The Spirit Level Delusion

August 17th, 2010 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

I’ve been reading a book called The Delusion: Fact-checking the Left’s New Theory of Everything, and have been meaning to blog its wonderful comprehensive of The Spirit Level.

But has done most of this for me in this post:

The authors of the British book The Spirit Level have a political agenda, and they’ve got it talked about everywhere. Even here. The NZ Labour MPs’ blog Red Alert for example is so excited it even has a ‘Spirit Level’ “tag”, and breathless comments from the likes of Grant Robertson that “These people’s work can not be dismissed.” And Colin James, the commentator on the tired and the bleeding obvious, wonders if the 300-page tome might not become  “a sort of guidebook for the next Labour ministry,” should there be one.

So what’s their work, and why are Grant Robertson and his comrades so excited about it? It’s a “revolutionary” thesis overturning all previous research: that societies with more “equal” incomes do better than those that don’t.

So how did they do what no other researchers before them have managed to do? Simple, They fudged the figures.

First we get the official graph to prove their thesis:

Looks compelling doesn’t it.

But they left off countries that don’t fit their thesis such as Hong Kong, South Korea and the Czech Republic. Add them in and use the official stats from the UN and:

A remarkable change.

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92 Responses to “The Spirit Level Delusion”

  1. Robert Winter (100 comments) says:

    I have long eschewed comment on your blog and broadly feel the better for it. But your disgraceful comment on the Spirit Level stirs me to break a habit. If you had done any work on this you would have at least recognised that nothing you note above has not been addressed by the authors at, for example, http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/resources/response-to-questions, which points out that, using World ban criteria, the 50 richest countries were chosen for the study, a perfectly sensible sample given the hypothesis. The associated commentary goes on to discuss “cherry picking” and the like.

    [DPF: Of course they justify the 50 they picked, but the fact is that their thesis does not work on any other set of data, and even worse they have cherry picked 2004 data for some tables and 2006 data for others. The entire thing is cherry picked to get a conclusion]

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  2. RightNow (6,987 comments) says:

    Robert, they don’t state the 50 richest countries – they say
    a single set of rich countries then, to double check, among the 50 states of the USA. Taking the data from the most reputable sources (WHO, UN, OECD, World Bank, US Federal Government etc)

    I plan to look more into it when I have more time, but on the surface of it, if the trends change when the data set is expanded then what degree of confidence can you have in the trend?

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  3. Robert Winter (100 comments) says:

    To quote them ” We took the richest 50 countries ranked by wealth according to the Atlas method…..” etc. at http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/docs/response-to-tax-payers-alliance.pdf

    You will note that this is a careful and patientresponse to neo-liberal fruitloops in the Taxpayers Alliance.

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  4. Bob R (1,363 comments) says:

    Yes, I’ve seen that book referred to a few times on the Standard. On some graphs they do tend to leave off Hong Kong & sometimes Singapore, presumably because they upset their trends.

    This excellent website by Christopher Snowden, author of the book, goes through about 20 questions for the Spirit Level authors, their responses and further comment from Snowden. It is a must read if you’re curious about the Spirit Level & its claims.

    http://spiritleveldelusion.blogspot.com/

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  5. East Wellington Superhero (1,151 comments) says:

    Interestingly the Vatican (not known for being very left-wing) has taught, as recently as Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical last year, that bits gaps in wealth are not good in a society – largely I suspect because it suggests that people don’t give a rip about their neighbour. This of course does not mean we simply redistribute wealth, but being concerned about wealth gaps shouldn’t be easily dismissed by those of us who lean to the right. Viz-a-viz the Left’s apparent love of this book – blah blah blah – it’s all socialism however you market it.

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  6. RRM (9,838 comments) says:

    Don’t data points have to be distributed more or less linearly, before it is meaningful to plot a linear trendline through them? I would have thought you could draw a pretty good looking decay curve through the first one.

    But hell you could get my 6 year old to draw a line across either of those two graphs, and it would be about as valid as those trend lines appear to be.

    I’m a leftie and I’ve never heard of this Spirit Level theory of everything, are you sure you/snowdon aren’t projecting just a little?

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  7. RRM (9,838 comments) says:

    Correction:

    Clearly the Loch Ness Monster is behind all inequality and poverty in the world.

    http://i1010.photobucket.com/albums/af230/RRM22/SpiritLevel01_thumb2.jpg

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  8. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    I think you and PC have been sucked in by a crank, DPF.

    “The Spirit Level” has been subject to peer review. Where’s Snowdon’s peer review of his work? Here is Professors Richard Wilkinson’s and Kate Pickett’s response to Snowdon.

    The only thing Snowdon has going for him is that he at least somewhat less unscientific in his approach than the wingnut Peter Saunders (who Paula Bennett appointed to advise her Welfare Working Group). Saunders is becoming to sociology what Monckton is to climate science. Anyway, here’s Wilkinson’s and Pickett’s response to Saunders, just to preempt those will no doubt quote him as well.

    Happy reading. And an apology in the morning for being sucked in by bad science, perhaps?

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  9. Rex Widerstrom (5,349 comments) says:

    I’m not even sure their base data is right. NZ only slightly more unequal than Australia?! I don’t see vast numbers of NZers living in huge McMansions that don’t allow room for even a backyard while scores of people sleep in shop doorways. I don’t see “cashed up bogans” driving brand new hotted-up utes while foodbanks are empty… perhaps the disparity is in earnings, whilst NZers are more inclined to share and help their fellows while Australians are more greedy, selfish and acquisitive. That’d certainly fit my experience of living in both countries.

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  10. Peter Cresswell (48 comments) says:

    The author of the Spirit Level Delusion, Chris Snowdon, was gracious enough to comment at my blog clarifying a couple of points about where the figures come from to produce those two graphs.

    “The two graphs are from exactly the same UN source, but are from different years. The first is from the 2004 UN Human Development Report, the second is from the 2006 report.

    The reason I mention this is that, if you own a copy of The Spirit Level, take a look at references 2 and 6. Reference 2 is the 2006 report and is for their graph showing no relationship between life expectancy and GDP. Reference 6 is the 2004 report, and that’s used to show there IS a relationship between life expectancy and inequality.

    Why use two different data sets? We can only speculate, but I would speculate that its because, even if you exclude places like the Czech Republic, the 2004 data fits their hypothesis better than the 2006. This, from two researchers who insist they took their data “warts and all”.

    BTW, am I alone in being surprised to see New Zealand classed amongst the ‘unequal hellhole’ category in The Spirit Level? Everyone I’ve ever met from NZ has told me its the greatest country in the world (ditto Australia, at the risk of starting a fight). Is this just fervent patriotism for the benefit of foreigners? If it is, it’s very convincing fervent patriotism.

    Chris Snowdon (author of The Spirit Level Delusion)”

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  11. James (1,338 comments) says:

    Inequality…if it even matters,is usually always due to,and made worse by,state involvment in the economy.Their regulations disproportional impact on the poor and most desperate while in fact shielding the wealthy.Examples are the silly minimum wage laws that trap the desperate in limbo by making work harder for them to get,licencing laws that kneecap start up businesses and insulate the established bigger business etc…

    Whos suprised the left have to lie and fudge figures to make a case….? Realitys against them.

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  12. tom hunter (4,740 comments) says:

    I have long eschewed comment on your blog and broadly feel the better for it.

    Rather reminds me of this classic from Virginia Congressman John Randolph:

    Stranger: I have had the pleasure of of passing your house recently.

    Randolph: I am glad of it. I hope you will always do it, sir

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  13. Danyl Mclauchlan (1,068 comments) says:

    If you’d read the Spirit Level instead of just a book rebutting it you’d realise that the whole purpose of the study was to compare like with like: it’s just not that useful to compare the policy outcomes of states that have been wealthy democracies for many decades with those that were Soviet client states until fairly recently. And the study compares democratic countries – Hong Kong is a non-democratic city-state. You don’t see Dubai or Vatican City or Brunei in there either. Again, this is pretty obvious if you bother to study the original source material.

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  14. Bevan (3,923 comments) says:

    Robert/Toad – problem for the authors is that when they leave out certain countries, it makes it look like they are trying to hide something. I for one am very skeptical considering the left out three very large, and very wealthy countries.

    1. China – 2nd wealthiest country
    2. India – 4th wealthiest country
    3. Russia – 7th wealthiest country

    Yeah, leave out three of the largest economies, but include NZ, Israel and Portugal!

    If they really wanted to prove the link with inequality, they should have plotted the top 40, or even 50 wealthiest nations – not be seen to cherry pick a few.

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  15. RightNow (6,987 comments) says:

    nice toad, a skilful off-topic dig at Monckton. Not as skilful as Monckon demolishing an adversary in a debate mind.

    And please remember this line “And an apology in the morning for being sucked in by bad science, perhaps?”. You may need it yourself soon

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  16. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    @Peter Cresswell 5:30 pm

    I can’t find an immediate response to that one, but I would suggest you and Snowdon are going down the same path as climate cranks like Leyland are doing with their media, and now judicial, attack on NIWA.

    If you want to challenge per reviewed science, then get your own work peer reviewed and get it published in a reputable scientific journal.

    Or is real science just a Socialist-Green conspiracy if it doesn’t produce the results that the libertarians, neo-liberals, and neo-conservatives want it to produce?

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  17. Bob R (1,363 comments) says:

    ***Anyway, here’s Wilkinson’s and Pickett’s response to Saunders, just to preempt those will no doubt quote him as well.***

    Very well, here is Saunders paper. It is interesting to see that ethnic composition is a better explanatory variable in looking at outcomes in the US. Wilkinson & Pickett seem to avoid Saunders main point at the end of the paper, that you need to consider the history & culture of Japan & Sweden in comparison to Anglosphere countries. Saunders reiterates this in his response below.

    “The most likely explanation lies in the history and cultures of
    these countries, but this is precisely the line of inquiry which
    Wilkinson and Pickett want to shut down:

     They say cultural factors cannot explain their findings because
    Japan and Sweden are very different cultures yet score similarly
    on various sorts of indicators.

     They add that historical factors cannot be significant because
    countries end up equal or unequal for different historical
    reasons, but these differences do not change their performance
    on the various indicators…

    We do not have to make judgements as to the relative merits of
    Japanese or Swedish society, on the one hand, and the Anglosphere
    on the other. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. But
    we do have to recognise the implications of these differences when
    comparing social outcomes. Wilkinson and Pickett say they are not
    interested in culture and history. They don’t think any of these
    details matter. But the specific historical and cultural factors we
    have been outlining go a long way in explaining why these countries
    appear in their graphs at different ends of their various
    regression lines. …

    As Marx nearly said, change the economic
    arrangements and the rest will follow. But Sweden and Japan
    have the income distributions they have because of the kinds of
    societies they are. They are not cohesive societies because their
    incomes are equally distributed; their incomes are equally
    distributed because they are cohesive societies.”

    http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/images/publications/pdfs/Beware_False_Prophets_Jul_10.pdf

    http://www.petersaunders.org.uk/spirit_level.html

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  18. Bevan (3,923 comments) says:

    Does anyone have the rational regarding the selections of the countries, as far as I can find, they had to be within the top 50 wealthiest, and have populations greater than 3 million.

    So how did they then narrow that down to the 23 they selected?

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  19. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    “You will note that this is a careful and patientresponse to” [insert abusive rant and name calling]

    A lot of iron in your diet I see Robert.

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  20. Danyl Mclauchlan (1,068 comments) says:

    Looking at that second chart again I noticed that they’ve added Slovenia and the Czech Republic but not Poland. Wonder why? Turns out Poland has a high income inequality but low life expectancy – so they’ve cherry-picked nations too. The Spirit Level authors have a justification for the nations they chose to study: I can’t imagine any reason you’d add Slovenia but not Poland unless you were jooking the stats.

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  21. Jibbering Gibbon (198 comments) says:

    We are all equal in death. The sooner we die, the sooner we will be equal. The right and left have the same end.

    and now back to your original programming…

    …I don’t care what they say, I won’t stay in a world without luuuurrrvve…

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  22. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    Communists always like to use Norway as an example of socialist success when the real reason is that it exports around 100 million tonnes of oil a year. Third largest oil exporter in the world. Any political system would work if backed by that amount of money. Even so, there are signs that socialist Norway, even with its oil wealth, is still in reality a pretty messed up society.

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  23. Bevan (3,923 comments) says:

    Looking at that second chart again I noticed that they’ve added Slovenia and the Czech Republic but not Poland. Wonder why? Turns out Poland has a high income inequality but low life expectancy – so they’ve cherry-picked nations too. The Spirit Level authors have a justification for the nations they chose to study: I can’t imagine any reason you’d add Slovenia but not Poland unless you were jooking the stats.

    Do you seriously think that is reason enough to deflect any criticism of “The Spirit Level”?

    Add Poland, while you are there add all top 50 countries!

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  24. Bob R (1,363 comments) says:

    ***Turns out Poland has a high income inequality but low life expectancy ***

    Interestingly, life expectancy in Poland has has risen since Communist rule ended in 1989, ending a long period of declining life expectancy for males during the 1980s.

    http://www.worldbank.org/html/prddr/trans/n&d95/sachs.htm

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  25. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    Bevan, what are your qualifications in sociology or demographics?

    From Wilkinson’s and Pickett’s response to Saunders:

    Saunders accepts that there is a significant association between income inequality and rates of imprisonment internationally. So in this case, he adds in selected poorer countries and argues that the relationship then disappears. He suggests that in US states the relationship is due to the proportion of African Americans in each state.

    In other words, he is a racist. Blame it all on the African-Americans, because they are inferior and pre-disposed to be poor, rather than on the Government’s social policies!

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  26. hq (3 comments) says:

    Leaving Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan off the list is what you’d expect from ultra left-wing, white uni academics!

    They can’t imagine that these countries are developed, especially as Hong Kong is so capitalist oriented with no minimum wage and low taxes — therefore must be ignored.

    Clearly another reason to exclude HK and Taiwan is that the authors are left-wing and don’t want to upset Big China and the ruling Communist Party, by implying that the two are /should be totally distinct, self-governing jurisdictions.

    Danyl M: Hong Kong has rule of law, property rights, low taxes, no GST because it impacts on poor people, small government, free press, trial by jury, independent judiciary, British legal system, 1st world living standards and Jackie Chan. Therefore undeniably should count.

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  27. Bob R (1,363 comments) says:

    ***He suggests that in US states the relationship is due to the proportion of African Americans in each state…

    Blame it all on the African-Americans, because they are inferior and pre-disposed to be poor, rather than on the Government’s social policies!***

    1. Are you a creationist? Why would you expect different populations to have identical distributions of behavioural & cognitive traits? There is no reason to expect that.

    http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2007/01/metric-on-space-of-genomes-and.html

    2. There is plenty of research showing that race is a strong explanatory variable for crime rates.

    “International research has consistently revealed that, along with age and gender, race is one of the strongest correlates of criminal activity (Tonry, 1995; Walker et al., 1996; Hawkins, 1996).”

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb039/is_3_35/ai_n29061362/

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  28. James (1,338 comments) says:

    Turd: In other words, he is a racist. Blame it all on the African-Americans, because they are inferior and pre-disposed to be poor, rather than on the Government’s social policies!

    Thats rich coming from black killing green fascists like you.Your dogma would see the poorest (read blackest) people on Earth stay poor and in misery to somehow ensure Gaia remained pristine and “susssssssssssssstainible” to everyone else.”Green power:Black death”….as Paul Driessen so accurately put it…

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  29. RightNow (6,987 comments) says:

    James, it’s the automatic response from toads. One mustn’t draw on any demographics, however factual they may be, that might reveal the emperor is not wearing any clothes.

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  30. Jeremy Harris (319 comments) says:

    What happens to the graphs if you include all countries..?

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  31. tknorriss (327 comments) says:

    DPF you don’t need to add countries to show this “research” is a complete crock.

    The “trend” is entirely dependent on two outliers (Portugal & US). If those are excluded the “trend” completely disappears. It is common practice to exclude outliers from a data set for this very reason. A trend based on two outliers within a small sample is very dodgy indeed.

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  32. Falafulu Fisi (2,179 comments) says:

    Yes, I agree RRM. The graph is scattered so wide and points are everywhere as to make anything meaningful out of it. The analysis by the The Spirit Level authors are simply cartoons to be taken seriously. Haha, but Labour MPs are taking those cartoons seriously. Hey, Labour party is going to form cartoon policies based on cartoon analysis by Prof/s Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, whom are both comedians (oops sociologists). I am debating this very topic at No Minister blog with some lefties over there.

    Toad said…
    Bevan, what are your qualifications in sociology or demographics

    C’mon Toad, the authors are cartoonists to be considered academics.

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  33. hq (3 comments) says:

    Additional “Western” countries.

    Having a quick squizz through IMF and CIA and Wikipedia these “Western” countries probably be included in any survey, as they have similar GDP on a Purchasing Power Parity basis.

    US$40,000: Hong Kong
    US$30,000: Italy, Taiwan, Spain, Greece
    US$25,000: Slovenia, NZ, Israel, Korea, Czech
    US$20,000: Portugal, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia

    If looking at GDP on an unadjusted basis you would get this.

    US$30,000: Hong Kong, Israel, Spain, Greece
    US$25,000: NZ, Slovenia
    US$20,000: Portugal, Czech
    US$15,000: Korea, Slovakia, Taiwan, Croatia

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  34. reid (16,290 comments) says:

    So I can’t be arsed reading the whole thing, can anyone summarise the thesis in a few short paras?

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  35. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    @Falafulu Fisi 6:52 pm

    The Spirit Level authors are simply cartoons to be taken seriously. Haha, but Labour MPs are taking those cartoons seriously. Hey, Labour party is going to form cartoon policies based on cartoon analysis by Prof/s Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, whom are both comedians (oops sociologists). I am debating this very topic at No Minister blog with some lefties over there.

    I hardly ever bother going to No Minister, because the level of debate is even worse than it is here. If you are going to attack social science (or physical science, like climate science, for that matter) at least attack it academically.

    In any case, Labour use the science when it suits them politically, but ignore it when it doesn’t. So do National. ACT deny it, because it sits uncomfortably with their ideology.

    Only the Greens are consistent in support of the science, although I have to admit we do give some leeway to things like homeopathy, for which there is no scientific basis, because it makes people feel better (imo, probably the placebo effect).

    But at least the Greens don’t deny physical science based threats to ecological sustainability or, in denial of social science principles, blame poverty on a fabricated natural cultural inferiority of those who are poor, as Saunders does.

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  36. francis (712 comments) says:

    Dunno about the science but gag on the very notion of “spirit levels” as indigestible new age rhetoric.

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  37. peterwn (3,246 comments) says:

    I was amused by a coloured map published in the Scientific American several years ago about how free and democratic countries were – but there were 3 grades – OK, marginal and not OK. USA (all 50 states as one), Canada, Australia, NZ, Scandinavia etc were OK. In UK Northern Ireland was shown as marginal along with the likes of Singapore). Surely if Northern Ireland was separately picked out, then a few states in USA would qualify for marginal.

    The biggest joke of course is – if they used a 5 point scale, NZ and most of Scandinavia would be very OK, leaving USA, UK, France, Italy, etc as just OK.

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  38. reid (16,290 comments) says:

    Our analysis suggests that the social gradients which exist in health and many social problems cannot be the result simply of a tendency for social mobility to move the resilient up the social ladder and the vulnerable down.

    OK so based on a skim-read the thesis is that the more unequal is a society the more it will have sick people who are also poor.

    How surprising.

    Poor people are usually less well educated, therefore earn less, therefore on average more often depressed therefore on average more often fall ill. So would I, were I poor.

    My question is, so what?

    Why do lefties immediately leap from this observation that therefore the root cause is inequality? It’s not. It’s attitude.

    The poorest of the poor here have a helluva lot better richer safer more enjoyable and comfortable life here than the poorest of the poor in about 120 other countries I could name. Inequality is relative. Because humans view life from relative: i.e. immediate circumstances and surroundings, the only thing humans compare themselves with on an intense enough level as to let the comparison affect their behaviour, are those people they see each day, year after year. What shoots over lefties heads at high speed, is the drop-dead obvious fact that about 3-4 billion people from those 120 other countries would swap their life for our example, in a heartbeat. That MEANS lefties that it’s not the objective circumstances as they exist, it’s the person who’s living in them’s attitude toward it.

    The answer to poverty lies in changing poor people’s thinking. Period. Anything else, like what you do – feed them on fear and envy – is simply propagating them – farming them like animals so they can vote for you generation after generation. And isn’t that just scumy as well as being a complete abrogation of the humanitarian and justice principals you claim to so rigorously and passionately uphold.

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  39. tknorriss (327 comments) says:

    Toad: “Only the Greens are consistent in support of the science, although I have to admit we do give some leeway to things like homeopathy, for which there is no scientific basis, because it makes people feel better (imo, probably the placebo effect).”

    Toad, since you assert that the Greens (and I assume yourself) are so supportive of science, I would be interested in your comments on my post above. Do you agree that a trend that disappears when two outliers are eliminated is very dodgy indeed?

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  40. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    @francis 7:34 pm

    Yep, I didn’t think the title was all that flash either in that context, although I suspect the authors thought it was a clever pun.

    @reid 7:05 pm

    Sorry, but I think it is important you read the whole refutation by Wilkinson and Pickett of Snowdon’s and Saunder’s responses.

    I could prepare a synopsis, but I know what would happen then – those here who have an ideological aversion to what Wilkinson and Pickett have demonstrated would accuse me of cherry picking evidence.

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  41. Falafulu Fisi (2,179 comments) says:

    Toad said…
    If you are going to attack social science (or physical science, like climate science, for that matter) at least attack it academically.

    Yes, the conference proceedings from the meeting of a number of physicists/econophysicists from around the world on this very topic (a few years back that was held at Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics – India) had been published by Springer. Here you go Toad, if you haven’t got a copy, then try order one from Amazon. The same to Labour MPs, they should get a copy of the following book too.

    Econophysics of Wealth Distributions

    Some of the papers from various authors in this bound book are available for download. I’ll post about them later. I had sent emails to a few econophysicists this afternoon, alerting them to the The Spirit Level book. Perhaps some one will respond to it, via a publication. They have not been aware of it.

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  42. reid (16,290 comments) says:

    “I think it is important you read the whole refutation by Wilkinson and Pickett of Snowdon’s and Saunder’s responses”

    I skim read it, toad. That’s how I deduced what the theory was even though they didn’t cover it.

    Lord Denning when he was a Barrister used to prepare the prosecution’s case before he then prepared his defence. It’s quite a good technique.

    But if I’m way off base happy to stand corrected as always.

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  43. JiveKitty (778 comments) says:

    Correlation does not equal causation or even imply it. How well have they controlled for confounding variables? Why is it linear when there doesn’t appear to be all that much of a trend unless the outliers are included?

    It wouldn’t surprise me if there was some correlation between significant inequality and lower life expectancy, if only because significant inequality could very well mean significant poverty and I believe poverty or even low income does have a correlation with lower life expectancy, but then poverty or income would be the factor to consider rather than inequality. Or have I confused myself with my quick and somewhat lazy glance and response to this?

    Or have my questions been covered by the responses?

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  44. Psycho Milt (2,411 comments) says:

    Correlation does not equal causation or even imply it. How well have they controlled for confounding variables?

    I haven’t read the work so feel free to file this under ‘personal opinion of well-known mouthy git,’ but they’re epidemiologists, so correlation = causation errors wouldn’t come as a huge surprise.

    …Prof/s Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, whom are both comedians (oops sociologists).

    You seem quite happy to proclaim on sociology yourself, despite having no training in it. None of which is relevant in any case, since, as pointed out above, Wilkinson and Pickett are actually epidemiologists.

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  45. BlueDevil (92 comments) says:

    Japan has high life expectancy / low inequality.
    Will this change the high life expectancy?

    Missing centenarians cause angst in aging Japan

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jK7v2YLnsB_Ih0SuHlVgZSpnrL6AD9HI1JDG0

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  46. Brian Smaller (4,015 comments) says:

    I read that everyone was happy in North Korea.

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  47. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    F E Smith, you are a lawyer. I know the law requires allegations to be proven beyond reasonable doubt in criminal cases, or on the balance of probabilities in civil ones cases.

    But science is not the law. It is constantly developing and evolving. Einstein proved Newton wrong. Planck, Bohr and Heisenberg proved Einstein wrong. Science moves on.

    Peer review is the best way of ensuring science is robust from the perspective of the scientific knowledge we as humanity currently have.

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  48. Falafulu Fisi (2,179 comments) says:

    Psycho Milt said…
    You seem quite happy to proclaim on sociology yourself, despite having no training in it.

    Milt, I don’t need to be an expert in sociology at all. If they use data analysis, then bingo, it is my cup of tea and my domain of expertise. I know statistical analysis inside out which makes me very well qualified to comment (I write software statistical algorithms for commercial use – even I have written all the functions available in SPSS and SAS desktop tool). I know when to question methods of data analysis being used in any study and when not. This data analysis by the authors (Prof/s Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett) on sparse data is one of them. WHERE IS THE ERROR BARS ? None whatsoever to be found in The Spirit Level. The data is so noisy (points are scattered everywhere) that drawing a straight line to estimate its trend is meaningless. When the data is sparse/noisy, then always use Error Bars.

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  49. Innocent bystander (163 comments) says:

    I am reading the Spirit Level at the moment. Even if you accept that the countries were cherry picked (and they weren’t, the criteria are explained very clearly in the book), that doesn’t explain why the 50 US states (definately not cherry picked) almost always follow the same trend.

    Main point from the book (which I sort of knew already) is that we should just copy whatever Sweden and Norway do and ignore whatever the UK and the US do, which is hardly rocket science.

    ….and the Netherlands is always right up there too so clearly the answer is to legalise it!

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  50. emmess (1,427 comments) says:

    Use Gapminder data for all available countries over different time periods, if anything the only trend I can make out is positive between higher life expectancy and higher inequality.

    http://www.gapminder.org/world/#$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly=2003;lb=f;il=t;fs=11;al=30;stl=t;st=t;nsl=t;se=t$wst;tts=C$ts;sp=5.59290322580644;ti=1998$zpv;v=0$inc_x;mmid=XCOORDS;iid=pyj6tScZqmEcjeKHnZq6RIg;by=ind$inc_y;mmid=YCOORDS;iid=phAwcNAVuyj2tPLxKvvnNPA;by=ind$inc_s;uniValue=8.21;iid=phAwcNAVuyj0XOoBL_n5tAQ;by=ind$inc_c;uniValue=255;gid=CATID0;by=grp$map_x;scale=lin;dataMin=19;dataMax=74$map_y;scale=lin;dataMin=19;dataMax=86$map_s;sma=49;smi=2.65$cd;bd=0$inds=

    Of course this is really meaningless the best correlation is between income and life expectancy

    http://www.gapminder.org/world/#$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly=2003;lb=f;il=t;fs=11;al=30;stl=t;st=t;nsl=t;se=t$wst;tts=C$ts;sp=5.59290322580644;ti=2003$zpv;v=0$inc_x;mmid=XCOORDS;iid=phAwcNAVuyj1jiMAkmq1iMg;by=ind$inc_y;mmid=YCOORDS;iid=phAwcNAVuyj2tPLxKvvnNPA;by=ind$inc_s;uniValue=8.21;iid=phAwcNAVuyj0XOoBL_n5tAQ;by=ind$inc_c;uniValue=255;gid=CATID0;by=grp$map_x;scale=log;dataMin=282;dataMax=119849$map_y;scale=lin;dataMin=19;dataMax=86$map_s;sma=49;smi=2.65$cd;bd=0$inds=

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  51. reid (16,290 comments) says:

    If you lefties really want an answer to poverty then what do you think of Jeffrey Sach’s work?

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  52. Falafulu Fisi (2,179 comments) says:

    Toad said…
    Planck, Bohr and Heisenberg proved Einstein wrong.

    Would you care to elaborate on what exactly Einstein was proven to be wrong on by Planck, Bohr & Heisenberg? Because I am not aware that Einstein was proven wrong by those 3 physicists you have quoted. Am I missing something? Anyway, don’t try to put the work of Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett as science. Far from it. Their work is not science.

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  53. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    @Falafulu Fisi 10:04 pm

    Einstein theorised that there should be a Unified Field Theory, spent the latter half of his life attempting to prove it mathematically, but could not.

    Einstein was a believer in God, and it is widely accepted that this motivated his search for a Unified Field Theory. His view was that a divine creator would have created a universe with certainty.

    By contrast, Planck, Bohr and Heisenberg developed the theory of Quantum Mechanics, which postulates that the behaviour of sub-atomic particles is governed by probability, rather than the certainty Einstein wanted.

    All the experimental evidence to date proves Einstein wrong in that regard, and Planck, Bohr and Heisenberg correct.

    Not that this will necessarily be the case forever, I might add. As I said above, science evolves – but we should rely only on what we know at the moment.

    Sorry about the lack of links in this post – getting late, doing stuff on other sites, and and couldn’t be bothered – but it’s not all that hard to find it on the net.

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  54. James (1,338 comments) says:

    Except the Netherlands are run like anally retentive police states that ask you for ID on a regular basis and scare away their most dynamic and creative.

    Nokia left…but whos suprised.Thankfully the young are thinking for themselves and the welfare states thyere will die in short order.

    Joy!

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  55. reid (16,290 comments) says:

    toad, Einstein’s Unified Field was a fraction of his work.

    He made mistakes, his cosmological constant he renounced toward the end of his brilliant stellar life and contribution.

    That was his worst, in my view.

    How did we get to relativity from the Spirit Level?

    Talk about Quantum.

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  56. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    Oh, and to add a little, quantum mechanics is the same science that predicts the greenhouse atmospheric warming effect. There’s a challenge for the climate change deniers – prove quantum mechanics is flawed (Einstein couldn’t) and all us Greenies will stop hassling you!

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  57. reid (16,290 comments) says:

    “prove quantum mechanics is flawed (Einstein couldn’t)”

    Newsflash toad: Quantum theory doesn’t negate or obviate relativity.

    If you think so, how so?

    + do you have links for the greenhouse-quantum linkage? Thanks.

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  58. Falafulu Fisi (2,179 comments) says:

    Here we go Toad and many leftists out there. Ignore the mathematical derivations in the following papers, which still make them readable to the members of the general public and non-experts. These are the real deal, ie, these econophysics publications are what you call real peer review. Using complex system theory (which is appropriate) to analyze human social phenomena, which is dynamic and inter-linked (network interaction). Note that the analysis of Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in their book is simply cartoonist (too simplistic and static – it should be dynamic). Ask questions if you don’t follow. There are more econophysics research publications on the subject as I have stated above, which have been mainly published in related physics journals, but the followings are only some of the freely available papers that I can find. Enjoy.

    “Effects of network topology on wealth distributions”
    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0711/0711.4710v2.pdf

    “Statistical mechanics of money”
    http://www.physics.umd.edu/~yakovenk/papers/EPJB-17-723-2000.pdf

    “Colloquium: Statistical mechanics of money, wealth, and income”
    http://www.physics.umd.edu/~yakovenk/papers/RMP-81-1703-2009.pdf

    “Wealth redistribution with conservative exchanges”
    http://www.if.ufrgs.br/~iglesias/Pianegonda.pdf

    “The unfair consequences of equal opportunities: comparing exchange models of wealth distribution”
    http://www.if.ufrgs.br/~iglesias/Iglesias%20Santander%202006.pdf

    “Wealth condensation in a multiplicative random asset exchange model”
    http://www.if.ufrgs.br/~iglesias/Cristian%20on%20Wealth%20condensationl.pdf

    “Inequalities of wealth distribution in a
    conservative economy”
    http://www.if.ufrgs.br/~iglesias/Inequaltities%20Physica%20A%202004.pdf

    “Temporal evolution of the “thermal” and “superthermal” income classes in the USA during 1983-2001″
    http://www.physics.umd.edu/~yakovenk/papers/EPL-69-304-2005.pdf

    “Universal patterns of inequality”
    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0912/0912.4898v4.pdf

    “Wealth Dynamics on Complex Networks”
    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/cond-mat/pdf/0402/0402466v1.pdf

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  59. Falafulu Fisi (2,179 comments) says:

    Hello DPF,

    I have just posted a comment but it says that it is held in moderation. I think I posted too many links (10 of them), which makes your spam filter thinks that my message is a spam. Cheers.

    Toad said…
    Einstein theorised that there should be a Unified Field Theory, spent the latter half of his life attempting to prove it mathematically, but could not.

    That’s exactly what researchers today are doing. They’re continuing the search for the one theory that describes everything. Google up a theoretical physicist on Youtube named Prof. Michio Kaku in which he described in one of his videos about unification in physics, that everyone today is racing to discover the universal laws that Einstein searched for but unsuccessful. Einstein wasn’t proven wrong simply because he didn’t discover unification so, what you said above is completely wrong.

    Toad said…
    Einstein was a believer in God, and it is widely accepted that this motivated his search for a Unified Field Theory. His view was that a divine creator would have created a universe with certainty.

    His belief is irrelevant, physics trumps. The Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky hasn’t been fully resolved to date, so Einstein’s arguments on objective reality that it must be independent of a conscious observer is still unresolved.

    Toad said…
    All the experimental evidence to date proves Einstein wrong in that regard, and Planck, Bohr and Heisenberg correct.

    Sorry, you’re still wrong. He wasn’t proven wrong. He isolated himself from quantum mechanics research because of his disagreement with its non-causality, but there was no definitive test to demonstrate/prove that quantum mechanics does correspond to the true underlying physical reality as Einstein protested that quantum mechanic can’t be (ie, it is incomplete). The Inssbruk modern version of double-delay choice experiment that was conducted in Viena about a decade ago that physicists celebrated as the trump card for quantum mechanic, was an inference only and not really a real observation.

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  60. ephemera (556 comments) says:

    Wouldn’t it make better sense to read The Spirit Level before reading the book which purports to fisk it?

    Otherwise it just makes you seem like you have no interest in reasoned debate, instinctively taking a side for no rational reason at all.

    It’s like me reading all the standards posts about DPF and kiwiblog without ever bothering to venture on this site.

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  61. tknorriss (327 comments) says:

    Toad, still waiting for you to answer my question above. Why do you think the trend completely disappears when several glaring outliers are excluded?

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  62. Falafulu Fisi (2,179 comments) says:

    Toad said…
    “The Spirit Level” has been subject to peer review.

    Peer review? You don’t need to peer review cartoon materials, Toad. As RRM said above, that his/her 6 year old son, could draw a line across either of those two graphs, and it would be about as valid as those trend lines appear to be.

    I can see that you feel orgasmic with great joy about the Spirit Level book. There is nothing to be orgasmic about it Toad, because you know that their analysis cannot stand up to real scrutiny. I know why you feel orgasmic about Spirit Level because it fits in with your preconceived hatred of capitalism. Besides, what is sociology/sociological about their research? None at all. If the authors throw in some dynamical analysis in their work, then I may consider it sociologist, but at this stage, it is not.

    Their work could have been done by statisticians without trying to pass themselves as knowledgeable sociologists. Also their work relied heavily on correlation, and that’s what statisticians are trained to do. Stop trying to glorify statistical analysis in Professors Richard Wilkinson’s and Kate Pickett’s book as some sort of revolutionary sociological discoveries. They are not. Graphs are all cartoons, according to econo-physicist Prof. Jo McCauley in his criticism here (not of the work of Richard Wilkinson’s and Kate Pickett), but generally directed at those in humanity science who don’t use proper models & analytic methods.

    If you want to see what real dynamical system & robust analysis/modelling in sociology looks like, then dig further on Socio-physics. The majority of research publications in this field are still largely being published in Physics related journals (not in sociology ones). In fact if you want some good readings on the subject, then try the following book. Order a copy from Amazon.

    Econophysics and Sociophysics: Trends and Perspectives

    By the way, if you want some freely available peer review papers in socio-physics (in any related topic in sociology), then state back here, so I can point you out to them of where to download them, because there are many of them that have been published in Physica A (A physics statistical mechanics journal).

    Toad said…
    Where’s Snowdon’s peer review of his work? Here is Professors Richard Wilkinson’s and Kate Pickett’s response to Snowdon.

    AFAIK, The Spirit Level was not peer reviewed. When you submitted your book manuscript to a publisher for possible publication, the decision to publish or not are solely at the discretion of the publisher’s editors (or whoever is making the decision). Compare that to peer review, when your work are being forwarded to a panel of independent reviewers in that specific field to comment and then they recommend the publishers if the material is original and worth publishing. The Spirit Level was not published in a peer review journal. It was published as a book. Do you understand peer review at all?

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  63. Psycho Milt (2,411 comments) says:

    Peer review? You don’t need to peer review cartoon materials, Toad. As RRM said above, that his/her 6 year old son, could draw a line across either of those two graphs, and it would be about as valid as those trend lines appear to be.

    You see Toad, the peer reviewers merely read the work in question and reviewed it based on their own considerable expertise in the field. Their analysis can’t really be compared to someone who doesn’t know what an epidemiologist is having looked at a version of one of their graphs on the internet.

    Seriously, it can’t.

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  64. RRM (9,838 comments) says:

    Don’t be like that PM. How laymen feel about complex technological or scientific issues they don’t understand is the most important thing by far. Just ask anyone at TVNZ or 3 News.

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  65. Falafulu Fisi (2,179 comments) says:

    Psycho Milt said…
    Their analysis can’t really be compared to someone who doesn’t know what an epidemiologist is having looked at a version of one of their graphs on the internet.

    What expertise does one need to possess to be an epidemiologist? Seriously Milt, what does one need to learn about this field? My scientific analytical background doesn’t require me to have prior knowledge as an epidemiologist? I can read up on their researches on the fly (i.e., with no prior background) and understand what they’re talking about. I can also see if the method being used is appropriate or not? There are certain fields that have been formalized into a branch of academic research that doesn’t deserve to be in the first place. Hehe, I bet that you regard researches in paranormal as serious too. Yep, Psycho Milt, there is a peer review journal for researches in paranormal.

    I had a conversation with Prof. John Butcher of Auckland University a few years back, and he told me that about 50 years ago when University of Auckland started to consider expanding to establish humanity branches (anthropology, sociology, education, etc,…), there were oppositions from staffs of other academic core branches as engineering, science, medicine, mathematics in such idea, because they viewed those humanity science branches as not serious academic fields, therefore they shouldn’t belong at University. At the end, the University of Auckland went ahead in establishing those departments, which now produced graduates year after year with worthless degrees. Physics Nobel laureate late Richard Feynman labelled such branches of studies as cargo cult science.

    Feynman’s quote:
    ———————
    Yet these things are said to be scientific. We study them. And I think ordinary people with commonsense ideas are intimidated by this pseudoscience. A teacher who has some good idea of how to teach her children to read is forced by the school system to do it some other way—or is even fooled by the school system into thinking that her method is not necessarily a good one. Or a parent of bad boys, after disciplining them in one way or another, feels guilty for the rest of her life because she didn’t do “the right thing,” according to the experts.

    So we really ought to look into theories that don’t work, and science that isn’t science.

    Sorry Psycho Milt, but the kind of research that you’re trying to defend here (Professors Richard Wilkinson’s and Kate Pickett’) is exactly the kind of pseudo-science that Prof. Feynman described in his address at CalTech in the 1970s.

    I can see that you too (like Todd) is being mesmerized (& also feeling orgasmic) by research work of Richard Wilkinson’s and Kate Pickett where the method of data-analysis is simply kindergarten level. I know why! First, your background is in sociology and you want researches from this area to be taken seriously. Second, it fits in well with your socialist wealth redistribution ideologies.

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  66. Gosman (323 comments) says:

    Toad wrote “Only the Greens are consistent in support of the science, although I have to admit we do give some leeway to things like homeopathy, for which there is no scientific basis, because it makes people feel better (imo, probably the placebo effect). ”

    LOL!!!!

    Oh I haven’t laughed so hard in ages Toad.

    Pray tell me how was the Green’s position on the planned regulartorial regime for complementary (sic) medicines in anyway based on science.

    How about the Green’s opposition to GM crops in NZ?

    What is the Green’s party view on organic food and how is this backed up by the weight of scientific evidence.

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  67. Falafulu Fisi (2,179 comments) says:

    Gosman, I think Toad meant to say:

    Only the Greens are consistent in support of the CULT science…

    Yep, homeopathy, psychic healing, astrology, palm reading and so forth are supported by the Greens.

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  68. Camryn (539 comments) says:

    Why compare national income inequality (a measure of spread) to average life expectancy (a measure of the middle) anyway? Why not compare average income to average life expectancy… or even individual incomes to individual ages at death? The correlation will be probably be strong to a point and then there’d be diminishing returns for extra income above what’s needed to buy the best food and medical care etc. Then we can get back to discussing how to get everyone past the point where returns start to diminish. Socialists will want to take money off the rich to give to the poor (perhaps even dragging the life expectancy of the rich down too so it’s “fair”) and the right will keep on trying to increase overall wealth as fast as possible on the theory that even the poor rise on the tide. Everyone will forget that factors such as attitude or outlook-on-life probably do a pretty good job of explaining both income and life expectancy and we’ve been focusing on income as a cause rather than an effect a little too much anyway.

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  69. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    @ Falafulu Fisi 7:18 am

    AFAIK, The Spirit Level was not peer reviewed. When you submitted your book manuscript to a publisher for possible publication, the decision to publish or not are solely at the discretion of the publisher’s editors (or whoever is making the decision). Compare that to peer review, when your work are being forwarded to a panel of independent reviewers in that specific field to comment and then they recommend the publishers if the material is original and worth publishing. The Spirit Level was not published in a peer review journal. It was published as a book. Do you understand peer review at all?

    Of course the book “The Spirit Level” itself hasn’t been peer reviewed – but the research published in it (with a few exceptions, I recall) has.

    And @9:18 – the Greens don’t support any on that list of yours as having any foundation in science whatsoever. You’re making it up.

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  70. Gosman (323 comments) says:

    But you do agree that opposition to GM food crops being grown here, promotion of Organic food, and the position taken on the complementary (sic) medicines regime proposed during the last term don’t have a firm scientific basis do you toad?

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  71. All_on_Red (1,581 comments) says:

    Toad said
    “If you want to challenge per reviewed science, then get your own work peer reviewed and get it published in a reputable scientific journal.”

    Gee I never realised that NIWAs NZ temp record had been Peer Reviewed.
    Citation please.

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  72. Gosman (323 comments) says:

    Toad,

    The problem you have is that you think that if research has passed peer review it is beyond reproach. If you take the time to read Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, (which I suggest all members of the Green party should do given their wacky beliefs on many subjects of science), you should realise there are mountains of badly designed studies published in peer reviewed journals claiming all sorts of things.

    Peer review is only one part of the entire picture around scientific research. You seem to imply it is the most important when most people who understand science know it is only as good as the peer review process itself and there are more important criteria that needs to be taken into account.

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  73. Psycho Milt (2,411 comments) says:

    Hehe, I bet that you regard researches in paranormal as serious too.

    Sure – the reason universities around the world have humanities and social science depts is just that they don’t have access to the colossal scientific expertise and wisdom of people like yourself, to explain to them that these fields are like studying the paranormal.

    I’m no fan of the social sciences myself and consider epidemiology to be a field that seems mainly to work on developing new and improved correlation = causation fallacies. However, I’m not so stupid as to imagine that I can refute evidence presented in peer-reviewed social science research simply by looking at a version of one of their graphs on the internet and claiming superior knowledge. Others apparently are this stupid.

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  74. Gosman (323 comments) says:

    The whole argument many on the left are using around the so called ‘findings’ underlined by ‘The spirit level’ smacks of old school Marxists who used to argue that their political beliefs were ‘scientific’ in basis.

    Sociology is a light science at best. Given the fact that most researchers, (and peer reviewers), are likely to have an in built political bias, the result of any studies should always be taken with an extra degree of skepticism.

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  75. Gosman (323 comments) says:

    I also take issue with Toad’s assertion that Homeopathy is okay because it makes people feel better. Homeopathy and those that push it are not harmless. There was a recent investigation of Homeopaths in the UK where they were pushing homeopathic remedies to ward off malaria for people travelling to malaria zones. This has the potential for causing a huge amount of harm. Toad’s attempts to down play this aspect of complementary (sic) medicine is disingenuous in the extreme.

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  76. eszett (2,401 comments) says:

    Homeopathy and those that push it are not harmless. There was a recent investigation of Homeopaths in the UK where they were pushing homeopathic remedies to ward off malaria for people travelling to malaria zones. This has the potential for causing a huge amount of harm.

    Not to mention the immense transfer of wealth from the gullible to the unscrupulous inventive

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  77. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    @ Gosman 10:05 am

    But you do agree that opposition to GM food crops being grown here, promotion of Organic food, and the position taken on the complementary (sic) medicines regime proposed during the last term don’t have a firm scientific basis do you toad?

    The science is still undecided re several aspects of GM – for example there is conflicting evidence about whether GM corn crops actually produce any higher yield than non-GM. There hasn’t been much research into the risks of GM cross-species transmission, or the impact of GM on biodiversity. The Greens are all for that research being done – but not for wholesale release of GM crops into the environment on a “we hope nothing will go wrong” basis. The Greens also have a healthy suspicion that GM is more about the economic interests of biotech companies, rather than feeding the world’s poor.

    There is plenty of scientific evidence that organic farming has less of a negative environment impact than growing stuff using heaps of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

    The Greens don’t promote “complementary (sic) medicines”. At the same time, we don’t think they should be banned unless their are doubts about their safety. The Fair Trading Act should be capable of adequately dealing with complimentary medicines being promoted as having beneficial effects when there is no scientific evidence to support them having those effects (your malaria example in your later comment).

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  78. Bevan (3,923 comments) says:

    Toad: Bevan, what are your qualifications in sociology or demographics?

    What??? And that should stop someone from forming an opinion on this????? Looks like the author (and you) are trying to hide something – reminds my of global warming. So what are your credentials Toad? What qualifications do you have regarding Sociology and demographics?

    All I asked was what was the criteria used to select the 23 countries they did, and by what justification did they exclude the remainder of the countries out of the top 50 wealthiest? Is that question too hard to answer? Is the answer unpalatable to you?

    This book is being adopted by left wing politicians in NZ, and will be waved about as justification for political decisions that will consume a great deal of tax payer funds to shape this country how they feel it should be – you can be damn sure they will need to convince people like me before they can do that! And if simple questions, like ‘why were certain countries excluded?’ cannot illicit a straight answer, then something tells me the countries were cherry picked to get the result they wanted.

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  79. Psycho Milt (2,411 comments) says:

    Sociology is a light science at best. Given the fact that most researchers, (and peer reviewers), are likely to have an in built political bias, the result of any studies should always be taken with an extra degree of skepticism.

    Absolutely. Social sciences are not physical sciences, and an agenda should always be assumed when reading studies. No-one who’s studied at university level would be unaware of this. That doesn’t invalidate the social sciences, it just requires caution when dealing with social scientists’ theories – the fact that an author has an agenda doesn’t preclude them being correct.

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  80. slijmbal (1,230 comments) says:

    On Toad’s comments regarding science and Einstein please ignore – they are so fundamentally at odds with basic Physics history it’s entertaining.

    I have a Physics degree (admittedly some time ago) with specialisms in Theoretical and Atomic, including General Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. Einstein wasn’t proved wrong, he desired to create a theory that would unify relativity, quantum, gravity etc. He failed to find that. They’re still looking and have had limited success. This would not prove Quantum Mechanics wrong rather Quantum Mechanics would be ‘included’ in such a theory exactly like the manner in which his General Theory of Relativity unified the various electromagnetic theories extant at the time. Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity did not prove these other theories wrong it was a more complete theory.

    On the Spirit Level I need to purchase this but reading the various critiques and ripostes (and with a background in analysis and statistics) it is self evident that there must huge concerns around their use and interpretation of data – the classic being the various scatter diagrams that show minimal correlation and trends on small data sets. This is a major rookie mistake in analysis to take conclusions from such poor evidence and really appears to show the authors’ determination to prove their beliefs than a serious analysis.

    That aside sounds like I have a book for the Christmas list as always best to get it from the horse’s mouth. Sadly, if it is the pseudo scientific ideological work that I suspect it is most people are incapable of discerning this and it will be used as ‘proof’ in decades to come.

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  81. Gosman (323 comments) says:

    I’m not surprised that a Greenie has failed to grasp the fundamentals of science. They are big on promoting it when it serves their ends but as soon as Science is at odds with some of their wackier supporters views they start mouthing off about how Science can’t explain everything.

    Admittedly pretty much all parties do this however they just don’t do it with the same sort of smug self-inflated sense of their own intellectual superiority.

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  82. Gosman (323 comments) says:

    I especially love this passage from Toad

    “The Fair Trading Act should be capable of adequately dealing with complimentary medicines being promoted as having beneficial effects when there is no scientific evidence to support them having those effects (your malaria example in your later comment).”

    So let me get this straight, you think people promoting dangerous health practices such as relying on Homeopathic remedies to prevent serious infection from Malaria should only be covered under the Fair Trading Act?

    So if some complimentary (sic) medicine practitioner started promoting his or her view that they could prevent infection from HIV via the use of some dubious product the Green’s position is that this should fall under the Fair Trading Act?

    Wake me up when the Greens join the real world again please.

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  83. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    Gosman, I said it “should” be capable of adequately dealing with it. It isn’t. The maximum penalty under the FTA is a $200,000 fine. There is no provision for imprisonment.

    The maximum fine should be increased, and $200K is bugger all for a big corporate, and there should be provisions for imprisoning Directors and Executives complicit in worst offenses in that regard.

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  84. chiz (1,135 comments) says:

    Toad:The science is still undecided re several aspects of GM – for example there is conflicting evidence about whether GM corn crops actually produce any higher yield than non-GM. There hasn’t been much research into the risks of GM cross-species transmission, or the impact of GM on biodiversity. The Greens are all for that research being done – but not for wholesale release of GM crops into the environment on a “we hope nothing will go wrong” basis.

    I’m not sure what relevance yield has here. You appear to be suggesting that whether or not a GM crop should be permitted has to be based in part on its yield rather than letting the market decide. As to the other questions the green keep proposing unrealistic restrictions and demanding a level of proof that isn’t required of other crops. The green movements opposition to GM crops is based on pseudoscience and ideology rather than science.

    The Greens also have a healthy suspicion that GM is more about the economic interests of biotech companies, rather than feeding the world’s poor.

    The greens have a healthy suspicion that GM crops are unnatural in the same way that some people regard same-sex behaviour or interracial marriage as wrong. I’m reminded of one opponent who stated that genetic modification was EVIL.

    There is plenty of scientific evidence that organic farming has less of a negative environment impact than growing stuff using heaps of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

    Evidence is mixed. We know beyond doubt that organic farming is sometimes bad for the environment and the evidence is sufficiently good that the EU once tried to ban the use of copper sulphate for this reason. Strangely the organic food movement protested about thid. Apparently their profits were more important than the environment.

    We also know that there is no nutritional benefit to organic food.

    The Greens don’t promote “complementary (sic) medicines”. At the same time, we don’t think they should be banned unless their are doubts about their safety.

    The greens tolerate medical quackery. Apparently you think its OK for consumers to be ripped off by quackery as long as its safe. The greens also support scares on aspartame, electromagnetic radiation, etc. Your former co-leader also wanted taxpayers to pay for research on possum-peppering.

    The greens are not a pro-science party.

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  85. Gosman (323 comments) says:

    I think you have been well and truly owned there Toad.

    Next time you try and claim that the Greens respect Science we will all look back fondly on this thread and laugh.

    LOL!

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  86. willtruth (243 comments) says:

    I initially thought this post had some merit. But then Danyl blew DPF’s argument out of the water. Why does the second graph add Slovenia and the Czech Republic but not Poland? Come on guys … why? Maybe there’s a reason but its not forthcoming so far, forcing me to conclude that it is probably blatant cherry picking because Poland doesn’t fit your world view. It will be very interesting to see if DPF or anyone ever responds to this point.

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  87. Gosman (323 comments) says:

    @ willtruth.

    I think you miss the point here.

    The original authors of ‘The Spirit Level’ have been accused of that very thing you are now accusing DPF of doing, i.e. cheery picking data to suit their preconceived ideas. Not only are they leaving off countries but they are also using specific dates, like da ta from 2004, which impacts on any outcome. Not only that but the critics point out that they are failing to take into account certain factors over the period in questions, such as a change in diagnosis of mental illness, when coming to their conclusion. In short they have cooked the books as much as you claim DPF has done here.

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  88. willtruth (243 comments) says:

    Gosman. I realise that the authors of “the Spirit Level” have been ACCUSED of cherry picking data. The difference is that there is a response to that accusation.

    I have seen reasons advanced as to why they chose the countries that they did choose (stable democracies, income levels etc). They had a methodology and some criteria, and their criteria even led them to include countries (Singapore) that run counter to the spirit level thesis. Maybe they ARE cooking the books, but if so, they are being very subtle and have fooled peer reviewers.

    Meanwhile it seems the fiskers are being totally dishonest and blatant. They appear to be complete hypocrits to accuse others of cherry picking. I have seen no reasons advanced as to why the Spirit Level fiskers added Slovenia and the Czech Republic but not Poland. It seems they only added countries that supported their ideology. Unless anyone (Gossman, DPF) can tell me why they added Slovenia and the Czech Republic but not Poland (he asked in vain).

    Perhaps we will have to agree to disagree on the issue of whether the spirit level authors are cherry pickers. But can I take it we are now agreed that the spirit level fiskers are hypocritical cherry pickers?

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  89. willtruth (243 comments) says:

    I’ll take that silence as agreement.

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