Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science

We conducted replications of 100 experimental and correlational studies published in three psychology journals using high-powered designs and original materials when available.

Ninety-seven percent of original studies had significant results (P < .05). Thirty-six percent of replications had significant results;

No single indicator sufficiently describes replication success, and the five indicators examined here are not the only ways to evaluate reproducibility. Nonetheless, collectively these results offer a clear conclusion: A large portion of replications produced weaker evidence for the original findings despite using materials provided by the original authors, review in advance for methodological fidelity, and high statistical power to detect the original effect sizes. Moreover, correlational evidence is consistent with the conclusion that variation in the strength of initial evidence (such as original P value) was more predictive of replication success than variation in the characteristics of the teams conducting the research (such as experience and expertise).

Consciousness isn’t all about you, you know

In an interesting article by Peter Halligan and David Oakley in NewScientist it is suggested that even if

consciousness occurs too late [in the process of a human action] to affect the outcomes of the mental processes apparently linked to it…it provides an evolutionary advantage that developed for the benefit of the social group, not the individual.

I’m curious to get the thoughts of those here on this suggestion.

Some things are not so simple

I have been distracted for months but I thought I would look in on UD to see if anything had changed.  All is much the same but I was struck by this OP from Barry. The thrust of the post is that Barry is a plain-speaking chap stating obvious ethical truths and anyone denying it is using sophistry and is evil.  The particular “obvious truth” that Barry is discussing is:

Anyone who cannot unambiguously condemn the practice of chopping little boys and girls up and selling the pieces like so much meat shares in the evil of those who do so.

I would argue that this gives the appearance of simplicity but hides considerable complexity and subtlety. It also illustrates how Barry, like everyone else, is actually a subjectivist in practice, whatever he might say in theory.

There is one obvious way in which this is statement is too simple.  It leaves out whether the little boys and girls are alive or dead. Most people find it morally acceptable to reuse organs from people (including babies and infants) who have recently died.

But also the statement is packed with emotional use of language. (Throughout this I assume Barry is referring to the practice of using parts of aborted foetuses for research and/or treatment and charging for providing those parts).

1) “Meat” suggests flesh that is to be eaten. I don’t think anyone is selling foetuses to go into meat pies.

2) “Chopping up”. Body parts from foetuses presumably have to be extracted very carefully under controlled conditions to be useful. To describe this as chopping up is technically accurate but again has connotations of a butcher.

3) “Little boys and girls”. By describing a foetus as a little boy or girl,  Barry appeals to our emotional response to little boys and girls that we meet, embrace and talk to.

4) “selling” suggests a product which is being produced, stocked and sold with the objective of creating a profit. It would indeed be shocking if organisations were deliberately getting mothers to abort so they could make a profit from selling the body parts. If you describe the same activity as covering the cost of extracting and preserving body parts of reuse it sounds quite different (the cost has to be recovered somehow or it would never happen).

What interests me is how Barry has chosen words for their emotional impact to make an ethical argument. If it had been described as:

Reusing parts of aborted foetuses for research and/or treatment and charging for providing those parts.

then it sounds a lot more morally acceptable than

chopping little boys and girls up and selling the pieces like so much meat

If morality were objective then it shouldn’t matter how you describe it.  It is just a matter of observation and/or deduction – like working out the temperature on the surface of Mars. But ethics is actually a matter of our emotional responses so Barry has to use emotional language to make his point.

Questions for Christians and other theists, part 6: Hell

A question for those of you who believe in an omnibenevolent God but also in hell: How do you reconcile the two?

Some believers invoke the “free will defense”, but this makes no sense to me. It seems that God could easily save everyone, sending no one to hell, without violating anyone’s free will. Here’s how I described it recently:

It’s similar to a technique I’ve described in the past whereby God could have created a perfect world sans evil without violating anyone’s free will.

Here’s how it works:

1. Before creating each soul, God employs his omniscience to look forward in time and see whether that soul, if created, would freely accept him and go to heaven or freely reject him and go to hell.

2. If the former, God goes ahead and creates that soul. If the latter, then he doesn’t, choosing instead to create a different soul that will freely accept him and go to heaven.

Simple, isn’t it? Any omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God could easily come up with something like this or better, rather than sending billions of souls to hell with no chance of a reprieve.

Theists, how do you respond?

Ashley Madison hack

Our default position towards infidelity is that it is Wrong. I’m not here to argue otherwise, but the moral dilemma thrown up by this case is that someone has made it their business to interfere in the lives of strangers in order to promote their own moral stance. This has led to two (unconfirmed) reports of suicide, and the potential damage caused by a discovered affair is enormous. Of course, one can say the cheats should have thought of that in the first place, but we are calculating creatures, and the genuine, if naive, belief is that if the other party does not find out, no harm is caused. If you choose to expose a cheat, you are directly crystallising the potential harm, with no knowledge of individual circumstances.

Real people have real circumstances, and real desires, wants and needs. It is not always a simple black-and-white matter of ‘leave first’. While I don’t condone the actions of marital cheats, I find myself more incensed by the interfering, scattergun actions of these busybodies.