Strange Days Indeed

It’s not just me, or rather it’s not just me-reading-Zizek.  These really are strange days.  The Wall Street Journal ran a story the other day about the failure of free markets in an epistemological sense.  The Wall Street Journal!  It’s one thing for them to defend some government intrusion, that is after all the basic premise of neo-liberalism.  But to go this far really strikes me as strange.  Here’s the gem of the article:

But the current market creates the wrong kinds of incentives for doing good research or admitting failure. Novel ideas and findings are rewarded with grants and publication, which lead to academic prestige and career advancement. Researchers have a vested interest in overstating their findings because certainty is more likely than equivocation to achieve all of the above. Thus the probability increases of producing findings that are false. As the medical mathematician John Ioannidis tells Mr. Freedman: “The facts suggest that for many, if not the majority of fields, the majority of published studies are likely to be wrong.”

The problem is that the media tend to validate these findings before they have been properly interpreted, qualified, tested, and either refuted or replicated by other experts. And once a lousy study gets public validation— think of Andrew Wakefield’s claim about autism and vaccination—it can prove almost impossible to invalidate.

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