In the proud and rarely abused tradition of Honoring Important People, we present the Second Annual WMBriggs.com Bad Science Award! Please help us pass on the news of this momentous distinction by Tweeting, Facebooking, Emailing, Phoning and the like. Alert reporters! Notes in bottles would not be out of place, where this not a gross affront to The Environment.
The winner receives our humble thanks and a copy of the valuable coin-like image above (should they choose to log on to the site and download one). Looks just like the Nobel, eh? Eh?
Only researchers who published peer-reviewed papers in journals of good standing were considered. Mere mistakes weren’t enough, nor banality; nor was fraud of any kind a qualification. Cheaters are considered comedians who do us an essential kind of service, unlike Bad Scientists, who are inherently harmful.
The WMBriggs.com Bad Science Award—or WBSA, as it will soon come to be known—can only be bestowed on researchers who were in earnest, whose results were excruciating, results which could or did serve as a focal point for the propagation or base of error for other scientists or which did or will cause an increase in Sinful Scientism. We’re talking smelly.
2014: The First Annual Award went to Kathleen H. Corriveau, Eva E. Chen, and Paul L. Harris in an effort our judges (me) called pure putrescence, for their “Judgments About Fact and Fiction by Children From Religious and Nonreligious Backgrounds” in the peer-reviewed journal Cognitive Science.
This Year’s Nominees
Culled from a list of hundreds—it was an awfully busy year!—here were 2015’s Bottom Performers:
Please hold your applause until the end…
- Gine Roll Skjærvø, Frode Fossøy, and Eivin Røskaft for “Solar activity at birth predicted infant survival and women’s fertility in historical Norway” (detailed entry);
- Karen Aplin for claiming global warming will increase bad music (detailed entry);
- Mark Urban for claiming global warming will kill 1/6 of all species in “Accelerating extinction risk from climate change” (detailed entry).
- Jean Decety, Jason M. Cowell, Kang Lee, Randa Mahasneh, Susan Malcolm-Smith, Bilge Selcuk, and Xinyue Zhou for pretending to have proved religious kids are less “altruistic” in “The Negative Association between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism across the World” (detailed entry).
- Elina Einiö, Jessica Nisén, and Pekka Martikainen for the-answer-is-obviously-no study “Is young fatherhood causally related to midlife mortality? A sibling fixed-effect study in Finland” (detailed entry).
- Rachel Margolis and Mikko Myrskylä for claiming parenthood is worse than divorce, unemployment, or the death of a partner in “Parental Well-being Surrounding First Birth as a Determinant of Further Parity Progression” (detailed entry).
- Colin Holbrook, Keise Izuma, Choi Deblieck, Daniel M. T. Fessler, and Marco Iacoboni for claiming they can treat belief in God with magnets in “Neuromodulation of Group Prejudice and Religious Belief” (detailed entry).
The Grand Winner
You knew it!
Our judges (me) were unanimous and agreed that it was no contest. No paper stunk up science more than did Jean Decety et alia’s effort to prove “religiosity” is harmful to children’s “altruism.” So bad was the work that it inspired countless asinine and specious news reports. Like this one: “Religious Kids Are More Selfish and Sadistic, According to Science.”
According to Science!, ladies and gentlemen. It doesn’t get much worse than that.
The study author, Jean Decety, gave his game away when he told Forbes: “It’s not like you have to be highly religious to be a good person. Secularity — like having your laws and rules based on rational thinking, reason rather than holy books — is better for everybody.”
Said lead judge William M. Briggs, “I wept for what became of science when I read this paper. I’ve seen week-old herring that has been savaged by diarrhetic feral cats that looked better than Decety’s work.”
Congratulations to our winners and a hearty thanks for providing us with a smile.
Next Year’s Ceremony
It’s never too early to send in those nominations for the 2016 award!