June 29, 2010

Are Women Prone To Paranormal Beliefs?

this will work.jpgyou have a better explanation?

A reader sends me this email:

Subject: Guilty as charged.



Does this mean I'm a bad person?

Eric Barker
Blog | http://bakadesuyo.com/

No, it doesn't make you a bad person, but the author of the study is suspect.


The title of the article Barker had linked to contrast with mine is,  Who wants to believe?  Associations between digit ratio (2D:4D) and paranormal and superstitious beliefs.

Abstract: [...] This evidence may be informative for narrowing down possible developmental pathways of paranormal and superstitious beliefs. Propensities contributing to sex and individual differences in these beliefs probably arise in utero, may partly be due to prenatal testosterone and other prenatal programming effects, but less likely due to pubertal-adolescent androgen action or developmental instability.
Who wants to guess which way the association goes?  Of course it does.


These articles rely on the fact that you're not going to read them.  Only the titles.  Since they are done by academics, they are appeals to authority.  A leading title, a leading abstract-- let the public extrapolate from there.

And who can sit through these articles?  They are intermittently seductive and impenetrable.  Open with the sexual differences in schizophrenia, then the similarities between it and  paranormal beliefs, and close: "All of this points to a possible role of sex hormones for a suite of related or overlapping traits that include paranormal beliefs, schizotypy, and psychosis-proneness."  Game on.

And if you do venture further into the paper, it's protected by landmines like this one:

Directional asymmetry in digit ratios was calculated as DR−L = R2D:4D-L2D:4D. Composite standardised fluctuating asymmetry (Møller & Swaddle, 1997) of 2D and 4D was calculated as FA = {Σd |Rd-Ld|/[(Rd + Ld)/2]}/2, whereby d = 2D and 4D, and expressed as a percentage of trait size (i.e., multiplied by 100).

That means there's science being done in there, got it?  By experts, who can tell a nuclear reactor from an UPS truck.  Stay the hell out, just read what you're told to read, i.e.:

In sum, the current data suggest biologically based, prenatally programmed influences on paranormal and superstitious beliefs. Or, paraphrasing the probably best known slogan from the defining X-Files television series: it may well be that some of the truth is in the womb rather than out there.
("Wait a second-- wasn't the X-Files audience mostly men?"  I said shut your hole.)

The article expects you do not bother to read this:

For women, corresponding relations were all not significant. Second, among women, finger length was significantly negatively associated with total and positive superstition scores (and marginally significantly associated with negative superstitions). And third, associations of paranormal or superstitious beliefs with DR−L or finger  FA were directionally erratic and for both sexes throughout not significant.

Or this:

Corresponding associations among women were throughout not significant, and directional asymmetry in digit ratios (DR−L) was neither associated with paranormal nor superstitious beliefs in men or in women.... Paranormal and superstitious beliefs are female-typed traits, so the current results are exactly the other way round. For now, it is difficult to put forward plausible explanations for this pattern.

Because those things say, "oops."


Where the study went wrong is that last sentence, "paranormal beliefs are female-typed traits." I'm not sure why that is stated as if it were obvious, but leave that aside: that was what they study set out to show, right?  So you can't make that the basis for the interpretation of the results.  "We wanted to determine whether this drug cures cancer.  Since we already know that this drug cures cancer, the fact that it didn't cure cancer is difficult to explain using conventional paradigms.  Further research is warranted."


The point of research isn't discovery, it's confirmation.  And the purpose of research articles isn't to convey information, but plausible deniability, exactly like in the intelligence game.

Did the author lie? Nope.  Is the article methodologically flawed?  Nope.  Everything in there is factually accurate.  But.

The beauty of the paper is that at no point did he have to say, "chicks will believe anything."  He got you to say it.

Did he say paranormal beliefs were feminine traits?  "I didn't write that, you guys misinterpreted the study."  But that was the purpose of writing it that way.  If you didn't want it misunderstood you would have titled the paper, "My Baffling Discovery That Paranormal Beliefs Don't Follow The Sex- Specific Patterns I Wanted Them To, WTF, I'm Going On Break."

Nor do I suspect he's malicious.  He truly believes they are feminine traits, and amazingly his own study is unlikely to have dissuaded him.  He knows he's right.  The science is just padding.  Even if all the studies turn out to be negative, he just needs to point at the stack: "look at all the research that has been done on the question of paranormal behavior and sex differences!"  You look at the stack, five meters high, and think, "guess it makes sense. Chicks will believe anything."


Do you think I staged this?  That it's a coincidence that bakadesuyo.com guy sent me this article, that happened to conform to what I'm saying?  This is the norm, not the exception.  There are no exceptions.  All of this is about handing you all the tools you need to lie to yourself.

You make a false distinction between "politics" and "science," one based on argument and the other on "objectivity."  They are of exactly the same form, conducted in exactly the same way, by exactly the same people.

Both are done by humans, humans who want.  Whatever truth is out there is barely detectable through the mist of envy and need and hope.  They will make their words and their numbers say anything they need them to.

You want something uplifting, well, here you go: we have enough excellent raw data that we could make huge leaps in science without performing one further experiment.  We could take all the, say, antidepressant data, and run it through the Machines to determine that it cures the flu in whites born in Virgo but only left handed ones who eat lots of broccoli-- and we have no idea why-- as long as we were willing to put aside our attachments to words like "antidepressant" and "Virgo" and "flu."

But that would require us to ignore all the previous interpretations of these studies which form the basis for our current postulates.  Can you unlearn what you think you know "feminine" means?  Not without a biological EMP.

I'm not making some philosophical/positivist case for the limits of human knowledge, I'm simply observing that when they want that brown square in the sat photo to be a nuclear reactor, then you'll want it to be a nuclear reactor, no matter how fast it's going.