I’ve been seeing a lot of this in the news lately, so I just wanted to remind people that:

1. Correlation does not prove causation.  Sure, there is a chance A causes B,but B could also be causing A, or C could be causing both A and B, or C could be causing A while Dis is causing B, or C and D could be causing A and B, etc..  Seriously, there are a whole lot of things that could be happening, but people who are ignorant or have an agenda often report a correlation as if it proves anything other than two particular things turn up together more than one would expect to happen at random. 

2. In social sciences, it’s usually impossible to remove all the variables so studies are by nature flawed.  You can’t do pure science because ethics and because people are complicated things.  How flawed depends a whole lot on experimental design.  It is a good idea to bring skepticism to findings that can’t possibly eliminate large numbers of variables.  You can’t ethically toss live humans into a skinner box.  You can’t absolutely be sure what is happening when they are at home or out in the world.  If a whole lot of studies with solid experimental design from a whole lot of people with different backgrounds over a long period of time point to a particular result, it is more likely to be true than a single study funded by an institution with a particular axe to grind is. 

3. Humans are flawed and they all make biases and assumptions. Sometimes it takes decades or even generations for people to spot assumptions and biases.  Everybody (including me) has a hard time spotting unexamined biases and assumptions without outside help.  Again, those biases can completely screw up studies bot only in fields like education and sociology, but has and likely always will, ruin studies in fields like biology in experiments involving observation.  (What colour is that fish?  How big is the interior of that skull?)  Buyer beware, folks.  Read the experimental design.  (Did they match populations for things like income?  Is the sample really random?  What is the sample size?  How exactly are they measuring whatever they are measuring?)  Find out who paid for the study.  Find out if the scientist(s) have a strong ideological axe to grind. (I’m looking at you white supremacist bell jar guy).

"If creationists want equal time in science spaces, they need to provide equal time in religious spaces."


"Why I Left, How I Left, and What It Would Have Taken to Keep Me in STEM."

I had a friend who switched from Engineering to Biochemistry as a Grad student because the relentless misogyny exhausted her.  This sounds awefully familiar.  The scary thing?  This represents improvement.

"Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in giving her response to President Obama’s State of the Union message exemplified everything wrong with today’s Republican Party. Ms. Rodgers spoke of being the…"


Tags: Science Humor

"What happens if you crush an organic substance between diamond anvils? Researchers are finding out, with ramifications for our knowledge of Earth’s core."

thefoolstale asked: Uh... I'd advise you to reread that post, friend. They were agreeing with you and you just kind of tore 'em a new one.






Just because someone agrees with me doesn’t mean that I agree with them.

I don’t think it’s really scientific to claim that black people are not in fact people, actually…

When in fact, part of that posts cites the father of zoological taxonomy, Carl Linneaus, who literally classified various Africans as “nonhuman”.

Biological disciplines all use this system. In which Khoisan peoples were designated “nonhuman”.

Which led to Saartje Baartman being displayed like a zoo animal, and Angelo Soliman, a man who spoke seven languages and was called “the Father of Pure Masonic Thought” being posthumously stuffed and displayed as a curio surrounded by bones and dressed in a loincloth.

Which led to this awful woman following around Khoisan people TODAY with a thermometer, calling them some kind of connection with “our ancestors”, in the NAME OF SCIENCE.

Acting as if science and racism are some kind of natural enemies, as if one eliminates the other, merely divorces the present from its historical context, and if you hadn’t noticed, is counter to the purpose of this blog.

And it’s probably worth noting that the takeaway from this (at least, as I’m reading it) isn’t “Science is bad, we should stop doing science ‘cause all of it’s racist!”

Rather, it’s to recognize that a rather lot of our current body of scientific…stuff (be it knowledge, terminology, models, etc) either itself dates back to or is built on top of the work of people who were kind of super racist.

It’s the same thing as, like — to this day we still tend to name sciencey stuff in Latin, and it’s because Enlightenment thinkers had a gigantic hard-on for classical antiquity. Sciencey Latin is pretty ubiquitous and is something we generally take for granted, even though it contributes significantly towards making scientific terminology really inaccessible.

(We can even contrast the fields of chemistry and biology with, say, modern psychology — which is loaded with its own issues too, but isn’t all in Latin because it (by my layperson Wikipedidating) didn’t start being a thing until a century later.*)

Scientific racism is the same deal: it’s there, but because it’s built into the woodwork it’s easy to gloss over or take for granted if you aren’t looking for it — and correspondingly difficult to extract without upsetting a bunch of people.

And even though there’s nothing about race in the scientific method itself, when you’re dealing with people it can be hard to dissociate your process from the environment…which gets you a vast array of scientific studies performed mostly on white, upper-middle class college undergrads.

….aaaaaand then I try and track down the source that the numbers I remember hearing regarding that came from, and get this paper, which…basically makes the argument that we should think about college undergrads in the same way as we do one of those wacky, isolated tribes of brown people that anthropology gets all of its anecdotes from. 


* The Age of Enlightenment was about 1650 - 1750ish [1], while Wilhelm Wundt built his first laboratory in 1879 [2].

1. yes, absolutely you make a lot of really great points which i have bolded


2. I really wish people would stop cutting eras into chunks when I’m trying to demonstrate a linear historical narrative that goes from before the period I’m talking about to after the period I’m talking about. Nothing happens in a void.

Every discipline is built on the foundations of predecessors. My work is based on foundations laid by people who came before me.

"Science" was not born like Venus from the foam, come adult and fully formed into the world complete with all the ideas we associate with it, like "objectivity" and "rational thought". It was created on purpose by human beings with thoughts, feelings, beliefs, cultures, genders, sexualities, and, eventually, races as we think of them today.

The past doesn’t just disappear into the ether when people die or ideas are replaced by others. I mean, the entire point of having records of anything humanity has done is so we can look at them now and be influenced by them.

Choosing how we are influenced by them is a very important part of learning, growing, and becoming a sentient adult and engaging with our environment and society.

Alchemy was the basis of modern Chemistry, would people that want to clean up science demand that we discard chemical names and symbols since they were used in Astrology and looking for the transforming lead into gold?

I don’t know, would they?

The important thing is, that someone actually discusses it at some point.

If the Alchemical roots of Chemistry results in running around after people and trying to take their temperature and practically calling them the missing link, then perhaps we should discuss it.

What you’re doing is creating a strawman and stuffing it with Alchemy and people trying to “clean up” the sciences. It’s like you’re holding a telescope that works two ways, but you’ve never bothered looking in the other end.

On one side, you have a lot of people very invested in the idea that because they’re practicing scientific processes, that makes THEM “neutral observers”. Even if the process is neutral, their observation IS NOT. Biases in scientific processes and reporting of findings is something that must be actively engaged, acknowledged, and discussed at all levels with diverse input in order to be LESS biased.

^ You know what proves that fact? Science.

The other side of the telescope is the people who are affected by those biases. For example, the African-American women who were misdiagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency because the test used was calibrated using samples from White women and their vitamin D levels.


If science is about anything, it’s about correcting false information. So don’t try and spread more of it in the name of Chemistry, Alchemy, or any other looming non-issues you’d like to derail with.

Tags: Science Racism