Ghoti in the Machine

Ghoti in the Machine

The Replication Crisis in Science
January Weiner
time 7 minutes

A few years ago, Dr Craig Bennett and his colleagues carried out an experiment. They put a salmon in a working magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner, which monitors brain function. We should point out that the salmon was dead, bought at a fish market.

Once the fish was lying in the machine, the scientists showed it “emotionally ambiguous” photos (of people, not fish), and asked it to imagine itself in that situation. Later, in accordance with the rules of their art, they made calculations, and… on the image of the (dead) salmon’s brain, an area showed up in red as having been activated.

For this unusual experiment, the scientists received an Ig Nobel—a prize awarded for research that “first makes you laugh, and then makes you think.” Why? Because the whole point of the exercise was to demonstrate that these “rules of the art”—the statistical methods used to analyse magnetic resonance data—are flawed.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only example of how scientists have


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Also read:

How to Save the Earth in the Era of the Anthropocene
Eean Chen
Dreams and Visions

How to Save the Earth in the Era of the Anthropocene

Edwin Bendyk

In her poignant Epoka człowieka. Retoryka i marazm antropocenu [The Human Epoch: The Rhetoric and Apathy of the Anthropocene], Ewa Bińczyk writes: “The Anthropocene desperately needs critical hope and conviction that constructive change is possible.” The philosopher examines the strange condition of mankind that has just reached the peak of its dominance, gaining the power to shape the entire geo- and ecosystem. Yes, we are living in the Anthropocene, the epoch of humans. Instead of rejoicing, however, we must accept that its swift culmination may equal an ecological apocalypse. And although we are well aware of the scenarios describing the approaching catastrophe, we are not able to take action that would protect us from the worst. Bińczyk sums up her work with a complaint: “How wonderful would it be to offer an array of inspiring utopias at the end of this work. Unfortunately, I did not come across any while examining the discourses of the Anthropocene.”

Is the situation truly as bleak as she claims? After all, there is no shortage of proposals for how to better organize the world. While the Kurdish Rojava are experimenting with the system of democratic confederalism, Bolivians and Ecuadorians have revised their constitutions to reflect the principle of buen vivir – ‘good living’ or ‘well living’ – questioning the idea that development should be understood in terms of quantitative expansion. Led by Ada Colau, Barcelona advances the idea of municipalism; grassroots civil movements taking over power in towns and cities, leading to, among other things, the feminization of politics. All such local initiatives can be seen as utopias, or projects that feed on the hope that a better world is possible. More importantly, they are not just literary visions, but rather tangible projects implemented within existing social and political realities.

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