Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Or we can overinterpret scientific findings

And apparently, we can do it in the other direction as well. As the folks over at Freakonomics illustrate, when the science seems to agree with our instincts or politics, we can take a very complex situation and oversimplify it to make a point that we would like to be true, whether it is or not. In their example, the relationship between environmental causes and the disappearance of honeybees is tenuous at best. But there are many environmental groups that claim it is clear as day - because this advances what their hearts believe to be true.

It is not just environmentalists that make this error. Many domains are very complex. Economies, ecologies, political systems, religions . . . . In most cases, there is not a direct link between any one input and one output. But if we WANT it to be true, we can find some scientific finding that we can take out of context and use to make our preferred point.

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