professional credentials. As such, Ofcom considered that in order for the programme not to be unfair to Dr Sheldrake, programme makers should have given Dr Sheldrake an opportunity to respond to the criticisms contained in the programme concerning the conduct of his experiment and his interpretation of that experiment. Ofcom noted that though Dr Sheldrake had been asked to make a contribution to the programme on a number of occasions, at no time was he asked to comment on the specific criticisms of his research which were to be included in the programme. This failure to give Dr Sheldrake an opportunity to respond to what would amount to a damaging critique of his research resulted in unfairness to Dr Sheldrake. Ofcom has upheld this part of the complaint.


4 comments:

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billie said...

You do realize your use of the word "hegemony" places you in nefarious company, don't you?

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M.C. said...

:-)