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Personal Bias in Science

Discussion in 'Science' started by Jason76, Jul 30, 2016.

  1. Jason76 Cat Moderator

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    Would truamatic experiences bias science? Let's say you were studying crime, but your life history included bad experiences with certain racial groups in prison? OK, so you've looked at the science data and drawn conclusions, but should we factor in your life history?
     
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  2. jimbob Cat Moderator

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    Scientists are not without emotions. There would always be the temptation to bias our findings. But peer review almost always cleans up the dirt pretty quickly.
     
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  3. Jason76 Cat Moderator

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    Does it? But who are the peers? Did they have the same bias?
     
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  4. jimbob Cat Moderator

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    The peers are others at least equally qualified in the area of study. And sure, an equal who has had opposite experiences would surely challenge the findings.
     
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  5. Quality Checked Bird Moderator

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    Bias is very difficult to eliminate. There are a whole host of biases and it is unlikely that any given person, even a physicist, will never fall prey to at least some of them some of the time. Peer review isn't 100% fool proof, either.

    In the behavioral sciences, it is a wise policy to address the biases that will exist. Everyone has personal experiences that influence the way we observe the world. No exceptions. The point of acknowledging one's biases is to keep them under control and not ruin one's research.

    Of course, the researcher isn't the only one who is biased. People who read your research report (peers or otherwise) are also biased, and may or may not have their biases under control.

    Some people will object to unflattering findings. Suppose blacks are shown to kill far more other blacks than whites kill other whites or whites kill blacks. Some black people will object to the finding because of their racial pride. White people will respond to unflattering findings too. Maybe it is the case that white cops actually do kill blacks without the slightest provocation. My personal bias tends to favor police, because I have had few contacts with the police and they were not especially significant encounters. While I know some other people's experience is much more negative than mine, I can't match their experience. I'm biased and I know I am biased.

    I'm biased in favor of people who do social science research. I'm not a social science researcher, but I like to read about it.

    I'm biased in favor of dairy farmers because some of my relatives and friends are dairy farmers.

    I'm biased against people who behave crudely in public -- because it is offensive (maybe) and because it confirms my biases. "Those people just don't know how to act." or "Those people are embarrassing." or "those people give people like us a bad name." etc.

    That list of biases I linked to is a good list. It's easy to fall prey to some of them, like "confirmation bias." If we have a theory about something, we are delighted to find that our research confirms what we thought was the case. Unfortunately, on closer examination we may find that it actually doesn't -- but we were looking hard for confirmation.
     
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  6. Jason76 Cat Moderator

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    People are so biased that everything said, especially on social media, is a joke.
     
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  7. KenBrace Bird Administrator

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    Peer review definitely isn't perfect but I think it works pretty well.

    One caveat is that peer review only works in a free market. If there are large establishment then they will have the power to censor what they don't like and control the system so that only certain scientists receive funding and recognition. In the free market, I think peer review does quite well.

    Well, I think science does pretty well. It has made pretty good progress in the past few centuries and it's because the method works well. Money and power are really the only two things that prohibit the scientific method from functioning at its potential. The medical industry is a prime example of this.
     
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  8. jimbob Cat Moderator

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    Agree. And a prime reason to keep religion and government out of such matters. Sometimes even the educational institutions can be a roadblock to pure scientific investigation.
     
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  9. Quality Checked Bird Moderator

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    You'll have a problem keeping government and educational institutions out of scientific research, since the government funds a lot of the research that gets done, and universities are where a lot of the research goes on. I understand your bias against both government and religion, but religion isn't much involved in research. 3m, Exxon, and GM just don't do much pure research. Bell Labs used to be strong in pure science (as well as communication related research) but their heyday is long over. Universities are where the "pure" basic science is being done, and it isn't being funded by wall street. It's the good old US Gov.
     
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  10. jimbob Cat Moderator

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    Yeah, I haven't lost contact with reality. It takes money to conduct scientific research. I just get to thinking idealistic now and then.
     
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  11. KenBrace Bird Administrator

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    If we didn't have government then scientific institutions could still raise money. They just couldn't do it with force via the state.

    Rich people aren't all greedy bastards that keep everything they can. They do donate money. So that is one revenue source.

    In a free market, public donation would be another way to obtain the necessary funds. I'd donate to help build the LHC. I wouldn't donate to send people to Mars. That is my right and it has been stolen by the government.

    Also, you don't need public universities to conduct research. A private university could fill that role in an anarchist society.

    Where there is a need, there is money. In other words, if something is beneficial to society, then it will be taken care of by a free market. There is no need for government.
     
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