Archive for the ‘bad cognitive science’ Category

(via wannabe-lesbian girlfriend! Thank you, sweetheart)

High on Mount Sinai, Moses was on psychedelic drugs when he heard God deliver the Ten Commandments, an Israeli researcher claimed in a study published this week.

Let’s look at the evidence!

As far Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don’t believe,

Very prudent!

or a legend, which I don’t believe either,

I’m a bit confused. What does he mean by “legend” here?

or finally, and this is very probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics,” Shanon told Israeli public radio on Tuesday.

“Very probable”? Hmmmmmmm. Unsurprisingly, my first reaction was more or less like in this video(1). Only louder. Fortunately for us all,  Shanon does indeed provide a satisfying explanation:

Moses was probably also on drugs when he saw the “burning bush,” suggested Shanon, who said he himself has dabbled with such substances.

Ah, everything’s clear, then!

On a more serious note, what happens here (apart from the dabbling) is a typical case of the false dilemma. There exist multiple other explanations for Moses'(2) behaviour than his alleged consumption of hallucinogenic substances. In that respect Shanon’s claims are eerily reminiscent of Lewis’ trilemma, in which Jesus had to be either a fraud, or a madman, or the son of god.

There exist of course multiple other alternatives, such as “there was no Jesus” or “he was wrong”.

(On an even more serious note, professor Shanon is of course a cognitive scientist. Woe!)

(This of course, might be a serious case of bad journalism, only, it doesn’t seem so. OTOH, Benny Shanon seems to be actually a fairly sane scientist, apart from the Moses shenanigans. Will have to take a look at the actual paper tomorrow)

ETA: Fixed, uh-huh, my fail logical inconsistencies “he lied”.

(1) I have a confession to make. I’ve always identified with Daleks. A lot.

(2) That is, when you overlook the other alternative, namely that there was no Moses.

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I am pleased to announce that the circle of wank is now complete. Our tormented hero, dumb, bad, and dangerous to read* Ogi Ogas has deleted his Live Journal!

(Meanwhile, the fans outraged at the stupid that is Ogas/Gaddam, gathered a lot of links here. Yeah, darlings, shove all that information down the pseudoscientist throats, mmmm)

Deleting is, after all, what all researchers do. It’s a ritual gesture of tribute to the dark gods of the internets. Over at Cognitive Daily, a survey is sometimes conducted on the Casual Fridays (check them out! They’re fun, and also give a good idea of what an internet survey should look like, if you’re, you know, not an bigoted arsehole of a hack scientist). Shortly afterwards, the blog is always deleted as a sacrifice to the internet gods, who later restore it to its former glory.

With extra sparkles.

Before deleting, Ogas posted a short apology. Because some people thought the apology was the real deal, I’d like to dissect it using my Super Awesome Discourse Analysis Skillz!

(I’m a linguist)

We wish to apologize for any offense caused by our survey, which was certainly never our intention. We can clearly understand how strong feelings were evoked by the specific nature of our interactions. We deeply regret this. We appreciate tremendously the invaluable feedback we’ve received, and certainly hope to improve our work and grow as people as a result of this experience.

Surprise, surprise, a non-apology. In fact, let’s translate it from batshit to English:

strong feelings = those silly wimminz, hysterical AGAIN.

specific nature of our interactions = we were trying to do SERIOUS SCIENCE HERE YOU PLEBES WAH WAH WAH.

improve our work = so, will the media be sufficiently shocked yet? Or do we need furries?

Also, I’d argue that the first two sentences are a rather weak version of the Galileo gambit. I think that the contrast between “strong feelings” and “specific nature” is meant to 1) be the Galileo gambit and reinforce the impression that they are being unfairly persecuted by their research subjects, 2) make an impression that there is a controversy, because the issues they were researching had a strong emotional impact on many people, whereas in fact that problem was that Ogas/Gaddam were just wrong and offensive. This rhetorical device is also called the false dychotomy.

The person to whose journal I linked also points out how they say they want to “grow as people”. This again reinforces the impression that Ogas/Gaddam were merely impolite and a tad insensitive in their tireless pursuit of knowledge *eyeroll*, and that there was nothing wrong or unprofessional  at all in their conduct or methodology.

More useful links:

Seeking Avalon: Transphobia and Stupidity: has a recap of the transphobic statements by Ogas/Gaddam, and a brief but SFW discussion of the portrayal of trans people in, um, porn, and how it distorts the perception of trans people by people who watch it.

The Neurocritic: RULE 34: What netporn tells us about the brain: criticised the whole affair from the neuroscience perspective. Also, more can be learn about Ogas, who apparently, is mostly known for being a gameshow contestant (wiki entry, SEED article <– HOW COULD I HAVE MISSED THAT ARTICLE SNAAAARL the SEED article further proves that Ogas is a complete fuckwit, because, WHO WOULDN’T KNOW WHICH COUNTRY PUBLISHED THE MOHAMMED CARTOONS FIRST? LOL DUMB, also this:

One aspect of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? that I completely failed to prepare for was my interaction with Meredith. I never even considered the inevitable repartee between host and contestant. Our department does not put much emphasis on social cognition and social psychology—and besides, wasn’t getting the questions right all that mattered? As a result, I was always surprised when Meredith asked me a question or made a suggestion. It was as if I was taking a neuroanatomy midterm and Carl Jung would occasionally interrupt and ask what I thought about the collective unconscious.

BECAUSE WE ALL NEED UNIVERSITY CLASSES TO PREPARE US FOR THE GREAT CHALLENGE OF TALKING TO OTHER PEOPLE! Ahaha!

On the other hand, HE PROBABLY DID *twitches*.)

Anyway, this just begs for fan fics.

ETA: So, people over at LJ are now writing Ogas/Gaddam slash fan fiction. SERVES THEM RIGHT AHAHAHAHAHA.

*Because you can choke on your coffee while reading. Snarling does that to people, usually.

So, as it happens, I often troll Unfunny Business for my weekly daily weekly dose of moral outrage. And Darwin’s pants, did I hit the jackpot this week!

So, we have two hack cognitive scientists, one of whom – Ogi Ogas, as it later turns out, is actually in no way affiliated with Boston University, as he would like us to believe. Oops.
But he got this amazing pop-sciencey book deal anyway, right? SO CAN YOU! SO CAN I! The title of the brilliant opus is:

RULE 34: WHAT NETPORN TEACHES US ABOUT THE BRAIN
by Drs. Ogi Ogas & Sai Gaddam (Dutton, 2010)

*Facepalm* guys I can see the headlines already!  There Is Porn On The Internets! Will Anybody Think Of Our Children? People Read Porn, Twitter Makes You Evil, Say Scientists, and so on, and so forth.

I seriously can’t wait till the book is finally published, and Bad Cognitive Science meets Bad Science Reporting. It will be like the Titanic and the iceberg, only, joining forces! In an epic battle against the rest of the world the very fabric of reality! I’M WAITING WITH BATED BREATH!

But I digress.

Ogi Ogas (who has locked his LJ, because people started dog-piling on him. How will he survive the peer-review process, I wonder? Note how his icon has a brain on it. This is because he’s a serious neuroscientist. This little bit of trivial detail is important, because as we will discover later on, icons turn out to be very one of the crucial parts of this wank cognitive science fail) and Sai Gaddam post a survey in a fandom-related community. The survey is about slash fan fiction, and the aim is to, basically prove that male and female sexuality is different. The facts concerning aims and methods of the study is something that could be gleaned from Ogas/Gaddam’s TL;DR survey FAQ. Before they deleted/locked it, because people started criticising them. Um. And it was valid criticism. Whatever.

Anyway, Ogas/Gaddam lock everything. They also think it’s OK to start changing questions when the survey is already in progress. The questions themselves are not at all leading oh no no no , and you couldn’t at all tell what the authors’ intent was and at what conclusion they wanted to arrive.

By the way, this is the internets. Nothing can be ever deleted. There’s Google cache, Wayback Machine, and screen-capping tools >_>, and therefore  part one, part two of the survey:

31. What specific fan fiction story would you most like to live out as one of its characters? (If possible, please provide the name of the story, fandom, and author.)

Conclusion: fan fiction authors live vicariously their deprived kinky erotica-consumerist lives through their stories. Also, what’s with the obsession about identifying with fictional characters? I don’t enjoy Naomi Novik’s novels, because I secretly think I’m totally like Temeraire, and I don’t enjoy Writing Systems: An Introduction to their Linguistic Analysis, because I secretly identify with the Vai syllabary*. That’s absurd.

32. Which fictional character do you think could be your ideal mate?

Yeah, sure, mate. See above.

35. Do you use alcohol or illicit non-prescription drugs (e.g., marijuana) while reading fan fiction?

Conclusion: porn-readers are deprived and sick, scientists say, AND ARE THE MEDIA HERE YET? ARE THEY HERE YET? GOSH THIS BOOK IS GONNA SELL LIEK WHOA!111

37. If you read slash, do you identify with the characters while you’re reading?

Agaaain. Conclusion: all women secretly want penises. Yaaaaaaaawn.

62. What is the gender of the icon/avatar you use to represent yourself on LiveJournal or other communities?

Before you say anything, I’d like to point out that Ogas’s avatar = icon is a picture of a brain. What would that mean? And is the brain a female brain or a male brain??? SO MANY QUESTIONS!

70. Do you believe in true love?

Conclusion: Aw, those silly little wimminz, lol.

And this was not supposed to be their preliminary survey, either *facepalm*. Not to mention the methodological mistakes (like, why would they want to rely so much on self-reporting???), they didn’t even try to be upfront and say they were writing a book about “netporn”.

More links are here, including to screencaps of the whole debacle. With the bonus of Ogas being a complete transphobic fuckwad (general transphobia; “tranny” <– in general, major fail is to be observed in the thread, as Ogas tries to explain to the little silly wimminz that pretty (= Ogas wants to have sex with them) females are attracted to pretty (= similar to Ogas) men, because the African savanna made them so, LOL STUPID; shemale).

Seriously, though, I do hope the media won’t pick up on the book. The fallout would give me a migraine for weeks.

*I totally could, though. These letters, they are pretty.