In any scientific field, researchers construct theoretical models of the phenomenon under consideration. Often, these models employ some sort of metaphor to ground the phenomenon in more familiar language. For example, biologists sometimes describe the immune system in terms of lock-and-key dynamics, cells in terms of factories, and DNA in terms of a language (Brown, … Continue reading Metaphor and Mechanism
A recurring question in both scientific and public discourse is whether any given property of an organism is innate or learned. This debate, usually framed in terms of Nature vs. Nurture, often centers around properties of human behavior and cognition: intelligence, language, morality, mathematics, and so on. But while this dichotomous framing perhaps seems obvious … Continue reading What is ‘innateness’, anyway?
The term “p-hacking” has made its way into the public discourse surrounding science, particularly regarding the replicability crisis. But although the term suggests intentional malevolence on the part of the scientist, it’s actually a scenario that many well-trained scientists can fall into. So what is p-hacking, and why is it dangerous? Significance and the elusive … Continue reading P-hacking and false discoveries
Science faces a replicability crisis. This is well-known among scientists and even the general public. Various explanations have been proposed as to the cause of this crisis – some of them on this blog – but these proposals have usually been informal in nature. Recently, two scientists (Smaldino & McElreath, 2016) built a computational model … Continue reading The Evolution of “Bad Science”
Science is a framework for understanding the world. We observe a phenomenon, ask questions about it, and build models to describe and predict it. Crucially, this process is iterative. We’re constantly refining our experiments, theories, and models, in an effort to improve our understanding of some phenomenon. Instead of accepting the results of a study … Continue reading Replication in science
People like to label things. One of the best-known examples of a classification scheme is our biological taxonomy, which is meant to show the relationships of different organisms to each other. But no taxonomy is set in stone; even our biological taxonomy has undergone many changes in the last century. This got me thinking: how … Continue reading Towards a Multi-Dimensional Taxonomy