Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sturgeon's Law

I've got an article in with Skeptic attacking another Skeptic writer for being gullible about some topic in psychology, and it brings up a point about big-S (no pun intended) Skeptics generally.

The basic principle of human culture is Sturgeon's Law - 90% of everything is crap. I am increasingly coming to see this as something like the Heisenberg principle, not simply an observation but a predictive - almost determinative - rule, or even, yes, law.

90% of articles in normal science (for the sake of a quiet life I'm prepared to exempt theoretical physics and mathematics from that generalisation) are crap. The distinction between 'science' and "'pseudoscience'" (I've added another pair of air quotes there) is therefore at the margin, between realms that are (say) 90% (medicine) and 99.99% (creationism) crap, with immense overlaps.

Skepticism as it is now practiced relies heavily on being told in advance the areas one can safely be skeptical about.

Which is also an argument for adding junkfoodscience to my blog list. She's particularly good at knocking copy on normal science. Even though this does lead her into the GW denier camp.

1 comment:

John said...

It's been a long while since I was a Skeptics member but I thought they still had a job to do in fighting plain ol' crazy stuff (astrologers, psychics, and so on).
But maybe that battle's over and overstated conclusions of scientific research are now the target.
I feel there have been a number of criticisms of peer reviewed articles but the only one I can get my hands on is this one which puts the crap figure so to speak at a third for medical studies. http://marketing.wharton.upenn.edu/ideas/pdf/Armstrong/Mass%20Media/BostonGlobe-FlawsinPeerReview.pdf
I have also seen criticisms of poor use of statistical technique -just watch any ABC news report on a "medical breakthrough".

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