Quick Links — Publication Bias, Fracking, Deadly Tournaments, and More!

From time to time, as I am fulfilling my unhealthy compulsion to get my Feedly number down to zero, I come across a news article that seems potentially relevant to the current topic, or debate generally. In what I hope will become a semi-regular feature, I will pass along some of the articles I come across while feeding my addiction. 

1.) In Mother Jones, Kevin Drum highlights a new paper on the subject of “publication bias.” The basic idea is that researchers and journals are biased towards publishing results that are positive and significant. While it might seem intuitive that results that show little effect are not important, “publication bias” can  significantly skew results. Drum offers an example:

“Suppose several teams coincidentally decide to study the effect of carrots on baldness. Most of the teams find no effect and give up. But by chance, one team happens to find an effect. These statistical outliers happen occasionally, after all. So they publish. And since that’s the only study anyone ever sees, suddenly there’s a flurry of interest in using carrots to treat baldness.”

This could have pretty interesting applications for calling into question certain types of studies that are particularly susceptible to the problem, or do not do enough to correct for the bias. 

2.) Foreign Affairs just published a piece on the mining industry in developing countries. The basic takeaway is that there is a strong movement towards transparency and accountability that should help developing countries get more out of their mining sectors. However, more still needs to be done to translate that potential in reality, namely, dealing with corruption.  Money quote: 

“But the fog of secrecy might be lifting. Resource-rich countries are increasingly looking to consultants, advocacy groups, and development agencies to help them negotiate with miners from a more informed position. And miners are doing the same in the hope of avoiding the conflicts that have plagued them in the last few years. The upshot is that, over the next few years, the resource-extraction industry, and mining in particular, will become more transparent than ever. Mining firms will probably see less profit, and poor and middle-income resource countries will get more. That can go toward addressing their populations’ basic needs and speeding up development — or it can be lost to corruption.”

The article could be useful for some uniqueness arguments and potentially for generating counterplan ideas. 

3.)  Oxford philosopher Peter Hacker, in a blog post for The Institute of Art and Ideas, asks the question, “Why Study Philosophy?” After knocking down a few ideas he comes to this conclusion: 

“The study of philosophy cultivates a healthy scepticism about the moral opinions, political arguments and economic reasonings with which we are daily bombarded by ideologues, churchmen, politicians and economists. It teaches one to detect ‘higher forms of nonsense’, to identify humbug, to weed out hypocrisy, and to spot invalid reasoning. It curbs our taste for nonsense, and gives us a nose for it instead. It teaches us not to rush to affirm or deny assertions, but to raise questions about them.

Even more importantly, it teaches us to raise questions about questions, to probe for their tacit assumptions and presuppositions, and to challenge these when warranted. In this way it gives us a distance from passion-provoking issues – a degree of detachment that is conducive to reason and reasonableness.”

Some of the ideas here might be useful for some theory debates, but mostly this post is just interesting.  

4.) Al Jazeera America points to a new study linking “hydraulic fracturing” — or “fracking” — to birth defects. The study from the Colorado School of Public Health shows a significant increase in incidence of congenital heart defects in children born near “fracking” sites. From Al Jazeera: 

“The study found that “births to mothers in the most exposed (areas with over 125 wells per mile) had a 30 percent greater prevalence of CHDs than births to mothers with no wells in a 10-mile radius of their residence.””

“Fracking” is exploding the world over, not just in the U.S. This study could be useful as impact evidence for an affirmative.  

5.) A local CBS affiliate passes along a study that proves that debate tournaments can kill you. Really though…

Chris Theis is a VBI Curriculum Director and coaches at both Apple Valley and PV Peninsula High Schools. 

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