But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science. That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school. We never explicitly say what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation.
He hoped that the graduating students listening to his Cargo Cult Science speech had learned how to berational critical thinkers. It appears that Dr. Stanovich is going to try and further the cause of explicitly saying what is missing in cargo cult science.
I have a couple examples of cargo cult science in action. I think we learn from the good and the bad
sciences. The first example comes from a Neurobiology post doc. She had obtained her PhD but did not catch on to "the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school." There came a
point in her laboratory work where she needed to dialyze a solution. We showed her how to use the
slide-alizer dialysis cassette.
The next morning we found her cassette spinning above the dialysis solution. She had somehow
balanced the cassette on top of the white foam floatation sponge where it could not interact with the
dialysis solute. She had painstakingly kept her solution from coming into contact with the beaker full of solute. She had no doubt learned about osmosis but she missing a mechanical rationality.
The married/unmarried question was probability. If you have 3 boxes you can put either an M or a U
into, you have 2 (M or U) to the third (3 boxes) power (2e3) or 8 options. 2 x 2 x 2 = 8
- UMUIf you only get to look at options with M in the first box and U in the last you have only twopossibilitiesMMUMUUThe only box that changes is the middle box. You have 2 (M or U) to the first (1 box) power. 2e1 or 2.This can be taught in a math course but rationality comes into play when the probability question is worded in the way of the married/unmarried person. Will you recognize this as a math question that was in your education? You paid for the knowledge, can you now apply it to come up with the truth?
Another biotech example. In this example you have 7 boxes with the possibility of putting any of the
20 amino acids into each box. You now have 20 (amino acids) to the 7th (7 boxes) power. 20e7 or
1.28 billion possible arrangements.Marina Biotech, Inc. (NASDAQ: MRNA), a leading nucleic acid-based drug discovery and development company, today announced that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has issued a Notice of Allowance for patent application U.S. 11/955,207 with claims that cover a library of over 1×10(15) novel peptides.The reporters got the story wrong. "Novel" peptides refers to the 1.28e9 number. The 1e15 number is an insignificant number that refers to the total number on hand at a specific time. Knowing the difference requires the same logic one would apply to the married/unmarried question.
The Cargo Cult Science rationality dysfunction however took place at the biotech company. They failed to understand the system of phage display, just as the Neurobiology post doc failed to understand the system of dialysis. Dialysis is a system and it works. Phage display is a system and it works. The question is whether or not the user can make it work. Does the user understand the mechanics, math, proper processes and the limitations? If it doesn't work, can you figure out the problem? In both the dialysis and the peptide library example, failure was the outcome. Dialysis did not take place nor did the peptide library produce the promised results. Somewhere within the systems, the users took a wrong turn. They went Cargo Cult.
Rationality is not an easy subject to pin down. Something so subjective will be hard to identify, let alone quantify. I've been trying for years.
agreeable to reason; reasonable; sensible: a rational plan foreconomic development.2.
having or exercising reason, sound judgment, or good sense: acalm and rational negotiator.3.
endowed with the faculty of reason: rational beings.5.
of, pertaining to, or constituting reasoning powers: the rationalfaculty.