Cause, Effect, and Cannabis.

Sep 10 2008 Published by under Accidental, Medicine, Science

You have to give Uncommon Descent poster DaveScot credit. He's not one of life's overly specialized intellects. He's a good, old fashioned generalist, able to talk about absolutely any area of science with exactly the same degree of spectacular incompetence. Today, he's turned his attention to the intersection of mental health and substance abuse.

DaveScot's uninformed ire was sparked, in this particular case, by a news report discussing a paper that recently appeared in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. According to the report, the researchers found a strong association between cannabis use and an earlier age for the onset of psychosis:

The results showed a significant gradual reduction in the age at which psychosis began that correlated with an increased dependence on cannabis. Compared with nonusers, age at onset was reduced by 7, 8.5, and 12 years among users, abusers and dependents, respectively, the researchers report.

In further analysis, the effect of cannabis on age at onset "was not explained by the use of other drugs or by gender," they also note. The finding was similar in the youngest patients, suggesting that this effect was not due to chance.

These results "point to cannabis as a dangerous drug in young people at risk of developing psychosis," Gonzalez-Pinto and colleagues conclude.

DaveScot, in his infinite wisdom, read this news report and immediately concluded that the research article is, "a wonderful demonstration of how crap science that supports something politically correct is used and abused all the time". I'm really not sure why Dave thinks that it's "politically correct" to believe that marijuana is potentially a dangerous drug, but that particular question is best left for another occasion. Instead, let's see why he thinks that this is "crap science":

Immediately obvious to me is the possibility that voluntary marijuana use is a symptom of an underlying problem that has nothing to do with marijuana use. People often resort to recreational drug use to escape and/or ameliorate some underlying problem. Alcohol abuse is a classic case of being symptomatic of some other problem. These researchers had no control group to rule out the very likely possibility that people who tend toward psychosis are unconsciously or consciously attempting to self-medicate. The medication isn't the cause, in other words, its a symptom. . . .

But no, the researchers in fact did nothing at all to discriminate between cause and symptom and it's obvious in seconds to even a casual observer such as myself that the study and its conclusions are flawed. Where was the peer review that should have prevented this junk science from reaching the pages of the Journal of Clinical Psychology without correction of obvious flaws?

If you actually take the time to read the research article itself, and not just the Reuters piece, you'll find that the authors of the paper wrote the following:

One explanation for this possible link is that the illness is precipitated by substance use, although it remains uncertain whether this effect is limited to people with a predisposition to psychosis. Another possible explanation is that the early onset of symptoms is a risk factor for substance use. The experience of symptoms could make patients vulnerable to substance use, perhaps in an attempt to cope with the illness or to self-medicate.

Would anyone like to guess how much of the actual paper DaveScot would have had to read to learn that the researchers were in fact aware of the possibility of self-medication as an explanation for the relationship? The answer is right below the fold

If you guessed either "one paragraph" or "seven sentences", congratulations. You're a winner.

Seriously, it's no surprise that the researchers were clever enough to spot the possibility that people might be self-medicating. It is, as Dave's post clearly demonstrates, a possibility that's instantly obvious to anyone with more than two functioning brain cells. The researchers were aware of the possibility, and they explicitly acknowledge that it can be difficult to demonstrate a cause and effect relationship with their methods. In this particular case, they feel that they have at least demonstrated that it's unlikely that the marijuana use is an effect of the psychosis because they were able to show that there is a clear inverse relationship between the age of onset for psychosis and the amount of pot consumed.

Of course, DaveScot has his own suggestion for the right way to figure out if marijuana is the cause or the effect:

What you need to discriminate between cause and symptom is take a randomly selected group of people who aren't marijuana users and administer marijuana to half the group and monitor all of them for onset of clinical psychosis. If marijuana is a cause then the marijuana user group will have a higher percentage of psychotics or if the same rate then earlier onset. If there is no difference in percentage or age of onset then marijuana use is simply symptomatic. If they'd done that they might even find that the non-user group has the worse problem with subsequent psychosis and the self-medication is actually effective to some degree.

I will say one thing for that suggestion: it's efficient. Dave managed to produce a suggestion that's illegal, unethical, and logistically impossible, and he did it all in a single sentence. He then followed up on that by completely failing to recognize any of the many similarities between his suggested prospective study and the retrospective analysis he was criticizing.

The researchers were not able to start from scratch and administer illegal drugs to enormous numbers of people in an attempt to inflict mental illnesses on human beings. Instead, they examined a population of patients with clinically diagnosed psychosis. Like all scientists, they did the best that they could with the data that they could get.

73 responses so far

  • pough says:

    DaveScot is someone who - much like Our Sweet Lord Monckton - if he didn't exist we would have to create him. There would be far less funny in this world without him.
    Nice post.

  • Badger3k says:

    I shudder to think what would happen to anyone who happened to be under DaveScotts authority. If he thinks this way, I can only speculate on the abuses of power he could act out. I'm sure DS would prefer to use Undesirables as his torture...er, test, I meant test...subjects, but, if not for that pesky humanity that people share, it's such a good idea.
    What a tool.

  • tincture says:

    The researchers were not able to start from scratch and administer illegal drugs to enormous numbers of people in an attempt to inflict mental illnesses on human beings.

    Wait, you're saying that's a bad thing to do? Now I have to redo my final!

  • The peeps over at After the Bar Closes check in with Uncommon Descent every day to watch DaveScot act stupid, or Dembski act stupid, or Denyse act stupid, or Granville Sewell act stupid, or...you get the idea. To people with science educations, UD produces a lot of unintentional hilarity. Watching those laymen try to play scientist is really amusing.

  • tsc says:

    Having not read the article, how is this significantly different from the autism "epidemic"? The combined effect of old taboos of mental illness falling to the wayside and increased knowledge of general mental health issues would result in people being properly diagnosed earlier than before. However, I have not read the article. I think my local library has access to journal databases so I'll try to,

  • Also note that careful scientist DaveScot called the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

  • tsc says:

    Also note I so smart me didn't RTFA, but hopefully just because an ID dunderhead brought up one non-issue with the article someone will take my question seriously.

  • Pineyman says:

    Ooh..ooh...ooh....
    I LOVE reading DaveScot stuff. Especially when a real scientist/expert joins the comments, explains what he misrepresents and he gets pissed and bans them with some smartass remark. Then all his UD fellows chime in with "Yea verily, Sir Dave" and then they tear down the expert who mistakenly thought thought these people were actually open-minded....

  • Pineyman says:

    Ooh...ooh...ooh...
    The whole crew is there in the comments - Larry Farfarman, Billy Wallace, etc. I think they're all locked in a blue smoke-filled room conducting Dave's experiment. Sheldonr sent a link to his admittedly non-peer reviewed paper on life in outer space which they are all congratulating him for!
    Check it out!

  • DaveScot says:

    Access to the actual study in question requires a subscription to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
    How many people have access to that versus how many people have access to the review of it put out on the press wires by Reuters and linked to on the Drudge Report.
    I wrote about the findings that were given out to the general public. If the research itself substantially differs in its conclusions from that given in the review of it published in New Scientist that only serves to reinforce my point that what is spoon-fed to the public is driven by political considerations. The conclusion in the New Scientist article was NOT supported by the study, evidently the authors realized it wasn't and stated as much in the fine print.
    I just examined the abstract in the journal article and that had no caveats mentioned. What I immediately saw as a flaw in the methodology was only acknowledged by the authors buried in the portion of the paper inaccessable to the general public.
    So there. Sit on it and spin.

  • Mike Dunford says:

    I wrote about the findings that were given out to the general public.

    No, Dave. You did not write about "the findings that were given out to the general public". You wrote about the entire article and the peer review process that lead up to its publication, based only on what you knew from the press release. This makes something like, what, the 7,382nd time you've been burned by assuming that everything's in the press release?

    The conclusion in the New Scientist article was NOT supported by the study, evidently the authors realized it wasn't and stated as much in the fine print.

    No, Dave. The conclusion was supported by the study. The authors said that it was difficult to demonstrate cause and effect using a retrospective approach. And it is. They were able to show, however, that their findings are much more consistent with the cause hypothesis than with the effect hypothesis.
    They based this on:
    1: Their finding that increased pot use corresponded with a decreased age of onset.
    2: Their finding that both the overall relationship and the dose dependent relationship were still observed even if the analysis was restricted to patients under 30 years old.
    3: Their finding that the age-pot relationship was unchanged even when multiple drugs were consumed.
    There are other factors, but that should be enough to make the point.

  • Chris Noble says:

    I think you are underestimating DaveScot's arrogance.
    It's not just that he feels qualified to judge a paper without reading it, he also judges the whole field without bothering to do a minimal review of the literature.
    If he did he would find that this is far from the first time that researchers have tried to establish the causal connection between marijuana and psychosis and that all these ideas such as self medicating are hardly new.

  • Pierce R. Butler says:

    Not to defend the indefensible, but doesn't this say at least as much about pop-sci journalism as it does about DS?

  • charles johnson says:

    What it says is, DaveScot is a humongous douchenozzle.

  • simmi says:

    Mike, I think you're spot-on. Remember, Dave-"if it's in the abstract, it's good enough for me"-Scot achieved his auto-didact polymath status by reading Scientific American as primary literature.
    I think one of the first things I learned in gradschool was to take secondary sources with a hefty deal of skepticism and always check the primary lit (and don't trust them too much either). But not even reading the paper? Inexcusable.

  • Dave Wisker says:

    "Not to defend the indefensible, but doesn't this say at least as much about pop-sci journalism as it does about DS?"
    Well, considering how DS's UD colleague, Denyse O'Leary, is considered a "top-flight' science journalist, and an "expert" on evolutionary theory, it's no surprise DS thinks science-by-press-release is a legitimate activity.
    http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2008/09/denyse-oleary-is-top-flight-science.html

  • Maya says:

    Davey (a.k.a. DaveScot, Scooter) is an intellectual coward. I'm very surprised to see him anywhere that he doesn't have the ability to censor people who disagree with him (that is, anyone with a modicum of intelligence or education).
    While you're here, Davey, let me repeat my challenge to debate you on talk.origins. The original post is here: Challenge To The Censors of Uncommon Descent
    I predict that you'll continue to show your complete lack of honesty, integrity, and guts by failing to show.

  • slpage says:

    David Springer is a true bully/coward.
    He won't be back.
    He occasionally pops up on a blog here and there, spewing some bombast, but he never sticks around, for he knows that he does not wield censorship power outside of his domain of sycophants and drooling lunies.
    And when he does not censor, he does not win.
    He's a punk, and I think he knows it. But staying in his little realm with his little buddies whom he browbeats like a true bully does, he's the King.
    Anywhere else, he's just a Queen.

  • Well done Mike.
    A richly-deserved slapdown to DaveScot.
    (Ouch)
    He didn't like it.
    🙂
    Will he learn anything from it?
    Nope.

  • Maya says:

    slpage writes:
    Anywhere else, he's just a Queen.
    I believe the term you were looking for is "bitch".

  • DaveScot was wrong for assuming that the paper was not properly peer-reviewed just because the New Scientist report on the paper did not mention that the results could be biased because the marijuana users might have been self-medicating for symptoms of psychosis and/or might have had an above-average predisposition to developing psychosis. But IMO it turned out that the paper was not properly peer-reviewed because the abstract did not mention those possible biases (peer-reviewers should have reviewed the abstract as well as the body of the paper) -- in fact, the paper's authors were amiss for not mentioning those possible biases in the abstract. Also, the New Scientist report should have noted the possible biases. So DaveScot was right but for the wrong reasons (the hole in the donut), but that does not detract from the fact that he pointed out a serious omission (the donut) --
    As you go through life, my friend,
    whatever may be your goal,
    keep your eye upon the donut,
    and not upon the hole.
    By insisting on keeping your eyes upon the hole in the donut, you folks are just practicing one-upmanship.
    Mike Dunford said (September 11, 2008 6:27 PM) --

    The conclusion was supported by the study. The authors said that it was difficult to demonstrate cause and effect using a retrospective approach. And it is. They were able to show, however, that their findings are much more consistent with the cause hypothesis than with the effect hypothesis.
    They based this on:
    1: Their finding that increased pot use corresponded with a decreased age of onset.
    2: Their finding that both the overall relationship and the dose dependent relationship were still observed even if the analysis was restricted to patients under 30 years old.
    3: Their finding that the age-pot relationship was unchanged even when multiple drugs were consumed.

    I disagree -- none of the above three factors tends to indicate that the biasing factors I mentioned above -- i.e., predisposition to developing psychosis and self-medication for symptoms of psychosis -- were not important factors.

  • Maya says:

    Larry Fafarman writes:

    But IMO it turned out that the paper was not properly peer-reviewed because the abstract did not mention those possible biases (peer-reviewers should have reviewed the abstract as well as the body of the paper) -- in fact, the paper's authors were amiss for not mentioning those possible biases in the abstract.

    You don't read many peer reviewed papers, do you?

  • You don't read many peer reviewed papers, do you?

    You don't participate in many blog discussions, do you? If you did, you would know that the proper way to answer a comment is to address a point that the comment is trying to make, not make an ad hominem attack.
    Idiot. You wasted a lot of comment space here for nothing.
    "I'm always kicking their butts -- that's why they don't like me."
    -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

  • Chris Noble says:

    Not to defend the indefensible, but doesn't this say at least as much about pop-sci journalism as it does about DS

    The reuters article gave the source for the research. Anyone can go to their local university library and read the article.
    The articles that annoy me are the ones that do not give the source. Typically I google the scientists that are mentioned in the article so that I can find the primary literature - and read it.

  • Winston Macchi says:

    Larry,
    Generally the abstract is not the proper to place all the caveats that may be a part of ones study. The abstract is the place where you try to lay out the overall sense of why you decided to do a study and what you overarching conclusion may be. The discussion gives a lot more room for, well, discussing the issues with your study, what it may imply in terms of the field, where there are possible areas for improvement, that type of thing, as the abstracts are usually cut off at some where between 100 and 200 words.

  • Mike Dunford says:

    Larry:
    1. What have I told you about scolding other people for "wasting time" on my blog?
    2. What Winston said. The purpose of an abstract is to provide enough of an overview for the informed reader to easily decide whether or not to keep reading. It's not intended to be a substitute for actually reading the whole thing.
    3. I never said that the results argued against the predisposition hypothesis. For that matter, the authors never argued against that (a fact that you would be aware of if you were to read beyond the abstract). In the final paragraph of the paper, they very explicitly limit themselves to claiming that they've shown cannabis to be a dangerous drug for young people at risk of developing psychosis.
    4. The findings reported in the paper very clearly argue against the self-medication hypothesis. If the cannabis was being used for that purpose, you would certainly not expect to find a relationship between the amount consumed and the age at first onset - particularly when the analysis is restricted to patients under 30. (You might expect to see a relationship between dose and perceived severity of symptoms, but not with age.)
    If, however, this expectation is incorrect, and younger patients are much more likely to self-medicate heavily than older patients, you would expect to also see a relationship between the number of different drugs consumed and age.
    The authors found both a dose dependent relationship with age, and a lack of correspondence between age of onset and number of different drugs consumed. That combination of findings does not conclusively disprove the self-medication hypothesis, but it's very, very hard to explain under that particular hypothesis. Basically, there would have to be some sort of instinctive craving for pot, and only for pot, and which is strongest in the youngest self-medicating psychotics, but which gets weaker and weaker the longer they last before developing the first symptoms of psychosis. That certainly is not out of the realm of the possible, but it doesn't strike me as being all that likely.

  • simmi says:

    Wow, with the quotes and little poems interspersed between the utter and complete inanity, insanity, and stubborn refusal to acknowledge reality, LF looks to be metamorphosing into a new JAD. Love it so, Larry?

  • Maya says:

    You don't read many peer reviewed papers, do you?

    You don't participate in many blog discussions, do you?

    The number of blog discussions in which I participate is far greater than the number of peer reviewed scientific papers you read, based on your ridiculous comment that the abstract should contain as much detail as the paper.

    If you did, you would know that the proper way to answer a comment is to address a point that the comment is trying to make

    I addressed your lack of a point quite succinctly. You clearly don't know what you're talking about.

    , not make an ad hominem attack.

    So in addition to not being familiar with the structure of scientific papers, you also don't know what ad hominem means.

    Idiot. You wasted a lot of comment space here for nothing.

    Finishing up with some typical ID creationist projection. It's a hat trick!

  • Mike Dunford said (#26) --

    1. What have I told you about scolding other people for "wasting time" on my blog?

    Nothing. If you don't mind it when trolls clutter up your blog with garbage, that's your privilege. But these trolls also waste my time. And I am particularly sensitive to trolls because unlike you I have a general no-censorship policy on my blog and this policy prevents me from deleting a lot of garbage from trolls.

    2. What Winston said. The purpose of an abstract is to provide enough of an overview for the informed reader to easily decide whether or not to keep reading. It's not intended to be a substitute for actually reading the whole thing.

    Stating potential biasing factors in the abstract would not have taken much space, e.g., the following statement contains only 23 words: "Potential biasing factors are: marijuana users may (1) be self-medicating for symptoms of psychosis or (2) have an above-average predisposition to early onset of psychosis." These biasing factors have the potential to invalidate the conclusions of the study -- the early onset of psychosis could be entirely attributable to these biasing factors. These biasing factors were so important that they should have been mentioned in the abstract and the New Scientist report.

    4. The findings reported in the paper very clearly argue against the self-medication hypothesis. If the cannabis was being used for that purpose, you would certainly not expect to find a relationship between the amount consumed and the age at first onset - particularly when the analysis is restricted to patients under 30.

    If light users showed as much tendency towards early onset of psychosis as heavy users, that would tend to show that marijuana use is not a factor in tendency towards early onset of psychosis. However, I don't feel that a strong correlation between frequency of use and age of onset necessarily shows that marijuana use is a cause of early onset, because the heaviest users could have the strongest predisposition towards early onset.

    If, however, this expectation is incorrect, and younger patients are much more likely to self-medicate heavily than older patients, you would expect to also see a relationship between the number of different drugs consumed and age.

    I don't see what the number of different drugs has to do with it. The availability of other drugs could be a factor in the usage of other drugs.
    Anyway, it was not my main intention here to argue one way or the other about the self-medication or predisposition factors. I was mainly just pointing out that you folks continued to dump on DaveScot even after it became clear that he was right for the wrong reasons. He was wrong in jumping to the conclusions that the New Scientist magazine's failure to mention those potential biasing factors showed that (1) the paper did not mention those factors and (2) the paper was not properly peer-reviewed, but he was right about pointing out that New Scientist magazine's failure to mention those factors (and later pointing out the abstract's failure to mention those factors) was a serious omission. Even if those factors are not operating, they still need to be considered and discussed. You folks are more interested in one-upmanship than in discussing the real issues.
    Chris Noble said (#24) --

    The reuters article gave the source for the research. Anyone can go to their local university library and read the article.

    This paper is a pay-per-view, but may be available for free in a library. Anyway, availability of the paper is no excuse for the New Scientist magazine's failure to mention important potential biasing factors -- those who don't bother to read the paper could be misinformed.
    Winston Macchi said (#25) --

    Generally the abstract is not the proper to place all the caveats that may be a part of ones study.

    But as I pointed out above, a brief statement of the caveats would not have taken up much space.
    Responses to Maya and simmi --
    As the saying goes, don't feed the trolls.

  • Maya says:

    Larry Fafarman writes:

    But as I pointed out above, a brief statement of the caveats would not have taken up much space.

    Please cite three peer reviewed papers that you've read in the past six months that include such detail in the abstracts. I predict that you cannot, because your claims demonstrate that you don't know what you're talking about.
    You also demonstrate that you don't know the definition of "troll" either.

  • Tom Ames says:

    Larry and Dave,
    The abstract of a paper serves a particular role. It is there to give the reader an idea about whether or not it will be useful to invest time reading the paper. Typically many salient details are omitted from the abstract.
    And it can't be otherwise: scientific papers are written to be almost telegraphic--they are meant to be as close to a distillation of the experiment (and its significance in the field) as possible. The PAPER is the summary of the work.
    If you want to understand the work, you read THE PAPER. Just as you don't critique a movie based on a review, you don't read the abstract and then criticize the authors' work.
    (Or, rather, you don't do that if you have any shred of intellectual honesty in your character.)
    I empathize with your need to have a "for dummies" section in every scientific paper. But the researchers have more important things to do than pre-chew their conclusions for the benefit of the lazy.

  • Chris Noble says:

    This paper is a pay-per-view, but may be available for free in a library. Anyway, availability of the paper is no excuse for the New Scientist magazine's failure to mention important potential biasing factors -- those who don't bother to read the paper could be misinformed.

    It is not the role of the popular press to prevent any possible misunderstanding of research by people such as DaveScot. It is simply not possible to imagine the complete range of stupid ideas that stupid people can come up with.
    Seriously, If I read if I read a popular science article and something doesn't sound right then the first thing I do is go and read the primary literature. It may even be necessary to do a literature review to get an idea of the current state of research in the area. Even scientific articles do not go through every possible detail because they write for an audience that is mostly familiar with the literature.
    The last thing I would do is launch an attack upon the authors and the journal without having even read the scientific article.
    It is truly ironic that you complain about ad hominem attacks (you don't seem to understand the term) when the general message from DaveScot and other cranks is that the vast majority of scientists are stupid.

  • Maya:

    Please cite three peer reviewed papers that you've read in the past six months that include such detail in the abstracts.

    I am fed up with you Darwinists giving me "homework assignments."
    Here is a homework assignment for you -- find three other peer-reviewed papers that you've read in the past six months that omit such detail in the abstracts.

    You also demonstrate that you don't know the definition of "troll" either.

    You are a perfect example of a "troll."
    Tom Ames said,

    The abstract of a paper serves a particular role. It is there to give the reader an idea about whether or not it will be useful to invest time reading the paper. Typically many salient details are omitted from the abstract.

    Chris Noble said,

    It is not the role of the popular press to prevent any possible misunderstanding of research by people such as DaveScot.

    What we have here is just a difference of opinion. DaveScot and I believe that caveats in research results are important enough that they should always be mentioned in abstracts and news reports. You disagree, but that does not make DaveScot and me wrong.

  • Mike Dunford says:

    If you don't mind it when trolls clutter up your blog with garbage, that's your privilege. But these trolls also waste my time.

    That is quite possibly the single funniest thing you've ever said.

    "Potential biasing factors are: marijuana users may (1) be self-medicating for symptoms of psychosis or (2) have an above-average predisposition...

    Those aren't "biasing" factors. I'd ask you not to use words until you figure out what they actually mean, but I've long since given that up for a lost cause.

    I don't feel that a strong correlation between frequency of use and age of onset necessarily shows that marijuana use is a cause of early onset, because the heaviest users could have the strongest predisposition towards early onset.

    I said that the correlation does not prove that the marijuana use is the cause. So did the authors of the paper. What I did say was that it strongly suggests that pot is a causal factor. And it does. You can raise hypothetical possible explanations, but there's no particular reason (other than your desire to explain away the results) to expect any of those things to be the case.

    I don't see what the number of different drugs has to do with it. The availability of other drugs could be a factor in the usage of other drugs.

    What the researchers showed was that (for example) a 25 year old patient who drinks heavily and occasionally consumes both pot and ecstasy is no more likely to become psychotic than a 25 year old who occasionally consumes only pot, and that both are much less likely to become psychotic than a 25 year old who is going through several joints a day. Meanwhile, the dude who drinks, uses ecstasy, and snorts coke is at less risk than all of them. That's not the pattern you'd expect to see if you're looking at a self-medication issue.
    One of the other drugs they looked at was ethanol, so availability probably wasn't the big factor.

    find three other peer-reviewed papers that you've read in the past six months that omit such detail in the abstracts.

    Without looking, I'm going to predict that this assignment can be met by going to the PLoS website and looking at the three most recent articles in any of their journals. I'd certainly be shocked if you had to look at more than four.

    What we have here is just a difference of opinion. DaveScot and I believe that caveats in research results are important enough that they should always be mentioned in abstracts and news reports. You disagree, but that does not make DaveScot and me wrong.

    In this particular case, you are wrong.
    Abstracts are quite simply not intended to contain all of the information you find in the paper. A good research paper abstract states the reason that the subject is of interest, provides an extremely simple overview of the type of experiments and analysis conducted, reports the most important results, and briefly states the main conclusions. It does all of this as clearly and concisely as possible, and includes nothing else.
    If you read the Guidelines for the journal the article in question appeared in, you will find that the guidelines for the abstract do not include a section for "biases" or "limitations" or "things that bother uninformed internet critics". You will also find that it is suggested that authors include such things in the discussion section of the paper - which is exactly where the authors of this paper discussed those things.

  • Chris Noble says:

    What we have here is just a difference of opinion. DaveScot and I believe that caveats in research results are important enough that they should always be mentioned in abstracts and news reports. You disagree, but that does not make DaveScot and me wrong.

    You are simply wrong. The abstract and even the popular science article did a reasonable job of summarising the findings. If you want to know more then you were given the source for the scientific article.
    You are just continuing to dig the hole that DaveScot has already started for himself.
    In a fit of self-delusion he attacked the authors of a scientific paper without even reading it.
    The more you try to defend him the more stupid you look.

  • Mike Dunford said,

    If you don't mind it when trolls clutter up your blog with garbage, that's your privilege. But these trolls also waste my time.
    That is quite possibly the single funniest thing you've ever said.

    The reason why you think that is that you have a warped sense of humor.

    Those aren't "biasing" factors. I'd ask you not to use words until you figure out what they actually mean, but I've long since given that up for a lost cause.

    And I've long since given up expecting you to suggest another term when you don't like a term that I use.
    I called them "potential biasing factors" -- not "biasing factors." Here are some definitions of "bias": To influence in a particular, typically unfair direction; prejudice. A statistical sampling or testing error caused by systematically favoring some outcomes over others. Wikipedia: bias (statistics) -- A "biased sample" is one in which some members of the population are more likely to be included than others.
    How about "potential sources of error" instead of "potential biasing factors"? Is that OK with you?

    . . . both are much less likely to become psychotic than a 25 year old who is going through several joints a day.

    The heaviest users of marijuana may have the strongest predispositions toward early onset of psychosis. Anyway, as I said, debating the self-medication and predisposition issues is not my primary purpose here.

    Without looking, I'm going to predict that this assignment can be met by going to the PLoS website and looking at the three most recent articles in any of their journals.

    Finding papers where there are important potential biasing fac -- oops, I mean, important potential sources of error -- is a chance thing, and there is no guarantee that such papers that are found will not mention those sources of error in the abstract.
    You folks are engaging in the fallacy of trying to prove something by means of examples. One of my mathematics teachers said that nothing can be proven by examples because we can never run out of examples.
    And even if all the examples agree with you here, it can be argued that the examples are mistaken.

    A good research paper abstract states the reason that the subject is of interest, provides an extremely simple overview of the type of experiments and analysis conducted, reports the most important results, and briefly states the main conclusions. It does all of this as clearly and concisely as possible, and includes nothing else.

    An abstract that does not mention those sources of error is going to imply greater confidence for the conclusions than is warranted. And even for people who read the whole paper, the abstract is more likely to stick in their minds than the body of the paper. If the author(s) discount the sources of error, the author(s) can state that in the abstract, too. Brevity in an abstract is important, but accuracy should not be sacrificed for the sake of brevity.
    You listed things that you consider to be important to include in an abstract -- other people may consider other things to be important to include in an abstract.

    If you read the Guidelines for the journal the article in question appeared in, you will find that the guidelines for the abstract do not include a section for "biases" or "limitations" or "things that bother uninformed internet critics".

    Those guidelines say almost nothing about what should be included -- or not be included -- in an abstract:

    If you are submitting an article, you are required to include a structured abstract of about 250 words or less. The abstract must reflect the text; that is, no information should be included in the abstract that cannot be drawn from the text.

    Chris Noble said,

    In a fit of self-delusion he attacked the authors of a scientific paper without even reading it.
    The more you try to defend him the more stupid you look.

    I already said that I think that DaveScot jumped to conclusions.

  • Maya says:

    Fafarman spews:

    Please cite three peer reviewed papers that you've read in the past six months that include such detail in the abstracts.

    I am fed up with you Darwinists giving me "homework assignments."

    Your evasion is noted. It is clear that you have no experience reading peer reviewed scientific papers.

    Here is a homework assignment for you -- find three other peer-reviewed papers that you've read in the past six months that omit such detail in the abstracts.

    I just went back through the last couple of weeks of Science and Nature and reviewed a few of my recent Pubmed searches. None of the abstracts contain the details you suggest they should.
    Your turn. Back up your claims or admit that you, like Davey, don't have the faintest clue about the actual practice of science.

    You also demonstrate that you don't know the definition of "troll" either.

    You are a perfect example of a "troll."

    Proof by repeated assertion. Typical creationist behavior.
    Googling for "troll" gives a couple of good definitions. One is "A troll is a user of a newsgroup, forum or message board that posts messages with the intent of inciting an argument or flame-war." That doesn't apply, I was just pointing out your clear lack of understanding.
    Another is "To deliberately post false or controversial messages to gain attention for the sake of attention, usually from people who genuinely want to help." Nothing false or controversial in my post -- you really are clueless. You, on the other hand, fit the definition rather well.

  • I just went back through the last couple of weeks of Science and Nature and reviewed a few of my recent Pubmed searches. None of the abstracts contain the details you suggest they should.

    That statement shows absolutely nothing.

    I was just pointing out your clear lack of understanding.

    Your statement "You don't read many peer reviewed papers, do you?" is a good example of trollery.

  • Maya says:

    Fafarman dribbles:

    Your statement "You don't read many peer reviewed papers, do you?" is a good example of trollery.

    Actually, it was an observation. An honest person would have replied "Well, no. Is it unusual not to have this level of detail in abstracts?"
    You, on the other hand, continue to pretend to know what you're talking about when it is obvious that you do not.
    Prove otherwise or slink away like Davey would.

  • As the saying goes, don't feed the trolls.
    "I'm always kicking their butts -- that's why they don't like me."
    -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

  • Winston Macchi says:

    Larry,
    Again, I am going to have to respectfully disagree.
    From Cell:
    The Summary consists of a single paragraph of fewer than 150 words. It should clearly convey the conceptual advance and significance of the work to a broad readership. In particular, the abstract should contain a brief background of the question, a description of the results without extensive experimental detail, and a summary of the significance of the findings.
    From Science:
    Abstracts explain to the general reader why the research was done and why the results are important. They should start with some brief BACKGROUND information: a sentence giving a broad introduction to the field comprehensible to the general reader, and then a sentence of more detailed background specific to your study. This should be followed by the RESULTS, or if the paper is more methods/technique oriented an explanation of OBJECTIVES/METHODS and then the RESULTS. The final sentence should outline the main CONCLUSIONS of the study, in terms that will be comprehensible to all our readers. The abstract should be 125 words or less.
    From the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals:
    The abstract should provide the context or background for the study and should state the study�s purposes, basic procedures, main findings, and principal conclusions. It should emphasize new and important aspects of the study or observations.
    So you see, Larry, the point of the abstract is to give a brief background, state the results, and main conclusions. The reason that they have discussions is for the purpose of mentioning more in depth details of the work, and possible caveats. Now, you may not agree that an abstract should be how it is currently defined, but that is a different discussion than the one taking place here. And furthermore, how it is currently defined is something that both you and DaveScot should know if you which to carry out discussions on biological topics concerning recently published papers, especially if said discussion focuses on the quality of the abstract.

  • Mike Dunford says:

    How about "potential sources of error" instead of "potential biasing factors"? Is that OK with you?

    Not really. They're not a potential source of error in the analysis. At worst, they're alternate hypotheses that aren't completely excluded by the reported results. They have absolutely no bearing on whether or not the data analysis is correct - they only come into play when the results are being interpreted.

    Finding papers where there are important potential biasing fac -- oops, I mean, important potential sources of error -- is a chance thing, and there is no guarantee that such papers that are found will not mention those sources of error in the abstract.

    Larry, every scientific paper has potential sources of error. Real ones. The limitations are usually discussed in the discussion section of the paper, along with the authors' view of how these things affect their conclusions. Frequently, the authors will even suggest alternate approaches that can be taken in future experiments to avoid those problems.

    And even if all the examples agree with you here, it can be argued that the examples are mistaken.

    Yeah, Larry, I know. When you and reality disagree, you're the one who is right. Every time.

    Those guidelines say almost nothing about what should be included -- or not be included -- in an abstract:

    You read and quoted only the first paragraph of the abstract instructions. The next several paragraphs also apply to abstracts.

  • Maya says:

    Fafarman bloviates:

    As the saying goes, don't feed the trolls.

    More evasion noted. Back up your position or admit that you're wrong. I realize that creationists are intellectually incapable of recognizing error and psychologically incapable of admitting it, but do try to rise above the inherent limitations of your chosen social group.
    If you find that you can't, you should stop bothering the grownups and toddle back off to UD. I'm sure that Davey could use some help licking O'Leary's thigh-highs.

  • (#41) --

    From Cell:
    The Summary consists of a single paragraph of fewer than 150 words

    IMO that's overly restrictive, but my example of a statement of caveats was only 23 words long. And as I said, accuracy should not be sacrificed for the sake of brevity.

    It should clearly convey the conceptual advance and significance of the work to a broad readership. In particular, the abstract should contain . . . a summary of the significance of the findings.

    Important caveats affect the "significance" of the findings. Guidelines can't cover every possible situation.

    From Science:
    Abstracts explain to the general reader why the research was done and why the results are important.

    Caveats can affect the importance of the results.
    (#42) --

    How about "potential sources of error" instead of "potential biasing factors"? Is that OK with you?
    Not really. They're not a potential source of error in the analysis. At worst, they're alternate hypotheses that aren't completely excluded by the reported results.

    You are just playing word games. I propose that we just call them "caveats."

    every scientific paper has potential sources of error.

    I thought you didn't like that term "potential sources of error."
    The importance of potential sources of error varies between different papers. This marijuana study is not a controlled experiment and happens to have major potential sources of error.

    When you and reality disagree, you're the one who is right. Every time.

    When your perception of reality and my perception of reality disagree, you're the one who is right. Every time.

    You read and quoted only the first paragraph of the abstract instructions. The next several paragraphs also apply to abstracts.

    There is no indication that anything in the next paragraphs applies to abstracts.
    (#43) --

    Back up your position or admit that you're wrong.

    Why in hell should I "admit" I am wrong when I think I am right? Anyway, as I said, the issue here is just a matter of opinion.

    If you find that you can't, you should stop bothering the grownups and toddle back off to UD.

    Just like the boy who said that the emperor has no clothes.

  • Mike Dunford says:

    I thought you didn't like that term "potential sources of error."

    I have no problem with the term, provided that it is applied to actual sources of error. The "caveats" you identified are nothing of the sort.

    There is no indication that anything in the next paragraphs applies to abstracts.

    If you look up at the top of the left sidebar, you'll find that there are three subheadings under "abstract". If you look at the format of the paper's abstract, you'll find that it matches the format in the first of those subheadings.
    Look, Larry, the bottom line here is very, very, very simple. Abstracts don't need to contain all, or even most, of the important information contained in the paper because the abstract is in no way, shape, or form intended to be a substitute for the paper. Abstracts are intended to provide just enough information to allow informed readers to decide whether or not to read the whole article. That's it.

  • Maya says:

    Back up your position or admit that you're wrong.

    Why in hell should I "admit" I am wrong when I think I am right?

    You thinking that you're right is not the same as actually being right. If you were right, you could back up your assertions by citing some abstracts of peer-reviewed papers that include the level of detail you assert should be there. You can't provide those cites. An honest person would admit error in this situation.

    Anyway, as I said, the issue here is just a matter of opinion.

    No, it's a matter of you demonstrating that you have no familiarity with peer reviewed scientific papers and refusing to admit that.

  • Mike Dunford said,

    I have no problem with the term, provided that it is applied to actual sources of error. The "caveats" you identified are nothing of the sort.

    You are putting words in my mouth -- I did not call them "actual sources of error," I called them "possible sources of error" or "potential sources of error." Anyway, I agree that "sources of error" is not a good term here -- the term implies that the data was not accurately recorded, and I don't want to imply that. I thought that "biasing factors" was a good term, but you didn't like that term either. You came up with "At worst, they're alternate hypotheses that aren't completely excluded by the reported results," which is not very concise.

    If you look up at the top of the left sidebar, you'll find that there are three subheadings under "abstract". If you look at the format of the paper's abstract, you'll find that it matches the format in the first of those subheadings.

    It should not be necessary to check the sidebar to see the formatting of the guidelines! The guidelines' text itself is very poorly formatted -- "Abstract" should have been capitalized and the subparagraphs should have been indented. Also, it would have helped if the subparagraph titles included the word "abstract" -- e.g. , instead of "reports of original data," say "abstract's reports of original data." There is nothing in the text to clearly indicate that the subparagraphs are part of the guidelines for abstracts. Also, right under that introductory paragraph for "abstract," there is a link to the top of the guidelines, implying that the introductory paragraph is the complete guideline for abstracts! A major cause of mistakes is giving people the false impression that they have seen all they need to know about a topic. That reminds me of a mistake that I made in composing one of my engineering degree programs -- I was reading the general engineering requirements in the catalog and did not know that the mechanical engineering program required six units of special research (this requirement was in the mechanical engineering section of the catalog), so I signed up for only four units (I didn't even know that any units were required). A lot of jerks would blame me for the mistake, but after I complained to the department heads that my advisor failed to inform me of the requirement, my advisor became very angry, complaining that I jeopardized his chances of getting a raise! So apparently the department heads were not happy about the mistake he made (and he was the first one to point out the error, so he was probably aware of the requirement and was just careless).
    Anyway, the "caveats" would fall under "Conclusions: Summarize the conclusions" in the guidelines.

    Abstracts don't need to contain all, or even most, of the important information contained in the paper because the abstract is in no way, shape, or form intended to be a substitute for the paper.

    The abstract is intended to be a substitute for the paper for people who don't read the paper.
    We just happen to disagree on what should be included in the abstract. It's as simple as that.
    Maya said,

    If you were right, you could back up your assertions by citing some abstracts of peer-reviewed papers that include the level of detail you assert should be there.

    "Level of detail" is a subjective thing. And nothing can be proven by examples because we can never run out of examples. Anyway, this is not a question of examples, it's a matter of opinion. Examples could be presented from now until doomsday and they would show nothing.

    An honest person would admit error in this situation.

    You have this strange obsession with demanding that I admit that I am wrong. I think you're wrong, but I don't demand that you admit it.

  • Maya says:

    Fafarman opines cluelessly

    if you were right, you could back up your assertions by citing some abstracts of peer-reviewed papers that include the level of detail you assert should be there.

    "Level of detail" is a subjective thing. And nothing can be proven by examples because we can never run out of examples.

    In other words, you can't back up your original assertion. Here it is again:

    But IMO it turned out that the paper was not properly peer-reviewed because the abstract did not mention those possible biases (peer-reviewers should have reviewed the abstract as well as the body of the paper) -- in fact, the paper's authors were amiss for not mentioning those possible biases in the abstract.

    As several people have pointed out, discussion of possible biases is not properly part of the abstract. Your opinion is meaningless and baseless; the facts are that standard guidelines for submissions to peer reviewed journals and standard practice are counter to your assertion.

    An honest person would admit error in this situation.

    You have this strange obsession with demanding that I admit that I am wrong.

    You are provably wrong. What I have an obsession with is honesty. Being wrong happens, I do it a lot myself, it's acceptable. Refusing to admit when you're wrong is not acceptable.
    And I do find pointing out the dishonesty of most creationists, who claim to be oh so moral, amusing.

  • Mike Dunford says:

    I thought that "biasing factors" was a good term, but you didn't like that term either. You came up with "At worst, they're alternate hypotheses that aren't completely excluded by the reported results," which is not very concise.

    Aren't you the one who has been going on and on about how brevity should not come at the expense of accuracy? Make up your mind.

    It should not be necessary to check the sidebar to see the formatting of the guidelines! The guidelines' text itself is very poorly formatted -- "Abstract" should have been capitalized and the subparagraphs should have been indented. Also, it would have helped if the subparagraph titles included the word "abstract" -- e.g. , instead of "reports of original data," say "abstract's reports of original data."

    The editors of the journal are not responsible for your repeated failures of reading comprehension. By the way, "abstract's reports of original data." is wrong, too. That's not the guidelines for reports of original data within an abstract. It's the guideline for what the abstract of a paper that is a report of original data should look like. If you look at the abstract for the paper that you haven't read, you'll find that it matches that section quite well.

    The abstract is intended to be a substitute for the paper for people who don't read the paper.

    Abstracts are not intended to be a substitute for the paper. Abstracts have never been intended to be a substitute for the paper, and I sincerely doubt that abstracts ever will be intended to be a substitute for the paper.
    To put it bluntly, there is absolutely no excuse for relying on an abstract instead of the full paper.

    We just happen to disagree on what should be included in the abstract. It's as simple as that.

    No, Larry. This is not you disagreeing with me. This is you disagreeing with me, with everyone else here who has written a scientific paper, with the editorial boards of numerous journals, with every one of the books I own about scientific writing, and that's just the disagreements I know about so far.
    And even if it was just me, this is an area where I know more than you do. I've written abstracts. I've reviewed papers. I've taught scientific writing in college classes. I know what I'm talking about; you very clearly do not.

  • mollishka says:

    This has been quite an entertaining comment thread. Thanks, guys. I particularly like Larry's comments on how wasteful trolls can be of other people's time, as well as the bit about indenting paragraphs.

  • Chris Noble says:

    The abstract is intended to be a substitute for the paper for people who don't read the paper.

    Only for people who use ignornace as a substitute for knowledge.

  • Chris Noble says:

    What we have here is just a difference of opinion.

    Not all opinions are equal.
    Some are based upon evidence.
    Some are based upon wishful thinking.

  • Maya said,

    In other words, you can't back up your original assertion. Here it is again:
    But IMO it turned out that the paper was not properly peer-reviewed . . .

    Do you know what "IMO" means? It means "in my opinion." It means that there is less need for me to back up my statements.
    Mike Dunford said,

    I thought that "biasing factors" was a good term, but you didn't like that term either. You came up with "At worst, they're alternate hypotheses that aren't completely excluded by the reported results," which is not very concise.
    Aren't you the one who has been going on and on about how brevity should not come at the expense of accuracy?

    And verbosity should not come at the expense of brevity. Your long statement adds nothing to the meaning of my short statement. I cannot understand someone having trouble understanding a simple term like "potential biasing factors."

    The editors of the journal are not responsible for your repeated failures of reading comprehension.

    Wrong -- those guidelines are not properly formatted and I explained why.

    By the way, "abstract's reports of original data." is wrong, too. That's not the guidelines for reports of original data within an abstract. It's the guideline for what the abstract of a paper that is a report of original data should look like.

    You just showed me that the paragraph "reports of original data" is a subparagraph under the heading "abstract," and now you are denying that it is that.

    Abstracts are not intended to be a substitute for the paper.

    As I said, for those who don't read the full paper, the abstract is a substitute for the full paper. A lot of people don't read the full paper -- this is especially true in this case, where the full paper cannot be read without either paying a fee or going to a library that shows the full paper for free.

    This is you disagreeing with me, with everyone else here who has written a scientific paper, . . . And even if it was just me, this is an area where I know more than you do.

    You appear to be jumping to the conclusion that I never authored or co-authored a technical paper. Wrong -- here is one that I co-authored:
    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1978tsht.proc...41L
    "L.M. Fafarman" is me -- there are not many people in the world with that name. Did I write or help write the abstract? No -- but that doesn't matter.

    This is you disagreeing with . . . the editorial boards of numerous journals, with every one of the books I own about scientific writing, and that's just the disagreements I know about so far.

    Can you find any authority that says that caveats or potential biasing factors should not be mentioned in abstracts? And even if you did find such an authority, I would beg to differ with it. IMO the abstract should not give a false impression that the abstract's conclusions have more accuracy or reliability than they actually have. That is just my opinion.
    mollishka said,

    This has been quite an entertaining comment thread.

    Yes -- it has been very entertaining that (1) some people cannot understand simple terms like "potential biasing factor" and (2) cannot recognize when something is just a matter of opinion.

  • Chris Noble says:

    Do you know what "IMO" means? It means "in my opinion." It means that there is less need for me to back up my statements.

    IMO you are an idiot.

  • Maya says:

    Fafarman babbles:

    Do you know what "IMO" means? It means "in my opinion." It means that there is less need for me to back up my statements.

    Interesting. "IMO" is equivalent to "I don't know what I'm talking about and I don't have the intellectual integrity to back up anything I'm saying." Thanks for clearing that up.
    By the way, this is still not a matter of opinion. You are objectively wrong.

    As I said, for those who don't read the full paper, the abstract is a substitute for the full paper.

    The abstract is never a substitute for the full paper, it's a very brief summary to allow someone to decide if they want to read the paper.
    You don't read many peer reviewed papers, do you?

  • Chris Ignoble drivels,

    IMO you are an idiot.

    No one is interested in your worthless opinion, bozo. Crawl back into your hole.
    Maya barfs,

    "IMO" is equivalent to "I don't know what I'm talking about and I don't have the intellectual integrity to back up anything I'm saying."

    Why in the hell do you think people write "IMO," doofus -- it means that the standard of proof is lower than it would otherwise be.

    this is still not a matter of opinion.

    No one has yet cited an authority's statement that caveats should not be included in abstracts. And even if someone found such a statement, this issue would still be a matter of opinion.

    The abstract is never a substitute for the full paper, it's a very brief summary to allow someone to decide if they want to read the paper.

    That is no excuse for writing a misleading abstract that gives the false impression that the author's conclusions are more reliable than they actually are. And an abstract is also for people who don't read the full paper -- I have learned an awful lot just by reading abstracts.
    Mike Dunford is now going to apply his double standard that others may be abusive but I may not. It happens every time.

  • Maya says:

    Fafarman whines:

    I have learned an awful lot just by reading abstracts.

    You forgot the "IMO" before that claim. It's clearly one you can't back up.

  • Chris Noble says:

    No one is interested in your worthless opinion, bozo.

    What makes you think that your opinions are worth anything?
    Seriously. What sort of a person makes a claim and then when the claim is refuted hides behind the excuse that it is just a matter of opinion?
    Personally, I'm just following this to see how far someone will go to avoid admitting they are wrong.

  • What makes you think that your opinions are worth anything?

    Sorry, bub, I beat you to the punch.

    What sort of a person makes a claim and then when the claim is refuted hides behind the excuse that it is just a matter of opinion?

    What sort of people hide behind the excuse that something that is just a matter of opinion is not a matter of opinion?

    Personally, I'm just following this to see how far someone will go to avoid admitting they are wrong.

    Personally, I am following this to see how far some people will go to avoid admitting that something that is a matter of opinion is just a matter of opinion.
    I have supported my position -- you only state your position dogmatically. You just flatly say that caveats are not supposed to be in an abstract -- I argue that abstracts should not give the false impression that the conclusions are more reliable than they actually are. You say that an abstract is not a substitute for the full paper -- I say that an abstract is a de facto substitute for the full paper for people who do not read the full paper.
    --"I'm always kicking their butts -- that's why they don't like me."--
    -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

  • Maya says:

    Fafarman dissembles:

    I have supported my position

    I must have missed your post where you provided cites to three abstracts of scientific papers that you have read recently that include the detail you baselessly assert should be there. I also must have missed the references you provided to author's guidelines for peer reviewed journals that agree with you. Please post them again.
    Or does "supported" have a different meaning in Fafarman-speak as well?

  • It should be noted that Larry has yet to demonstrate that the abstract in fact gave the "impression that the conclusions are more reliable than they actually are." He hasn't even demonstrated that he has actually read the abstract, a necessary step in making that determination. Past experience with Larry shows that he often fails to read the text he is criticizing.
    The conclusion from the abstract reads as follows:

    The major contribution of this investigation is the independent and strong link between cannabis use and early age at onset of psychosis, and the slight or nonexistent effect of sex and comorbid substance abuse in this variable. These results point to cannabis as a dangerous drug in young people at risk of developing psychosis.

    "These results point to" indicates that there is a hypothesis that is strongly supported by the results, but that alternate hypotheses exist and are not well supported. Mike has stated that the authors discuss these alternate hypotheses in the paper itself, and that they are the ones identified by you and Dave. Therefore, I conclude that the abstract accurately conveys the reliablilty of its results (with the caveat that I have not read the paper myself and must rely on Mike for my information).

  • Chris Noble says:

    I have supported my position

    Bullshit.
    Anytime someone has asked you to support your opinion with evidence you fall back into the silly rhetoric that it is just an opinion and you don't need any facts.
    People who criticise a paper without reading it are idiots.
    You cannot excuse this combination of arrogance and ignorance.
    It is not the author's fault that DaveScot can't be bothered reading the paper. It is not the journal's fault. It's not even the journalist's fault. It is DaveScot's fault and his alone.
    He at least has the good sense to recognise this and shut up

  • Maya:

    I have supported my position
    I must have missed your post where you provided cites to three abstracts of scientific papers that you have read recently that include the detail you baselessly assert should be there.

    I supported my position with arguments instead of examples. Examples are not the only way to support positions.
    Kevin Vicklund:

    He hasn't even demonstrated that he has actually read the abstract,

    Oh boy -- now the trolls are accusing me of not reading abstracts! Why wouldn't I read an abstract?
    I just finished cursing Kevin Vicklund off my blog and now the cyberstalker/cyberbully has tracked me down to this comment thread.

    The conclusion from the abstract reads as follows:

    The major contribution of this investigation is the independent and strong link between cannabis use and early age at onset of psychosis, and the slight or nonexistent effect of sex and comorbid substance abuse in this variable.

    . . . .Mike has stated that the authors discuss these alternate hypotheses in the paper itself, and that they are the ones identified by you and Dave.

    No, those are not the "alternate hypotheses" that we identified -- the alternate hypotheses that we identified concern marijuana users' (1)self-medication for symptoms of psychosis and (2) above-average predisposition to early onset of psychosis.
    Chris Noble:

    Anytime someone has asked you to support your opinion with evidence you fall back into the silly rhetoric that it is just an opinion and you don't need any facts.

    I have provided enough facts to support my arguments and opinion. And what facts or arguments have you provided to support your opinion? None.

    People who criticise a paper without reading it are idiots.

    I didn't criticize the paper per se -- I just criticized the absence of some caveats in the abstract.

    It is not the author's fault that DaveScot can't be bothered reading the paper.

    It's not that he "can't be bothered" -- the paper is not available for free online. And the abstract should include the caveats anyway.

    He at least has the good sense to recognise this and shut up

    Maybe he is not following this discussion or maybe he has nothing to add to what I have said.

  • Maya says:

    Fafarman squirms:

    I have supported my position

    I must have missed your post where you provided cites to three abstracts of scientific papers that you have read recently that include the detail you baselessly assert should be there.

    I supported my position with arguments instead of examples. Examples are not the only way to support positions.

    The evidence, namely examples of abstracts and review guidelines, refutes your baseless assertions. I realize that creationists aren't concerned with evidence, particularly when it contradicts their pre-conceived unfounded beliefs, but again, do try to rise above your self-selected peer group.
    This is not a matter of opinion. Your position is simply and demonstrably wrong. You could show infinitely more intellectual honesty than a typical creationist by simply admitting it.

  • Chris Noble says:

    I have provided enough facts to support my arguments and opinion. And what facts or arguments have you provided to support your opinion? None.

    You have provided zero facts.
    Other people have given you the instructions to authors from a number of journals. Abstracts are not meant to be a substitute for the paper. Do you read the blurb on the back of a book as a substitute for the entire book? The journals do not expect all caveats to be included in the abstract and neither do the readers.
    DaveScot criticised a scientific paper without reading it. That is extremely arrogant, profoundly ignorant and inexcusable. Yet you try to excuse him by shifting the blame to the authors and the editors of the journal. Pathetic.
    The other group of people that I have come across who see reading the abstract as a substitute for reading the paper are HIV denialists. Exactly the same combination of arrogance and ignorance are evident in both groups.

  • Maya:

    The evidence, namely examples of abstracts and review guidelines, refutes your baseless assertions.

    You have provided no examples of abstracts, and we can never run out of examples anyway. The guidelines don't say exactly what should be included in the conclusions, and even if they did, I would still be entitled to my opinion.

    realize that creationists aren't concerned with evidence,

    Who in the hell are you Darwinists to accuse others of not being concerned with evidence.
    Chris Noble:

    Abstracts are not meant to be a substitute for the paper.

    It doesn't matter what the abstracts are meant to be -- they are often de facto substitutes for the paper. And IMO they are meant to be a substitute for the paper for those who don't read the paper.

    Do you read the blurb on the back of a book as a substitute for the entire book?

    Book covers are sometimes also de facto substitutes for the complete works.

    The journals do not expect all caveats to be included in the abstract and neither do the readers.

    Who are you to speak for all journals and all readers? You certainly don't speak for me and DaveScot.

    DaveScot criticised a scientific paper without reading it.

    I agreed that he jumped to conclusions without reading the paper -- what more can I say? I also feel that he was right for the wrong reasons.

  • Maya says:

    Fafarman whines loudly, with spittle flying:

    Do you read the blurb on the back of a book as a substitute for the entire book?

    Book covers are sometimes also de facto substitutes for the complete works.

    *boggle*
    Let's try an example:
    "A derivative epic that plagiarizes many earlier works shamelessly and without attribution, detailing the behavior of a petulant, bloodthirsty, irrational being in a pseudohistorical context. The few instances of passable poetry and not completely immoral allegories are overwhelmed by the lies, inconsistencies, depictions of offensive sex acts, and gratuitous violence. Not suitable for children or the mentally ill."
    Okay, just because it works for the Bible doesn't mean it's always a good idea.

  • Chris Noble says:

    It doesn't matter what the abstracts are meant to be -- they are often de facto substitutes for the paper. And IMO they are meant to be a substitute for the paper for those who don't read the paper.

    How can it possibly not matter what abstracts are meant to be? Abstracts are never a substitute for the paper. Why would somebody write a paper if a 150 word abstract would suffice?
    The only people who think that an abstract is a substitute for the paper are the same people who hold ignorance as a substitute for knowledge.

    Book covers are sometimes also de facto substitutes for the complete works.

    What can I possibly say other than that you are an idiot?
    Perhaps bricks are a de facto substitute for brains in your case.

  • How can it possibly not matter what abstracts are meant to be?

    Do you know what "de facto" means?
    Since abstracts are inevitably going to be substitutes for the papers in many cases, they should be the best possible substitutes.
    Anyway, busy people don't have time to read everything in detail. A lot of reports have "executive summaries" intended for people who don't have the time to read the report in detail. Abstracts can be like "executive summaries" in addition to helping people decide if they want to read the whole paper. You are arbitrarily limiting the function of abstracts.

    What can I possibly say other than that you are an idiot?

    You don't have any good arguments to make, so you resort to insults and ad hominem attacks.

  • Maya says:

    Fafarman bloviates:

    Since abstracts are inevitably going to be substitutes for the papers in many cases, they should be the best possible substitutes.

    The only people who consider abstracts to be substitutes for the papers are those who don't read scientific papers regularly and who refuse to learn from people who do. The first makes you ignorant, a curable condition. The second makes you an arrogant fool, which in your case appears to be a permanent state of affairs.
    By the way, that last was pure insult, not ad hominem. Learn the difference, if you're capable.
    The abstract is supposed to provide enough information to allow a reader to determine whether or not to read the full paper. That's it. Your opinions that the situation should be different don't matter -- the reality is what it is.
    I'm done with this topic. The facts are out there for any reasonably objective person to understand. It's clear that further discussion with you is a waste of time.

  • Christophe Thill says:

    "By the way, that last was pure insult, not ad hominem. Learn the difference, if you're capable."
    I beg to differ. It was an objective description.

  • The only people who consider abstracts to be substitutes for the papers are those who don't read scientific papers regularly and who refuse to learn from people who do.

    I am not saying that abstracts are complete substitutes for the papers -- what I am saying is that abstracts should not give impressions of excessive confidence in the conclusions.
    I think that the problem here can be solved by calling abstracts "executive summaries."

    By the way, that last was pure insult, not ad hominem. Learn the difference, if you're capable.

    I said "insults and ad hominem attacks," doofus, and I was not referring to just that one comment.

  • Christophe Thill barfed,

    "By the way, that last was pure insult, not ad hominem. Learn the difference, if you're capable."
    I beg to differ. It was an objective description.

    There is nothing in the definition of "ad hominem" that says anything about the accuracy of the description, bozo.
    What a stupid idiot.