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inquiry itself. Bad science is such serious business as to leave its practitioners woefully deficient in witty but incisive self-criticism.
It will take a generation or longer for psychology-at-large to come to grips with the difference between statistics and measurement; between knowing the incidence of ‘X’ and the nature of ‘X’. Something is learned, of course, when we know the frequency with which events occur or the degree of coincidence between and among them. Insurance companies traffic in this sort of informa- tion all the time. But to assess how often something happens is not to know its magnitude, its place within the larger ontological framework of what there is, the ‘whatness’ of an event. When the psychophysicist constructs a frequency- of-seeing curve, the ordinate is indeed rendered as ‘percent seen’. But this is related to the physical magnitude of the stimulus. Moreover, ‘percent seen’ is, at least in principle, a figure that can be translated into, for example, ‘percent photopigment bleached’, itself subject to translation into, for example, ‘optic nerve discharge rate’, and so on. The measures are not ‘statistical’ as such, and the paradigm is assuredly not that of ANOVA.
Merely to invoke such a point of comparison is to stand too close to the threshold of foolishness. Multivariate statistical designs are mechanical approaches to problems already stripped of their realistic features. They offer the fool’s gold of confidence levels which pertain not to the confidence we might have that we’re on to something real, but only to the confidence we might have that, if we keep doing things this way, we’ll keep getting this as a reward for our efforts. That ‘everybody’s doing it’ should, of course, be alarming. It is sufficient to note that, before it died, the field of phrenology could boast more than a score of journals, most of them ‘peer review’.
In cynical and patronizing moments—lengthy or transient, depending on one’s choice of colleagues—the right answer to the question of what one might contribute to ‘the mainstream’ is: drain it. Then, with its minions finally having their feet on terra firma, lead an orderly march toward libraries and life. The libraries are the repository of failed attempts to settle once and for all the abiding questions; the repository of utterly successful attempts to trivilialize reality to such an extent as to make it seem simple; the repository of those few successful attempts to render the affair clearer and approachable.
If the diagnosis thus far is at all on target, something should be said of the aetiology which, in this case, is the very schooling of psychologists. What psychology’s mainstream provides by way of training is ultimately at the for- feiture of educating. Much of ‘higher education’ today would have been regarded as trite by junior high school students a half-century ago, and the discipline of psychology surely offers no counter to this. At the doctoral level in psychology, the already poorly instructed are now paced through ‘fields’ so intellectually barren as to render the product of it all ill-suited to an academic life. I have more to say on related matters in the following section.
On the verge of a rant, I had best return to the core ontological question: for there to be a discipline or field replete with theory and research and
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