A Call for Scientists and the Scientifically Minded to Enter Politics

A Call for Scientists and the Scientifically Minded to Enter Politics

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As a citizen or resident of any country I think it is highly important to do your best to learn at least the basics about the political system that governs over you, and of course if you want to meaningfully comment on a state of affairs

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Top 5 Kuhnian Revolutions and Paradigm Shifts in Malaria Research

Top 5 Kuhnian Revolutions and Paradigm Shifts in Malaria Research

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Thomas Kuhn was among the leading figures in the philosophy of science during the 20th century (along with other greats such as Karl Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein). He popularized the use of the word paradigm,

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Hume, Kant and Asking for Evidence.

Hume, Kant and Asking for Evidence.

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David Hume

 

Lately I have been reading a lot of Hoax Slayer and using the associated information for responding to highly incorrect information that people have been re-posting on Facebook. It seems many people do not even bother with a quick two second Google search to check the veracity of most claims. This takes very little effort and intelligence to do for run of the mill posts (so there’s little excuse for not checking), especially compared to proper academic discourse which will require many years of formal education, knowledge of the published literature and relevant experience in the area being discussed.

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Imagine…

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Imagine a world where science was replaced with pseudoscience and pathological science (yes there is a subtle difference). Imagine that instead of the scientific method and all its rigorous standards that we adopted unsubstantiated claims, cherry picked data and anecdotes. Imagine a world were our “experts” either did not have to hold a relevant degree and/or experience, or held an inappropriate qualification for what they were an expert in (though this frequently is the case in this world for political ministers). Finally, imagine a world where utilizing logic, appropriate and relevant statistics, and being informed through skeptical thought was held in great contempt. How many valid and credible discoveries do you think we would be able to muster? How much advancement and development of society do you think could occur?

 

I present this thought and ask these questions because it appears that is what many purveyors of woo seem to want. I do not believe this is a straw man either, as I am talking about the conglomeration of ideas from the crank crowd and tin hat army. Whilst it may be true that an individual woo-meister may not want all the ideals proposed above, they align themselves with a thought process that paves the way for and represents this paradigm (crank magnetism also helps this along). Additionally, while individual scientists may not embody all the ideal tenets of rational, logical thought at all times, the system that is science does (it is also guaranteed to be self-correcting over time, whilst magical thinking is not) and that is why it remains our best way of understanding the world we find ourselves in.

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Funding Magic: Alternative Medicine

Funding Magic: Alternative Medicine

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magic pic

One of the most alarming trends is the global rise in tax-payer funded magic, particularly in developed countries1. No, this is not a joke, in nations such as Australia and America there has been an increase in government-funded research and care programs into supplements, complementary and alternative medicine (also known as SCAM, a term coined by the fellows at Science Based Medicine). But before I delve into this further, I should define a few terms, reflect on the general problems of giving SCAM’s both attention and money, then give you some specific examples and why they are particularly problematic.

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Blood Smear of Malaria Positive Blood

Blood Smear of Malaria Positive Blood

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This blood smear shows human blood positive for malaria infection, with a Plasmodium falciparum gametocyte (the sexual form of the most lethal of the malaria parasite species) right in the center.

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What Homeopathy is and the (il)logic of it all

What Homeopathy is and the (il)logic of it all

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Primary author: Nick K.

Corresponding author: Christopher_NW.

homeopic

Image from http://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/h/homeopathy.asp

Today I have the pleasure of bringing you an article primarily authored by a good colleague of mine, Nick K. Nick’s research lies in understanding the fundamentals of the immune system. Apart from this information, Nick shall remain anonymous due to the inflammatory nature of this article on homeopathy. We personally consider homeopathy as unproven woo-woo, and any controversy surrounding it to be in fact, manufactroversy. I shall be writing a further critical and justly deserved scathing article on a certain homeopathic group in the near future, so I am more than happy to cop any flak from this and any other future articles, hence why I am the corresponding author on this article. Wes rationally thought that before I go into full “attack mode” against pseudoscience, an initial introductory piece should written. So thanks to Nick, here it is.

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The Beautiful Complexity of the Malaria Parasite:

The Beautiful Complexity of the Malaria Parasite:

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It’s no small secret that my biggest interest lies in malaria research. The story of this healthy obsession started back during my undergraduate days at USC, back when I was interested in becoming an obstetrician/gynecologist.

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Cognitive Biases and “Doing Your Own Research”, Part 3 – Memory Errors and Biases

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Finally the third installment of my cognitive bias articles is finished. I must apologize for the delay I have been so busy learning cloning techniques for my new research and dealing with many students, that when I have had free time it has been taken up napping (don’t tell my professor haha)! So in keeping with the theme of what cognitive biases you really need to be aware of when you are doing your own research, particularly citizen-scientists using the internet, I thought I would go over the predominant memory errors and biases that affect all of us. A memory bias is a cognitive process that alters the way, the time, or how we recall memories. As opposed to logical fallacies, memory biases are subtler to pick up on, and as the Wikipedia list in the references shows, there are a lot of them. However, I intend to show you using real examples (as I have done previously), the five memory errors I believe to be both easier to spot, and common in occurrence.

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Cognitive Biases and “Doing Your Own Research”, Part 2 – The Social Biases

Cognitive Biases and “Doing Your Own Research”, Part 2 – The Social Biases

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Following on from part 1 of cognitive biases to look out for when doing your own research, I want to now go into the social biases side of cognitive biases. Social bias, also known as attributional error, occurs when we unwittingly or deliberately give preference to (or alternatively, to look negatively upon) certain individuals, groups, races, sexes etc., due systemic errors that arise when people try to develop a reason for the behaviour of certain social groups (or what we believe is that groups behaviour). These prejudices are exhibited by all of us at some point, so whilst their elimination is arguably not possible, we should still aim to reduce our social bias. Furthermore, we should be able to identify when a social bias is manifesting itself, particularly when people are using mediums like the internet for their own research into an area. Below are some of the common social biases found (with real examples) which often lead to fallacious activity.

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