Ring out the old, bring it in again as the new?

Ring out the old, bring it in again as the new? March 9, 2019

Mesoamerica continues to yield up significant new finds:

 

“1,000-Year-Old Pristine Mayan Artifacts Found in Sealed ‘Jaguar God’ Cave: The cave was first discovered by local farmers in 1966, but was walled off until last year for unknown reasons.”

 

And it’s possible that Mars will surrender a few secrets, as well:

 

“Is there life on Mars? Let’s assess the evidence: Since the nineteenth century, people have been obsessed with finding life on the Red Planet, but is there any real basis for supposing is does, or did, exist? Richard A Lovett sifts through the data.”

 

Continuing on the theme of old things reemerging anew, here’s a delightful piece about the one-party marvel that is today’s California:

 

“Medieval Diseases Are Infecting California’s Homeless: Typhus, tuberculosis, and other illnesses are spreading quickly through camps and shelters.”

 

As the state’s newly installed Democratic governor, Gavin Newsome, says, “Typhus. A medieval disease. In California. In 2019.”

 

(Newsome assumed leadership of the state from Edmund Gerald “Jerry” Brown Jr., who served as California’s 34th governor between 1975 and 1983 and as California’s 39th governor between 2011 and 2019, following in the footsteps of his father, Edmund Gerald “Pat” Brown Sr., who served as California’s 32nd governor  between 1959 and 1967, when Sr. was defeated in his bid for a third term by a non-politician named Ronald Reagan.)

 

***

 

But let’s change pace a bit, via an interesting interview with the French epistemologist and philosopher of science Mathias Girel:

 

“Is Science in Crisis?”

 

Just a quick note on one of the points Girel raises when he speaks of “conflicts of interest in scientific expertise, with recent studies showing occasionally blatant financing bias. One such study revealed that expert assessments financed by the agri-food industry are four to eight times more often favourable to the sponsor than those with independent sources of financing.”

 

This is, manifestly, something that needs to be carefully monitored.

 

However, it seems to me that one rather obvious but less sinister explanation that could perhaps be offered for the disparate favorability ratios would be that the agri-food industry might understandably be more willing to fund research that it expected would make it look good than it would be to finance research where the potential results were in genuine doubt — let alone to finance studies that could confidently be expected to make those funding them look bad.

 

In other words, studies funded by the “agri-food industry” might well be biased or even rigged.  But they might well also be quite sound — albeit carefully selected for self-interested monetary support.

 

 

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