Tag Archives: science

Ach je, Herr Urban

500 Jahre nach Martin Luthers Reformation hat sich die evangelische Kirche davon verabschiedet, auch Kirche der Aufklärung zu sein. Sie ist zum bloßen Sozialverein geworden, gefangen in einem archaischen Weltbild. Das Sagen haben zunehmend die antiintellektuellen, bildungsfeindlichen Fundamentalisten. Diese nehmen die Bibel wörtlich und missachten die Erkenntnisse der Wissenschaften einschließlich der Theologie. Ein fundamentalistischer Glaube provoziert heute weltweit in allen Religionen Intoleranz und Gewalt.
Martin Urban, Ach Gott, die Kirche! Protestantischer Fundamentalismus und 500 Jahre Reformation, dtv premium, 270 S., 14,90 €.

Urban, ehemaliger Wissenschaftsredakteur der süddeutschen Zeitung, arbeitet in seinem neuen Buch “Ach Gott, die Kirche” die Ressentiments gegen sein evangelisches Elternhaus ab. Seine Hauptthese: Im evangelischen Kirchenleben kommen Ergebnisse von historisch-kritischer Theologie nicht vor, wissenschaftliche Erkenntnisse spielen nur noch eine nachrangige Rolle, die Kirche wehrt sich nicht ausreichend gegen ihren politisch rechten, fundamentalistischen Flügel.

Auch wenn man die Kritik an den Konservativen teilen kann, so ist die Argumentation doch völlig verunglückt.  Fundamentalisten sind nahezu immun gegen externe  Kritik,  allenfalls durch systemimmanente subversive Rückfragen zu erreichen, wie es  Hubert Schleicher in einem wunderbaren Buch vorführt. Und allen anderen evangelischen Christen? Zumindest den kirchenfernen Mitgliedern wirft Urban damit das Austrittsformular in den Briefkasten. Continue reading Ach je, Herr Urban

Research research

I have no idea why this took ages – a meta-research institute that is run by experienced researchers . Yes, experienced researchers and not just by an EU, agency or a local government body that relies mainly on its common sense, its  self-constructed evaluation scale and influenced by a political agenda. Continue reading Research research

Forschung aus fairer Produktion

Davon habe ich heute das erste mal gelesen und zwar auf dem academics.de blog der auf einen ZEIT Artikel vom 15.3. zurückgeht

Hans-Jochen Schiewer hat eine lange Ausbildung genossen. Inklusive Schulzeit dauerte sie vier Jahrzehnte. An der Uni musste er sich auf einem halben Dutzend Stationen mit befristeten Verträgen bewähren. Als er endlich seine erste feste Stelle erhielt, eine Professur für Germanistik, war der Dauerazubi grau an den Schläfen und 46 Jahre alt.
Heute ist Hans-Jochen Schiewer fast weiß auf dem Kopf und selbst Chef einer dieser seltsamen Arbeitgeber namens Hochschule. Seine eigene Ochsentour hat der Rektor der Universität Freiburg nicht vergessen. Es könne nicht angehen, dass “die Universitäten ihren Nachwuchs bis Anfang vierzig in Unsicherheit und Unselbstständigkeit halten”, kritisiert Schiewer heute.

Der Marsch durch die Institutionen hat 1967 begonnen. Wenn ich rechne, dann hatten die Studenten 1967 schon die ersten 15 der 40 Jahre hinter sich. Dann hätten sie eigentlich kurz nach der Jahrtausendwende ankommen sollen. Es sind aber offensichtlich nun erst die Babyboomer, die den Millenials ein besseres Leben ermöglichen wollen, yea, yea.

Why we are addicted to science

This is a question that has neither a quick nor a simple answer. Spontaneously, I would not talk about the challenge but the reward system included. Maybe the addiction question ( and it is indeed an addiction for some people ) can be answered by analogy of a much simpler experiment using the “Candy Crush Saga” app that works extensively with audiovisual rewards. Even time.com is now writing about this app and identifies 9 key issues: Continue reading Why we are addicted to science

Science delusion

It is a bit annoying. If you google for science delusion, you are only referred to Sheldrake. But this is not what I wanted, I was more interested in mad scientists.  Not Frankenstein,  not Moreau not Dr. Faustus not any literary character, some more real life figures. Also not Venter. But here comes something interesting

In 1951, entomologist Jay Traver published in the Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington [Traver, J. (1951). Unusual scalp dermatitis in humans caused by the mite, dermatophagoides (Acarina, epidermoptidae). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington, 53(1), 1-25.] her personal experiences with a mite infestation of her scalp that resisted all treatment and was undetectable to anyone other than herself. Traver is recognized as having suffered from Delusory Parasitosis: her paper shows her to be a textbook case of the condition. The Traver paper is unique in the scientific literature in that its conclusions may be based on data that was unconsciously fabricated by the author’s mind.

The author ( Matan Shelomi, Mad Scientist: The Unique Case of a Published Delusion Matan Shelomi, Sci Eng Ethics (2013) 19:381-388) believes that a possible retraction of the 1951 paper raises the issue of discrimination against the mentally ill –  others may consider this as delusionary correctness.

A Science career should not be like a Mastermind game

You do an experiment or a clinical study and you are the code braker not knowing the peg positions and colors ( set by a code maker ).

The codebreaker tries to guess the pattern, in both order and color, within twelve (or ten, or eight) turns. Each guess is made by placing a row of code pegs on the decoding board. Once placed, the codemaker provides feedback by placing from zero to four key pegs in the small holes of the row with the guess. Continue reading A Science career should not be like a Mastermind game

Be warned

I have written in 2009 here about exclusion in science. It continues to be a common theme in research programs to exclude others and to be exclusive. Just recently, I found the interesting 2012 summmary on the pain of social rejection by the American Psychological Association Continue reading Be warned

Scientist lost their way

LA Times’ Michael Hiltzik reports yesterday

Researchers are rewarded for splashy findings, not for double-checking accuracy. So many scientists looking for cures to diseases have been building on ideas that aren’t even true.

A few years ago, scientists at the Thousand Oaks biotech firm Amgen set out to double-check the results of 53 landmark papers in their fields of cancer research and blood biology.
The idea was to make sure that research on which Amgen was spending millions of development dollars still held up. They figured that a few of the studies would fail the test — that the original results couldn’t be reproduced because the findings were especially novel or described fresh therapeutic approaches.
But what they found was startling: Of the 53 landmark papers, only six could be proved valid.

I can confirm that finding.

Nämlich wenn Sie erfinden

Wann Wissenschaftler kreativ sind? Vasari schreibt über die Entstehung Leonardo da Vinci’s Abendmahl (letzte Woche war ich in Mailand und natürlich auch in der Santa Maria della Grazie)

Leonardo kannte den klaren Verstand und den Takt des Fürsten, und deshalb entschloss er sich, mit ihm über die Sache ausführlich zu reden, was er mit dem Prior nie getan hatte. Er äußerte sich weitläufig über die Kunst und machte anschaulich, daß erhabene Geister bisweilen am meisten schaffen, wenn sie am wenigsten arbeiten, nämlich wenn sie erfinden und vollkommene Ideen ausbilden.

Nach der Meinung eines Universalgenies ist also etwas wichtig, das im lieben langen Wissenschaftstag nicht vor kommt?

Pointless, futile, useless, meaningless, ineffectual, mindless, absurd, wasteful, needlessly, aimless, senselessly, pointlessly competition in science

Only recently, I discovered a book of Mathias Binswanger on wasteful competition in science where he details (in German)

Die heutigen gesellschaftlichen Ideale kommen in abstrakten Begriffen wie „Effizienz“, „Exzellenz“, „Leistung“, „Markt“, „Wettbewerbsfähigkeit“, „Innovation“ oder „Wachstum“ zum Ausdruck und in unzähligen Wettbewerben versuchen wir uns gegenseitig mit diesen Idealen zu übertrumpfen. Immer noch effizienter, noch exzellenter, noch wettbewerbsfähiger und noch innovativer muss man werden, auch wenn man in Wirklichkeit gar nicht so genau weiß, warum und wozu. In unserer gründlich durchsäkularisierten Gesellschaft, sind diese Begriffe zu den letzten, nicht mehr zu hinterfragenden Werten geworden, denen zu dienen unser höchstes Ziel ist. Ein anständiger Bürger fragt nicht weiter, warum es immer mehr Wettbewerb oder mehr Wachstum braucht.

and a nice example

Während der Kolonialzeit hatten die Franzosen in Hanoi (Vietnam) mit einer Rattenplage zu kämpfen. Um deren Zahl zu reduzieren, beschlossen sie, den Bewohnern von Hanoi für jeden abgelieferten
Rattenpelz eine Prämie zu bezahlen. Das Resultat dieses künstlich inszenierten Wettbewerbs: Die Bewohner von Hanoi begannen damit, Ratten zu züchten, was die Rattenplage wesentlich verschlimmerte. Mit andern Worten: der messbare Indikator (Zahl der abgelieferten Rattenpelze) stand bald einmal in einer negativen Korrelation zur tatsächlich erwünschten Leistung (Reduzierung der Zahl der Ratten), was zu einem perversen Anreiz führte.

Infinite stupidity?

This is a new Edge conversation with Mark D Pagel.

A tiny number of ideas can go a long way, as we’ve seen. And the Internet makes that more and more likely. What’s happening is that we might, in fact, be at a time in our history where we’re being domesticated by these great big societal things, such as Facebook and the Internet. We’re being domesticated by them, because fewer and fewer and fewer of us have to be innovators to get by. Continue reading Infinite stupidity?

We are not suggesting that peer review is infallible

Nature medicine recently acknowledged our work as science bloggers by admitting

We are not suggesting, however, that peer review is infallible. Nonetheless, as editors, we hope that anyone accepting an invitation to review a manuscript considers that commitment as being of comparable importance to the other responsibilities of a busy researcher. And although we know that more pressing issues can take precedence over reviewing a manuscript, we still expect that the same level of integrity and objective, critical analysis will be applied to the assessment of the manuscript under review as is applied to the referee’s own work.

In German we say “blauäugig” which translates to “wonderful naive”. There are so many examples of non-integrity and non-objectivity of published research where the peer review failed to a large extent – many examples here and at other sites like retractionwatch or badscience. All these papers by Friedhelm Herrmann, Marion Brach and Roland Mertelsmann with the most recent examples by Carsten Carlberg (“It’s all her fault, and probably today is the worst day of her life when the world sees what she has done”“) and Silvia Bulfone Paus (“it was Elena and Vadim and the journal editors should have caught us“)

With the pervasiveness of the Internet, and the speed of communication it permits, commentary and criticism of research findings can occur almost immediately after their online publi­ cation. This medium should be actively embraced by the research community as a dynamic forum.

There is not even a trackback possibility for that Nature medicine editorial – the whole blogger’s laudatio thing reeks of hypocrisy.

Science – a belief system

I haven’t followed up most recent developments in philosophy and was therefore quite intrigued by a lecture of Hannes Leitgeb last week about “Reducing belief simpliciter to degrees of belief” – or should I say degrees of probability? Details about the lecture in my notes. While common sense would put belief more to the theology department, modern philosophers have a quite different position as he further explained me (and which are excellently summarized at plato.stanford.edu)

contemporary analytic philosophers of mind generally use the term “belief” to refer to the attitude we have, roughly, whenever we take something to be the case or regard it as true. To believe something, in this sense, needn’t involve actively reflecting on it: Of the vast number of things ordinary adults believe, only a few can be at the fore of the mind at any single time. Nor does the term “belief”, in standard philosophical usage, imply any uncertainty or any extended reflection about the matter in question (as it sometimes does in ordinary English usage). Many of the things we believe, in the relevant sense, are quite mundane: that we have heads, that it’s the 21st century, that a coffee mug is on the desk. Forming beliefs is thus one of the most basic and important features of the mind, and the concept of belief plays a crucial role in both philosophy of mind and epistemology.

Philosophers target a universal definition Continue reading Science – a belief system

Blogs aids creativity

Today at First Monday:

I am a blogging researcher: Motivations for blogging in a scholarly context
Sara Kjellberg
The number of scholarly blogs on the Web is increasing. In this article, a group of researchers are asked to describe the functions that their blogs serve for them as researchers. The results show that their blogging is motivated by the possibility to share knowledge, that the blog aids creativity, and that it provides a feeling of being connected in their work as researchers. Continue reading Blogs aids creativity