In an attempt to catch up on my 300-some emails (yes, the total has grown considerably; probably because of recent publicity), here are some articles sent in by readers that bear attention.
Wee p-value surge
From our friend John Cook, the paper (pdf) “A surge of p-values between 0.040 and 0.049 in recent decades (but negative results are increasing rapidly too)”.
Whatever the theory is, the result is that P-values are magical thinking.
More wee p-values, but in disguise. The real reason for the “replication” or “reproducibility crisis” is revealed here, in The True Meaning Of Statistical Models.
Only when users of statistical models think of them, as physicists think of theirs, in a predictive sense, and thus become verifiable, will the crisis dissipate.
Perrella also sent “Placebos work — even without deception”. How does knowing you’re receiving a placebo and either getting better or not differ from not getting a known-placebo?
The headline is busted in the usual way. It makes it sound like known-placebos always work, even though in the quoted experiment it is clearly seen that they don’t.
People who beat each other have better health
Reader I. Fox writes, “Recently, BDSM practitioners have put out studies that say they have better mental health than those overall, and that, like homosexuality, is a perfectly normal behaviour. This document, written by a queer child psychiatrist (conflict of interest is noted) with the usual emotional arguments.”
The paper (pdf) is “Psychology & BDSM: Pathology or Individual Difference?” by Margaret Nichols, which opens “As a clinical psychologist, I am a member of a profession that many believe has replaced religion in its power to influence social opinion and behavior.”
And off she goes trying to influence. She calls her pals, “the kinky community.” Her “work” naturally excited the minds of those who contribute to Live Science: Bondage Benefits: BDSM Practitioners Healthier Than ‘Vanilla’ People. “[S]ome psychiatrists see the inclusion of BDSM and other kinks in the manual as stigmatizing”.
Heaven forfend perversion should be “stigmatizing.” Equality will be our death.
Don’t think so? Fox also sent this: Trans-Uterus, in which men pretending to be women are given uteruses (uterii?) and who then pretend they might get pregnant.
Which is fine. Hey, who am I to judge? But it’s not fine when you insist I pretend too. That’s tyranny.
Reader Chris writes,
I’ve been reading Standard Deviations by Gary Smith, and think of your blog every time I turn a page. It’s a popular work for sure, and not very heavy on philosophy. I’m not sure if prof. Smith is a logical probabilist, or what, however he touches on so, so many topics you’ve covered over the years. Regression to the mean, the “law of averages”, Texas sharp-shooter, correlation/causation, file-drawer effect and over-certainty in general.
Among the many studies he thoroughly debunks are the “abortion leads to crime reduction”, “successful businesses become mediocre and that’s what keeps our economy running”, and “EMFs from power-lines cause cancer in children”.
You could probably finish it in a day or two. I wanted to send the recommendation your way in case you’re ever lonely and feeling quixotic about fighting this uphill battle against statistical over-certainty.
I haven’t seen it yet, but looks like it could be good.
Antibiotics linked to child obesity
The beauty of the phrase “linked to” is that it means anything you want it do. Thanks to reader Alan Watt for alerting us to the article “Children who receive a lot of antibiotics before age 2 are slightly more likely than others to become obese, a new study shows.”
Slightly. Add in the model uncertainty and that due to concentrating on wee p-values and parameters and not observables and make a guess what will happen.
Reader Jason asks us:
My wife, child, and myself are considering a move to a property that is approximately 860 feet from HWY 5 in San Juan Capistrano. My wife is pregnant and we have been reading about the harmful effects of living too close to a major highway.
My question is if you would consider this distance from the highway exceptionally unsafe?
Only if you play in the traffic.
More Bayes in the news, sent in by reader John B.
Our friend Ye Olde Statistician alerts us to the breathless statistical study, “Did Harry Potter Influence The Political Views of Millennials?”
The right answer: probably not, but who knows?
YOS also shows us the absurdity of surveys: “An item on the Beeb alerted me to the fact that the Danes have — yet again — scored highest in some international measurement of happiness levels.”