Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Monday, September 25, 2006

Blogging Lovaas, 7

100 years?

Still, there's a line there that deserves slightly more attention.

The validity and efficacy of behavioural treatment is based on thousands of scientifically sound studies of learning processes investigated for over 100 years and published in journals with competent peer review by a large number of researchers from across this country and abroad.

That's quite a claim; scientifically valid behavioural research all the way back to 1899. It's a claim that suggests Lovaas hasn't actually moved on since the time when Skinner was the unchallenged paradigm. Not an easy claim to disprove, mind you, particularly as he doesn't name them (well, it would certainly lengthen the book) - but it's not on the face of it terribly convincing, either; few of us would be prepared to rest our reputation on any publication from 1899. We are ever so slightly readier to question the scientific soundness of the work of the pioneers - reports on the Kallikaks, say, or the Jukes, to take representative examples from the time.

Peer review, too, comes up here. As a published author and an ex-editor of a refereed journal I have no difficulty in believing the findings of the many studies that have found flaws in the system - a bias in favour of positive findings, or a tendency to reinforce the conventional wisdom. I wouldn't say peer review was useless, but it's certainly no panacea (and publication in your own journal proves nothing whatsoever).

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