Is cannabis addictive ??? was Re: Poitical abuses...

Bill Skaggs bill at nsma.arizona.edu
Fri Nov 8 22:30:06 EST 1996

howzit at io.org (Ursula Keuper-Bennett) writes:

   > [ . . . ] I figure if scientific work is "90% perspiration and
   > 10% inspiration" then it can't be  biased in its outlook and
   > reflect the political mood of the time, right?
   > I mean to some extent a researcher is affected by his time (if
   > nothing  else limited to the present knowledge of his discipline)
   > no matter what -- but the best try and be aware of it.
   > So here is my question.  A paper that is "biased" and/or
   > "reflects the political mood of the time" must have been written
   > by a researcher who  was doing more inspirating than
   > perspirating. 
   > Ignoring the poor grammar, is that a decent conclusion?

Every paper reflects, perhaps not the political, but at least the
theoretical mood of the time.  A standard scientific paper consists of
four sections:  Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion.
Roughly speaking, the Methods and Results are the perspiration parts,
and take 90% of the work, whereas the Introduction and Discussion are
the inspiration parts, and take 10% of the work.  (Your mileage may
vary.)  To a considerable degree these two parts are independent.  It
is entirely possible for a paper to present perfectly valid data and
then draw absolutely baseless conclusions from it -- in fact, the
cynical among us might say that it happens most of the time.

Bottom line: bias is not all-or-nothing, and every scientific paper
contains at least a little bit of it.  Fortunately, most papers that
are based on nothing more than bias fail to get published (in the hard
sciences, at least).

	-- Bill

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