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First-Semester Grad Student Upends Entire Field

positive-psychology

Nick Brown Smelled Bull” details in long form how, as the subtitle puts it, “A plucky amateur dared to question a celebrated psychological finding. He wound up blowing the whole theory wide open.”

The lede sets the stage:

It was autumn of 2011. Sitting in a dimly lit London classroom, taking notes from a teacher’s slides, Nick Brown could not believe his eyes.

By training a computers man, the then-fifty-year-old Brit was looking to beef up his people skills, and had enrolled in a part-time course in applied positive psychology at the University of East London. “Evidence-based stuff” is how the field of “positive human functioning” had been explained to him—scientific and rigorous.

So then what was this? A butterfly graph, the calling card of chaos theory mathematics, purporting to show the tipping point upon which individuals and groups ”flourish” or “languish.” Not a metaphor, no poetic allusion, but an exact ratio: 2.9013 positive to 1 negative emotions. Cultivate a “positivity ratio” of greater than 2.9-to-1 and sail smoothly through life; fall below it, and sink like a stone.

The theory was well credentialed. Now cited in academic journals over 350 times, it was first put forth in a 2005 paper by Barbara Fredrickson, a luminary of the positive psychology movement, and Marcial Losada, a Chilean management consultant, and published in the American Psychologist, the flagship peer-reviewed journal of the largest organization of psychologists in the U.S.

But Brown smelled bullshit. A universal constant predicting success and fulfillment, failure and discontent? ”In what world could this be true?” he wondered.

As you’ve likely gathered by now, Brown’s nose did not deceive him. He had intuitively, by mere exposure to a summary of the research in a single lecture, judged that a major theory that had survived not only peer review in the field’s flagship journal but six years in print—spawning a whole subfield of likeminded research in the meantime—was based on nonsense math.

It’s a detailed yarn that defies excerpting. Essentially, Brown sent emails out to some psychologists he’d found on Google that looked like they might be sympathetic to his cause, found one in the form of Harris Friedman of the University of Florida, and they in turn reached out to Adam Sokal, the mathematician best known for publishing a hoax paper in a prestige postmodern cultural studies journal fifteen years ago. Together they fought crime. Or, rather, they thoroughly destroyed the original article such that Fredrickson threw Losada under the bus and then continued to go after Fredrickson.

I recommend it in full.

For those without a lot of time on their hands—but then, what are they doing here?—an less detailed recounting can be found at the Chronicle of Higher Education.  It concludes:

Papers turn out to be flawed all the time. But this was a widely cited paper that has remained a powerful talking point in the how-humans-flourish literature for years. And the timing of the Brown paper is not good for social psychology, which is struggling with the problem of results that can’t be replicated, with high-profile researchers—like Diederik Stapel—who turn out to be con artists. Having two big names in the field, Fredrickson and Seligman, admit that they didn’t even understand the ratio they featured in presentations and popular books doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

Fredrickson says she has no regrets and sees what happened as a consequence of “pushing the boundaries of what the science of emotion can offer.”

Both Sokal and Brown say they are surprised that no one, before now, had taken a more skeptical look at such a revolutionary ratio. “The main claim made by Fredrickson and Losada is so implausible on its face that some red flags ought to have been raised,” Sokal writes in an e-mail. “At this point I can’t resist drawing the analogy with the reaction of the editors of Social Text to a certain strange manuscript that appeared on their desks in the fall of 1995.”

I would note that the website peddling Fredrickson’s now thoroughly debunked “magic ratio” remains up. It does contain a link to a note she published in response to the original article, but it, too, is complete bullshit.

Related Posts:

About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Ron Beasley says:

    This is what happens when you try to turn a discipline that is not based on empirical science into one that is. Social “scientists” have been trying to do this for over a century.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  2. PJ says:

    On the subject of debunking, what Nick Brown did is nothing compared to what Thomas Herndon did. He ended up debunking “Growth in a Time of Debt”.
    Yes, Barbara Fredrickson’s paper has been cited a number of times, but the impact it has had isn’t close to the massive impact the Reinhart-Rogoff paper has had.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  3. Ron Beasley says:

    @PJ: Excellent example although economics is a bit of a hybrid and may actualy be an quasi empirical social science at times. I say “quasi” because you still have variables that are in a constant state of flux. Of course bad data is bad data and it really doesn’t matter if it’s economics or physics.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  4. steve says:

    I have taught med students and residents for many years. When it comes to reading papers the first thing I tell them they need to assess is if the conclusions actually make sense, i.e. could it really be true. That will almost always key you into looking for problems that you might have overlooked. Yes, ideally you read every paper in great detail, but you just dont have time to do that with everything. (Imagine if someone had applied that to the models showing it was not possible for housing prices to drop.)

    Steve

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  5. James Joyner says:

    @Ron Beasley: There’s lots of really good empirical social science, certainly to include the field of psychology. Daniel Kahneman won a Nobel in economics for prospect theory.

    What’s sad here is that, by the looks of it, there was fraud every step of the way and not only did no one notice but the editor of the flagship journal in the field’s initial instinct was to refuse to even submit the piece pointing that out to peer review, dismissing it out of hand as uninteresting.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  6. Ron Beasley says:

    @James Joyner: I think the problem I have with empirical social science is that humans and society are constantly changing and a mathematical model that works today may not work tomorrow, next week or in a decade or century. Of course you are right about the fraud which occurs in both the social sciences and hard sciences.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    I don’t think it was “intuitive”, James. I think there were several factors.

    1. He had the life experience to know what actually made sense.
    2. He wasn’t motivated to “go along” as the much younger grad students might have been.
    3. He hadn’t been inculcated into the culture of acceptance in the field.

    And, presumably, he knew actual empiricism when he saw it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  8. Grumpy Realist says:

    Hmmm. It might be a BS-detecting sniffer obtained simply from experience with actual experimental fields. Because, as a physicist, my first thought is “and what is the error bar on that magic number of yours?”
    I hope this doesn’t keep people from using manifolds to get an idea of the behavior. Just don’t try to attach numbers to cusp edges.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. Grumpy Realist says:

    P.s. my other BS detector is if they’re trying to use a butterfly manifold to describe things. Too many dimensions and uncontollables for unmeasurable axes. Doubt they have the math to understand it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. Ron Beasley says:

    @Grumpy Realist: Exactly – not to mention the constantly changing variables.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  11. Woody says:

    What a tremendous example of why theories need to be thoroughly vetted before they are promoted outside the field.

    Congratulations to Fredrickson and Losada on their mathematical work on the Ryan budget.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  12. Ron Beasley says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    3. He hadn’t been inculcated into the culture of acceptance in the field.

    I think this is the key. When I took my first job as an engineer I was a scientist not someone with any engineering training. I didn’t know what “couldn’t be done” so I went out and did it and much to the amazement of everyone I was successful most of the time. Years latter the very wise director of engineering told me that’s exactly what he had wanted me to do which was why he often hired engineers who were not trained as engineers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. Bob says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Dave, I’d slightly rephrase what you said to “Life experience OUTSIDE of Academia”. I work with tons of folks with PhD’s who believe that staying cloistered in a University for 30 years is life experience. Most of them turn out to be folks who can explain anything in their field, but not tie a pair of shoes. Those who’ve earned their advanced degrees after working “in the field” seem to be the only one’s who actually understand anything beyond what’s in the books.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  14. john personna says:

    Computer science is an interesting field. It is fully abstract, a world if ideas, but harsh about correctness. Well structured ideas become well structured programs. If your program fails, you can’t just write a paper asserting that it worked. (Broader engineering is similar, but moves from ideas to things.)

    That leads successful people to question their own ideas early and harshly, lest they lead to a dead end.

    Disciplines with more nebulous definitions of success, like he said, she said, economics have poorer footing overall.

    I mean how “good” is a good social science paper? It claims some correlation and passes some peer review, but …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Great read James. Thanx.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. Pinky says:

    Too many decimal places. For this to make sense you’d need someone tracking tens of thousands of emotions, identifying them as positive or negative. Emotions are rarely so straightforward, and never reliably trackable. To apply an old Steve Martin bit, half of the subject’s emotions would be “negative feelings about having to track my emotions”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  17. Ernieyeball says:

    He had intuitively, by mere exposure to a summary of the research in a single lecture, judged that a major theory that had survived not only peer review in the field’s flagship journal but six years in print—spawning a whole subfield of likeminded research in the meantime—was based on nonsense math.

    The OTB item “On Debt Ceiling, GOP Lawmakers Get Different Message From Base Than From General Public” D.M. 10-02-2013 included this comment by Matt Bernius:

    @Ben: You can have computers do the redistricting for you, based on nothing other than math. There are established algorithms to do this.
    While such a system will be arguably more fair, it’s important to note that Math and/or Algorithms are only as apolitical and fair as the people who write them. Bias can (un)intentionally be encoded into anything. The dangerous thing it that such bias is often missed because of the assumption the because the algorithm is math, it’s some how neutral.

    On 10-7-2013@21:01 (Want To Understand The GOP Hardliners? Talk To Their Constituents DM 10-06-2013) I asked Mr. Bernius: Matt. Can the same be said for the computer algoriththms that have been used to run the Climate Change models that have been interpreted to predict Global Warming?

    My question stands.
    ———

    @Ron Beasley:..humans and society are constantly changing and a mathematical model that works today may not work tomorrow, next week or in a decade or century.

    Same question Ron. Can we apply your “constantly changing” observation to computer generated climate models?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  18. george says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    @James Joyner: I think the problem I have with empirical social science is that humans and society are constantly changing and a mathematical model that works today may not work tomorrow, next week or in a decade or century. Of course you are right about the fraud which occurs in both the social sciences and hard sciences.

    An empirical science (social or otherwise) doesn’t necessary need a mathematical model (meaning an overlying theory, as opposed to using stats etc to analyze data). Biology was a very useful empirical science centuries before any significant mathematical models were attached to it. Social sciences which work on that level can also be very useful. From what I’m told (I’m a physicist/engineer) by people within the social sciences, the mathematical models are much less useful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  19. george says:

    @Ernieyeball:

    Same question Ron. Can we apply your “constantly changing” observation to computer generated climate models?

    I’ve never heard of a single climate modeller who would argue otherwise. There are a large number of issues, from turbulence to cloud generation on, that are constantly being revised as more is learnt about the physics behind them.

    For that matter, there’s not a single theory in science for which the observation wouldn’t be applied to by any competent scientist.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  20. Ron Beasley says:

    @Ernieyeball:

    Same question Ron. Can we apply your “constantly changing” observation to computer generated climate models?

    Of course we can and no climate scientist would say otherwise. In a sense climatology more resembles a social science than a science. The similarity is the number of variables and especially the ones we don’t know about. That doesn’t mean it should be ignored as we can already see the results. Although no single event can be tied to climate change the fact that we are having more and more severe events tells us something. Here in the western hemisphere we have had less hurricanes but more violent tornadoes while in the western Pacific they have had some of the most violent typhoons ever recorded. As predicted by the models drought is becoming the norm in many parts of the world. We know the glaciers and ice sheets are melting and that sea level is rising – actually faster than predicted.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  21. john personna says:

    BTW, re. Kahneman, I believe he is one of those expressing concern about behavioral “priming” experiments. Those are very system interesting but proving difficult to reproduce.

    I believe other news this week was that foundational experiments in cancer research were also difficult to reproduce.

    People like me with a science background believe in the self correction if the scientific method, but we are forced to admit that correction is not always quick. Science is a long term human effort.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. john personna says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    As you may remember, I think a principal division lies between systems/models that contain volition (animal choice). A falling stone cannot change its mind, a falling bird can. For the most part climate models are just maddeningly complex physical models. Hard, but not as impossible as a prediction of gas prices or GDP five years out. See also Social Security or Medicare models.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. john personna says:

    Re. Climate, the great transition in debate is that “skeptics” must now explain why visible warming is not a problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. Peter says:

    So if I’m reading this 2.9013 positivity ratio correctly, I will have had a nice day if, in the course of the day, I found $5 on the sidewalk, had a tasty sandwich, got diagnosed with Ebola virus, and heard my favorite song on the radio, right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  25. Ben Wolf says:

    Well, this sort of thing is rampant in economics, where empiricism is explicitly rejected in favor of theory.

    Also, for no other reason than it annoys me, there is no Nobel prize in economics. Alfred Nobel viewed economists as snobby snake oil salesmen and refused to create one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. Peter says:

    I found it rather peculiar that Nick Brown is now an “existential life coach.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. Ernieyeball says:

    @Ron Beasley: In a sense climatology more resembles a social science than a science.

    That is not reassuring.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. Ernieyeball says:

    @Ben Wolf: What’s this?

    Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobel_Memorial_Prize_in_Economic_Sciences

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. john personna says:

    I am pleased to have been prompting Prof. Schiller in these pages for years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. Ernieyeball says:

    @john personna:..the great transition in debate is that “skeptics” must now explain why visible warming is not a problem.

    Screw the scare quotes. Why don’t you say what you really think.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. Dave Schuler says:

    @Ernieyeball:

    It’s the “Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel “. Not one of the original prizes and the Nobel family has protested Alfred’s name being associated with it. cf. here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  32. Ben Wolf says:

    @Ernieyeball: What Dave said. That particular award is given by the Swedish central bank, not the Nobel Committee.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. john personna says:

    @Ernieyeball:

    Those were irony quotes, gone are the days when skeptics could say there was no climate change.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  34. john personna says:

    IOW, skepticism used to mean something.

    Michael Schermer has written on his conversion, if you want more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. DrDaveT says:

    @Ron Beasley:
    Before you get too smug about how bad the social sciences are, Ron, best you take a look at the current state of allegedly real sciences like Epidemiology. Check out the 2011 paper by Young and Karr in the journal Significance . They looked at ~50 observational studies in the epidemiology literature that made specific claims and had been subsequently re-tested independently. All but 4 showed no effect, and 4 showed an effect in the opposite direction. None of the claimed effects were replicable.

    Young and Karr went so far as to say

    any claim coming from an observational study is most likely to be wrong – wrong in the sense that it will not replicate if tested rigorously

    , and went on to analyze what is going wrong and how to fix it. It’s destined to be a classic paper.

    Here’s the abstract.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  36. DrDaveT says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    there is no Nobel prize in economics

    It’s unlikely that they will get rid of the pseudo-Nobel in economics because it’s about the only way to get a nobel prize for doing math unrelated to physics.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. Ernieyeball says:

    @Dave Schuler: Thanks for the link to the same page I just posted a link to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  38. george says:

    @DrDaveT:

    It’s unlikely that they will get rid of the pseudo-Nobel in economics because it’s about the only way to get a nobel prize for doing math unrelated to physics.

    Well, there’s always chemistry … theoretical chemistry is pretty much indistinguishable from physics.

    But actually mathematicians have the Field’s Medal, though that’s only awarded every four years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. Dave Schuler says:

    @Ernieyeball:

    It was deliberate. You clearly hadn’t read your own link.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  40. Ernieyeball says:

    @Dave Schuler: I read it Zippy. I just wanted to see if all the self appointed experts out there knew what they were talking about.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  41. Ernieyeball says:

    When Dr. Joyner writes:

    There’s lots of really good empirical social science, certainly to include the field of psychology. Daniel Kahneman won a Nobel in economics for prospect theory.

    as he did above, I tend to give his writings more weight than the Peanut Gallery that posts comments here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  42. Pharoah Narim says:

    @Woody: That would be improbable. This particular theory, if vetted with its universal constant–would in fact be a law. I think people confuse the two…. or maybe Im confused.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  43. Pharoah Narim says:

    There are many instances like this in real “science”. For example, my parents both have high cholesterol but the statins were having horrible side effects for my mom so she stopped taking them. Well, of course I started digging deep into the evidence to present to her that the side effects were nothing compared to a heart attack only to find out that the empirical evidence shows that about half the people that have heart attacks have “good cholesterol”. In short, high cholesterol doesn’t equal heart disease…far from it. Many centergenarians have cholesterol counts in the 200’s. There are many other variables that play a difference in whether or not high cholesterol numbers are relevant to heart health. Yet we have a 30 Billon dollar industry basically gear to treat numbers rather than heart/artery health.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  44. Pharoah Narim says:

    My rule of thumb is that there are no universals that are true across all situations or circumstance. Things may have general application, but when applying them to practical real-life circumstances–“it depends” is about as close to the unvarnished truth as you can get. The western mindset doesn’t do “it depends” well but it would be wise to adapt a more yang approach to practicality. When I played basketball in school….negative emotions were great fuel to power me to better results in certain situations. That empirical evidence alone would have been enough for me to call BS.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  45. Pharoah Narim says:

    Since the Climate Change subject has been broached— Ice core evidence shows that temperatures over the past 400K years have equaled what we have now at least 4 times. Homo Sapiens have only been active on the planet for 10K years. How can Scientist universally claim that climate change is then man-made? Of course there are a few skeptic scientists–but they are pretty much viewed as villiage idiots these days. Once again, the empirical evidence is at odds with theory–so theory wins the day.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  46. Ernieyeball says:

    @Pharoah Narim: Once again, the empirical evidence is at odds with theory–so theory wins the day.

    Maybe it has something to do with “the culture of acceptance in the field.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  47. Rob in CT says:

    Ice core evidence shows that temperatures over the past 400K years have equaled what we have now at least 4 times. Homo Sapiens have only been active on the planet for 10K years. How can Scientist universally claim that climate change is then man-made?

    This is… really, really simplistic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  48. george says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    Since the Climate Change subject has been broached— Ice core evidence shows that temperatures over the past 400K years have equaled what we have now at least 4 times. Homo Sapiens have only been active on the planet for 10K years. How can Scientist universally claim that climate change is then man-made? Of course there are a few skeptic scientists–but they are pretty much viewed as villiage idiots these days. Once again, the empirical evidence is at odds with theory–so theory wins the day.

    The rates and patterns of rises and falls of temperature were very different in the past than today.

    However, even if that weren’t true, it wouldn’t hold that because humans weren’t involved in the past it means they’re not involved in the present. Do I really need to give you examples (ranging from trivial to galactic in scope) which show how the same result can be brought on by different sources under different circumstances? Think about it for a second – how often in your experience does a result only have one possible source?

    Though come to think of it, it sure would make science (and law too for that matter) much easier if there were only ever one source behind any condition.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  49. Ernieyeball says:

    @john personna: I mean how “good” is a good social science paper? It claims some correlation and passes some peer review, but …

    Kinda like offering up papers like this that supports Spirituality doing something but does not define the term “Spirituality”

    john personna says:
    Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 13:29
    @Ernieyeball:

    Science: The role of spirituality in health care

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1305900/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  50. john personna says:

    @Ernieyeball:

    You sure can treat that paper with suspicion, but if say the results are robust, reproducible across countries with different views of spirituality, it would be telling you something.

    lol, or if it was only reproducible for specific faiths, it might tell you something else.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  51. john personna says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    I’m not sure you really understand that evidence, or those past cycles. Sure the earth has had many climates. It has had many species and many extinctions as well.

    Perhaps you are not taking the hard core “earth will survive” position, but that one really is “will survive despite extinctions.”

    People wondering whether humans are a factor in current warming, habitat destruction, and extinction, are also wondering damage can be mitigated.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  52. john personna says:

    Also recommended, not so much for hard science, but for a human connection to a problem science has undersold:

    The ocean is broken

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  53. john personna says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    If all the research on heart disease and statins were non-profit, you’d probably have better answers.

    Unfortunately that is a nexus of commercial science, where funded studies are designed to support a revenue stream.

    Blame for-profits, not science.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  54. Ernieyeball says:

    @john personna:…if say the results are robust, reproducible across countries with different views of spirituality, it would be telling you something.

    The Scientific Method of Finding Things out is about methodolgy.
    Different views of Spirituality, like the difference between Team Spirit and the Holy Spirit, tells me that nobody really knows what the word means or that the definition is so broad it is meaningless.

    …or if it was only reproducible for specific faiths, it might tell you something else.

    Maybe I should relate a personal experience. This is just an anecdote so I am not making any claims that it proves or disproves anything.
    In 2008 I required intestinal surgery. The diagnosis was diverticulitis complicated by an abdominal abscess. Very nasty and pain I do not ever wish to revisit.
    I do not worship gods or practice religion and I refuse to be spiritual.
    The proceedure was a success.
    I think I survived surgery better without faith than I would have with faith.

    And yes I am suspicious of those who use the term “soul” to support their arguments and apparently think they do not have to provide a definition or any proof of existance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  55. Ernieyeball says:

    @john personna:…but if say the results are robust, reproducible across countries with different views of spirituality,..

    Has this been reported somewhere?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  56. john personna says:

    @Ernieyeball:

    A wide range of studies link spirituality to better health outcomes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  57. Ernieyeball says:

    @john personna: Define Spirituality…and while you are at it define the human soul, prove it’s existance and let me know where in the human body it resides.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  58. Pharoah Narim says:

    @Rob in CT: But factual….and demonstrates that climate change has other variables besides the behavior of human actors. In context, the Humans burn hydrocarbons—earth gets hot formula is also incredibly simplistic. The ecosystem is obviously far more complex.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  59. Pharoah Narim says:

    @john personna: I didn’t make a value judgement as to how it supports Climate change or doesn’t. The only conclusion I draw from this data is that there are climate cycles that exist iregardless of the actions of humans and that the current cycle doesn’t look much different when plotted than previous ones. Those are facts. So when someone makes a pronouncement that climate change is entirely human driven. My reaction is “maybe”—depends on condtions and circumstances.

    What I would expect science to do is to delineate the variables and sort out under what circumstances the earth warmed and cooled in the past that don’t apply today. And under what conditions would human behavior be relevant to significantly influencing the planet’s existing warming and cooling mechanisms. Instead, the taxpayer gets for their research dollar: Drive SUV -> End of human civilization type pronouncements are over simplistic of the mechanisms that drive climate.

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  60. Pharoah Narim says:

    @george: I never asserted their was only one one source…which is why I brought up those studies. To show the opposite. The current pop science narrative is that human activity is solely responsible for climate change. That may be true…but unless you impeach factors/variables that drove climate cycles in the past scientifically to demonstrate that those forces are not at work today or are superseded by human created forces…it’s just a theory. With most either/or propositions…the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle 5th.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  61. DrDaveT says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    The current pop science narrative is that human activity is solely responsible for climate change.

    Well, there’s your problem — you’re worried about the current pop science narrative instead of the current real science consensus. Which is unambiguous and overwhelming. To hold out against that consensus requires either a standard of evidence far stricter than you require for other science, or a conspiracy theory that would make Oliver Stone blush.

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  62. john personna says:

    @Ernieyeball:

    As I’ve said, your question is beside the point. it is a sufficient first step to find the correlation, and then later you can explore causality. It may not depend on any of the factors you’ve named.

    @Pharoah Narim:

    I didn’t hear you talk about extinction at all.

    Extinction risk from climate change

    Climate change over the past ~30 years has produced numerous shifts in the distributions and abundances of species1, 2 and has been implicated in one species-level extinction3. Using projections of species’ distributions for future climate scenarios, we assess extinction risks for sample regions that cover some 20% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface. Exploring three approaches in which the estimated probability of extinction shows a power-law relationship with geographical range size, we predict, on the basis of mid-range climate-warming scenarios for 2050, that 15–37% of species in our sample of regions and taxa will be ‘committed to extinction’. When the average of the three methods and two dispersal scenarios is taken, minimal climate-warming scenarios produce lower projections of species committed to extinction (~18%) than mid-range (~24%) and maximum-change (~35%) scenarios. These estimates show the importance of rapid implementation of technologies to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and strategies for carbon sequestration.

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  63. Ernieyeball says:

    Which is unambiguous and overwhelming.

    Respect My Authoritah!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAmJ4aWXEHc

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  64. Ernieyeball says:

    …your question is beside the point.

    Of course it is.
    Apparently we must unquestionly accept on faith that Spirituality (whatever that means) exists.
    —–
    It (?) may not depend on any of the factors you have named either.
    —–
    When are you going to tell us how many Angels can dance on the head of a pin?

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  65. john personna says:

    @Ernieyeball:

    I never asked you to “unquestionly accept” anything.

    In fact, you seem to object to these scientists doing investigations … any investigations contrary to your personal experience and worldview.

    That is not terribly scientific.

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  66. Rob in CT says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    1. To my knowledge, no climate scientist has ever asserted that climate change hasn’t been driven in the past by non-human factors. Further, IIRC, the present-day understanding is that humans are driving some (possibly most) but not all current climate change. You appear to be arguing against a strawman.

    2. Also, those hotter Earths in the past weren’t Earths supporting ~7 billions human beings dependent on agriculture for survival.

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  67. Pharoah Narim says:

    @DrDaveT: Actually, what the pop science narritive is shouldn’t be dismissed as it is what drives public opinion–which drives political narritives–which drives funding and ultimately…action. How an issue is framed to the “unwashed” is critical because we can be driven down some really stupid rabbit holes. E.G– our decision to divest from gov’t sponsored reasearch and development in the face of potential rivals (China, India, etc) doubling down on it. If it is made clear that over the course of history…. technology is what makes superpowers “super”–no one making a case to cede R&D solely to the private sector (that doesn’t want to tackle hard, long-range problems the gov’t tackles) would be taken seriously. Americans like being a superpower even if they aren’t necessarily pro military. Our current approach to R&D over the long term will lead to other nations closing the gap and even out competing us for the people with the gray matter that invent things that create new markets. Welcome to the middle of the pack. The only reason this is allowed is that public narritive is maligned.

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  68. Pharoah Narim says:

    @john personna: Actually, I did have a response but didn’t want to make my post overly long.

    Lets be honest, humans are a product of evolutionary forces on the earth the same as other life forms. Just because we developed on the planet doesn’t necessitate that we continue to exist in changing conditions. Species live, grow, and die just like individuals do. Humans could be the exception– or not. For the most successfull species, which humans appear to be part of that group, changing conditions lead to adapations (Epigenetics) which lead to branch species that repeat the cycle in the face of the new conditions. So, the Phraroah Narim gut feeling/Jedi knight philosophy? Humans, if solely or mostly responsible for climate change, will figure out how to either manipulate the climate, or exist in a new climate. If not solely or mostly responsible, they will continue to exist, but, after significant die off of those unable to adapt–a portion will exist on.. transitioning to a cousin species that will thrive in the new cycle. If neither–we will die out like other rigid species. Thats just part of the cycle of life. FWIW–my bet is that first outcome is the most probable.

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  69. Pharoah Narim says:

    @Rob in CT: Fair points….but see my response to DrDaveT. We won’t get anywhere if we need to in the current “climate” of politicized science narritives. The public has to be included and have a grasp of what is known and what isn’t known because they are ultimately the folks that provide the winds to the sails so to speak. Bumper sticker scientific narritives leaves us stuck in neutral—like now.

    Also, the question is begged (im speaking rhetorically): How many humans can the earth support? We know what happens when too many species of animals are dependent on a finite piece of forrest. Perhaps 7 billion is too many? Perhaps we can do twice as many if a warming planet also means we can grow food in places where we couldn’t before. Maybe that benefit is canceled out by rising seas. So maybe–ultra fast desalinisation ought to a R&D goal? My point of all this relevant to the original post is that you must question your assumptions–deal with data that doesn’t fit the model (even if the answer is “we don’t know). Have a plan for what happens if what you learned to the present turns out to be not quite as true as you thought (that never happens to humans does it?).

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  70. Rob in CT says:

    Humans, if solely or mostly responsible for climate change, will figure out how to either manipulate the climate, or exist in a new climate

    That’s likely. To which I respond: Yeah, well, we better get serious about that manipulation or adaption. The trouble here is that the changes seem to be taking place with blinding speed from a geological perspective but they’re pretty slow when seen by the average person just going through their life, which makes it easy for people to dismiss the problem. There’s also the worry about tipping points – shutting down/altering key ocean currents could possibly (note: possibly! We don’t know!) have nasty consequences in a very short – noticeably short – period of time. For instance.

    Yes, it’s complex as hell. Yes, it’s true that not everything has been figured out. But enough has been figured out to know that we face a high risk of significant harm. That should be enough to act. We knew enough to act 20 years ago, frankly. And, as I always like to point out if we had started acting ~20 years ago, the actions could have been pretty mild. The longer we dither, the more drastic measures will be necessary.

    Unless, of course, you think the whole think is a hoax, or that some unknown technological breakthrough will save us in the 11th hour, like magic. I mean, it’s possible. It’s just not likely.

    By the way, regarding narratives, when scientists do try to explain all the nitty gritty details including uncertainties, it does not go well. They appear to be damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

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  71. john personna says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    My concern is much more short term. Wide scale loss of “environmental services” reduces the quality of life for humans across the globe.

    There is a bit of a gap between “my life was OK” and “millions of years from now things will be fine.”

    In fact, without care, we could be heading “China everywhere” which means a depleted and polluted environment driving down human health and welfare.

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  72. john personna says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    How many humans can the earth support? We know what happens when too many species of animals are dependent on a finite piece of forrest. Perhaps 7 billion is too many? Perhaps we can do twice as many if a warming planet also means we can grow food in places where we couldn’t before.

    We could probably support 20 billion vegans, eating those subset of plants which do not take up toxins readily.

    But that would hardly be my goal. I’d like people to go to the ocean and dig clams, or catch fish, and roast them over a fire. That is being human.

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  73. Ernieyeball says:

    @john personna: Please show us all where I “object to these scientists doing investigations.”

    I think it is contrary to good research to use undefined terms to support assertions.

    Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, who has developed Commonweal retreats for people with cancer, described it well:

    Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul (1).

    Since the authors of the paper won’t do it please define “soul”.

    Believe me you know nothing about my “personal experience and worldview.”

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  74. john personna says:

    @Ernieyeball:

    So, there are some scientists investigating something, something you don’t like, and you keep asking me questions like:

    Since the authors of the paper won’t do it please define “soul”.

    Isn’t that a little crazy?

    I mean, since I am not them, and I am only just open to their work and their results?

    Yeah, I think it’s crazy. You think you can fight this work by demanding answers of me.

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  75. Ernieyeball says:

    @john personna: You and the authors of the work are arguing from a position of authority.

    I am questioning your authority.

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  76. Ernieyeball says:

    @john personna: Call me crazy! Just don’t call me late for dinner!
    I always enjoy the ad hominem attacks…

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  77. john personna says:

    @Ernieyeball:

    I have made no claims of authority, that’s what’s crazy here. I’ve said there are studies which support this idea.

    Do you think that everyone who finds a field interesting is an expert in that field, and must defend it against all trolls?

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  78. john personna says:

    Here’s a sane way to respond:

    You say: I don’t find these studies convincing.

    I say: ok, fine.

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  79. Ernieyeball says:

    @john personna: Do you think that everyone who finds a field interesting is an expert in that field, and must defend it against all trolls?

    I am going to have to count this as the second ad hominem attack you have directed at me.
    Not sure if you are implying that I am not sane. I wouldn’t put it past you.
    I don’t find this study convincing because the authors claim Spirituality (whatever that means) does something but does not define the term “Spirituality”.
    Maybe you can help me understand. I would really like to know what they mean by “soul”.
    Any insight you might have would be welcome.

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  80. john personna says:

    @Ernieyeball:

    I don’t find this study convincing because the authors claim Spirituality (whatever that means) does something but does not define the term “Spirituality”.

    I have offered you an explanation in previous threads, that they are looking at the effects of subjective experience. When you are looking across Buddhists, Calvinists, and Muslims, you don’t need a single definition of “soul.”

    You reject that and demand that I define one “soul” for you.

    Why, because I am God’s Prophet?

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  81. john personna says:

    (And yes, it is crazy to keep coming back that I define “soul” and this either makes or breaks all these spirituality studies.)

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  82. Ernieyeball says:

    @john personna:…and this either makes or breaks all these spirituality studies.

    Now you are attributing to me things I have not said. Somehow I am not surprised.

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  83. Ernieyeball says:

    @anyone: Define soul. Define spirituality.

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