Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Replication Crisis and the Repetition Crisis by Steve Sailer

With data becoming ever more abundant, this should be the golden age of the social sciences. And yet they seem to be suffering two mirror-image nervous breakdowns—the Replication Crisis and the Repetition Crisis.
Outright made-up-data fraud is hardly unknown in academia, but the double disasters have more to do with shortcomings in how contemporary researchers analyze relatively honest data. I suspect that the systemic failures stem more from researchers being allowed both too many and too few of that evocative (if actually rather dry) technical term: “degrees of freedom.”
One cause of the Replication Crisis has been that analysts grant themselves excessive post hoc liberties to crunch the numbers however many ways it takes to find something—anything—that is “statistically significant” (which isn’t the same as actually significant) and thus qualifies as a paper for publish-or-perish purposes. Hence, social scientists seem to be coming up with a surplus of implausible junk science findings on trivial topics, such as “priming” (the contemporary version of subliminal advertising), which then routinely fail to replicate.
In contrast, in what I’ll dub the Repetition Crisis (a.k.a. the Explanation Crisis), academics hamstring the interest and usefulness of their findings by ruling out ahead of time any explanatory factors other than the same tiny number of politically correct concepts that were exhausted decades ago.
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