Voodoo Science

Big fight over study calling neuroscience “voodoo”

For anyone who thinks science is boring, consider the recent drama that’s unfolded between neuroscientists, and a group of researchers calling the field of neuroscience a sham. It all started last December, when Ed Vul, a MIT grad student working with neuroscientist Nancy Kanwisher and psychologist Hal Pashler, posted their forthcoming study “Voodoo Correlations in Social Neuroscience” on his website. (It will appear in Perspectives in Psychological Science in May.) It questions the validity and methodologies of particular studies in major journals including Nature and Science. The study refers to the worst ones as “entirely spurious.” This immediately ignited a massive reaction: science bloggers and reporters ruminated, the accused scientists and their supporters defended their work, and Vul, naturally, rebutted the rebuttals. All this fantastic discourse happened “at breakneck pace,” explains Seed magazine, and “months before the findings were officially published.” Vul admits the language used in their study is provocative, but says this was necessary to draw attention to the problems with how research statistics are presented. If nothing else, that’s worked. In light of the controversy, the editor of Perspectives, Ed Diener—who says he’s never seen a pre-published paper garner such reaction—has decided to strike the word “voodoo” from the study title.

Seed Magazine

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.