Category Archives: Uncategorized


The Bible: Morally Bankrupt or Totally Reliable

Chicago — The taxi driver who dropped me off at McCormick Place, the convention center where the annual joint conference of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature is being held, asked if it was a meeting of religious people—like nuns and priests.

There are nuns and priests in attendance, for sure, along with Baptists, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims, but it’s a gathering of religious scholars, not a revival meeting, and plenty of the people here don’t subscrib…


Did Obama Let the Left Down?

Chicago — In an interview the week after Barack Obama’s re-election, Cornel West said he was glad Mitt Romney hadn’t won, but he also expressed his displeasure with the president, calling him a “Rockefeller Republican in blackface.”

West, who is a professor of philosophy and Christian practice at Union Theological Seminary and an emeritus professor in Princeton’s Center for African-American Studies, knows how to turn a loaded phrase, and here he was lambasting Obama for not doing enough to help …


The Poll Quants Won the Election

Sam Wang did not eat a bug for breakfast.

Before Tuesday’s election, Wang, a Princeton neuroscientist and part-time election forecaster, promised to consume an insect if either Pennsylvania or Minnesota ended up going for Mitt Romney. If Ohio turned red, he pledged to eat “a really big bug.” (If you missed it, here’s Tuesday’s story about the rise of the poll quants.)

But he was right about those states and everything else. Wang was 50 for 50. (As I write this, Florida’s results are still being …


Misconduct, Not Error, Found Behind Most Journal Retractions

Research misconduct, rather than error, is the leading cause of retractions in scientific journals, with the problem especially pronounced in more prestigious publications, a comprehensive analysis has concluded.

The analysis, described on Monday in PNAS, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, challenges previous findings that attributed most retractions to mistakes or inadvertent failures in equipment or supplies.

The PNAS finding came from a comprehensive review of more than 2,00…


Building the Perfect Journal

Harris Cooper (Duke University)

When Harris Cooper was asked to help start a new psychology journal, he said yes, but with a few conditions. He wanted to design not just a new journal, but a different kind of journal, one that attempted to fix the problems that the field of psychology has been struggling with, like high-profile researchers who commit fraud (see Stapel and Smeesters), and papers that attract a lot of attention yet can’t be replicated (see Bem).

He wanted to build the perfect jour…


Emphasizing the Negative, Stanford Draws Wide Audience for Report on Organic Foods

Stanford University researchers scored hundreds of newspaper and broadcast reports on Tuesday with a study suggesting that expensive organic foods are no better for consumers than those produced through conventional farming methods.

The findings were compiled by a team led by Dena M. Bravata, a senior affiliate in Stanford’s Center for Health Policy, and Crystal Smith-Spangler, an instructor in the Stanford medical school’s Division of General Medical Disciplines, as evidence that the high cost …


Sociologist Defends Controversial Gay-Parenting Study in New Paper

In the introduction to a new paper answering his critics, Mark Regnerus writes that his gay-parenting study “raised a variety of questions” among readers. That is a bit of an understatement. The paper started a controversy that has yet to die down, with critics questioning the motives of Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as his research methods.

The new paper, which is a commentary and not a peer-reviewed study, was published online on Mo…


Does Political Science Matter?


Today is the finale of the Republican National Convention, and had the weather cooperated, today would have been the start of the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, which was to have been held in New Orleans.

But with Hurricane Isaac approaching, organizers decided that sending 5,000 political scientists to a Marriott ballroom directly in the storm’s path might not be ideal for the profession.

Still, the scheduled overlap of the two events raises the questio…


The Monk and the Gunshot

The Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard (Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images)

When human beings are startled, we raise our shoulders and close our eyes. Our blood vessels constrict, and our pulse quickens. The startle response is a well-documented phenomenon; one of the first studies to examine it was published in 1939, and there’s even an entire book on the subject.

An involuntary reaction to, say, a very loud noise is thought to be deeply primitive and impossible to overcome. Try to stifle it, and you …


Harvard Sociologist Says His Research Was ‘Twisted’


Robert D. Putnam (© 2012 Bowling Alone)

Robert D. Putnam’s research is being used to make the case that diversity is bad—and he’s not happy about it.

The Harvard sociologist, best known for his book Bowling Alone, filed a supporting brief in the lawsuit over race-conscious admissions at the University of Texas at Austin, which is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the brief, Putnam objects to how his research is characterized in another brief, by Abigail Thernstrom, an adjunct scholar …