It wasn’t the introduction of statistics that led to the dire state of ‘science’, rather it was the jettison of common sense in favor of, and the total deference to, statistics. This was not a single event or a clean break, of course, as it happened slowly over decades. But in the 21st century what is often talked about and written up as science is almost exclusively some form of statistical study.
The true measure of science is repeated observation leading to prediction that can be replicated by anyone anywhere. While a gold standard for scientific inquiry, it just doesn’t apply so readily in the softer sciences of the humanities. Quantum physics has made a significant contribution to our daily lives from nothing more than statistics, even over the objections of luminaries such as Einstein, because the math works; repeatedly. In economics, there is nothing but a sea of variables increasingly disconnected from the world common sense still inhabits.
The August 28, 2015, edition of Science magazine, Volume 349, Issue 6251, featured a study of studies in psychology. Selecting 100 published experiments from three ‘high-ranking’ psychology journals, authors sought to replicate the findings in each but ran into great difficulty in doing so. In fact, in only one-third to one-half of them could they obtain the same results at near the same levels of significance. In the abstract, they point to the increasing disconnect between ‘science’ and perceptions of science:
This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner by Jeffrey P. Snider ‘ August 25, 2016.