Everyone knows that correlation doesn't imply causation, but researchers invariably need to come up with plausible explanations (i.e., models) for the patterns found in their data. However, very different models can "explain" the same pattern. The books The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It and Wars, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places by Oxford economist Paul Collier try to explain why some countries have remained poor using data from econometric studies. In his very interesting review (PDF), Mike McGovern, a political anthropologist at Yale, critiques the types of explanations found in popular economics books. Statistician Andrew Gelman has further thoughts on descriptive statistics, causal inference, and story time.
An Introduction to the History and Philosophy of Science 8 videos in which SisyphusRedeemed, academic philosopher, attempts to explain what science is, how it got to be that way, and why it works. [more inside]
"Modern societies have tended to take science for granted as a way of knowing, ordering and controlling the world. Everything was subject to science, but science itself largely escaped scrutiny. This situation has changed dramatically in recent years. Historians, sociologists, philosophers and sometimes scientists themselves have begun to ask fundamental questions about how the institution of science is structured and how it knows what it knows." How to Think About Science is a 24-part series from CBC Radio's Ideas, featuring interviews with Steven Shapin, Ian Hacking, Bruno Latour, and others. The streaming audio links on the show's website seem to be out of commission, but direct links to all of the episodes can be found here.
The PhilSci Archive is an electronic archive for preprints in the philosophy of science. The goal of the Archive is to promote communication in the field by the rapid dissemination of new work.
Here is an interesting critique of evolutionary psychology by philosopher of science David Buller. Clark Barrett and Edouard Machery published a critique of Buller's book (pdf). Anthropologist James Holland Jones has been following the debate and is compelled by arguments on both sides. [more inside]
Sushi Science and Hamburger Science: I had always regarded science as universal and believed there are no differences in science at all between countries. But I was wrong. People with different cultures think in different ways, and therefore their science also may well be different. In this essay, I will describe differences I have observed between Western science and Eastern science. Let me start with a parable......
The Ganzfeld Experiment. Is it evidence for the existence of psi abilities? Is it sloppy experimental practice? Philosopher and game designer Chris Bateman suggests that it might be most significant for what it reveals about the biases of the scientific community.
Intelligent Design on trial! The ACLU of PA is blogging the current trial in Dover, PA between the parents of students and the local school board which wants to teach students Intelligent Design. Over at The Panda's Thumb, they're also keeping track of the goings on. The main ACLU website has statements from most of the plaintiff's experts in the case, including this long, well-supported pdf from philsopher Barbara Forrest, whose testimony is being used to dismantle the canard that ID is not Creationism. Over at the Legal Affairs Debate Club Beckwith and Laylock argued, last week, about whether teaching ID is legal. For background: this 2002 special report from Natural History Magazine on Intelligent Design Creationism.
Harmonia Macrocosmica. A digitised book of seventeenth-century astronomy.