The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking

Archive for the ‘Science and Technology’ Category

Study Says Spanking Is Bad For Kids? More Psuedo Science From The Ivory Tower

Posted by Bill Nance on September 16, 2009

A study published in the journal Child Development says spanking is bad for kids, according to a CNN article. Pardon me if I’m somewhat skeptical over how exactly one really measures for this stuff, and am even more skeptical when I hear the same old pacifist arguments from ivory tower social “scientists.”

“”We’re talking about infants and toddlers, and I think that just, cognitively, they just don’t understand enough about right or wrong or punishment to benefit from being spanked,” said Lisa Berlin, the study’s lead author and research scientist at the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University.

Well Dr. Berlin, you’re quite right. Infants and toddlers don’t grasp ethics or time-outs and yelling is terrifying to a child that age. That’s why you give them a swat when they reach for the electrical outlet or the stove. They don’t grasp it’s not allowed, they DO grasp that when they reach for it they get an ouch, immediately and consistently. It usually doesn’t take more than a few times to teach the lesson.

Berlin and colleagues found that children who were spanked as 1-year-olds tended to behave more aggressively at age 2…

Measuring aggression in terms of X percent over/below baseline is nearly impossible.  How exactly do you arrive at a baseline? What exactly is your method for measuring aggression and how do you average it? And finally, how do you assess this so-called “aggressive” behavior other than in a fundamentally subjective and therefore unreliable manner? If the kids who were in one group were all randomly beating the snot out the kids in the other group, that would get my attention too. But that’s not the case here, and as with every study I have ever read that attempts to measure aggression, I’m reasonably sure that this one used “anything other than totally docile” as a definition of aggression. Seriously, someone define for me in a scientifically measurable way what is the difference between aggression and assertiveness in 2 year-olds and how to tell the two apart? -Remember, these are child psychologists, the same people who think little boys who don’t act like little girls need Ritalin.

To continue:

…[They] did not perform as well as other children on a test measuring thinking skills at age 3.

It’s  extremely difficult to measure the thinking skills of 3-year-olds. Kids develop at wildly different rates at that age for reasons that have nothing to do with spanking. So claiming that spanking is correlated with different measurements of thinking skills is questionable to put it kindly.

The new study focused on children from low-income families because prior research suggested that spanking is more common among them, Berlin said. This may be because of the added stresses of parenting in a low-income situation, or because of a “cultural contagion” of behaviors among people. For example, in some families this study examined, a grandmother would spank a child, or neighbors would encourage physical discipline, she said.

Her study found that about one-third of the 1-year-olds, and about half of the 2- and 3-year-olds, had been spanked in the previous week, according to mothers’ self-reporting to the researchers. At all three ages, African-American children were spanked significantly more frequently than those from white and Mexican-American families, and verbally punished more than the other children at ages 2 and 3, the study said.

You’ve got to be kidding me.  They used as a sample people from low-income groups which they admit are under “added stresses” and then used self reporting as a model for the study? In other words they looked for the most likely group to have high stress, low income, stress over money, little or poor childcare, most likely to be much younger parents than average..They picked out the group likely to be the worst parents in the country and then decided this would be the ideal group to use to study the effects of spanking? R U f***ing serious?

Now, as to self reporting:

Out here in the real world we know low-income people are much more likely to get their kids taken away for giving them a spanking than middle class people who have lawyers and will raise Hell with a legislator. This is a known factor. Do the study’s authors really think they can be relied on as accurate self-reporters of what many child welfare agencies define as a crime?  Are you people completely daft about the way the real world works? -wait, never mind, we’ve asnwered that.

This kind of thing is just silly. There are so many unmeasurables, so many complicating factors that there is no way on earth to control for,the study was meaningless before it started. Secondly, by measuring kids only in the first three years, years in which completely normal healthy and intelligent kids exhibit wide latitudes of behavior and cognitive skills and trying to correlate it with something you can’t even pretend to know is occurring with any certainty is ridiculous. Finally, when one third of your control group reports spanking their one-year-olds every week, you know before you get any further that this is far from “normal” behavior from the parents, which might lead you to draw conclusions about beating, abuse or other things, but can’t possibly tell you about the efficacy of “spanking.”

Stop with the B.S. studies that can’t and don’t prove anything. If you can’t measure it without using some half-assed subjective metric and you can’t control for variables, it’s not science. It’s someone’s subjective opinion. And choosing this group for the study instead of a populati0n cross-section indicates the “researchers” started out with an axe to grind and carefully crafted a “study” to confirm their opinions.

Posted in education, Rants, Science and Technology | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Obama picks top climate change scientists and the MSM gets opposing views from philosophy majors?

Posted by Bill Nance on December 19, 2008

President-Elect Barack Obama has chosen two top scientists for his scientific advisory team, according to this article appearing on MSNBC.com.

But that’s not the real story here. The real story is about how the press continues to seek opposing views for any story it does, regardless of the lack of qualifications of the dissenter to even have an informed opinion on the subject.

Case in point:

The appointments of Harvard University physicist John Holdren as presidential science adviser and Oregon State University marine biologist Jane Lubchenco as head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which will be announced tomorrow, dismayed conservatives but heartened environmentalists and researchers. (emphasis mine)

Who cares what “dismays conservatives?” Is this a political issue or a scientific one?

That the shills for energy companies and polluters and the politicians who swallow their lies are “dismayed” means nothing. If they announce plans for Senate opposition to a seat that’s newsworthy, but that isn’t in the story.

The Bush administration’s political appointees have edited government documents to delete scientific findings and to block scientists’ recommendations on issues involving climate change, endangered species, contaminants in drinking water and air pollution.

“The Bush administration has been the most remarkably anti-science administration that I’ve seen in my adult lifetime,” Nobel laureate David Baltimore, former president of the California Institute of Technology, said in an interview. “And I do think that there will be a sea change in the Obama administration with the respect shown for the findings of science as well as the process of science.”

And then the reporter goes out for an opposing view from, wait for it…

The Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Yep, you guessed it, the press goes for an opposing view of the statements of fact in the article, statements absolutely no one disputes except Bush appointees, to an organization focused on right-wing economics, wholly funded by companies like Exxon Mobil, which has given millions to opponents of global warming (like that’s a big surprise). And who do they find to voice a solid scientific countervailing view? Myron Ebell.

Yep, everyone’s favorite right-wing nutjob, who seems to rear his ugly head every time climate change is mentioned by the press. There’s only one minor problem with Ebell being the source of this contrasting opinion: He’s not a scientist. In fact, he doesn’t even hold an undergrad degree in any scientific discipline. He’s a philosophy and economics major.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Journalism, News & Analysis, Politics, Right-Wing Nut-jobery, Science and Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hitchens blasts Palin/McCain on science

Posted by Bill Nance on October 27, 2008

Hitch weighs in on Palin/McCain’s disgusting record on science.

The juice:

This is what the Republican Party has done to us this year: It has placed within reach of the Oval Office a woman who is a religious fanatic and a proud, boastful ignoramus. Those who despise science and learning are not anti-elitist. They are morally and intellectually slothful people who are secretly envious of the educated and the cultured. And those who prate of spiritual warfare and demons are not just “people of faith” but theocratic bullies. On Nov. 4, anyone who cares for the Constitution has a clear duty to repudiate this wickedness and stupidity.

Welcome to the party Hitch. It’s about time you joined the rest of us.

Posted in Election 08, John McCain, Politics, Right-Wing Nut-jobery, Sarah Palin, Science and Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Coolness of the Day

Posted by Bill Nance on September 27, 2008

Yves Rossy flies from France to England, crossing the English channel in a 13-minute flight of his single-wing portable jetplane

Yves Rossy flies from France to England, crossing the English channel in a 13-minute flight of his single-wing portable jetplane

This is honestly one of best bits of geeky goodness I’ve ever seen.

Posted in Science and Technology | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

A plug for a terrific product

Posted by Bill Nance on September 11, 2008

In case you haven’t used the internet as a radio station, or have only used it for news programs, I have a reccomendation for a terrific music site.

Pandora Radio is a commercial-free internet radio station which plays a huge variety of music. But the best part is that you can pick the particular variety of music you want.

Pandora gives you the option to choose from a huge range of pre-set channels; not just including a general genre, but sub-genres as well. For instance if you select “Blues” from the pre-sets, you then get to choose between electric blues, Chicago blues, traditional blues, Kansas City blues, etc.

But you are not limited to the preset channels. You can create your own channels by artist or song.

Let’s say you want to listen to Eric Clapton, but you’re particularly interested in his blues works, like the stuff he’s done in collaboration with BB King. Enter the name of the song (searchable within Pandora) and presto, you will get a whole variety of songs by both Clapton and other artists in the same general music type.

Pandora also allows you to share your favorite stations with friends, download music to your Ipod (for a fee) as well as view music videos, purchase songs and other services.

Folks, this is simply a terrific website. I heartily reccommend it.

Posted in Music, Science and Technology, Teh Intarwebs | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Candidates and science

Posted by Bill Nance on September 9, 2008

No one would disagree that we are in a new technical age. This requires policy decisions about where to spend research budgets, how best to deal with global warming, balancing between species preservation and development and how best to direct education policy, just to name a few. (I’m not a fan of the feds having ANYTHING to do with education policy, but that’s not the world in which we actually live.).

I’ve already written about the predictably awful performance of a McCain administration with regard to science, but lets expand on that just a bit.

Presidents decide policy. Of course they should have experts advising them all these decisions. (We’re hiring a chief-executive not university department head.). Still, some understanding of basic scientific principles is needed just as a bullshit filter if nothing else. And of course in this day and age hiring a technophobe is probably a poor choice.

So I have a question that I would like to be put to each of the Presidential candidates. A question any college sophomore should be able to answer:

Can you give us your understanding of the what the scientific method consists of, and the difference between a scientific theory and an opinion?

Followup: Why is there there a difference between the latter two and why does that difference matter?

I’d be very interested to see if any of the candidates can give a coherent answer to those questions. I’d give you 3-2 odds that none of them could and 20-1 that neither McCain nor Palin could.

*cheat: Wiki has a fairly decent article on the subject

Posted in Barack Obama, Election 08, Joe Biden, John McCain, Politics, Sarah Palin, Science and Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

McCain and Palin: Science doesn’t matter

Posted by Bill Nance on September 2, 2008

One of the better lines at the DNC last week was from former Virginia governor Mark Warner.

“Just think about this: In four months, we will have an administration that actually believes in science!,” he said.

Unfortunately, that’s not true if the Republicans have their way.

We just finished eight years of national governance by an administration who stifled, censored and ignored every bit of scientific data they ever saw if it disagreed with their own partisan ideology, extremist religious opinions or might have interfered with their corporate buddies making an extra buck.

This has been so well documented I shouldn’t even need to provide many references. If you’ve been getting your news from anywhere but a Republican propaganda organ, you already know this. Spend five minutes on google and you can see for yourself. But, in the interest of saving you a few minutes, I have compiled one or two specific examples:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Election 08, John McCain, Politics, Right-Wing Nut-jobery, Sarah Palin, Science and Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »