Links 6/19/15

Gross things.  What creeps me out is the branching.

Against tulip subsidies.  This covers two of my biggest fears with charity: that I’m reinforcing a bad system, and I’m redistributing wealth rather than generating it.  Note that an RCT won’t catch those unless you think to look for them.

How they genetically engineered bacteria to make cheese vegan.

For a change this week we will have an “Ugly theory killed by a beautiful gang of facts” award.  Anyone who’s taken psych 101 knows about the Zimbardo experiment (aka the Standford prison experiment, which proved all humans will descend into savagery given a modicum of power) and Asch’s conformity experiment (the line length experiment, which proved people will always choose agreeing with a group over the actual correct answer). Except… Zimbardo deliberately induced sadism in the guards, and 2/3 resisted it.  And more people in Asch’s study showed total independence than total conformity.  Somehow over the years these got severely exaggerated- not just in the popular media, but in textbooks.

I noticed this when I started checking citations in pop science books.  “People with trait A do B and people with trait X do Y” usually turns out to be “there is a 10 percentage point difference in how often people with A do B, relative to X.”

For another example of how to lie with statistics: “80% of Americans support labeling food with DNA”.  Which if you actually look at it shows that 80% of people believe in labeling and weren’t too hung on the specifics by the time they got to that part of the form.

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