I put a fairly substantial effort in critiquing that awful paper by Krylov and Co, and now my efforts are rewarded with a rebuttal by Lee Jussim. Oh no. I tremble in fear. But I will bravely acknowledge that his criticisms.
Ole PZ makes a zillion different points, nearly all wrong regarding our paper, but here I’ll just focus on one as illustration. He claims:
The first big problem, and one that plagues the whole paper, is that merit isn’t actually defined.
Ole PZ is a bit familiar for someone I don’t know, but I’ll overlook it. As he says, I made
a zillion different points, so I have to congratulate him on wisely focusing on just one. It must be one that I really got embarrassingly wrong, so no doubt his refutation will be devastating.
He has chosen my claim that there is no definition of merit anywhere in their paper, so I anticipate that he will now quote the section of the paper that clearly defines merit, leaving me crushed and humiliated. I read on, dreading my imminent disgrace, and here it is, the part where he exposes me as someone who wasn’t able to understand their paper. This is where he defines “merit” for us all:
This is Figure 2 from the paper:
Of course, the “importance” of any given discovery, talk or paper may be pretty subjective until the fullness of time has weighed in. As our paper repeatedly acknowledged, scientists’ biases may creep in to influence judgments of merit. Nonetheless, we now know that discoveries that cigarettes cause cancer, that bacteria, not stress, cause ulcers and that genes influence many physical and psychological characteristics are pretty important, each of which was doubted, controversial or even dismissed at the time. It also took some time to discover that certain ideas lack merit (e.g., thalidomide is not safe to administer to women who are or might be pregnant; the implicit association test does not measure “unconscious racism”).
I was expecting a howitzer shell to land on me and blow all my arguments away…but this is it? A graph with two quantitatively undefined axes, but
merit still isn’t defined at all. Instead, we’ve got two additional magic words,
strength of evidence, with no explanation of how they’re assessed. How do we determine what is important? That’s the whole question here, and he has just deferred the meaning of
merit to a different subjective term,
importance, modified by another fuzzy parameter,
strength of evidence.
OK, so where’s that definition of merit? This is the best he can do? I guess he instead decided to demonstrate the validity of my point, that merit isn’t actually defined. If it were, he would have trotted it out here.
Instead, we get a paragraph making excuses that merit
may be pretty subjective and isn’t always going to be obvious. Great! So my comments must have been pretty accurate.
I’m relieved to have emerged unscathed from that rebuttal, but also disappointed. Why are my opponents always so pathetic? I set myself up with a strong claim, that Jussim noticed, and he wasn’t even able to muster a single logical point against it. Pathetic.
I really didn’t have to type all those words. Apparently I should just reply with a bad graph.