Susan Fiske, a professor of psychology at Princeton University recently wrote a longish rant about critics of research who operate out of social media platforms and blogs. This has people like Andrew Gelman and neuroskeptic quite excited (see their respective articles here and here)
Why am I dinging these excellent bloggers, you ask? After all, their response to Fiske who accuses bloggers of ‘methodological terrorism’ and as being ‘destructo-critics’ contains a number of valid points.
Both Gelman and neuroskeptic have seen the work of Stephen Lewandowsky. They had every opportunity to examine his work thoroughly and reach their conclusions. Both chose to stand in support of Lewandowsky.
Gelman has not commented on Lewandowsky’s papers directly but nonchalantly promoted one of his opinion pieces with Dorothy Bishop. The paper was on methods of efficient gate-keeping and preventing methodological terrorists (bloggers) from getting published . neuroskeptic’s attitude toward Lewandowsky’s methods can only be described as a form of aggressive ignorance, as he promoted the now-retracted ‘Recursive Fury’ paper, which retailed labeling the same methodological terrorists as ‘conspiracists’.
In other words, what mattered was who was being disparaged and labeled. When the critics were climate skeptics, they’ were ok. When it appears as though Fiske’s open-ended vague attack might include bloggers like them, they are unhappy.
This simply shows acceptance or serious consideration of criticism of scientific results depends not merely on the validity of the points being made, but on the social context, the packaging and the channels through which it arrives. Gelman and neuroskeptic are no more immune to wild rants, ideological blind-spots and irrational thinking against ‘methodological terrorism’ than Susan Fiske is.
They would do good to stop preaching to her.