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Jul 5, 2010
...oh and getting back to the joke. I think Scott picked Garfield posters as the most worthless thing on earth...but don't know that for a fact.
Jul 5, 2010
Kevin Kevin Kevin. You are mostly right, but couldn't you have made your point with about one third so many words? Who do you think will read all that?
Jul 5, 2010
Oh and Miikku - I'm not overly sure of the details of the test in question, you can probably find something about it on wiki or somewhere on the web. But from my recollection of hearing about it from my Economics teacher back at 6th form, it was some test that showed, in principle, that stockpicking is so volatile and difficult to predict, and that we still know so little about it, that choosing when and what to buy and sell by a completely random process (monkey throwing darts at the newspaper stock listings was chosen as an amusing example of a random process) actually produces results as good as choosing stock based on the recommendations of the best experts and computer models. It is generally seen as rather anecdotal. From what I remember it wasn't some kind of controlled study (interestingly, it has nothing to do with psychology or sociology, which makes "starguy"'s comment even more amusing) but more of a laugh. It doesn't show that stock-picking models and theory are junk, just light-heartedly suggests that they are still very embryonic. I think the monkey did a few goes and did about as well, but of course it wasn't enough to be statistically significant. Over time the monkey would probably be outperformed by the experts, I would think. However, I may be wrong, it may have been a properly done economic study, or maybe it is simply a witty quote from some economist and there was no test at all. I'd have to do some digging to find out.

But basically that's the idea of the quote - that random stock-picking is as good as the best predictions. But whether it's a proper study, a little anecdotal but statistically insignificant test, or just a funny quote, you must find out for yourself. I might look into it too. It has nothing to do with psychology. I think "starguy" was just looking for a vauge oppurtunity to bash some field of science he doesn't understand. See my other comment for details.
Jul 5, 2010
Hello everyone :)
I'd like to take the oppurtunity here to explain this phenomenon to you. Here we have an actual sighting of regressive paranoid denial in action. This "starguy" does not understand psychology/sociology, and dislikes a few of the conclusions people working in these fields have reached. He therefore wants to restore his own mental position of great knowledge, and does this by demeaning and dismissing anything he does not understand, so as to feel more important and intelligent himself. Never mind that countless psychologists have worked on understanding the brain for many decades, and that our understanding of many, many aspects of humanity, from mental disorders to how people interact and behave in groups, has become siginificantly better as a result. Never mind that a huge amount of work has been proven time and time again in practice. This "starguy" doesn't understand the brain, and he doesn't like some of the conclusions, so millions of people devoting their entire lives and courses of study to improving our knowledge of the mind are somehow all frauds, engaged in some massive conspiracy. Evidence and reason doesn't come into this. It's called "denial." People have been doing it since the dawn of time.

The medival Catholic Church disliked some of the conclusions Gallileo came to by astronomy, so instead of having a proper debate about it, they just dismissed the whole field as nonsense.

Many people I know don't understand medicine, and dislike some of the conclusions it reaches (for instance that there is no link between MMR and Autism.) Therefore, they dismiss the medical profession as unimportant and useless, and the findings of biologists and doctors as unimportant. Similar issues apply to those who somehow claim that evolution is some kind of invented rubbish that has never been show to work.

Many people don't understand Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Science, and don't like some of the conclusions it has reached. Therefore, instead of having a proper discussion about climate change, they simply dismiss the entire field of work out of hand because they don't understand it. (I'm not saying anyone who questions climate change is doing this, I'm just saying that a lot of people don't actually have a proper debate about it, they just dismiss it because they don't understand the field and they don't like the conclusions.)

Many people (myself included) don't understand quantum physics, and often people don't like some of the conclusions (testable and proven though they may well be) that have been reached by quantum physics. They therefore dismiss the entire field out of hand as some kind of made-up nonsense.

This happens all around the world every day. There is a well-known psychological explanation for this. People like to have control. If conclusions about the way things are, and hence decisions about what course of action should be taken in a certain situation, are worked out in a field in which the denier has little knowledge, they then have to either learn something new (something many many people are loath to do) or accept that there may be parts of the world and fields of science of which they have little understanding. Therefore they relinquish some of their control. They also feel less knowledgeable. People like to have control and feel clever, so it is natural to dismiss anything one doesn't understand as useless rubbish, even if doing so flies in the face of logic. Even the most intelligent people can fall foul of this. I know some field-leading scientists whom I have seen falling victim to this when discussing a discipline other than their chosen course of study or work.

People, take note of this. We all need to be wary of this curse of self-important and arrogant denial of anything we don't understand. This is what held us in the dark ages, and is total and complete anti-science. We all need to admit that, even if in one field we are a world-leading expert, each of us actuall knows very little. The world's leading chemical engineers may not be as knowledgeable in the field of, say, quantumn mechanics, as someone finishing a first degree in the subject. Only by working together can we advance our understanding of the world at large. Arrogance will bring down our enlightened age. Look around you. Look at those who claim that HIV doesn't cause AIDS. Look at the campaign to get "alternatives to evolution" taught in public schools. Do you see reasonable debate? Well in a few isolated cases, yes you do. I'm not dismissing anyone who disagrees with scientific orthodoxy as a crank, to do so would be to commit the foul acts I have just spent half an hour condemning. But, on the whole, mostly you see scared, arrogant people, dismissing out of hand the work of talented and devoted experts, simply because they don't understand the science and they don't like the conclusion. This is why the "enlightened" west is slipping backwards. A return to the dark ages awaits for us if we do not do something about this arrogance, this ignorance, this self-importance. We all need to be humble, no matter how clever and knowledgeable we may be, because no one human being can know more than a tiny sliver of the sum total of our human knowledge. Be open to the work of people in different fields to yourself, "starguy", and stop behaving like an arrogant, ignorant denier. Such behaviour makes you no better than people I know who cast aside every field of science just because they don't understand it.

Humble and honest seekers of knowledge and understanding must unite from around the globe to fight this rise of ignorant and arrogant denialism. It is only human to be frightened of what you do not understand, but if this great society we have created for ourselves since the enlightenement, and the advancement of the scientifice method, it to survive, we must fight it, and fight it hard.
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Jul 4, 2010
Miikku: The "why" is simple. The social sciences (such as psychology) aren't really science. Someone always designs the "tests" (maze, dartboard, etc.), sets the parameters of the "test" (rats seeking cheese, monkeys throwing darts, etc.), and then use mathematics (typically, statistics) to come to some sort of authoritative "conclusion". It ain't science; it's "lipstick on a pig."
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