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I want this article to not be as bad as it seems.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-complicated-legacy-of-e-o-wilson/

But I think it actually is that bad.

First, the so-called normal distribution of statistics assumes that there are default humans who serve as the standard that the rest of us can be accurately measured against. The fact that we don’t adequately take into account differences between experimental and reference group determinants of risk and resilience, particularly in the health sciences, has been a hallmark of inadequate scientific methods based on theoretical underpinnings of a superior subject and an inferior one.

Okay, reading this charitably she clearly means that the reference data for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions is often gathered from groups who are less vulnerable to the conditions (white people, men, people without comorbidities, etc.) That's a major problem, but it's not a problem with the normal distribution, it's a problem with data. And of course there are no theoretical underpinnings of superiority or inferiority, the normal distribution can be derived from coinflips. It is very hard to avoid the inference that she's extrapolating all this from the word "normal." But it can't be that, can it? Scientific American must have editors. Surely.

And it gets fucking worse.

Ant culture is hierarchal and matriarchal, based on human understandings of gender. And the descriptions and importance of ant societies existing as colonies is a component of Wilson’s work that should have been critiqued.

I can't bring myself to go on reading in any depth, but this is the worst part.

This will require commitments from journal editors, peer reviewers and the scientific community to invest in retrofitting existing publications with this expertise. They can do so by employing humanities scholars, journalists and other science communicators with the appropriate expertise to evaluate health and life sciences manuscripts submitted for publication.

WHY, WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS? So they can infer a value judgement in the phrase "normal distribution?" So they can point out the racism implicit in the concept of an ant colony?

This article is such a perfect demonstration of why this is a terrible idea that I'm almost hoping it stops the Woke destruction of science in its tracks.

Why can't she discuss the racism in medical research without vomiting this insanity all over it? Her research is about pregnant women of colour at risk of preterm birth - that's really important! Attacking basic statistics isn't helping them. Hiring Woke Studies graduates to fill science journals with nonsense isn't going to help them. It's not going to help anyone. This is so bad.

I want this article to not be as bad as it seems. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-complicated-legacy-of-e-o-wilson/ But I think it actually is that bad. >First, the so-called normal distribution of statistics assumes that there are default humans who serve as the standard that the rest of us can be accurately measured against. The fact that we don’t adequately take into account differences between experimental and reference group determinants of risk and resilience, particularly in the health sciences, has been a hallmark of inadequate scientific methods based on theoretical underpinnings of a superior subject and an inferior one. Okay, reading this charitably she clearly means that the reference data for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions is often gathered from groups who are less vulnerable to the conditions (white people, men, people without comorbidities, etc.) That's a major problem, but it's not a problem with the *normal distribution*, it's a problem with data. And of course there are no theoretical underpinnings of superiority or inferiority, the normal distribution can be derived from coinflips. It is very hard to avoid the inference that she's extrapolating all this from the word "normal." But it can't be that, can it? *Scientific American* must have editors. Surely. And it gets fucking *worse.* >Ant culture is hierarchal and matriarchal, based on human understandings of gender. And the descriptions and importance of ant societies existing as colonies is a component of Wilson’s work that should have been critiqued. I can't bring myself to go on reading in any depth, but this is the worst part. >This will require commitments from journal editors, peer reviewers and the scientific community to invest in retrofitting existing publications with this expertise. They can do so by employing humanities scholars, journalists and other science communicators with the appropriate expertise to evaluate health and life sciences manuscripts submitted for publication. WHY, WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS? So they can infer a value judgement in the phrase "normal distribution?" So they can point out the racism implicit in the concept of an ant colony? This article is such a perfect demonstration of why this is a *terrible* idea that I'm almost hoping it stops the Woke destruction of science in its tracks. Why can't she discuss the racism in medical research without vomiting this insanity all over it? Her research is about pregnant women of colour at risk of preterm birth - that's really important! Attacking basic statistics isn't helping them. Hiring Woke Studies graduates to fill science journals with nonsense isn't going to help them. It's not going to help anyone. This is so bad.

28 comments

I just showed this to a GC friend who also teaches stats at university. She's steaming.

Ant culture is hierarchal and matriarchal, based on human understandings of gender.

Ant colonies are literally started by a sole female ant though.

This is such a reach the author can touch the back of her head with her hand facing forward.

[–] Intuitive 12 points Edited

First, the so-called normal distribution of statistics assumes that there are default humans who serve as the standard that the rest of us can be accurately measured against.

The normal distribution assumes nothing. It's merely a formula, a formula which is interesting for its own right where the interest is definitely assumptionally based, but it's still just a formula. The person who uses the normal distribution to model their data is the one who's making the assumption: that the data is normally distributed. Just like how someone who assumes that the data is linear would be the one at fault and not the linear formula y=mx+b itself. One cannot point to the formula and suggest that it is "reducing human diversity to a singular dimension."

As to why the normal distribution is "so-called" normal: that's because mathematicians are very lazy with naming.

She's misunderstanding what normal means in statistics. It doesn't mean the same thing as normal in everyday parlance. I don't understand how you can write an article about this and not figure this out.

I don't understand how you can become an assistant professor of public health and not figure it out. 😭

The author has a degree in public health and doesn't know basic stats? The mind boggles.

I don’t understand how an editor would see this and think “yeah it’s fine, let’s publish it”.

For real. You can have a normal distribution for literally anything. If anything it’s very diverse because it’s a non sentient mathematical formula.

Say you have 450 subjects in a given data collection. Say you are collecting weight data on these subjects. 68% will lie one standard deviation outside of the mean, 95% will lie two paces, 99% will lie three. It’s simply a means of standardizing data so we can replicate experiments and make sense of literally anything, be it weight, height, IQ, something as specific to studying any group of people, natural subjects, ANYTHING!

It’s not that deep and therein lies my fury with someone trying to make something problematic and harder than it has to be.

Wow, we go from "false dichotomy" to "problematic" to "racist" in two paragraphs with no supporting evidence and no argument, just claims presented as statements of common knowledge fact. This is a perfect example of the begging the question fallacy.

"Problematic" is my favourite of the three because it's so ill-defined it can mean anything.

[–] Eava 10 points

Hasn't Scientific American published a lot of "sex isn't binary" stuff? I think they have jumped the shark when it comes to the "Scientific" part.

So much for that, they had E O Wilson write so many articles for them overtime (RIP) and now they’re doing this shit?

What a disgrace to the actual scientists who have posted legit educational articles there.

[–] lucrecia 0 points Edited

I missed this when you first posted it! It's hilarious, thank you. :) I think hiring humanities grads and trained science communicators is a good idea, so it pains me when twits write articles like this to argue for it. Being able to communicate about science shouldn't preclude someone from understanding stats, though goodness knows where the article writer got her degree...

Edit: Looks to have studied STEM, so that explains why she herself has no training in writing, though would have expected better understanding of stats.

I have NEVER eVER had my hand to my head so hard IN MY LIFE.

The absolute dumb bullshittery. And this is coming from fucking SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN??? I’m dumbfounded. I am literally beyond dumbfounded how this article has essentially killed off who knows how many reader’s brain cells.

The Scientific American might as well lose all accountability from them posting something so damn ostentatiously stupid, that the kind of stupid needs a new name. Where is science going???

Are we moving more and more into Idiocracy where scientists are just going to be Woke Fee-Fees ego strokers instead of helping society (and conservation), forward?

Fuck sakes get me off this planet if the people I will have to eventually work with won’t have the damn maturity older than a 6 year old

Wow. Thank you for reading this so I didn't have to, but it is still ruining my day.

The entire article is on something like a 6th grade reading level. How does this person have a phd? I would be embarrased to have something this terrible under my byline.

I’m surprised the author didn’t claim ants are colonizers. 🙄

I mean there is the whole slave making ant thing, where its the black ants that are enslaved (no joke).

🤦‍♀️ I couldn’t read too far in. Scientific American has fallen so low

She didn't talk about slave ants in the article. She segued into talking about her phd research about halfway through and spent the rest of the article talking about herself.

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